For the past three years Americans from allwalks of life have been anxiously asking: “Are we safer?” In the monthof September the question dominates the media and the political debate.It was also the central question of the The National Commission onTerrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also known as the 9/11Commission).
Answering that question this year iscomplicated by the presidential election campaign. Both sides have avested interest in the answer and neither—as is to be expected—isapproaching it from an objective viewpoint.
In July 2003, the Progressive PolicyInstitute, a Democratic Party think tank based in Washington, DC,issued a homeland security report card. Unsurprisingly, PresidentGeorge Bush received an overall grade of “D.”
President Bush, for his part, is equallyadamant that the nation is safer under his watch. In a July 12, 2004,speech in Oak Ridge, Tenn., he repeated the refrain “the Americanpeople are safer” seven times as he enumerated the success of hispolicies.
While the ultimate verdict will be rendered in the 2004 presidential election, we at HSTodaydecided to do our own evaluation—as objectively as we could. We lookedat previous judgments and statements of political leaders and experts,then rendered our own. We were the sole determiners of the criteriaused and the categories to be graded, though we sought to be ascomprehensive as possible.
In preparing the chart that follows and goingthrough both parties’ positions, it was interesting to see the emphasesof each side. Republicans and the administration, of course,concentrated on their accomplishments and ignored their critics.Democrats and critics tended to concentrate on what could have beendone and disregarded the other side’s successes.
Overlooked by everyone are the innumerable,incremental successes and advances at the local level and in theprivate sector. Unheralded, often unnoticed outside local communities,these small steps have a cumulative impact. Every new fire truckpurchased with a federal grant, every new radio distributed by a countygovernment, every tabletop exercise performed by state officialscontributes to overall homeland security and this grassroots movementmust be taken into account when evaluating the country’s overall safety.
Likewise, initiatives taken by private companies contribute to overall security and have vastly increased since 9/11.
The ultimate picture that emerges is neither as bleak as critics suggest nor as rosy as the administration would have it.
In the end, we have to agree with theconclusion of the 9/11 Commission: We are safer, although not safe. Theprogress made to date does not warrant complacency and a great dealremains to be done.
Senior correspondent Anthony Kimery contributed to this report.
Sources and documents cited:
Anonymous, Imperial Hubris, Dulles, Va., Brassey’s Inc., 2004.
DCCC: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (www.democraticaction.org)
DNC: Democratic National Committee (www.democrats.org)
Kerry-Edwards: Official statements of the Kerry-Edwards campaign (www.johnkerry.com)
NRCC: National Republican Congressional Committee (www.nrcc.org)
Oak Ridge speech: Speech given by President George Bush on July 12, 2004, at Oak Ridge, Tenn. (www.whitehouse.gov)
Richard A. Clarke, Against All Enemies, New York, NY, Free Press, 2004.
RNC: Republican National Committee (www.gop.com)
Winning the War on Terror: A comprehensive plan for counterterrorism and homeland security released by House Democrats in April 2004. (www.house.gov/hsc/democrats/)
Comments attributed to individuals were madein various fora, including those made by Democratic candidate Sen. JohnKerry (Mass.).
Overseas & Foreign policy
The war on terror
Administration/Republicans: “We are leading a steady, confident, systematic campaign against thedangers of our time. There are still terrorists who plot against us,but the ranks of their leaders are thinning, and they know what fateawaits them. There are still regimes actively supporting theterrorists, but fewer than there used to be. There are still outlawregimes pursuing weapons of mass destruction, but the world no longerlooks the other way. Today, because America has acted, and becauseAmerica has led, the forces of terror and tyranny have suffered defeatafter defeat, and America and the world are safer.” — President Bush atOak Ridge, Tenn., July 12
Democrats/Critics: “Ourcredibility is diminished. Our standing in the world has never beenlower. We have fostered a deep hatred of Americans in the Muslim world,and that will grow. As a direct consequence, our nation is morevulnerable today than ever before.” — Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.),July 12
HSToday take: Mixed results. Some spectacular successes, notably in Libya, which wasnever the focus of administration rhetoric, and in Afghanistan, wherethe Taliban was overthrown, mixed with disastrous post-war managementin Iraq, which was a near-obsessive focus.
Safer than last year? Safer. Constant efforts overseas, the efforts of allies and thewrapping up of terrorist cells around the world has had an effect.
Safer than 9/11? About thesame. While global vigilance, counterterrorist activities and attackson the terrorist infrastructure have had an impact, missteps in Iraqand strategic blunders, the creation of an anti-American Islamistterrorist movement beyond just the Al Qaeda organization, as well asthe failure to eliminate the Al Qaeda leadership, leave the balanceabout even. Long-term prospects are very worrying.
Grade: Overall: C It’s not yet time to declare the mission accomplished.
Administration/Republicans: “Today, because we acted to liberate Afghanistan, a threat has beenremoved, and the American people are safer.” — Oak Ridge speech.
