PREPARING FOR THE
FBI Participates in Nation's Largest Ever Mock Terrorism Event
Did you hear?
This past April 4, international terrorists launched major, simultaneous
attacks in three countries: the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom.
Here in the U.S., a chemical bomb exploded at a waterfront festival
in southern Connecticut, causing a huge fireball that burned bystanders
and exposed others nearby to noxious fumes. At the same time, a deadly
biological agent—later found to be the pneumonic plague—was
released at a New Jersey university. Hospitals quickly filled up
with the sick and injured, and within days, thousands of Americans
had died from the attacks.
weren't real, of course. They were part of TOPOFF
3—short for "Top Off(icials)"—the
third in a series of week-long, congressionally mandated anti-terrorism
drills staged every two years by the Department of Homeland Security.
Their purpose? To
improve our nation's ability to prevent and respond to major terrorist
attacks involving a weapon of mass destruction (nuclear devices or
chemical, biological, or radiological agents).
was the drill? Very. No chemical or biological agents were
released and no one was hurt, of course. But real-life investigators,
emergency and health care workers, major officials, and others participated
in the drill, using existing partnerships, technologies, facilities,
and equipment to respond. To make the attacks seem real, make-up
artists applied fake wounds to hired actors. An actual fireball went
up in Connecticut, buses were overturned, and emergency workers donned
actual hazmat suits. More than 10,000 people nationwide participated
in the test.
the FBI's role in the exercise? Same as in real-life: we
served as the lead investigative agency, working closely with our
partners to assess the situation, round up evidence and intelligence,
find the culprits, and communicate threat information and vulnerabilities
nationally and internationally. Specifically, we:
dozens of agents from our New Haven and Newark field offices to
the scenes to interview victims, collect evidence, and pursue leads;
arrested 5 "terrorists" in a house raid, including the
alleged mastermind of the New Jersey attack, and provided information
and warrants to our partners, who arrested 3 "suspects" in
the Connecticut attack;
our partners, located a hose nozzle sticking out of the window
of an SUV in New Jersey that enabled us to determine how the plague
with the Red Cross to set up a Family Assistance Center that provided
victim and family services and counseling; and
intelligence to head off more possible attacks...and shared information
on the attacks and potential future targets with our partners around
600 FBI employees participated in the exercise, including
agents, analysts, victim specialists, evidence experts, and SWAT
and crisis response professionals from New Jersey, Connecticut, our Critical
Incident Response Group in Virginia, and FBI Headquarters. Our
Counterterrorism Division, Office of Intelligence, and Strategic
Information and Operations Center command post at FBI Headquarters
coordinated our overall response to the events.
Next steps? Federal
officials will study the findings and issue an assessment in several
weeks. This review will help improve our nation's response capabilities
and enable everyone to do a better job in TOPOFF 4!
of Homeland Security TOPOFF 3 web site