New York Times Exposes Bush Hokum on Homeland Security

Perhaps one reason that the Republicans are no longer able to gain political support for keeping us safe from terrorism is that they have not been doing this. During two of the debates of the 2004 campaign, John Kerry described measures which should be taken to protect this country, but George Bush protested they were too expensive. Homeland seurity remains a low priiority of the Bush Administration. The New York Times has an editorial entitled Hokum on Homeland Security which shows many of the ways in wich the Bush Administration has been failing to keep America safe:

The sad truth is that while some important steps have been taken to harden our defenses against terrorist attacks, gaping holes remain in our security net.

For starters, consider aviation, where billions have been spent to improve airline and airport security, with only middling results. The likelihood that terrorists will be able to hijack passenger jets as they did on 9/11 has been greatly reduced by hardening cockpit doors, arming pilots on some routes and placing many more air marshals on flights. The screening of all passengers, their carry-on bags and their checked luggage has also made it much harder to smuggle standard bombs or metallic weapons aboard.

But there is still no system to detect liquid explosives, a shocking deficiency more than a decade after terrorists were caught preparing to use such explosives to bring down a dozen airliners over the Pacific Ocean. The installation of “puffer” machines to detect trace explosives is lagging, and a program to integrate explosive-detection machines into the automated baggage conveyor systems at airports will not be finished, at the current pace of spending, for another 18 years.

Very little of the commercial air cargo that is carried aboard planes is screened or inspected, mostly because neither the shippers nor the airlines want to disrupt this lucrative flow of business. There is still no unified watch list to alert airlines to potentially dangerous passengers, and a prescreening program that would match airline passengers against terrorist watch lists remains stuck in development. All this in the industry that has received the most lavish attention since 9/11.

Even worse gaps remain in other areas. Port security relies primarily on certifying that cargo shipments are safe before they are loaded on freighters headed for this country. Only a small percentage of containers are screened once they hit our shores, raising the fearsome possibility that a nuclear or biological weapon might be smuggled in and detonated here.Programs to keep dangerous nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union out of the hands of terrorists through greater security are moving so slowly that it will take another 14 years to complete the job. This is reckless beyond belief when nuclear terrorism is the most frightening prospect of all.

On the industrial front, the nation’s chemical plants, perhaps the most lethal and vulnerable of all our manufacturing complexes, remain dangerously underdefended, mostly because the government has been unwilling to compel private industry to take action. A new tamper-proof identification card for workers in the far-flung transportation industry has yet to be issued.

The leaders of the 9/11 commission issued a final report last December analyzing how well the administration and Congress had done in carrying out the commission’s 41 recommendations. They awarded only one A minus (for disrupting terrorist financing), a batch of B’s and C’s, and a dozen D’s in such critical areas as reforming intelligence oversight, assessing infrastructure vulnerabilities and sharing information among government agencies. A failure to share intelligence allowed the 9/11 terrorists to succeed despite advance hints of their presence and intentions.

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