PORTLAND, Ore. - Bomb-sniffing dogs being used for a TOPOFF exercise in northeast Portland on Thursday detected the real thing, prompting police to cordon off a hotel, close nearby streets and shut down the MAX.
According to Brian Schmautz with the Portland Police Bureau, as officials were doing a sweep of the Doubletree Hotel located near the Lloyd Center, bomb-sniffing dogs got a hit on several vehicles in the vicinity.
Police immediately cordoned off the area so they could investigate. They later discovered that the dogs had detected traces of explosives in police and military vehicles that were involved in the exercise that was being staged. The bomb residue is something common in those type of vehicles.
Homeland Security Chief In Portland For TOPOFF Exercises
By Kristian Foden-Vencil
Portland, OR October 18, 2007 2:09 p.m.
Homeland Security chief, Michael Chertoff, was in Portland Thursday, to oversee the massive terrorism-preparedness exercise that’s been running all week.
As Kristian Foden-Vencil reports, Chertoff said the drill has been a success, but he can’t divulge what's been learned because of security concerns.
TOPOFF 4 simulated the effect of a dirty bomb exploding in downtown Portland, along with other attacks in Phoenix, Arizona, and Guam. Britian and Austrialia also particpated. All told, it involved about 15,000 people.
Portland’s Mayor, Tom Potter, was impressed.
Tom Potter: “I can tell you, for the first two hours of this event, Tuesday morning, I had a hard time convincing myself that this was just an exercise. It felt real. And as you know I’m a former police chief and I’ve been in critical incidents and this felt like a critical incident.”
Potter and other top officials say they learned a lot about how to react to a real-life scenario.
Secretary Michael Chertoff says some general details will be released soon, but nothing specific.
Michael Chertoff: “We don’t necessarily want to reveal all of the weaknesses or vulnerabilities we’ve detected, and put it on the internet because among those who participate in reading the internet are Bin Laden and all his henchmen.”
The exercise took several unexpected turns. For example, at one point there was a rumor the governor had had a heart attack.
Ted Kulongoski says the truth is they’d been having a discussion about how a new governor would be selected if there was a problem. He says the law currently dictates the supreme court chief justice, the chair of OHSU, and the director of the state hospital, must vote on the capability of the governor – both to relieve him of office, and to bring him back in.
Ted Kulongoski: “Which brings up the interesting question, if one of them doesn’t like you, and says no, and you’re all there, what are you going to do, and you don’t get the office back, because that’s the way the statute reads. And so we wanted to see how it operated.”
The last time the succession issue came up was in 1947 when the Oregon governor, the president of the senate, and the secretary of state, all died in a plane trip, coming back from a hunting trip at Klamath Falls.
Most participants agreed exercises like TOPOFF are necessary. But Chertoff was asked, in light of the dozens of such drills run by the feds, state and local jurisdictions, whether running such frequent drills creates an atmosphere of fear – prompting spending on defense rather than on domestic issues like education and health care.
Michael Chertoff: “I think the idea that drilling for events that, like it or not, reflect real threats in the real world, is prudent.”
Congress requires a large-scale federal exercise like TOPOFF 4 once every two years, plus many table-top drills. And that, says Chertoff, is just about right.
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