Democrats/Critics: “Certain the Afghans want to be like us, and abstaining from effectivemilitary action against growing numbers of anti-US insurgents, we haveallowed the Taliban and Al Qaeda to re-group and re-fit. They are nowwaging an insurgency that gradually will increase in intensity,lethality, and popular support and ultimately force Washington tomassively escalate its military presence or evacuate.” — Anonymous, Imperial Hubris
HSToday take: Initial success, but a failure to commit more troops and resources hasallowed terrorist elements to regroup and the central governmentremains weak. Failure to capture or neutralize Osama bin Laden, Aymanal-Zwahiri and Mullah Omar remains a major failure.
Safer than last year? About equal. Continuing efforts to build a stable, democraticgovernment are offset by Taliban and Al Qaeda regrouping, centralgovernment weakness and corruption.
Safer than 9/11? 90%safer. In 2001, the Taliban government was subservient to al Qaeda andAfghanistan was a full-blown terrorist base. Today, the directterrorist threat to the United States from Afghanistan has been nearlyeliminated despite worrying trends in the country.
Grade: Overall: B– Wouldhave been higher with the confirmed elimination of Osama bin Ladenand/or Al Qaeda, Taliban leadership. Long-term trends are worrying.
Administration/Republicans: “Three years ago, the world was very different. Terrorists plannedattacks, with little fear of discovery or reckoning.” — Oak Ridgespeech
Democrats/Critics: “Ithink it’s too soon to make that determination [that the world is moresecure because of US actions in Afghanistan and Iraq]. I would like tothink it is, but we won’t be able to determine that for a few moreyears. Why is that? Because we have dispersed, forced out, terror cellsall over the world…whether we’ve made the world safer yet, I don’tknow…” — Former Sen. Chuck Hagel, July 1
HSToday take: While Al Qaeda is degraded and has suffered numerous setbacks, itremains a viable organization and its top leadership is at large and incommand.
Safer than last year? Somewhat safer. It is very hard for an outside observer without accessto classified intelligence to judge the current effectiveness of theorganization — although there have not been any known Al Qaeda attackson US soil since 9/11.
Safer than 9/11? Muchsafer. On 9/11, Al Qaeda had numerous sleeper cells and pulled off itsmost spectacular operation. It has since been considerably degradedaround the world.
Grade: Overall: B– Degraded but viable, the organization still represents a threat and, as of this writing, its leadership is at large.
Administration/Republicans: “Iraq, which once had the worst government in the Middle East, is nowbecoming an example of reform to the region. And Iraqi security forcesare fighting beside coalition troops to defeat the terrorists andforeign fighters who threaten their nation and the world. Today,because America and our coalition helped to end the violent regime ofSaddam Hussein, and because we’re helping to raise a peaceful democracyin its place, the American people are safer.” — Oak Ridge speech
Democrats/Critics: “Nothing America could have done would have provided Al Qaeda and itsnewgeneration of cloned groups a better recruitment device than ourunprovoked invasion of an oil-rich Arab country. Nothing else couldhave so well negated all our other positive acts and so closed Muslimeyes and ears to our subsequent calls for reform in their region. Itwas as if Osama bin Laden, hidden in some high mountain redoubt, wereengaging in long-range mind control of George Bush, chanting, ‘InvadeIraq, you must invade Iraq.’” — Richard A. Clarke, Against All Enemies
HSToday take: Very mixed results. A brilliant military campaign followed by adisastrous, chaotic, unprepared, inept, mismanaged postwaradministration. Failure to find WMD despite its central justificationfor the war reduced American credibility and shook the intelligencecommunity. The Abu Ghraib prison scandal lost the war for Iraqi heartsand minds. An Iraqi-fundamentalist alliance was created where noneexisted before. A new generation of jihadis was created and thefundamentalist analysis of American intentions validated. On the otherhand, the uncertainty regarding Iraq’s WMD arsenal is eliminated and ahostile dictator was overthrown, although the replacement governmentremains besieged and weak.
Safer than last year? Marginally safer. Last year the Iraqi insurgency was just getting underway. Today, Iraq could still become a base for foreign terrorismdirected toward the United States and its allies.
Safer than 9/11? Somewhatsafer. On 9/11, Saddam Hussein was still in power, was believed topossess WMD and his intentions were unknown. However, he was hamperedby sanctions and had refrained from terrorist attacks against the USand its allies. Today, Iraq is unstable in a different way and abreeding ground for new terrorism. A civil war remains very possible ifit hasn’t already begun.
Grade: Overall: D Incredibly bad US planning and management after major combat operationsand US complacency and arrogance in the country’s immediate postwaradministration soured the US military triumph. One terrorist threat hasbeen replaced by another. US credibility has been shaken in allrespects, the American people divided, the government discredited andthe United States isolated internationally.
