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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Leaked Terror Response Plan Anticipates Disaster

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, trying to focus antiterrorism spending better nationwide, has identified a dozen possible strikes it views as most plausible or devastating, including detonation of a nuclear device in a major city, release of sarin nerve agent in office buildings and a truck bombing of a sports arena.

The document, known simply as the National Planning Scenarios, reads more like a doomsday plan, offering estimates of the probable deaths and economic damage caused by each type of attack.

They include blowing up a chlorine tank, killing 17,500 people and injuring more than 100,000; spreading pneumonic plague in the bathrooms of an airport, sports arena and train station, killing 2,500 and sickening 8,000 worldwide; and infecting cattle with hoof-and-mouth disease at several sites, costing hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. Specific locations are not named because the events could unfold in many major metropolitan or rural areas, the document says.

The agency's objective is not to scare the public, officials said, and they have no credible intelligence that such attacks are planned. The department did not intend to release the document publicly, but a draft of it was inadvertently posted on a Hawaii state government web site.

By identifying possible attacks and specifying what government agencies should do to prevent, respond to and recover from them, Homeland Security is trying for the first time to define what "prepared" means, officials said.

That will help decide how billions of federal dollars are distributed in the future. Cities like New York that have targets with economic and symbolic value, and places with hazardous facilities like chemical plants could get a bigger share of agency money, while less vulnerable communities could receive less.

U.S. President George W. Bush requested the list of priorities 15 months ago to address a widespread criticism of Homeland Security from members of Congress and antiterrorism experts that it was wasting money by spreading it out instead of focusing on areas or targets at greatest risk. Critics also have claimed the agency did not have a detailed plan to eliminate or reduce vulnerabilities.

 Despite a huge investment in security, the U.S. aviation system remains vulnerable to attack by al-Qaida and other jihadist terrorist groups, with noncommercial planes and helicopters offering terrorists particularly tempting targets, another confidential U.S. government report concludes.

Intelligence indicates that al-Qaida may have discussed plans to hijack chartered planes, helicopters and other general aviation aircraft for attacks because they are less well-guarded than commercial airliners, according to a previously undisclosed 24-page special assessment on aviation security by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security two weeks ago.