ALBANY, N.Y. – A loophole in law 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, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said Sunday in unveiling legislation that would change that.
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.
In the fall of 2010, al-Qaida urged recruits to take jobs in potential terrorist targets such as power plants where they could inflict significant damage and chaos quickly and easily, the federal report said.
"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.
"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."
His bill would require FBI background checks on all employees of major power plants, Schumer said.
Schumer said the report shows that al-Qaida is recruiting terrorists to work in sensitive locations such as electric, gas and water utilities.
Schumer's bill would require an FBI criminal history check that includes analyzing fingerprints. The process would be paid for with fees paid to the FBI for each analysis.
Nuclear plant workers are already required to submit to a thorough background check, but Schumer says utilities and power plants aren't covered.