Administration/Republicans: “Today, thousands of Libya’s chemical munitions have been destroyed.And nuclear processing equipment that could ultimately have threatenedthe lives of hundreds of thousands is stored away right here in OakRidge, Tennessee. Today, because the Libyan government saw theseriousness of the civilized world, and correctly judged its owninterests, the American people are safer.” — Oak Ridge speech
Democrats/Critics: “Thetruth is that Muammar Gadhafi has been looking for a deal for fouryears. He began negotiations with Bill Clinton, unfortunately towardthe very end of the administration….The deal with Gadhafi, mostly,might I add, pursued and brokered by Tony Blair and the British, couldhave been achieved some time ago. It’s now happening partly to make itlook like it’s causal with respect to the war on terror. I disagree.” —Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), CNN “Late Edition,” Dec. 21, 2003
HSToday take: Ahuge success, potentially the administration’s greatest achievement.Even if it had its genesis in the Clinton administration and Britainhad a major hand in it, this administration closed the deal. It wouldprobablybe unkind to point out that President Bush has stated that hewent to war with Saddam Hussein because he wouldn’t trust the word of amadman, but that in this instance he’s accepting the word of someonewho is arguably flakier. Still, a great achievement in light of pasthistory.
Safer than last year? Vastly safer. Libya and the international nuclear underground presented a clear danger to the civilized world.
Safer than 9/11? An immense improvement.
Grade: Overall: A+ A great achievement — and one more impressive by the fact that it was achieved without bloodshed.
Administration/Republicans: “We have strong allies, including millions of people in the Middle East, who want to live in freedom.” — Oak Ridge speech
Democrats/Critics: “…Bychasing non-existent weapons of mass destruction, he’s gotten us stuckin a quagmire in Iraq and squandered the good will of our allies.” — DNC
HSToday take: American standing has been injured. Formerly staunch allies arealienated and countries that willingly followed the American lead nowfeel they must develop alternatives.
Safer than last year? About the same. Some repairs are being made to US relations with countries that opposed the Iraq war.
Safer than 9/11? Lesssafe. Confidence in American power and diplomatic and political finessehas been badly shaken. New coalitions are forming to offset Americanpower. New US initiatives will be impeded.
Grade: Overall: D This administration had a go-it-alone approach from the outset. It is now largely alone.
Administration/Republicans: “Three years ago, a private weapons proliferation network was doingbusiness around the world. This network, operated by the Pakistaninuclear scientist, A.Q. Khan, was selling nuclear plans and equipmentto the highest bidder, and found willing buyers in places like Libya,Iran, and North Korea. Today, the A.Q. Khan network is out of business.We have ended one of the most dangerous sources of proliferation in theworld, and the American people are safer.” — Oak Ridge speech
Democrats/Critics: “Thegravest threat we face is terrorists or hostile states getting theirhands on a nuclear weapon. Since that dark day in September, have wereached out to our allies and forged an urgent global effort to ensurethat nuclear weapons and materials are secured? Have we taken everystep we should to stop North Korea and Iran’s nuclear programs? Havewe restructured our intelligence agencies and given them the resourcesthey need to keep our country safe? The honest answer, in each of theseareas, is that we have done too little, often too late, and even cutback our efforts. It’s not enough to give speeches – America will onlybe safer when we achieve results. The facts speak for themselves —there was less nuclear weapons materials secured in the two years after9/11 than in the two years before. North Korea has reportedlyquadrupled its nuclear weapons capability in the past year. Iran isdeveloping a nuclear weapons capability. Afghanistan has become aforgotten front in the war on terror.” — Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)
HSToday take: Strides have been made in reducing proliferation. However, Iranian andNorth Korean nuclear weapons production remains unknown and threateningand beyond US reach.
Safer than last year? Somewhat safer, but with unresolved threats from North Korea and Iran.
Safer than 9/11? Vastly safer. Networks have been exposed and eliminated, and the removal of Saddam Hussein vaporizes a major WMD unknown.
Grade: Overall: A– Eliminating Libya’s nuclear ambitions, shutting down the Khan network,demonstrating US resolve on WMD and eliminating Iraq as a WMD threatwere major strides. Iran, North Korea and possible terrorist possessionof WMD remain unfinished business.
Middle Eastern relations
Administration/Republicans: “In the Middle East, as elsewhere, the path to peace is the path ofliberty. And all who choose that path will have the strong support ofthe United States and the United Kingdom.” — President Bush
Democrats/Critics: “Ibelieve the Bush administration, overall, has run an arrogant andreckless and, in fact, ideological foreign policy. … We’ve not shownthe leadership that we need to show with respect to the Middle East.” —Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)
HSToday take: Today there is discomfort with the United States among regional elites,damage to the security of friendly regimes, and hatred and rage amongMiddle Eastern populations. The Iraq invasion and Abu Ghraib scandaldestroyed American credibility and good will toward Americans.
Safer than last year? Lesssafe. Americans are under threat anywhere they travel in the MiddleEast or Europe. On the other hand, the ability of the United States toinspire fear with its military capabilities — and so get its way atleast to a limited extent — is enhanced.
