NEWARK, N.J. – Investigators are uncovering alarming lapses in security, such as missing dangerous viruses and radioactive fuel rods and planes left unprotected, creating a potential nightmare for federal agencies.
"Everyone's concerned about this,” Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., said. "There's some level of frustration about what to do and that's understandable. This is a very tough problem, but if we think about our biggest threat out there this is it — the threat to our homeland."
Inspector generals, internal investigators at each federal department, have found alarming discrepancies that could have catastrophic results if not corrected and prevented quickly.
A recent investigation of the Department of Agriculture found that there was no way the agency could "identify the location and risk levels of the biological agents at laboratories around the country."
In fact, in some cases the biological agents themselves are missing. Three billion doses of a dangerous virus are missing. Alarm systems, security fences and surveillance cameras were also reported to be commonly lacking.
Inspectors discovered that the Department of Energy "could not fully account for the sealed sources of nuclear material lent to foreign countries."
While the Forestry Service tanker planes are "usually parked in open areas of public airports" and "are vulnerable to theft."
The agencies have issued statements, some disagreeing with the reports, but all defend their security practices.
And at least one security expert said that federal agencies are on the right track.
"Are we safe? The answer is yes," said Robert Strang of Decision Strategies. "Are we safer than we were eight months ago? The answer is yes. Is there more things that we can do in terms of making sure that we're safe? The answer is yes."
Investigations into each department continue, and reports will be released on a weekly basis, giving a glimpse of just how vulnerable the country is to security breaches and future terror attacks.