Logan International Drill Reveals Flaws in Terror Attack Response

BOSTON - An anti-terrorism drill at Logan International Airport revealed flaws in law-enforcement's ability to respond to an attack, according to a newly released report.

On June 4, a team of federal, state and local law-enforcement officials gathered at Logan for a simulated hijacking of a commercial jet.

A report analyzing the outcome of "Operation Atlas" found that the agencies' response was lacking in some areas.

Ambulances were slow to respond to the simulated threat due to tight security restrictions around Logan and confusion over who was in charge, the 39-page report concluded.

Poor communication between state and local police and mismatched computer programs also hampered law-enforcement's response, according to the "After Action Report," which was prepared by consultants hired by the federal Homeland Security Department.

Both of the hijacked planes that hit the World Trade Center took off from Logan on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

The simulated hijacking, paid for by a federal Homeland Security grant, was reminiscent of the December 2001 plot by Richard Reid to detonate a shoe bomb aboard a trans-Atlantic flight.

Operating on the premise that gun-toting terrorists were trying to hijack a United Airlines plane carrying 169 passengers from Paris to Chicago, two F-15 Eagle fighter jets intercepted the airliner over the Atlantic Ocean and forced it to land at Logan.

The drill "did a fantastic job of showing where the various security agencies are doing a great job, and where more work needs to be done," said Seth Gitell, a spokesman for Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, whose office helped coordinate Operation Atlas.

Gitell said some of the problems, including the mismatched computer systems, already have been fixed.

Carlo Boccia, Boston's director of homeland security, said the more than 50 agencies that participated in the drill were encouraged to "address their mistakes."

"That's the reason for a drill, and we don't want to disguise any of those mistakes and we didn't," Boccia added.

Although agencies involved in the drill had trouble communicating, Boccia said the region is "way ahead of the curve" in terms of radio intercommunication.

"We're much further ahead than when the drill was conducted," he said. "That's as far as I would go. We've made great progress, but we're still working on it."

(Associated Press WorldStream -- 12/27/05)

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