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Oklahoma City Bombing and Development of Government Security

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Security
Wordcount: 4127 words Published: 16th Mar 2021

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The Oklahoma City bombing, and the resulting tragedy in the loss of life, was the causal factor for a standardized government infrastructure security requirement. The impact of the Oklahoma City bombing led to the issue of Executive Order 12977 by President W. J Clinton on October 19th, 1995. It was this Executive Order that called for the creation of the Interagency Security Committee, responsible for increasing the standard and effectiveness of security at federally owned or leased buildings and installations (U.S Department of Homeland Security). The attack in Oklahoma City, 1995, was, therefore, the catalyst for improved government infrastructure security.

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On April 19th, 1995 the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was targeted by a security guard and ex-Army soldier with the intent to destroy the building and cause fatal harm to those within it. The assailant, Timothy McVeigh, had prepared a car bomb using various chemicals including agricultural fertilizer and diesel fuel as ingredients. He was able to drive up to the building with the device in a rented Ryder truck before igniting two timed fuses. McVeigh then fled the scene in a separate vehicle before the bomb was detonated at 9.02 am (Federal Bureau of Investigation).

The Oklahoma City bombing was the most severe physical terror attack the U.S had seen. Still sitting in second place after the September 11th terror attacks in 2001. McVeigh was ultimately successful in the destruction of the entire northern face of the building. One-hundred and sixty-eight individuals were murdered in the attack, including nineteen young children who were attending the building’s daycare center. More than six-hundred and fifty additional individuals were physically injured. Additionally approximately three-hundred more other buildings were also impacted or damaged during the explosion (History, 2018).

In direct response to the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, exactly six months later, on October 19th, 1995 President Clinton issued Executive Order 12977. The attack on a federal government building had brought into question the effectiveness of physical security at non-militarized facilities and installations. Executive Order 12977 was designed to address this issue and prevent further incidences and loss of life from both domestic and foreign attacks. To achieve this, President Clinton’s Order demanded a collaborative approach to security that could be held to a set standard. The implementation and maintenance of this required the formation of a select committee; the Interagency Security Committee (U.S Department of Homeland Security).

The role of the Interagency Security Committee is to ultimately evaluate, develop and maintain a standardized level of security. The objective is to maintain this consistently across all federally owned, leased or managed buildings or installations. This includes those under construction, purchase or renovation (U.S Department of Homeland Security). This collaborative approach to security management, creating a standard for government infrastructure security, extends beyond implementation.

The Interagency Security Committee, as called for by Executive Order 12977, requires that representatives from a minimum of seventeen separate government agencies make up the body of the committee (Clinton, 1995). In total, however, senior executives and chief security officers from sixty-three different federal agencies combine to create a diverse team, representative of all branches of government. The leadership of the committee is maintained and chaired by the Assistant Director for Infrastructure Security (U.S Department of Homeland Security).

The deliberate diversity among the Interagency Security Committee members ensures that each branch of government and each agency is equally represented. In turn, this allows for a collaborative approach to the formation of security policies with equal input from across government. Beginning with an analysis of existing security, a complete spectrum evaluation can be obtained, with potential weaknesses and threats identified holistically. During the development of improved security measures, the information and statistical data available are maximized. This means that there is consistent communication and greater progress can be made in increasing effective security.

President Clinton’s Executive Order 12977 specifically identifies and addresses the requirement for the security of government-run and owned buildings. This is significant because of the potential threat to national security. Federal buildings and installations are used to manage, run and maintain a variety of services integral to national infrastructure. To protect the national interest, economy, and its citizens, securing federal buildings is integral. Executive Order 12977, therefore, has a significantly important role in protecting national security. Developed and enforced by the Interagency Security Committee, a standardized requirement for security standards across government mitigates and diminishes the threat to national security.

It can be argued, on the other hand, that the National Industrial Security Program was, in fact, a more significant turning point in the development of a standardized government infrastructure security model. The National Industrial Security Program was introduced in 1993 as instructed by President George H. W. Bush in Executive Order 12829, two years before the Oklahoma City bombing (National Archives, 2019).

