FBI: Nevada could be prime terrorist target
LAS VEGAS – A major airport adjacent to the tourist-rich Las Vegas Strip, and facilities ranging from Hoover Dam to an Army ammunition depot in Hawthorne help make Nevada a prime terrorist target, according to an FBI threat assessment.
“Nevada clearly presents a viable target for both international and domestic terrorist groups,” said the 19-page unclassified threat assessment presented Thursday to the Nevada Homeland Security Commission.
However, there is no current specific threat in state, FBI agent and spokesman Todd Palmer spokesman said Friday.
The report outlined general threats and responses, including security measures employed during last year’s New Year’s Eve celebration in Las Vegas. Authorities imposed a no-fly zone over the city; checked airline manifests, hotel and rental vehicle reservations; and deployed radiation and biological hazard detection teams.
Daniel DeSimone, FBI supervisory special agent for the Nevada Regional Intelligence Center, said the greatest threat to U.S. was al-Qaida, but characterized the threat posed by Islamic extremists in Nevada as low.
DeSimone also said domestic terror groups such as the Animal Liberation Front, Earth Liberation Front, Aryan Nation, Skinheads, National Alliance and others were active in Nevada.
The report cited several additional possible terrorist targets including the state Capitol in Carson City, the Fallon Naval Air Station, mining sites, the state’s busiest highways and shipments of highly radioactive waste to a planned nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain.
Palmer termed the report, which restated information made public in the past, a “generalized assessment” of the terrorism threat to Las Vegas and the state of Nevada.
Adjutant Gen. Giles Vanderhoof, the commander of the Nevada National Guard and new state homeland security chief, said the commission will conduct a statewide threat assessment to help decide how federal homeland security funds are spent.
The state has 2.3 million residents, with the cities of North Las Vegas and Henderson ranked second and third in growth in the nation, and Las Vegas ranked 32nd. But the report notes another 47 million people who visit the state every year.
“On any given day, the Nevada population may be increased by approximately 270,000 people due to tourism,” the report said.
It cites rapid growth, uncounted tourists and a “Sin City” reputation as factors that “propel Nevada to the top when being considered as a potential terrorism target.”
Attack from the air is a concern in an area where 404 flights a day fly into and out of McCarran International Airport, the nation’s seventh-busiest airport.
It is adjacent to the Las Vegas Strip, which the report refers to as “five miles of potential targets for terrorists.”
“Eighteen of the 20 largest hotels in the world can be found in Las Vegas, along with the five largest convention centers in the United States,” the report said.