NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer unveiled new legislation Sunday that would change a loophole in the law that doesn’t require workers hired at most power plants to undergo FBI background checks even though a federal report warns the plants are a likely route for terrorists.
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Schumer cited a recent Department of Homeland Security that found disgruntled former employees have sensitive inside information that would be sought by terrorists. The report also says current employees have been solicited by unidentified outsiders.
“Power plants and utilities present a tempting and potentially catastrophic target to extremists who are bent on wreaking havoc on the United States, which is why thorough background checks on all workers with access to the most sensitive areas of these operations are a must,” Schumer said.
“It comes as a surprise that power plants other than nuclear that represent top terrorist targets are not even authorized to check their employees against the fbi background check database,” Schumer said.
Without this measure, Schumer says extremists could get access to these plants.
“An attack on a power plant could generate massive economic damage and loss of life,” Schumer said. “So it’s baffling that workers with access to this most critical and sensitive power infrastructure in the nation are not required to undergo background checks before assuming their position.”
Schumer said a federal report in the fall of 2010 shows that al-Qaeda is recruiting terrorists to work in sensitive locations such as electric, gas and water utilities.
“The DHS report is a wake-up call that we must ensure those with access to our most critical infrastructure and our power supplies, are not compromised by extremist influences,” Schumer said.
Nuclear power plants are currently required to conduct FBI background checks for all employees, but utilities and power plants aren’t covered.
Schumer’s bill would require a FBI criminal history check that includes analyzing fingerprints. The process would be paid for with fees paid to the FBI for each analysis.
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