VERMONT -- Vermonters can rest easy knowing that international terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda are less interested in targeting key sites in the state than in vital infrastructure elsewhere in the country -- such as Old McDonald's Petting Zoo in Woodville, Ohio; the Kangaroo Conservation Center in Dawsonville, Georgia; and the Amish Country Popcorn Factory in Berne, Indiana.
On July 11, the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security released a report assessing his agency's progress in compiling a National Asset Database, which is used to determine each state's funding for federal antiterrorism grants. On the state-by-state list of "critical infrastructure and key resources," Vermont ranked 50th, with only 70 vital assets.
However, the inspector general raised serious questions about how sites are evaluated and prioritized. In fact, the report reveals that Indiana has 8591 vital assets, more than any other state and 50 percent more than New York, which has 5687. California had 3212 assets, which is fewer than seven other states including Nebraska (3457) and Wisconsin (7146).
The entire list of critical infrastructure and key assets is not public information. The database includes many sites of obvious strategic or historic importance -- 335 petroleum pipelines, 178 nuclear power plants, 140 defense facilities and 224 national monuments and icons. But the database also includes numerous "unusual or out-of-place" assets, such as 127 gas stations, 163 water parks, 1305 casinos and 4055 shopping malls.
Among the oddest and most inexplicable "vital" national assets listed: the Groundhog Zoo in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania; the Trees of Mystery in Klamath, California; "the mall at Sears"; "the DPW landfill"; and "beach at end of street."
A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security defended the National Asset Database, calling it "a valuable tool."
No word yet on whether the Ben & Jerry's ice cream plant made the cut.