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The terror threat in Boston

Boston is considered one of the top 10 potential terror targets in the country even though there have been no attacks in Massachusetts over the last decade. The Department of Homeland Security says that Boston remains an attractive target because of high-profile events such as the Boston Marathon and several key vulnerabilities:
Greater Boston is the nation's 10th-largest metropolitan area with 4.5 million residents in a region stretching from Rhode Island to southern New Hampshire.
The MBTA runs the country's fourth-largest mass transit system with half a million riders each week.
The 9.5 miles of tunnels in the Big Dig represent a major potential terror target, one of the world's largest underground road systems used on a daily basis by 250,000 motorists.
The nation's only urban liquefied natural gas tanker terminal brings millions of gallons of highly flammable fuel through Boston Harbor. An LNG tanker explosion could cause fire damage within a 1-mile radius.
Two of the planes commandeered by terrorists on September 11, 2001, flew out of Logan International Airport, the nation's 19th busiest.

BUILDING OUR DEFENSES AGAINST TERRORISM

How the state has spent some of its $500 million in homeland security funding

Statewide intelligence-gathering center

Commonwealth Fusion Center, now in Maynard, opened in 2005 to collect close to real-time information on any terror threat facing Massachusetts. Center responds to hundreds of police requests and reports of suspicious activity, but most are false alarms and only one-third of its activities relate to terrorism.

Emergency Operations Center

Boston used $436,654 in homeland security money to equip the Roxbury center to coordinate response to disasters. The center has opened once for a terrorism training exercise in last two years, but otherwise is used for managing response to natural disasters, bad weather, and public events.

Armed guards

State police line the shore and the Coast Guard escorts liquefied natural gas tankers into Boston Harbor each week, though there has never been a credible threat.

Armored vehicles

Law enforcement agencies have acquired six armored vehicles for use against terrorists and criminal suspects. A group of suburban police departments recently bought a $325,000 BearCat armored car. It’s only been used once for terror-related purposes.

Emergency supplies

State officials laid aside emergency equipment from Beverly to Pittsfield, including generators and cots. The caches are mainly used by local officials as a supply of portable signs and lights for routine events.

Bomb-sniffing dogs

Boston area received $700,00 federal grant to buy 13 bomb-sniffing dogs and 13 specially equipped SUVs after a 2007 bomb scare exposed inability to investigate multiple bomb threats at once. Today, dogs are used mainly for criminal investigations since bomb threats are relatively rare.

Antiterror training

Emergency officials staged a $1 million terrorism drill in May 2011. Urban Shield: Boston simulated a hijacked boat in Winthrop, a post-explosion rescue in Quincy, and other scenarios. The Department of Transportation paid a consultant $1 million to update its emergency preparedness plans and stage drills, including a simulated exchange of gunfire at Bowdoin MBTA.
Foiled plot
Law enforcement officials foil plot to bomb Los Angeles International Airport during the holidays, a plot that includes an Algerian who entered the US aboard an LNG tanker sailing into Boston Harbor in 1995.
Shoe bomber
Admitted Al Qaeda member Richard Reid attempts to set off "shoe bomb" on American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami while in mid-air. The bomb fails to detonate, Reid is subdued, and the plane is diverted to Logan Airport, where he's arrested.
False alarm
An MIT student wearing a glowing device with wires coming out of it prompts a bomb scare at Logan Airport, where she is arrested at gunpoint. The student said she built the device to impress potential employers at a career fair.
Terror trial
Sudbury resident Tarek Mehanna is scheduled to face federal trial in Boston for allegedly plotting to kill US troops in Iraq. Prosecutors say he conspired to support Al Qaeda and traveled to Yemen in an unsuccessful attempt to get terrorist training.
September 11
Both hijacked planes that crash into the World Trade Center -- American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 -- flew out of Logan International Airport.
Hoax
Tipster tells FBI that four Chinese and two Iraqi terrorists have entered US from Mexico with plans to set off a "dirty bomb" in Boston, causing widespread alarm. Tip turns out to be a hoax phoned in from Mexico.
False alarm
Blinking, battery-powered signs installed on highways and bridges around Boston cause a city-wide bomb scare, shutting down major highways and parts of the subway. Signs turned out to be a promotion for a Turner Broadcasting cartoon.
Times Square bomber
FBI agents arrest a Watertown cab driver and his Pakistani nephew in connection with $4,900 provided to Faisal Shahzad, who was convicted of attempting to blow up a car in New York City's Times Square in May 2009. The cabbie was cleared of all charges and the nephew deported, but neither was ever charged with terrorism.

SOURCES: US Department of Homeland Security, Boston Police Department Explosive Ordnance Unit

JAMES ABUNDIS, SEAN MURPHY, DAVID BUTLER, PATRICK GARVIN, DAIGO FUJIWARA/GLOBE STAFF

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