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Homeland Security Asset Report Inflames Critics

The Department of Homeland Security's inspector general criticizes a database of places that states have designated as being vulnerable to terrorist attack. The list contains such apparently frivolous entries as an insect zoo and a popcorn factory.

Critics of cuts in national security grants to New York and Washington jumped on the report as indicating why smaller cities received increases in their grants. But the DHS says the list was not used in allocating the money.

Homeland Security Inspector General Richard Skinner listed the Trees of Mystery -- in California's Redwood Forest -- as one of several dozen unusual items included in the database. The list was intended to consolidate the nation's key resources and critical infrastructure.

Skinner said a lack of guidance to states that submitted the items has led to distorted results. For example, Indiana is listed as having more than 8,500 critical assets -- 50 percent more than New York.

Rep. Caroline Maloney is a Democrat from New York, a state that has been fighting recent cuts in federal Homeland Security funds. She notes that the database shows her state with only two percent of the nation's banking and financial assets, somewhere between North Dakota and Missouri.

"It also lists Washington state with nearly twice as many national monuments than the District of Columbia," Maloney said. "It appears not to have any standards or definitions of what should be on this list."

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Pam Fessler
Pam Fessler is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where she covers poverty, philanthropy, and voting issues.
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