DHS Looks to Regulate Purchase of Ammonium Nitrate

By Matthew Harwood

With an eye toward preventing another Oklahoma City-style terrorist attack, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to regulate the sale and transfer of ammonium nitrate, a commonly used chemical compound in agricultural fertilizer and explosives.

"In today's ever-evolving threat environment, we must continually reinforce the security of substances, such as ammonium nitrate, which can be used for legitimate purposes or exploited by terrorists," DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement. "Creating the Ammonium Nitrate Security Program (ANSP) is a critical step forward in our continued efforts to ensure the security of potentially dangerous amounts of ammonium nitrate, while still facilitating legitimate everyday use."

Besides its use in the April 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City by convicted terrorist Timothy McVeigh, the chemical compound has been used by other terrorists organizations, including al Qaeda and the Irish Republican Army, in explosive attacks. Just 12 days ago, rightwing terrorist Anders Behring Breivik detonated an ammonium nitrate-based bomb in Oslo, Norway, killing eight victims. Afterward, Breivik massacred 69 people, mostly teenagers attending a political youth camp on the nearby island of Utøya. 

Under the proposed program (.pdf), DHS would require ammonium nitrate sellers and prospective buyers to apply for DHS registration numbers to sell, transfer, or buy the chemical compound. Applicants' names would then be run against the Terrorist Screening Database, with a decision to accept or to deny the application made within 72 hours of applying.


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