Safer than 9/11? Lesssafe. In the immediate wake of 9/11, the world community, Middle Eastregimes and individuals supported US actions. America has gone from aninjured victim of terrorists and tyrants to an unpredictable bully thatmust be restrained.
Grade: Overall: F Fear ofAmerican military might can go some way toward ensuring compliance withUS policies, but anti-American sentiment — and its expression throughterrorism — has become a movement that is likely to plague the UnitedStates, possibly for generations. This validates and enhances binLaden’s worldview and spreads it throughout the Middle East and beyond.Friendly Middle Eastern regimes are less secure and bin Laden’s goal ofmobilizing the Muslim world against the West is advanced. Americanenergy supplies are at risk from internal subversion in oil-producingcountries.
Overall homeland security
Administration/Republicans: “To protect our people, we’re staying on the offensive against threatswithin our own country. We are using the Patriot Act to track terroristactivity and to break up terror cells. Intelligence and law enforcementofficials are sharing information as never before. We’ve transformedthe mission of the FBI to focus on preventing terrorism.” — Oak Ridgespeech
Democrats/Critics: “Despite a lot of rhetoric, Bush has failed to provide adequatehomeland security. After initially opposing the creation of a HomelandSecurity department, Bush has inadequately funded the department aswell as starving state and local security efforts, including police,fire and health first-responders. Federal funding of local anti-terrorefforts has been restricted. And security surrounding chemical plants,airports, airlines, ports, borders and other terror-sensitive pointsstill is lacking.” — DNC
HSToday take: Thevast effort toward securing the homeland made by officials at the stateand local level, by companies and corporations and by private citizens,in addition to the administration and DHS, has had the effect ofhelping secure some of the nation’s vulnerabilities. Homeland securityisn’t just a department, it’s a movement, and these incremental,unheralded efforts have a cumulative effect.
Safer than last year? Relatively safer. DHS has had a year to coalesce, and HS procedures and planning are proceeding apace
Safer than 9/11? Vastlysafer. Prior to 9/11, there was virtually no recognition of theterrorist threat in government or among the public. Since then, therehas been a sea change in public and government attitudes.
Grade: Overall: B Theeffort toward greater security is proceeding, although its progress hasnot been perfectly smooth over the past year. Nonetheless, the will isthere and the effort is being made.
Administration/Republicans: “Overnight, theSeptember 11 terrorist attacks put the issue of national security amongthe most pressing topics facing Congress. National defense and homelandsecurity—issues that had been relegated to the backburner throughoutthe 1990s—received new focus. As a result, the President asked andCongress created the Department of Homeland Security, whose singleoverriding responsibility is to make America more secure. This newdepartment, along with the sweeping transformation within the FBI, theestablishment of the Department of Defense’s US Northern Command, andthe creation of the multi-agency Terrorist Threat Integration Centerand Terrorist Screening Center, ensures America is better prepared toprevent, disrupt, and respond to terrorist attacks than ever before.” —NRCC
Democrats/Critics: “In thewake of the 9/11 tragedy, Bush took advantage of Americans’ patriotismto push through legislation that tramples our Constitutional freedoms.”— DNC
HSToday take: Muchremains to be done, particularly implentation of the 9/11 Commissionrecommendations, passage of the Faster and Smarter Funding for FirstResponders Act (HR 3266), the SafePLANES Act (HR 4312) and a variety ofother legislation to secure transportation and infrastructure. Congressmust change the current funding formula for local and state responders,but will fail in protecting the country if it deadlocks over rural vs.urban issues. From a security standpoint, the PATRIOT Act closed gapsand obstacles to effective law enforcement, investigation andcounterterrorism. Both houses need to create permanent homelandsecurity committees.
Safer than last year? Safer. A major legislative success this year was approval of Project BioShield.
Safer than 9/11? Considerably safer. Gaps in information sharing, interoperability andcross-jurisdictional cooperation have been closed, although muchremains to be done. Legislation passed in the immediate wake of 9/11increased security, including the PATRIOT Act.
Grade: Overall: B Considerable progress on the substance of homeland security, butparochialism and territoriality, especially with regard to formingpermanent, standing committees on homeland security in both the Houseand Senate, reduce congressional effectiveness. Congressional abilityto implement recommendations of the 9/11 Commission will be a majortest.
Vigilance and alertness
Administration/Republicans: “Everything we do is designed to keep planes flying, bring loved onescloser, enable sports fans to gather, help businesses stay open — inother words, to keep this country moving. And to terrorists who thinkAmerica would ever do otherwise, this country again has proven youwrong. Your goal is to sow fear. But you will not succeed in the UnitedStates of America.” — Sec. Tom Ridge, Jan. 9
Democrats/Critics: “Sometimes national officials have more targeted information aboutwhere a threat exists. When threats are localized, all law enforcementshould be informed. However, we should apply our alert system in asensible and localized manner. When intelligence exists that there isa terrorist threat in certain locations, it should be shared with locallaw enforcement and the threat level should be raised in thoselocations accordingly.” — Kerry-Edwards
HSToday take: Thecolor alert system is imperfect, but no critic has come up with acredible better alternative. Frequent alerts erode public confidencewhile increasing anxiety, but failing to inform the public is anunacceptable alternative. Refinements in the alert system will gotoward further increasing its effectiveness.
