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|It also foresees a possible greater role for the U.S. military in domestic security and calls for a full review of laws governing the military's ability to act domestically. |
Bush Proposes Domestic Anti-Terror Strategy
Tue Jul 16, 4:24 PM ET
By Randall Mikkelsen
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush ( news - web sites) on Tuesday proposed a strategy to protect America from terrorism that could use the U.S. military to enforce quarantines during a biological attack and "red teams" of agents thinking like terrorists to pinpoint weaknesses.
The plan, which would take years and billions of dollars to realize, seeks new vaccines, tighter border inspections and includes a major effort to protect infrastructure such as power plants and pipelines.
It also includes futuristic, high-tech elements such as systems to detect behavioral clues that can indicate the "hostile intent" of a potential terrorist, and sensors that would reveal a traveler's exposure to materials such as biological or chemical agents.
"Protecting Americans from attack is our most urgent national priority and we must act on the priority," Bush said in rolling out the homeland security plan he ordered after the Sept. 11 attacks on the Pentagon ( news - web sites) and World Trade Center.
Bush announced his initiative in the White House Rose Garden after he met key members of Congress with a role in homeland security legislation. The strategy contains a mix of programs under way, international initiatives that would require diplomatic negotiation, and legislative proposals on which Congress would have the final say.
It also depends on the private sector and state and local governments to step up their own counterterrorism activities.
AMBITIOUS AND EXPENSIVE
The plan would take years to realize, with huge costs and potentially vast challenges, including persuading authorities at all levels of government and in the private sector to share sensitive information, said analyst Phil Anderson of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
"It's a great road map to securing the homeland and preventing the worst things from happening," Anderson said. "It is extremely ambitious and it's going to be very expensive to achieve."
The White House said costs to the private sector alone for security could double from the $55 billion a year spent before last year's hijacked plane attacks. The federal budget for homeland security has risen from $17 billion in 2001 to a proposed $38 billion for 2003, and is expected to rise further.
Bush's strategy would not be submitted as a comprehensive legislative package to Congress, said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the White House Office of Homeland Security. It would serve instead as a guideline for future requests and action across all levels of government and the private sector.
The 71-page plan calls for new extradition agreements -- a sensitive issue with foreign governments -- and revisions in secrecy laws to make it harder for the public to learn about potential vulnerabilities.
It would seek high-tech methods to identify people, and nationwide standards on state drivers' licenses. But it stops short of urging a national identity card that some have sought but others have resisted, citing fears of government intrusion.
The plan is detailed in a booklet illustrated with pictures of a freeway interchange, a nuclear power plant and a Washington subway station -- presumably potential targets.
BRAINSTORMING 'RED TEAMS'
The plan calls for "red teams" of federal agents to think like terrorists brainstorming ways to attack U.S. targets, in order to devise better methods of protecting them.
It also foresees a possible greater role for the U.S. military in domestic security and calls for a full review of laws governing the military's ability to act domestically.
Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, speaking on CNN, said that as an example, federal troops may be needed to enforce a quarantine in case of a biological attack.
The government had no intention of using forces such as National Guard troops in regular domestic law enforcement, Johndroe said.
Other proposals would overhaul the Coast Guard with new ships and anti-terror gear, improve the ability of government computer systems to talk to each other and work internationally to make passports harder to forge.
Bush also wants Congress to restore executive authority that lapsed in 1984 to restructure federal agencies.
The strategy is centered on the president's proposed new Cabinet Department of Homeland Security, which he announced earlier amid disclosures of lapses in U.S. intelligence before the Sept. 11 attacks.
"This comprehensive plan lays out clear lines of authority and clear responsibilities -- responsibilities for federal employees and for governors and mayors and community and business leaders and the American citizens," Bush said.
He urged lawmakers to give final approval to the department, although House of Representatives' committees with jurisdiction over agencies to be affected have resisted elements of the reorganization.