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Homeland Security

SLUG: 6-12820 U-S Attack Warnings





BYLINE=Andrew Guthrie





INTRO: Against the backdrop of a new, threatening message from Osama bin Laden, the American people are preparing for violence. The newly created cabinet office of Homeland Security has urged people to buy plastic sheeting and tape to seal off a room in their house. It would be used as a safe haven in the event of a chemical or biological attack.

The threat assessment and suggested precautions are drawing a mixed reaction in the nation's press, and we get a sampling now from ___________in today's U-S Opinion Roundup.

TEXT: In graphic testimony before Congress Tuesday, the heads of the Central Intelligence Agency [C-I-A] and the Federal Bureau of Investigation [F-B-I] gave more specifics about possible targets. The men said al-Qaida is still a threat and suggested that "several hundred" militant Muslims in the United States could pose a risk.

The F-B-I and C-I-A chiefs also said there is an increased risk of a so-called dirty bomb attack that produces radioactive dust. In Washington, considered a prime target, there is an army surface to air [SAM] missile battery set up on the national mall and extra police on the streets. In the newspapers, the reaction varies, like this in The New York Times.

VOICE: The American people want their government to concentrate on fighting domestic terrorism above all else, and there have been a number of moments recently when Washington seemed to be missing the main point. The ...new home preparedness guidelines were another. There is certainly nothing wrong with dispensing tips on how to put together a household disaster supply kit. But the timing seemed ironic, given the fact that states and local governments have yet to get the federal aid they were promised to buy needed antiterrorism equipment.

TEXT: Pennsylvania's Allentown Morning Call is breathing an editorial sigh of relief at finally getting some specific guidance.

VOICE: Preparing a nation for war is a grave responsibility, [involving] far more than justifying military action. Our men and women in uniform are well-trained, but those at home need guidance, too. ...after the national terrorism threat level was raised from "elevated" to "high," Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge finally spoke in terms that make sense to ordinary people.

TEXT: In the same state, Greensburg's Tribune-Review says recent history should have taught us some valuable lessons.

VOICE: If Y-2-K (Editors: the preparations for a massive computer shutdown as the millennium changed) taught us anything -- besides the fact that computers are only as flawless as their human programmers -- it was to reaffirm the prudence of abiding by the Boy Scout motto - - "Be prepared."

Now comes word from Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge's office that we'd all be smart to check those pantries and take additional steps. Some have lampooned this advice as they have the color-coded terror-alert system. Others say it only serves to needlessly frighten the public. But we have no doubt that many of these same critics would be among the first to scream that the government had failed its charge should there be a new terrorist attack that finds the populace unprepared.

TEXT: In Nashville, The Tennessean is still unhappy at a lack of specifics about the domestic threat.

VOICE: It is disconcerting to be told by the White House that the threat of terrorism is high, then to be denied the specifics on which that assessment was made. Nevertheless, faced with a tough choice, the Bush administration made the best decision in issuing its recent alert. As with previous public alerts, this one raises more questions than it answers. While we commend the administration for issuing the alert, this is also a good time to remind them that the bill will come due.

Whether in an actual emergency or an alert, first responders -- police, fire officials, E-M-T's, (Emergency Medical Technicians), nurses -- must be at full staff. The Homeland Security Act recognized that and authorized 3-point-5-billion dollars for states and cities to defray the cost of hiring more first responders. Yet Congress and the White House have yet to appropriate those funds.

TEXT: On that budgetary note, we conclude this sampling of comment on the heightened domestic terrorism alert.


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