Department of Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff was in Portland yesterday to view the Topoff 4 terrorism simulation. But in the same way that your granny now has to take her orthopedic shoes off at the airport because she theoretically could be a mad plane bomber, the extreme sensitivity of our defenses threw a bone into the well-scripted machinery of the exercise.
Just before 1 p.m., as police ran a security sweep before Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff’s arrival at the DoubleTree Hotel near Lloyd Center, something about a car in the parking garage sent bomb-sniffing dogs into a frenzy.
“I can’t tell you we have some kind of terrorist bomb,” said Sgt. Brian Schmautz, a Portland police spokesman, as the city’s bomb squad arrived. But he added, “these highly trained dogs wouldn’t be going berserk without there being something.”
That something turned out to be the cops and soldiers gathered at the hotel for Topoff. It’s likely, police said afterward, that one — or several — of the participants who train with explosives had inadvertently left residue on or in their car.
By the time authorities had figured out the source, Topoff activities at the hotel — a news briefing and a paper exercise dealing with the aftermath of the mock “dirty bomb” — had been long since canceled. Chertoff had bailed out.
Bravely Sir Michael ran away. There’s no reason to believe that this kind of thing isn’t going to happen in a real situation.
To me the best part of the article was where Chertoff discussed when — or if — the report on Topoff 4 would be completed.
As for an after-action report showing holes that showed up in responding to the fake catastrophe, he said an executive summary would be available for officials within three months but that a full report is years away — and likely won’t include every detail when it’s publicly released.
“If I wanted to send him a list of targets,” Chertoff said of Osama bin Laden, “I would send it to him directly. I wouldn’t put it up on the Internet.”
That sure sounds like he knows how to get hold of the guy. Hmmmm….