U.S. Park Police officers failed to notice that somebody deposited what could have been a “dirty bomb” at the Washington Monument on Sept. 11, 2003, the Washington Post reports. In his debut as the Post’s new Reliable Source gossip columnist, Richard Leiby says a suspicious-looking black plastic bag stuffed with garbage was planted by the Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General.
The Post says inspectors left the bag at the rear of the obelisk for 20 minutes in broad daylight, then moved it near a security checkpoint where tourists were lined up. The “bag sat there, undisrupted and unnoticed, for roughly 15 minutes,” said Inspector General Earl E. Devaney, citing his “grave concerns for the security and public safety at these facilities.” The only Park Police officer nearby was in an unmarked car and “appeared to be sound asleep,” Devaney said.
Rep. Jim Turner (D-Tex.), a member of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, said, “Without a doubt, if there had been a terrorist attack on the Washington Monument on Sept. 11, 2003, hundreds of tourists could have been killed. Usually when we say someone was asleep at the wheel, it is just an expression, but this time, the Park Police were literally asleep at the wheel. . . . Someone needs to be held accountable for this.”
The case probably will fuel the controversy involving Park Police Chief Teresa C. Chambers, whom the National Park Service moved to fire last month after she publicly called her 620-member force overstretched and underfunded.