mmonium nitrate, the common fertilizer ingredient Timothy McVeigh used in his Oklahoma City bomb and the suspected cause of last week’s deadly Beirut blast, remains a high-priority security concern inside the United States, where officials have worried over the years that they do not have a full grasp on stockpiles.
More than a half dozen federal reports in the last decade have flagged lingering concerns about the security, shipment, storage and tracking of the widely available fertilizer ingredient, a Just the News review has found.
For instance, several Government Accountability Office reports flagged weaknesses and backlogs in a Department of Homeland Security program known as CFATS designed to inspect and better secure U.S. facilities that store dangerous chemicals like ammonium nitrate. In an August 2018 letter to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, for example, GAO wrote:
Thousands of facilities that produce, use, or store hazardous chemicals could be targeted or used by terrorists to inflict mass casualties, damage, and fear. These chemicals could be released from a facility to cause harm to surrounding populations; they could be stolen and used as chemical weapons or as their precursors (the ingredients for making chemical weapons); or they could be stolen and used to build an improvised explosive device.
Just last year, Attorney General William Barr and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives updated ATF rules on how far away ammonium nitrate must be stored from explosives after discovering the government’s current regulatory guidance was outdated:
The common fertilizer ingredient could be ‘stolen and used to build an improvised explosive device,’ GAO warns.