Going through some back posts I had missed, I ran across an Eric Mansfield piece about a story he did not air. You can read the whole post, but here are the highlights. Someone called him saying that officers in a certain local police department were frequently patrolling a certain business. He started investigating.
It started as a story about a business possibly receiving favorable treatment from the local police. But after a spooky cloak-and-dagger phone call, it became a non-story about national security. Here’s an excerpt of the description of the phone call.
- "Then you should know that that business is one of the top Ohio targets for Al Qaida or other terrorists and no I'm not kidding."
I sat there to compose my thoughts. Shouldn't the public be made aware of this target? Shouldn't people have a right to know what's in their backyard? Shouldn't the federal government be involved here? Wouldn't Bob Woodward jump on this with both feet and never stop typing until it brought down the President?
"If it's this much of a target," I asked, "why don't they have their own super security or something?"
"Because the federal government doesn't have the dollars to protect it, so it's up to us," he told me. "I really need your help here Eric."
I understand Eric’s reluctance to air the story just to tell the world about a target here in NEO. Not only is it tempting fate, it would end up in the vein of “Your sweater can kill you!!! Film at eleven.” Thankfully the Akron newscast has been able to avoid much of that.
But because the story didn’t air, a number of questions remain unanswered. Is this a target because taking it out would kill lots of people or is it an infrastructure target. If it’s a target that can kill people, what is being done to protect the public in the event of an attack. Is there an evacuation plan? Are first responders and medical facilities equipped to handle the disaster?
And who should be paying for security? Is Company X in an industry group that lobbied against regulations requiring facility hardening like the chemical industry did? Does the locality have a case for getting a Homeland Secutiry grant? And did they? And if not, was that decision valid or based on a bias toward New York, DC, etc.?
Right now what we know is that a private company exists, it is a high-value target and the local taxpayers are stuck with the tab for protecting it.
Eric’s decision not to run the story may or may not keep information out of the hands of terrorists. It is definitely keeping information out of the hands of local citizens, and leaving lots of unanswered questions as a result.