Safer than last year? Safer.As alerts are refined to focus on specific regions and threats, and ascooperation and intelligence sharing improve, the nation will becomemore secure.
Safer than 9/11? Much safer.On 9/11, there was no national alert system and counterterrorism was asmall and relatively neglected law-enforcement subspeciality. Todayit’s a national priority in government, industry and among thepopulation. National vigilance at all levels has vastly improved.
Grade: Overall: B Theabsence of Sec. Ridge from the Ashcroft-Mueller press conference in Maycaused consternation and confusion and lowered the grade, as does theabsence of DHS officials from critical fora. There seems littlesensitivity to public perceptions of alerts on the part of authorities.On the other hand, the public has been enlisted in the fight againstterrorism and the alert system continues to be refined.
Administration/Republicans: “Since its creation, Homeland Security has provided states andlocalities with over $8.2 billion in State Homeland Security Grants forthe purchase of specialized equipment to enhance the capability ofstate and local agencies to prevent and respond to incidents ofterrorism involving the use of chemical, biological, radiological,nuclear, or explosive (CBRNE) weapons; for the protection of criticalinfrastructure and prevention of terrorist incidents; for thedevelopment, conduct and evaluation of state CBRNE exercises andtraining programs; and for costs associated with updating andimplementing each states’ Homeland Security Strategy.” — The White House
Democrats/Critics: “The mostbasic responsibility of government is to provide for the commondefense. The Bush Administration has provided too little support, toolittle leadership, and too little vision for the common defense of ourhomeland. John Kerry has the courage to roll back George Bush’s taxcuts for the wealthiest Americans so we can invest in homelandsecurity.” — Kerry-Edwards
HSToday take: Theexisting grant system at the federal, state and local levels could notadequately handle the kind of emergency funding that was rushed into itin the immediate wake of 9/11. Too much funding was poured down toosmall a funnel. The result has been delays and difficulties that arenot entirely DHS’ fault. At the same time, improvements have been madeand funding is flowing faster. A great deal of work at the federal,state and local levels needs to be done to work out the kinks in thefunding system and get money to responders more quickly andeffectively. There still remains no clear, official estimate of exactlyhow much money will be required to bring the country to a specificlevel of security. Nor is there a clear, publicroadmap and timelinefor achieving a secure state.
Safer than last year? Somewhat safer. The money that has reached local responders has largelygone toward making the country more secure, the complaints overinequitable distribution notwithstanding.
Safer than 9/11? Vastly improved. Far more money has been pumped into the entire homeland security community since 9/11.
Grade: Overall: C Whileauthorities are making a good-faith effort to improve the fundingprocess and Congress has annually increased administrationappropriation requests, homeland security is hostage to weaknesses inthe larger economy and government budget, notably the immense sumsbeing poured into Iraq and reductions in government revenue caused bytax cuts. An overall estimate of full HS requirements should beconducted, but is probably too politically sensitive to be reasonablyexpected from either party.
Planning & Preparedness
Administration/Republicans: “The President’s National Strategy for Homeland Security, the firstever of its kind, outlined his vision for working with state and localcommunities on the national effort. The President routinely works withgovernors, mayors and local officials to help provide resources for ournation’s first responders.” — RNC
Democrats/Critics: “Americaneeds a new strategy for homeland security that asks Americans to domore and takes steps as big as the threats we face.” — Kerry-Edwards
HSToday take: Security has improved as federal, state and local jurisdictions plan, work, train and exercise together.
Safer than last year? Safer. The initiatives at all levels of government are having an effect.
Safer than 9/11? Immensely safer. Planning and preparedness for all forms of disaster are now priorities across the country.
Grade: Overall: B+ TheTOPOFF exercises, increased coordination among disparate jurisdictionsand a focus on interoperable communications have improved security.
Administration/Republicans: “The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency ManagementAgency (FEMA) has completed an aggressive program to train and equipthe nation’s Urban Search and Rescue teams to respond to a WMD event. This strengthening of a key element of the nation’s federal responsecapabilities follows a significant contribution of resources, trainingand equipment from the Bush Administration during the last year.” — DHS
Democrats/Critics: “TheUnited States should have eight to ten Rapid Response Regional CivilSupport Teams capable of responding to a WMD terrorist attack within 4hours. The teams should have both diagnostic expertise and the abilityto support the efforts of first responders following a WMD incident.” —Winning the War on Terror
HSToday take: Theactivities at the federal, state and local levels, including new toolsand technology produced by industry, are increasing the protection ofthe American people against WMD.
