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County team to gauge domestic terrorist threats


HUDSON—Last May Governor Kathy Hochul ordered every county in the state to “develop and maintain a plan to identify and confront threats of domestic terrorism,” with input from “key stakeholders,” by December 31.

Accordingly, the Columbia County Department of Emergency Management assembled local stakeholders who drafted a Domestic Terrorism Prevention plan over several months. At its December 14 Full Board meeting, the Board of Supervisors authorized the county to develop the plan and submit it to the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services by the end of the year.

In addition, the county is to establish a Threat Assessment Management (TAM) team, county Director of Emergency Management David Harrison said December 14.

Mr. Harrison reported that Matt Murell (R-Stockport), chairman of the Board of Supervisors, designated the Emergency Management Department as the lead agency for overseeing the creation of the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Plan.

Emergency Management put together a group of over 20 stakeholders. These included representatives from law enforcement, education, mental health, medical services, private organizations, and the Board of Supervisors’ Public Safety Committee, including Supervisor Jeanne Mettler (D-Copake). The group met several times and designed a plan proposal.

The proposal contains “sensitive information to be reviewed and approved by the Public Safety Committee,” according to the board’s authorization resolution. But two topics of concern are cybersecurity and racism.

In 2021, Mr. Harrison, a former county sheriff, said the county underwent a routine County Emergency Preparedness Assessment (CEPA), which concluded that the chief threat was a cyberattack. The governor’s May 18 executive order called the May 14 Buffalo shooting “motivated by racist conspiracy theories,” refers to “white supremacist and other like-minded terrorist attacks and plots” in 2021, and says the threats the plan must guard against include those from “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists.” And Columbia County has experienced both cyber attacks and racist harassment in the past year.

‘At this time, we have not had any issues.’

Chief Technology Officer Chris Sweet

Columbia County

On December 14 Hudson Mayoral Assistant Michael Hoffman said that the City of Hudson had had no email service since November 30, because its email provider, which serves many municipalities among other entities, had suffered a ransomware attack. (Ransomware is when “bad guys” disable or corrupt a computer system until the owner pays money.) So the city had suspended email service to the affected departments until it could convert to a different email provider. This affected only email and not the city’s website, not the internet, and not a few departments that had their own email service such as police, Mr. Hoffman said.

For the county system, “At this time, we have not had any issues,” said Chief Technology Officer Chris Sweet on December 16. “We have safeguards and back ups in place. We’re training our staff to develop safe computer habits. We’re constantly on the watch and constantly upgrading. We have monitoring systems that will let us know if something is wrong. It’s a constant effort, but we’re in a good spot.”

But in May two banners with racist slogans appeared over I-90, and this fall bags with fliers with a racist message appeared on lawns in Chatham.

The May 18 order “hereby establishes a Threat Assessment Management Program, to be administered by the Office of Counter Terrorism,” which will disburse grants to counties to help them create and operate Threat Assessment Management teams.

Mr. Harrison said he expects the group that drafted the plan to evolve into such a team. Its functions will include “education and outreach.” In fact, he reported, the county had just received acceptance for a grant from New York State for developing its TAM.

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