[FoRK] Terror warning surprises Homeland Security Dept.
paulsholtz2004 at hotmail.com
Fri May 28 14:18:04 PDT 2004
Here's another great one. Also, so very reassuring..
Terror warning surprises Homeland Security Dept.
By Thomas Frank
May 28, 2004
WASHINGTON -- The Homeland Security Department was surprised by the
announcement Wednesday by Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director
Robert Mueller that a terrorist attack was increasingly likely in the coming
months, officials said.
The department, created a year after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, is charged
with issuing terrorism warnings to the public, and tension arose when
Ashcroft and Mueller effectively took over that role at a news conference
Wednesday when they said al-Qaida is preparing an attack inside the United
Officials said the Homeland Security Department knew in advance about the
news conference but expected it to focus on seven suspects with ties to
al-Qaida who were wanted for arrest or questioning. Department officials
were caught off guard when Ashcroft went further and warned that al-Qaida
"is ready to attack the United States."
The news conference, which excluded Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge,
raised concerns in Washington that his department was not coordinating the
domestic fight against terrorism, which was confusing the message for the
public and for local authorities.
Earlier on Wednesday, Ridge spoke on morning television shows and appeared
to downplay the threat that Ashcroft would later trumpet, officials said. He
told ABC's "Good Morning America" that the threats are "not the most
disturbing that I have personally seen during the past couple of years."
Lawmakers who oversee the Homeland Security Department said the events
Wednesday appeared to undermine the effort to unify the federal government's
response to terrorism threats.
"The reason that Congress created the Department of Homeland Security is
that we need to merge the various parts of government responsible for pieces
of the war on terrorism into one coordinated effort," said Rep. Christopher
Cox (R-Calif.), chairman of the homeland security committee.
Cox said it was "regrettable" that Ridge did not appear with Ashcroft and
Mueller "because their separate public appearances conveyed the impression
that the broad and close interagency consultation we expect ... may not have
taken place in this case." He noted that the 2002 law creating the
department puts the secretary in charge of issuing "public advisories
relating to threats to homeland security."
Just one week ago, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge had told the Sept.
11 commission at a hearing in Manhattan that his department "has made
widespread information sharing the hallmark of our new approach to homeland
security." Ridge added that his department was sharing information with
local authorities, private officials and the public through bulletins,
alerts and a new Homeland Security Information Network.
White House press secretary Scott McClellan disputed suggestions that the
administration sent mixed signals, saying, "What you're seeing is that these
officials are talking about it from their own positions of responsibility."
Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas), the committee's senior Democrat, suggested the
Homeland Security Department may not have known that the news conference
would delve into threat conditions.
"If it is true that the FBI did not notify DHS of its intent to hold a press
conference to advise the public of the current threat situation, we clearly
have a lack of coordination between the two key agencies involved in
homeland security," Turner said. "Almost three years after Sept. 11, we have
yet to see a full integration and coordination of efforts to make America
A similar issue arose two months ago when the FBI - not the DHS - warned
that Texas oil refineries may be a target of attacks. In a letter to Ridge
last month, Cox cited an "inconsistency," noting that a week after the
refinery alert, Homeland Security and the FBI jointly warned about a
possible strike on mass transit systems.
"Having multiple sources of threat advisories emanating from the federal
government can lead to dangerous confusion among our nation's state and
local first responders," Cox wrote.
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