Safer than last year? Safer.There is no single event, purchase or initiative that made allAmericans better protected, but a variety of projects, especially theapproval of Project BioShield by Congress, have increased homelandsecurity.
Safer than 9/11? Considerably safer. There was little if any WMD preparedness at thestate and local level before 9/11. Today, this kind of contingencyplanning, equipping, training and preparedness is standard andimproving.
Grade: Overall: B At least the beginnings of WMD protection and training for responders have been introduced in high-threat areas.
Administration/Republicans: “The Senate Intelligence Committee has identified some shortcomings inour intelligence capabilities; the Committee’s report will help us inthe work of reform. Our nation needs more intelligence agents — what iscalled human intelligence — to cover the globe. We must have the best,cutting-edge technology to listen and look for dangers. We must havebetter coordination among intelligence services. I need, and theCongress needs, the best possible intelligence in order to protect theAmerican people. We’re determined to make sure we get it.” — Oak Ridgespeech
Democrats/Critics: “In thewake of the massive intelligence failures that led to 9/11 and thatmisled America about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, George Bushhas taken a ‘business as usual’ attitude with the intelligenceagencies. He said no to fundamental reform of our intelligence serviceslike the CIA and instead just created more levels of intelligencebureaucracy. Instead of thinking big and acting with strength in thewake of 9/11, he has just offered us the same-old tune and a familiarsong and dance.” — Sen. Jon Corzine (D-NJ)
HSToday take: Thereport of the 9/11 Commission and the Senate Intelligence Committee’sreport on pre-Iraq war intelligence will both go a long way towardreorganizing American priorities, intelligence gathering, andinformation sharing. It may be that nothing less than disasters of thismagnitude could have transformed the government intelligence apparatusfrom its Cold War thinking to face the kind of threat represented byterrorism. It’s worth remembering that many of the failures that havecome to light would not have been considered failures in the pre-9/11era.
Safer than last year? Safer.The standing up of the Terror Threat Integration Center was asignificant improvement, the jurisdictional battles over its managementnotwithstanding.
Safer than 9/11? Much Safer.While hardly foolproof and with much to be done, intelligencecoordination and sharing is far advanced over the fragmented andsecretive situation that existed on 9/11.
Grade: Overall: C The USintelligence community is about to commence what will likely be aprolonged and traumatic period of reexamination, reform andreorganization that will affect operations for years to come. From apurely homeland perspective, current intelligence — including domesticlaw enforcement — has clearly had some success in preventing furtherattacks on American soil. This grade was lowered by the president’sinitial reluctance to entertain the kind of information sharingmechanisms recommended by the 9/11 Commission.
DHS, Government, States & Localities
DHS consolidation and management
Administration/Republicans: “The Department of Homeland Security was created with one singleoverriding responsibility: to make America more secure. Along with thesweeping transformation within the FBI, the establishment of theDepartment of Defense’s US Northern Command, and the creation of themulti-agency Terrorist Threat Integration Center and TerroristScreening Center, America is better prepared to prevent, disrupt, andrespond to terrorist attacks than ever before.” —The White House
Democrats/Critics: “In spiteof 9/11, Bush was slow to see the need for a Department of HomelandSecurity. Bush opposed the creation of a cabinetagency for homelandsecurity until Congress passed legislation creating it in November2002, thus delaying its launch until February 2003.” — DNC
HSToday take: Expectations of the new department were too high at the outset. It isabsurd to expect a huge, brand-new department to function efficientlyand flawlessly after a single year of operation. At the same time,there is legitimate frustration with the department’s slowconsolidation, cumbersome operation and bureaucratic infighting. Highleadership turnover was very worrisome and some of the best people haveleft in frustration. Facility and information technology woes are verytroubling. We believe that a legitimate evaluation of the department’sfunctioning can only really be made after three to five years ofoperation, regardless of the administration in power.
Safer than last year? Somewhat safer. DHS has made strides toward improving its operationsand the nation’s security, but it has a very long way to go.
Safer than 9/11? Much safer.The very existence of a Department of Homeland Security is an enormousadvance over the previous situation. On 9/11, the concept of aDepartment of Homeland Security was just an idea and nothing more.
Grade: Overall: B Manyhardworking people are doing the best job they can and Sec. Ridge hasbeen energetic and effective in promoting the department and spreadingthe word on homeland security across the country. At the same time, thedepartment is not functioning as well as it might, component agenciesare detaching themselves to the degree that they can from headquarters,and support from the White House appears to be ebbing as presidentialattention remains focused overseas.
