(WASHINGTON) — More than 62 metric tons of materials used to make improvised explosive devices have been seized and 31 people have been arrested by the United States and other nations under a Department of Homeland Security program to track unusual shipments of the so-called “precursor chemicals,” DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced Monday.
“We are working with more than 80 countries to prevent the illegal theft or diversion of precursor chemicals that can be used to make improvised explosive devices or IEDs. Through these efforts we have already seized more than 62 metric tons of these deadly materials,” Napolitano said in a speech on the State of America’s Homeland Security at the National Press Club.
Officials say there have been 31 arrests in conjunction with the program, mostly overseas, and according to the World Customs Organization, seizures have taken place in Afghanistan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uganda. Immigration Customs Enforcement proposed the idea to the World Customs Organization; INTERPOL is also a key partner in the initiative.
The program is an initiative to prevent the theft or illegal diversion of precursor chemicals that can be used to make IEDS by tracking unusual shipments of items such as acetone, ammonium nitrate, nitric acid and urea.
Officials say some of the triggers that flag these shipments and led to the precursor materials being interdicted include large cash payments, inappropriately packaged items, abnormal shipping routes and flags that the customer has no business need for the item being shipped.
“It’s basically a very robust and specific information sharing agreement that allows us to monitor and track the shipments of the kind of chemicals used in manufacture of IEDs and to make sure that as that commerce moves — and some of these are chemicals that are used in agriculture, for example; they have legitimate uses as well as illegitimate uses,” Napolitano said. “Being able to separate those out and making sure that recipient is the right recipient, getting the right amount, as properly described, is what this information sharing agreement [is about].”
Napolitano said that under the Program Global Shield DHS and over 80 partner nations have recovered over 62 metric tons of precursor chemicals that could be used in IEDS since the program was set up in October 2010.
“Our ability to connect data is so much more robust than it was 10 years ago or indeed even three years ago,” she said. “Our ability to unite different types of databases so we can make the kinds of queries necessary to say, hey, look, we want to know whether this particular chemical is moving and where.” Napolitano said about how officials look for the chemicals.
Napolitano also discussed the wide swath of topics that DHS has to cover — from natural disasters, immigration policy, airline security and protecting cyberspace.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Andreas Preuss, CNN
Lorenzo Ferrigno, CNN
Susan Scutti, CNN