in 'Grave Danger'
Former senators urge that emergency
steps be taken
USA Today (Oct 25, 2002)
WASHINGTON -- The United States remains
''dangerously unprepared'' to prevent or respond
to a terrorist attack, a report due out today by
the Council on Foreign Relations says. The report
urges the government to take emergency steps to
protect American lives and the nation's economy.
More than a year after the Sept. 11 terrorist
attacks, virtually every segment of society --
from state and local governments to private
industry -- is ill-prepared to respond to new
threats, even as a looming war against Iraq
heralds ''a time of especially grave danger,'' the
Similar reports in recent months have also warned
that the nation is unprepared. This one, however,
is likely to get more attention because it comes
on the heels of new warnings from top intelligence
officials that al-Qaeda is regrouping and because
it was authored by former senators Gary Hart, a
Colorado Democrat, and Warren Rudman, a New
Hart and Rudman have become standard-bearers among
national security experts in large part because of
a report they released before last year's
terrorist attacks. As chairmen of the U.S.
Commission on National Security/21st Century, they
warned in early 2001 of impending attacks
involving weapons of mass destruction and said the
government was unprepared to respond.
Council on Foreign Relations President Leslie Gelb
wrote that the new report does not place
''political blame'' for the government's
In interviews, however, Hart and Rudman said
there's plenty of blame to go around -- from the
Bush administration to Congress to private
industries that are reluctant to pay the cost of
stepped-up security and to share information about
Legislation to create a department of homeland
security, now stalled in a dispute over
labor-protection laws, ''should be enacted on an
urgent basis,'' the report says. The report's
authors also chide Congress for failing to pass
spending bills that would start billions of
federal dollars flowing to cash-strapped states
for training and other programs to respond to the
''It's deplorable,'' Rudman said of Congress'
failure to act. ''If we're not willing to spend
money on our personal security, then we're going
to get what we deserve.''
Hart called protecting the United States ''the
government's first obligation'' and said he's
stunned Congress and the administration haven't
''Outrageous, I suppose, is the best word,'' he
said. ''What interests me as a student of the
American government is why the American people put
up with it.''
Among the report's findings:
* 650,000 local and state police officers still
''operate in a virtual intelligence vacuum,''
without access to federal terrorist watch lists.
* Airport security has improved, but only a tiny
fraction of the nation's ships, containers, trucks
and trains are inspected.
* Police, fire and medical emergency personnel
lack training and equipment to respond to a
biological or chemical attack.
* The nation's energy industry -- from refineries
to pipelines -- is virtually unguarded.
* The National Guard lacks the training and
equipment it needs to help civilian authorities
respond to an attack.
''After a year without a new attack, there are
already signs that Americans are lapsing back into
complacency,'' the report says.
''Given the stakes -- potentially the loss of
thousands of innocent American lives and the mass
disruption of America's economy and society --
there are things we must be doing on an emergency
basis to reduce our vulnerabilities at home,'' the
report says. ''Quickly mobilizing the nation to
prepare for the worst is an act of prudence, not
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