It's been a year since the U.S. government created a Department of Homeland Security,
a vast agency intended to protect the nation from another terrorist attack.
The Department of Homeland Security, whose creation amounted to the largest
government reorganization in half a century, remains a work in progress, as
its leader, Tom Ridge, acknowledges.
"The attacks of 9-11 required a whole new philosophy of how we secure the
country," said Tom Ridge. "And, as we shore up one vulnerability, we more than
likely work to uncover another."
And he's not the only one saying the agency needs to do more. Former Virginia
Governor Jim Gilmore headed a commission that assessed the nation's ability
to respond to a terrorist attack.
"There's still more that needs to be done," he said. "Specifically, I think
we have to be concerned about the possibility of a bioterrorism attack."
And this from terrorism expert Neil Livingstone.
"We're safer than we were a year ago, safer than we were on 9-11," said Neil
Livingstone. "But we're not as safe as we could be. We've got a long way to
Homeland Secretary Ridge agrees but thinks private industry and ordinary
Americans also have to do more.
"Our goal over the next year will be to accelerate the basic level of citizen
preparedness across this country, whether that's by preparing the family ready
kits and emergency plans, volunteering to aid in disaster planning, engaging
in training exercises to help someone in a life threatening situation," he
Intelligence sources say electronic eavesdropping on suspected terrorists
leads them to believe al-Qaida and its sympathizers remain committed to attacking
the United States again. FBI Director Robert Mueller.
"There are strong indications that al-Qaida will revisit missed targets until
they succeed such as they did with the World Trade Center," said Robert Mueller. "And
the list of missed targets now includes both the White House as well as the
Because of that, the nation's capital has undergone many changes, with government
buildings and monuments surrounded by police checkpoints and barricades. Once
open avenues are now blocked and anti-aircraft missiles are deployed at key sites
near the White House and the Pentagon.
Around the country, security gaps remain, including at the nation's borders.
Democrats in Congress have released a report accusing the Bush administration
of failing to address what they say are glaring shortcomings in protecting
the homeland, especially the nation's air and seaports. Congressman Ed Markey.
"A young man was able to nail himself into a box and ship himself across
the country," said Ed Markey. "Another young man was able to sneak boxcutters
onto a passenger plane."
Uninspected cargo arriving at the nation's seaports poses another potential
hazard. Democrat Linda Sanchez represents a portion of Long Beach, California,
home to one of the world's busiest ports.
Seven million cargo containers enter this country via seaports every year and
yet we all know by now that just a small amount are checked," said Linda Sanchez. "These
largely uninspected and unsecured containers crisscross the country's cities
by truck and by rail."
But terrorism expert Neil Livingstone says the biggest weakness in homeland
security so far is the inability to keep track of people entering the country,
something he and other critics say the Department of Homeland Security and
its $30 billion annual budget fail to adequately address.
"The greatest vulnerability we have today probably is a single suicide bomber
stepping into a crowded shopping mall or an athletic event," he said. "To prevent
that, we need better border security than we have today and that means also
immigration security in terms of our visa program, who we let in this country
and what type of effort we make to monitor people who come into this country."
Tighter immigration controls, including fingerprinting all visa holders,
have been in place since January. But Americans continue to be warned about
the possibility of more terrorist attacks, with the national threat level remaining
at elevated, but escalating to high during holidays or other key events.