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‘Act’ of Terror at Pentagon Just Part of the Drill

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Unidentified radicals split away from a group of Pentagon tourists, take the Defense secretary’s staff hostage, then kill hundreds of people by knocking over a milk jug full of sarin gas.

It didn’t happen, but 500 Defense Department employees and law enforcement officials pretended it did Saturday--to prepare for the time when it might.

“The bombings in the World Trade Center and Oklahoma City were wake-up calls,” Pentagon spokesman Glenn Flood said. “To ignore them would be a dangerous assumption to make.”

Those incidents and the 1995 gassing of a Tokyo subway are among disturbing headlines of the Clinton presidency that have made preparedness for such attacks a new priority for the administration and law enforcers nationwide.

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The Defense Department has expanded its vaccination program against the lethal anthrax bacteria. The Pentagon also has designated 10 states, including California, where National Guard units will be specially trained to respond to weapons of mass destruction.

Local governments around the country have begun sending fire and police forces through anti-terrorism training, but Washington’s landmarks are considered especially vulnerable targets. Hundreds of thousands of tourists each year visit government buildings and monuments, potent symbols of the government.

During the Cold War, the Pentagon was considered the potential ground zero for nuclear attacks from the Soviet Union. Now, officials there say, the nation’s symbol of military might is visited by 150,000 tourists a year, which they consider makes it a prime target for terrorist attacks.


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