Predominantly concerning the security of intelligence, rather than physical security, the National Industrial Security Program was introduced to achieve three main objectives. These objectives include the streamlining of requirements, reducing unnecessary requirements. They also included the use of the reciprocity principle in clearance procedures; and the uniformity of security procedures. An amendment to Executive Order 12829 and the National Industrial Security Program was made in 2015. President B. Obama issued Executive Order 13691 which added the sixth section to the original Order, focused on the reduction of security costs (National Archives, 2019).

Both post and prior the Executive Order 13691 amendments, however, the National Industrial Security Program offered an operating manual in which procedural instruction, requirements, and restrictions are detailed for industrial security. The operating manual was constructed by the National Industrial Security Program Advisory Committee, a group of fourteen representatives from both industry and executive branch agencies. The committee’s role was to act as a forum for policy disputes, but also implement and recommend changes to the Order’s policies by forging a partnership between industry and government (National Archives, 2019).

The most important policy and objective of Executive Order 12829 and the National Industrial Security Program Advisory Committee is the achievement of a uniform security procedure. This manifested in the creation of an integrated and united system by which to safeguard classified intelligence (National Archives, 2019). This was an early example of a single, standardized approach to security across different branches of government and a required standard by which security can be assessed.

What the National Industrial Security Program and the Interagency Security Committee do have in common is a shared approach to security. Both Executive Orders that issued the two deliberately called for a single, unified, collaborative approach to security management and a single security model across all branches of government. By the application of a single security approach, a required standard is created. In contrast, the National Industrial Security Program was introduced over two and a half years before Executive Order 12977. This indicates that it was President G. H. W. Bush’s Order that originally prompted the standardized security model demonstrated by the Interagency Security Committee in approaching government infrastructure.

However, although the National Industrial Security Program and its operating manual have been successful in providing an improved standard and requirement for security, Executive Order 12829 does not tackle issues of physical security in the way that Executive Order 12977 and the Interagency Security Committee have. The specific focus and issues targeted by the two Orders stem from separate places. Although both issues of national security when concerning government-related infrastructure, physical and information security are seeded in different areas.

The umbrella term ‘security’ can be used to describe the protection of people, information and assets (Brooks & Smith, 2013). The distinction between information security and the physical security of people and assets in this definition, however, is significant. Although, it could be argued that the two branches of security overlap in encompassing holistic security approaches.

However, when President Clinton was considering Executive Order 12977 he specifically had in mind the physical protection of buildings. This is evidenced in the Order being issued as a direct response to a physical terror attack, the Oklahoma City bombing just six months prior. President Clinton made numerous public comments at the time, conveying his mourning for the victims of Oklahoma City. These displays of emotion support the causal link between the Oklahoma City bombing as the introduction of Executive Order 12977 as a direct repercussion.

In stark contrast to this, Executive Order 12829, issued by President G. H. W. Bush was a direct attempt to improve the classification of intelligence and its security. The Order details the process by which restricted, formerly restricted, sensitive, secret and top-secret information should be handled. The National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual identifies the requirement and standard for obtaining clearances, and the process by which clearance and information access can be achieved (Department of Defense, 1995). The objective of the Order was to ensure a set security requirement for the handling of information, not a set requirement for the handling of physical security.

Another argument in support of the Oklahoma City bombing as the causal factor that prompted the introduction of a standardized approach and requirement for the security of government infrastructure, as opposed to Executive Order 12829, is that Order 12829 simply did not prevent any physical attacks. The Order was introduced only 52 days before a bombing attack on the World Trade Center.

On February 26th, 1993, a small group of Muslim anti-capitalists actioned a six-month-old plan to attack the World Trade Center in Manhattan. Ramzi Ahmed Yousef and his extremist coconspirators had concocted a bomb inside a rented storage unit from various ingredients they had been stockpiling. On the morning of February 26th, the group drove a rented Ford van into the underground parking lot beneath the World Trade Center. The vehicle was coincidently rented from the same company, Ryder, as the truck used in the Oklahoma City bombing (Greenspan, 2018).

