Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Homeland Security News

A House bill under consideration would change the way the color-coded terror alert system is used:

The Homeland Security Department would be forced to scale back its color-coded alert system for nationwide terror threats and tailor public warnings to specific, targeted locations under a House bill nearing a vote.

Changes in the threat system were part of a wide-ranging bill, expected to be approved Wednesday, that would set Homeland Security priorities for next year. It also would require the hiring of 2,000 border patrol agents - far above the 210 requested by President Bush - and bolster efforts to remove illegal immigrants from the United States.

The alert system has not been an unqualified success, to put it in the mildest possible terms, and I'm not the only person who has noticed how the alerts seemed to occur right before the presidential election last November, and not much at other times. It could be that the terrorists were plotting to get Bush for another four years, of course. He's been good for their enrollment figures.

But Tom Ridge said something different recently:

The Bush administration periodically put the USA on high alert for terrorist attacks even though then-Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge argued there was only flimsy evidence to justify raising the threat level, Ridge now says.

Ridge, who resigned Feb. 1, said Tuesday that he often disagreed with administration officials who wanted to elevate the threat level to orange, or "high" risk of terrorist attack, but was overruled.

His comments at a Washington forum describe spirited debates over terrorist intelligence and provide rare insight into the inner workings of the nation's homeland security apparatus.

Ridge said he wanted to "debunk the myth" that his agency was responsible for repeatedly raising the alert under a color-coded system he unveiled in 2002.

Fine. But wasn't it his agency that was supposed to be responsible for raising the terror alert? If it wasn't Ridge, then who was it? I'd like to know who is responsible for the psychological suffering unnecessary terror alerts caused, for the extra security costs they caused and for the "sky-is-falling" mentality which has been increasing in this country due to false alarms.