State and local security
Administration/Republicans: “We’re standing behind our first responders. Since the moment ourcountry was attacked, our nation’s police and firefighters andemergency service personnel have played a critical role in the defenseof America against any threat of terror… I’ve proposed an additional$3.6 billion for terrorism preparedness grants. This is a way to helpour first responders get ready.” — President Bush, speech, Hershey,Pa., April 19
Democrats/Critics: “Bush cutstate and local grant funding for first responder training, exercise,and technical assistance by nearly half, from $320 million in 2004 to$178 million in 2005. According to the House Democrats on the HomelandSecurity Committee, analysts estimate that funding for ‘critical needs’of emergency responders will fall $98.4 billion short over the nextfive years.” — DNC
HSToday take: Improving, but a long way to go. Homeland security departments are still defining themselves and their responsibilities.
Safer than last year? Safer. Incremental improvement at the state and local levels have increased citizen security.
Safer than 9/11? Vastlysafer. A considerable improvement over the previous situation, whencounterterrorism was a much-neglected specialty at the state and locallevel.
Grade: Overall: C Administration cuts in responder budget requests for 2005 aredeplorable. At the same time money is being distributed, if slowly, andlevels of equipment, training, coordination, planning andcommunications are incrementally improving. States and localitiescontinue to improve their preparedness.
Border, immigration, port and transportation security
Administration/Republicans: “DHS has unified the agencies responsible for securing our borders—manynow wearing the same uniform—to keep out terrorists, criminals, anddangerous material. To do so, DHS is implementing a layered securitystrategy—including an increased DHS presence at key foreign ports,improved visa and inspection processes, strengthened seaport security,and improved security technology at airports andborder crossings. DHSis implementing background checks on 100% of applications for UScitizenship and has registered over 1.5 million travelers into the USVISIT program. The Coast Guard also has seized over 136,000 pounds ofcocaine and arrested more than 280 drug smugglers in 2003 with thislayered approach.” — RNC
Democrats/Critics: “Bush isletting border security slide. Less than 10 percent of the nation’sborder agents secure the northern border. Only 1,000 border agentspatrol the United State’s border with Canada, compared to 9,500 thatpatrol the nation’s southern border. While the US-Mexico border is2,000 miles long, the US-Canada border is 5,000 miles, meaning thatonly one agent patrols for every 5 miles of border. …Bush proposedmassive cuts in port security grant funding. Bush’s 2005 budget callsfor $50 million for port security grants, down from $200 million in his2004 budget. …Bush’s container security program has serious gaps, is‘inherently dangerous.’ Bush’s Container Security Initiative usesships’ manifest data, which the GAO called ‘one of the least reliableor useful for targeting purposes,’ to evaluate risk.”— DNC
HSToday take: Improvements remain incremental, but new border, port and containerinitiatives are having an effect. Transportation security of all typeshas improved. Promising new technology continues to be developed toaddress these issues.
Safer than last year? Muchsafer. Implementation of US-VISIT, better screening and more thoroughchecks on visitors and documentation have improved homeland security.
Safer than 9/11? Vastly safer. An exponential improvement, with far greater scrutiny and coordination.
Grade: Overall: B Whilemuch still must be done and significant gaps remain, border andtransportation security have improved and continue to improve on adaily basis.
Emergency preparedness and response
Administration/Republicans: “The National Response Plan is being used to coordinate and integrateall federal incident prevention, preparedness, response, and recoverycapabilities. The President directed the development of a NationalIncident Management System (NIMS) to make local, state, and federalagencies interoperable during incidents.” — RNC
Democrats/Critics: “Securityfocus wanes, government inspires complacency: The Advisory Panel toAssess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weaponsof Mass Destruction, which assessed America’s domestic terrorismpreparedness, reported ‘serious concern about the current state ofhomeland security efforts’ in its report issued in December 2003. Thecommission, chaired by former Republican Party head and VirginiaGovernor James Gilmore, found that momentum for security had ‘waned,’and blamed the government for causing complacency. It also found‘fragmentation’ of efforts and ‘that scarce resources may not beprioritized and applied most effectively.’” — DNC
HSTodayy take: Muchof preparedness consists of planning and this continues apace at thelocal and state levels. However, a seeming lack of interest in thesubject at the White House level is worrisome.
Safer than last year? Somewhat safer. Further planning, coordination and training have improved emergency preparedness in many states and cities.
Safer than 9/11? Vastlysafer. An enormous improvement. Terrorism preparedness, planning andresponsiveness across the country are far higher than on 9/11.
Grade: Overall: B. This is anarea where improvements are usually unheralded and often unknown.However, the need for preparedness, specifically with an eye towardterrorism, is now generally accepted in jurisdictions across thecountry.