Once beneath the buildings, the attackers ignited a 20ft long fuse before fleeing the scene in a separate vehicle. At 12.17 pm the van exploded. The buildings’ electrical lines, sprinkler system, elevators, and generator were destroyed, resulting in high levels of panic from the thousands of individuals above. Six people were murdered in the attack whilst thousands were left injured. Although the physical structural damage to the building was moderately controlled, smoke from the explosion filled the building, traveling up stairwells into the offices above (Greenspan, 2018).

Although the World Trade Center was not entirely a federal building, the complex of buildings making up the World Trade Center operated in similar ways. Information security within the buildings may have been approached in line with the National Industrial Security Program of operation. Yet, Executive Order 12829 had no impact on preventing the terror attack scheme that was carried out on February 26th of that same year.

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It can be considered that the World Trade Center bombing was perhaps a contributing factor, alongside the Oklahoma City bombing, in the decision to implement a set standard of security across government. Rather than the National Industrial Security Program acting as the catalyst, it appears more likely that a succession of physical catastrophes would have led to universal security requirements. This perspective, however, brings into question whether or not the Oklahoma City attack was the single causal factor in the creation of the Interagency Security Committee who proceeded to set a standard requirement for physical security.

President George H. W. Bush began his presidency in 1989 which then ended after two terms in office in January 1993. He was succeeded by President William J. Clinton on January 20th, 1993. This was only fourteen days after President G. H. W. Bush issued Executive Order 12829 (The White House, n.d.). This shows that President Clinton was in office during the time in which both separate terror attacks took place. It could be argued that both the bombing attacks on the World Trade Center and the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building were contributors to the introduction of a standardized minimum security requirement.

Counterbalancing this argument, however, is the fact that the World Trade Center was not a federally owned, leased or occupied building. Executive Order 12977 specifically references and requires that non-military buildings and facilities that are occupied by federal employees be held to a minimum security standard (President Clinton, 1995). If the February 26th, 1993 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center had been a contributing factor in President W. J. Clinton issuing Executive Order 12977, then we could assume that Executive Order 12977 would have encompassed non-federal buildings in the application of a standard of security requirement.

The Order, however, comes two and a half years after the attack on the World Trade Center. If this incident had been an influence on the creation of the Interagency Security Committee and its objectives then Executive Order 12977 should have been issued much closer to the time of the attack. Instead, the Order was not introduced until six months after the Oklahoma City bombings. This time frame is much more indicative that what took place in Oklahoma City in April 1995 was the true causal factor in President Clinton issuing Executive Order 12977 to implement a requirement for a standard of physical security across the federal infrastructure.

It can also be assumed that during the first year of President Clinton’s administration there would have been a focus on implementing policy promises that had been made during the presidential running campaign. This would have been more of a priority than contemplating new proposals such as an Executive Order for something as specific as a proposal for a whole new committee dedicated to federal infrastructure security standards.

Adding to the argument that Executive Order 12829 and Executive Order 12977 were proposed with separate objectives, concerning physical security versus information security and non-military federal installations verses, is the second physical terror attack committed on the World Trade Center in 2001.

On September 11th, 2001 members of the organized Islamic terror group al Qaeda were able to take control of four individual commercial airline planes. Two of the four aircraft were directed towards the World Trade Center towers, and at 8.45 am the northern tower was struck on the eightieth floor. The aircraft was carrying approximately twenty-thousand gallons of jet fuel which upon collision exploded. Hundreds of individuals aboard the plane, as well as within the tower, were instantly murdered. The constructional damage to the building ultimately resulted in its demolition, but before this, smoke and fire from the collision began spreading through elevator shafts and stairwells. Eventually, this resulted in the death of hundreds of more individuals (History, 2019).

Media coverage of this initial attack began recording the incident, televising the second aircraft as it struck the twin tower. Also a hijacked United Airlines flight, the second plane struck the sister tower on its sixtieth floor at 9.03 am. Thousands of people working and visiting the World Trade Center attempted to evacuate through the smoke. However, hundreds of people were left trapped in the floors above, the aircrafts having destroyed vast sections of the buildings (History, 2019).

