What if they held a hearing on homeland security and the Homeland Security Director didn’t come? We found out today. Despite weeks of pressure from Robert Byrd, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, Tom Ridge is not testifying today about the White House’s plans for thwarting terrorists at home and handling the aftermath if they do attack. While Ridge was refusing to detail a strategy for homeland defense, the Brookings Institution in Washington was releasing its proposals. Ivo Daalder is one of the authors of the study.
Mr. Daalder, what spurred you on in this? Impatience or frustration with the administration’s initiatives so far?
DAALDER: No, actually it was a more positive reason. We wanted to help out the administration and indeed everybody else to think about how we should protect our homeland against the threat of terrorism and we hope that this is a help to them—to think about how to go about it. They’re introducing a strategy in a couple of months and we would like to see some of our ideas incorporated in their approach.
HOST: And most of those are along the lines of the administration needing to do more and needing to be even more serious and concerned about what the nature of the damage of an attack might be, is that right?
DAALDER: It’s about being more systematic about how to think about the threat and the way we deal with it. If you look at the administration’s budget and most of the things they have done so far, there tends to be a concentration of trying to figure out ways to prevent September 11th from happening again, so we’re spending large amounts of money on airport security when in fact the likelihood of an airplane being hijacked and flown into a building is exceedingly low. We now know that is a threat. We didn’t know that on September 11.
Listen to the complete interview.
The image people often have is plane-loads of these [jihadists] flying out, but that’s the wrong image: It’s people filtering out in dribs and drabs.
What do you do when your allies [like Pakistan] are part of the problem? The desire to turn our backs on these people is there, but then you worry that terrorists will have more operational freedom and it will cost you more in the long run.