U.S. not Prepared for Domestic Terrorism, Report says
CNN.com, December 14, 2000
The United States needs a new White House Office for Combating Terrorism, with a director chosen by the president and confirmed by the Senate, according to a blue-ribbon panel looking into the U.S. strategy to respond to domestic terrorism. The congressionally mandated panel, chaired by Virginia Gov. James Gilmore, released its report on Thursday, saying a terrorist attack using a nuclear, chemical or biological weapon on U.S. soil is "inevitable." "Because the stakes are so high, our nation's leaders must take seriously the possibility of an escalation of terrorist violence against the homeland," said the panel's report to the president and Congress. The panel described U.S. efforts to combat terrorism as "fragmented, uncoordinated, and politically unaccountable." "The next President should develop and present to Congress a national strategy for combating terrorism within one year of assuming office," the report concluded. "Setting priorities is essential," said the report by the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Among the many questions the report says need to be answered:
- Should the nation seek a higher level of preparedness for its large urban centers than for its rural areas?
- What relative attention should be given to preparing for "conventional terrorism, radiological incidents, chemical weapons, or biological weapons?
- With respect to biological weapons, which pathogens deserve priority?
The report also said that Congress should streamline the number of committees with jurisdiction over terrorism issues from 25 down to one joint committee or two separate committees -- one for the Senate and one for the House. The report also recommended scrapping 1995 guidelines put out by the director of the Central Intelligence Agency which prohibit using international intelligence informants who may have been involved in human rights abuses. The move would improve the nation's "indication and warning" intelligence on what terrorist groups may be planning, the report said.