The World Trade Center had not been protected by the introduction of either Executive Order 12829 or Executive Order 12977. Neither the National Industrial Security Program nor the Interagency Security Committee provided the necessary security standards to mitigate the risk of such a large scale complex terror attack. However, neither Executive Order was issued with the intention or focus on physical attacks of this magnitude. To this day the 9/11 terror attacks remain the largest and most severe attacks to infrastructure and national security in U.S history.

The third plane was directed towards the Pentagon military headquarters in Washington D.C. At 9.45 am the plan collided with the western side of the building causing a fiery explosion and ultimately murdering the sixty-four airline passengers along with one-hundred and twenty-five military and civilian individuals (History, 2019).

It is not known whether or not the fourth plane was intended to target a non-military federal building. The fourth aircraft had made a late departure from Newark Liberty International Airport, affording passengers aboard the plane to learn what was transpiring in New York and Washington D.C. On telephone conversations with loved ones, the passengers aboard explained that their plane had also been hijacked and that plans were in motion to sabotage the terrorist’s plans. The exact events are uncertain, however, it is believed that passengers attempted to storm the cockpit of the plane with fire extinguishers and boiling water. Ultimately, the plane spiraled out of control before crashing on agricultural land in western Pennsylvania (History, 2019).

All passengers aboard the flight were killed upon the plane's impact at 9.45 am, and so the intended target remains unknown. However, it has been theorized that the aircraft was intended to hit the White House or potentially the U.S Capitol building. Both of which are federal buildings. If the fourth plane had, unfortunately, hit one of these buildings, a greater loss of life would have almost certainly occurred. The forty-four individuals upon the aircraft who had been killed in the plane's descent would have contributed to only a fraction of total victims from the fourth aircraft. It would also, however, have indicated as to whether or not Executive Order 12977 was effective in mitigating a security risk of this magnitude (History, 2019).

In defense of the military and federal response to the attacks, the ability to prevent such a complex and unusual attack on both commercial and federal buildings may not have been entirely possible. Such an attack as the hijacked aircraft was previously unprecedented, and therefore may not have been accounted for in security risk analysis by the Interagency Security Committee or in fact any security management risk analysis.

There is also the point that all four of the aircraft used in the attacks did not originate from a non-military federally owned building, but rather commercial airports. Executive Order 12977 specifically directs its objectives towards setting a minimum security requirement standard at non-military, federally owned, leased or occupied buildings or installations. A commercial airport, although it may contain military personnel at certain times, does not come under the classification outlined in Executive Order 12977, and therefore would not have been operating the minimum security requirement standards the Interagency Security Committee requires.

The second terror attack on the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001 demonstrates and adds to the argument that Executive Order 12829 was not designed to promote enhanced physical security or set a standardized security model for civilian or military buildings or installations. Executive Order 12829 and the introduction of the National Industrial Security Program was not related to or able to prevent either attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 or 2001. Only Executive Order 12977, out of the two, was designed to target and improve physical security by setting a minimum security requirement standard.

The Oklahoma City bombing attack was solely ultimately responsible for President Clinton’s Executive Order which was a direct response to the attack. Issued on the exact sixth month anniversary of the incident, with a direct objective to protect non-militarized federal buildings and instillations from physical threats, including terror attacks. The attack in Oklahoma City was reflected perfectly in the objectives of the Interagency Security Committee and demonstrates precisely the type of incident that the committee seeks to prevent.

The Oklahoma City bombing on April 19th, 1995 was the causal factor that prompted the introduction of a standardized minimum physical security requirement for all non-military, federally owned, leased and occupied buildings and installations across government. The domestic terror attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City lead to the formation of the Interagency Security Committee has demanded by Executive Order 12977 issued by President W. J. Clinton. The Interagency Security Committee was responsible for creating a single set standard for security across all non-military federal buildings in which federal employees operated (U.S Department of Homeland Security).


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