Administration/Republicans:“Intelligence and law enforcement officials are sharing information asnever before. We’ve transformed the mission of the FBI to focus onpreventing terrorism. Every element of our homeland security plan iscritical, because the terrorists are ruthless and resourceful — and weknow they’re preparing to attack us again. It’s not possible toguarantee perfect security in our vast, free nation. But I can assureour fellow Americans, many fine professionals in intelligence andnational security and homeland security and law enforcement are workingaround the clock doing everything they can to protect the country.” —Oak Ridge speech
Democrats/Critics: “Many ofthe examinations of 9/11 have raised serious questions about whetherthe FBI is the right agency to conduct domestic intelligence collectionand analysis. Kerry believes that the Bush Administration’s proposedTerrorist Threat Integration Center, (TTIC) will not be able to do thejob, given its dependence on other agencies’ analysts, the bureaucraticdivide created between people identifying vulnerabilities andindividuals charged with eliminating those vulnerabilities, and thenumber of people in charge which could complicate efforts to work withthe state and local governments on information sharing. John Kerrybelieves that simplifying the bureaucratic charts makes more sense.America needs an independent intelligence capability that focusesexplicitly on domestic intelligence.” — Kerry-Edwards
HSToday take: Thepress, public and Congress would like to have an omnipotent authorityable to synthesize all intelligence and infallibly counter terroristdesigns. Such a being doesn’t exist. Appointment of an intelligenceczar doesn’t guarantee perfection — czars make mistakes, too, and whentoo much is invested in them, those mistakes can be whoppers. Theintelligence community was operating as it had been designed to doprior to 9/11. The White House had no focus on terrorism at that time.Since 9/11, that has all changed and it is going to change further.
Safer than last year?Somewhat safer, largely because of improved intelligence sharing at thestate and local levels and the standing up of new centers forinformation collection and synthesis.
Safer than 9/11? Safer.Efforts at information analysis and coordination have been subject toturf wars and have proceeded in fits and starts. Nonethless, walls havebeen broken down between agencies, and the need for better analysis iswidely recognized.
Grade: Overall: C. Anenormous amount of work needs to be done, but a start is being made.The 9/11 Commission recommendations provide a useful roadmap and theirimplementation will be a crucial test of the administration.
Infrastructure protection and cybersecurity
Administration/Republicans:“The Department of Homeland Security has provided for increasedsecurity at critical facilities for water supplies, power plants,bridges, and subway systems, reducing the chances of an attack thatcould disrupt our daily life or the economy. The Department establisheda new office dedicated to cybersecurity. The Department is working withprivate industry to help eliminate key vulnerabilities in computernetworks and reduce the risk of cyberterrorism.” — RNC
Democrats/Critics: “Formonths, the Congress has been urging the Department of HomelandSecurity to move forward with its responsibility under the HomelandSecurity Act to completeits analysis of critical infrastructurevulnerability in our nation. In addition to DHS, the Directive[Homeland Security Presidential Directive 7] now charges a multitude ofother federal agencies with this responsibility. This directive givesthe Department another year to do a job we need completed today. Ourenemies will not wait and neither can we.” — Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas),Dec. 18, 2003
HSToday take: A slowslog up a slippery slope. Nonetheless, progress is being made. The realchallenge is in the private sector, where much of the nation’sinfrastructure resides.
Safer than last year?Somewhat safer. Security considerations are now more routinely takeninto account during infrastructure decision-making and design, andprivate companies are making security an integral part of theiroperations.
Safer than 9/11? Safer. Far better than on 9/11, when most of the country’s infrastructure was completely open and vulnerable.
Grade: Overall: C. Much ofthe responsibility for this area resides in Congress, which needs toprovide incentives for private industry to implement homeland securitymeasures. The government’s cybersecurity response was very slow andvery late despite the clear vulnerability of the nation’s electronicnetworks.
Science and technology
Administration/Republicans:“The Department of Homeland Security is committed to using our nation’sscientific and technological resources to provide federal, state, andlocal officials with the technology and capabilities to protect thehomeland. The focus is on catastrophic terrorism-threats to thesecurity of our homeland that could result in large-scale loss of lifeand major economic impact. The Department’s Science & Technologydirectorate works to counter those threats, both by evolutionaryimprovements to current technological capabilities and development ofrevolutionary, new technological capabilities.” — DHS
Democrats/Critics: “DuringWorld War II, the US government brought together our greatest thinkers,scientists, academics and policymakers through the Manhattan Project todesign new tools for warfare. John Kerry believes we need a similareffort to bring the advances of the 21st century to the War onTerrorism. This should include: gathering the nation’s greatestscientists to develop needed vaccines and antidotes to the biologicaland chemical scourges (similar to the work that is already being doneto protect troops on the battlefield from biological and chemicalagents); partnering with the technology community to improve detectiontechnologies and developing and implementing new security systems toprevent tampering with goods in transit.” — Kerry-Edwards
HSToday take: Science and technology have been one of the brighter spots in DHS.
Safer than last year? Safer.The standing up of the Homeland Security Advanced Research and ProjectsAgency (HSARPA) was a major step forward and has helped focus scienceand technology on homeland security challenges.
Safer than 9/11? Exponentially safer, with a growing industry and government effort focused on homeland security and counterterrorism measures.
Grade: Overall: A. Scienceand technology grants, HSARPA, creation of new centers of excellencefor homeland security research have made this a particularlyencouraging endeavor.