Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



N.D. official: Terror target list needs trim

A federal database of potential terrorism targets could use a little North Dakota common sense, the state's homeland security director said Wednesday.

Graphic: Asset overload

A federal database of potential terrorism targets could use a little North Dakota common sense, the state's homeland security director said Wednesday.

In a report released Tuesday, the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security criticized "an abundance of unusual, or out-of-place" entries in the database designed to identify critical infrastructure and key resources.

A list of examples reads like an advertisement for a county fair, with "Old MacDonald's petting zoo," "Mule Day Parade" and "Bean Fest" among the so-called "assets" to be protected.

Other examples include prime targets such as "Amish Country Popcorn," "Jay's Sporting Goods" and "Beach at End of a Street."

The National Asset Database contains 763 assets for North Dakota, but the state relies on its own list of approximately 600 assets, said Greg Wilz, the state's homeland security director.


"I cannot disclose what's on our list. I would tell you that the national list has a couple of listings that do not pass the common sense test for North Dakota," Wilz said.

Wilz blames the discrepancy on missing criteria when the federal government originally asked states in 2003 to identify assets in 17 sectors, including transportation, government facilities, water, and banking and finance.

"Where they did not do that, we took the initiative and developed our own criteria for that sector, so our list is different than the national list," he said.

Another flaw, Wilz said, was that local jurisdictions were allowed to nominate assets on their own - which could explain the Apple 'n' Pork Festival in Clinton, Ill., making the list.

North Dakota's assets in the national database amount to more than double South Dakota's 360 assets and nearly a quarter of California's 3,212 assets, despite the Golden State having nearly 57 times North Dakota's population.

The report by Inspector General Richard L. Skinner points out that the database lists only 2 percent of the nation's banking and finance sector assets in New York, putting it right between North Dakota and Missouri.

Officials in New York and other highly populated areas have criticized the database, saying the Homeland Security Department has used it to cut their antiterrorism funding while awarding more grants to less populated states.

While North Dakota's list of 600 assets may seem high for a state with an estimated 637,000 people, Wilz noted that North Dakota has 350 miles of Canadian border and is strong in the agriculture and military sectors.


"We have a solid list," he said.

The 577 assets listed in the database for Minnesota also is a "pretty accurate" number, partly because the state works closely with Homeland Security's infrastructure protection office in Minneapolis, said Kris Eide, director of homeland security and emergency management for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

"We are pretty strict about how we interpret the federal guidelines," she said - especially compared with neighboring Wisconsin, whose 7,146 assets ranked only behind Indiana's 8,591.

Wilz said he expects to meet with Homeland Security officials in late fall to "purge" the database of out-of-place assets in North Dakota and clarify the criteria.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528

What To Read Next
Get Local


Must Reads