WASHINGTON - The Homeland Security Department drew up a
detailed strategy for closure of a key national security laboratory in lower
Manhattan in 2005, even as it insisted that no decision had been taken on the
A House subcommittee obtained the closure plan for the Environmental
Measurements Laboratory when it requested information on the facility.
The laboratory has worked with the New York Police and Fire departments and
the Port Authority to develop devices that can detect traces of radioactive
material, including those from a so-called "dirty bomb."
Jay Cohen, who has been undersecretary of Homeland Security for science and
technology since August, has said he wants to maintain and support the
But Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a letter yesterday to Homeland
Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, "I have reason to be skeptical of this
pledge." He said he would "watch closely" to see that the lab received the
support it required.
A New York police spokesman, Paul Browne, said the laboratory was "very
valuable." He said it has "the kind of expertise we don't already have
The lab was "severely crippled" by Homeland Security's science and
hearing yesterday by the subcommittee that he chairs.
Anthony Fainberg, who worked at the directorate, testified that by 2005
management appeared to be "trying to squeeze EML out of existence by turning
off projects one by one, so it could finally be asserted that the lab had no
A communications plan dated November 2005 opens with the statement: "The
EML's historic mission has been successfully accomplished. This will be the
keynote message related to the reason for its retirement."
Schumer was told in January 2006 that "no decisions have been made" about
the lab's future. He said yesterday that it was "troubling" that Homeland
Security "would give Congress misleading or incomplete information."
Christopher Kelly, a Homeland Security spokesman, confirmed that the
department had recommended closure in 2005 and requested that the science and
technology directorate create a closure plan, but he said that recommendation
was later dropped.
A look at laboratory
The Environmental Measurements Laboratory is situated just blocks from Ground
It has carried out nuclear and radioactivity research for 60 years.
It is currently involved in testing for the Domestic Nuclear Detection
Office, looking at "next-generation radiation monitors."
The highly sensitive monitors can be carried by police or firefighters to
detect radioactive traces. They can also be installed at ports.
The EML also responds to alerts when radiation is detected.