Looks like there will be more enforcement of the USA borders against illegel aliens entering.
March 17, 2005
Security Chief Signals a Shift in Approach to Terror
By ERIC LIPTON
WASHINGTON, March 16 - The United States government cannot protect the American
public from all possible terrorist attacks and instead must focus on trying to
prevent more serious or catastrophic strikes, Homeland Security Secretary
Michael Chertoff said Wednesday.
"Threats are important, but they should not be automatic instigators of action,"
Mr. Chertoff said in his first extensive public comments since taking over the
department a month ago. "A terrorist attack on the two-lane bridge down the
street from my house would be bad, but would have a relatively low consequence
compared to an attack on the Golden Gate Bridge."
Mr. Chertoff's remarks, in an interview and a speech at George Washington
University, reflected his view that the Department of Homeland Security must
transform itself from an enterprise set up in reaction to the Sept. 11 attacks
to one engaged in a more focused, sustainable and reasoned battle against
"This is a marathon, not a sprint," he said.
The federal government needs to have a more restrained and coordinated public
message than it had in the first Bush term when it comes to discussing potential
threats, the secretary said. That might mean he and other department officials
will decline to comment at times about rumored threats until definitive
information is available, he said. He did not mention the department's much-criticized
color-coded alert system but has said previously he was assessing it.
"I don't want to get up in public and say the sky is falling if it's not falling,"
he said. "I'm going to try to be very realistic and sensible and serious about
the kinds of tradeoffs that we have to consider when we're making decisions
about protecting ourselves."
That approach would be more consistent with that of the British government,
which has long waged a battle against domestic terrorism.
The government, Mr. Chertoff also said, must better respect civil liberties, too,
even as it tries to catch would-be terrorists. He was referring to accusations
of mistreatment of Muslim Americans by law enforcement officials in recent years.
"We must calibrate an approach to security in a way that incorporates prevention
and protection into our lives so as to respect our liberty and our privacy and
also fosters our prosperity," he said.
The department's modified agenda - including its intention to direct more of its
annual grants toward states and cities that are considered the most likely
terrorist targets - is already winning praise from some former critics of the
"A calculus balancing threat, vulnerability and consequence is exactly the right
way to operate programs and deploy limited homeland security resources," said
Clark Kent Ervin, the department's former inspector general, who now serves as
director of the Homeland Security Initiative at the Aspen Institute in
But there are signs that Mr. Chertoff will face resistance, particularly in
Congress, where several senators have criticized him for a plan to reduce
guaranteed minimum antiterrorism grants for smaller, more rural states, like
Wyoming, Maine and Arkansas.
"The way I look at it is, in order for America to be safe, all of America has to
be safe," Senator Mark Pryor, Democrat of Arkansas, told Mr. Chertoff at a
Senate budget hearing last week. "It's not like we're gold-plating what we have
down there. I mean, we have some critical needs."
In his remarks, Mr. Chertoff also outlined some of his priorities for the
sprawling 2-year-old department, formed by the merger of 22 agencies after the
2001 attacks. Among his first goals is to review the way the department, which
has about 180,000 employees, is organized.
"Simply put, old categories, old jurisdictions and old turf will not define our
objectives or the measure of our achievements," he said. He said a review would
take two to three months.
More must be done to slow the flow of illegal immigrants and perhaps would-be
terrorists into the United States, he said, an effort that will be aided by
investing more in high-technology surveillance equipment.
The federal government, Mr. Chertoff said, also must create incentives for
owners of chemical plants, oil and gas refineries and nuclear power plants to
enhance security measures.
Criticizing the sometimes clumsy coordination under his predecessor, Tom Ridge,
and former Attorney General John Ashcroft, Mr. Chertoff said the federal
government would work to present a more coherent and consistent message to the
"I recall that there was a certain amount of maybe uncertainty and some missteps,
in terms of who had the baton on the public affairs point," he said. "I think we've
learned a lot since then. We also have a new group of players."
In his appearances on Wednesday, Mr. Chertoff, whose résumé includes stints as a
trial lawyer, a prosecutor, an assistant attorney general and a federal
appellate judge, stuck close to his theme of his agency's sharper focus - and
the need for Americans to accept that a certain amount of risk is now a part of
"We cannot protect every single person at every moment in every single place. We
cannot look in every container and every box," he said. "What we can do is use
intelligent risk-based analysis, advanced technology and enhanced resources to
manage that risk."
He added, "We want to live mindfully, but we do not want to live fearfully."
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company