Skip to comments.Preparing for The Next Pearl Harbor Attack (JUNE 2001, Bush team addressing terrorism threat)
Posted on 03/26/2004 2:36:03 PM PST by cyncooper
Pearl Harbor probably will happen again. Only this time the attacks won't be in far-off Hawaii but against the American mainland. That's what some of the nation's top experts are saying as the national-security community scrambles to ward off attempts to attack the U.S. homeland with terrorist weapons of mass destruction and crippling raids on public- and private-sector information systems on which the entire economy - and the American way of life - depend.
Geopolitical and technological changes after the collapse of the Soviet Union are forcing U.S. national security to stand on its head - and with good reason. The decline of Cold War alliances, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the near-total vulnerability of the U.S. economic system to attack are forcing American policymakers to rethink the basics of the country's defense and security.
For the first time since the Japanese fleet bombed Pearl Harbor nearly 60 years ago, the United States is fully vulnerable to attacks it cannot deter or easily prevent, Pentagon experts tell Insight. The missile age brought with it the threat of massive retaliation against a potential attacker, perversely keeping the peace under the doctrine of "mutually assured destruction," known as MAD. Not any more.
Proliferation of missile technology soon will place delivery systems capable of striking the U.S. mainland in the hands of any regime or fanatical group that can afford them. Even more chilling is the prospect of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons being smuggled into the United States and detonated against civilian targets anonymously, causing horrific destruction and carnage yet leaving Washington helpless to respond.
President George W. Bush underscored his concern in a May 8 statement: "The threat of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons being used against the United States - while not immediate - is very real."
The first responders on tomorrow's battlefield won't be soldiers, but city ambulance workers and small-town firefighters. Federal authorities only now are coming to grips with the terrorist threat of a nuclear blast, a radiation bomb, blister agents, nerve gases and germ weapons released in U.S. cities and towns. State and local officials tell Insight they have little or no means of coping with the threat before it occurs, or dealing with it after a terrorist strikes.
And then there's the "electronic Pearl Harbor," a phrase coined by Richard Clarke, President Clinton's national coordinator for security, infrastructure protection and counter-terrorism. An electronic Pearl Harbor would be a surprise attack on the country's fragile information systems that keep the economy and society running.
America's miraculous digital revolution - automatic teller machines and wireless phones, personal computers and pagers, and the electronic systems that carry news, airline schedules, stock trades and business inventories - have transformed the way people live. But the entire network, which bureaucrats call "the critical infrastructure," is a massive electronic Achilles' heel, security specialists warn. A single swipe could bring everything down (see "Civilian Defense Against Biothreat," March 26).
International terrorists and rogue regimes are savoring the prospect of striking hard at the United States, according to U.S. intelligence agencies. During his recent tour of the Middle East, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro remarked to his Iranian hosts that the United States was plagued with vulnerabilities that smaller countries could exploit. He didn't elaborate in public, but his message was clear: The time is coming when the rogues of the world will be able to take down Uncle Sam.
With Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld ripping apart obsolete defense doctrines to keep the United States on the cutting edge of world leadership, others, with a much lower profile, are working on a more fundamental issue: homeland security.
After years of dithering under Clinton, say defense specialists, the Bush White House is taking the matter seriously. "Virtually every vital service: water supplies, transportation, energy, banking and finance, telecommunications, public health - all of these rely on computer and fiber-optic lines, the switches and routers that come from them," notes National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice. These are vulnerable. In the short time since his inauguration in January, Bush has instructed government offices to coordinate for homeland security and defense, and assigned Vice President Richard Cheney to head a group to draft a national terrorism-response plan by October 1.
It took a while for America's leaders even to begin to pay attention to this issue. Not until 1997 did a U.S. government document even recognize the modern concept of homeland defense, when a report by the National Defense Panel, a Pentagon study group, argued that the American civilian population increasingly was at risk. The report concluded that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the vulnerability of U.S. civil infrastructures, what it called "information systems, the vital arteries of the modern political, economic, and social infrastructures," constituted a serious "threat to our homeland."
But it wasn't a photo opportunity, and few politicians seemed to take notice. The following year, in 1998, Clinton signed Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) 63, requiring government agencies to secure their own critical infrastructure systems and to work with the private sector on the problem. PDD 63 created a central-oversight body within the National Security Council called the Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office (CIAO).
CIAO maintained a staff of one: Richard Clarke.
Despite Clarke's efforts, the Clinton/Gore White House made little follow-through until the last months of the administration, according to a recent review by federal inspectors general. Congress then stepped in, establishing bipartisan commissions to study new threats to the U.S. homeland and means of preventing or combating them. The commissions were created in the same spirit as the Cox commission on Chinese espionage and the Rumsfeld commission on missile defense to tackle pressing national-security issues that critics said the Clinton/Gore administration either failed to tackle or attempted merely to wish away.
The Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction, led by GOP Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III, released its second annual report late last year. Its objective was to help local, state and federal officials develop means of responding to the human casualties of a nuclear, chemical or biological attack.
On a broader scale, Congress chartered the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century, led by former senators Gary Hart, D-Colo., and Warren Rudman, R-N.H., to identify trends to help predict what the world will be like in 25 years, to assess how the United States would fare amid the technological and geopolitical changes and then to propose fundamental ways in which U.S. national-security approaches should be reformed. In February, after a two-year investigation, the Hart-Rudman commission issued its report, bluntly stating: "This commission has concluded that, without significant reforms, American power and influence cannot be sustained." Hart and Rudman wrote that, "despite the end of the Cold War threat, America faces distinctly new dangers, particularly to the homeland."
The first of the commission's five recommendations for national-security organizational change was "ensuring the security of the American homeland." Its reasoning is blunt: "A direct attack against American citizens on American soil is likely over the next quarter-century. The risk is not only death and destruction but also a demoralization that could undermine U.S. global leadership. In the face of this threat, our nation has no coherent or integrated governmental structures."
The Bush administration has seized the problem aggressively with a range of initiatives to have a working system in place to defend the country against attacks on its critical infrastructure. Pentagon insiders tell Insight that Rumsfeld's reviews pay close attention to homeland defense and that the administration is weighing creation of a special office for that purpose.
The Hart-Rudman commission recommended "that the National Guard be given homeland security as a primary mission, as the U.S. Constitution itself ordains." The National Guard should be totally reorganized and reconfigured to tackle that mission, according to the commissioners.
In the private sector, too, experts have been planning for the next Pearl Harbor. The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington-based think thank, has a major program designed to help policymakers understand homeland defense and chart a proper, bipartisan policy course.
Still, the government's approach to homeland security remains haphazard. At present, between 23 and 46 separate federal departments and agencies - depending on who's counting - play a role in homeland security. A National Homeland Security Agency would consolidate the roles under one entity, according to Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.
Skelton introduced a bill, following the recommendations of the Hart-Rudman report, to direct the president to "develop a comprehensive strategy for homeland security (protection from terrorist or strategic attacks) under which federal, state, and local government organizations coordinate and cooperate to meet security objectives; (2) conduct a comprehensive threat and risk assessment to identify specific homeland security threats; (3) implement the resulting strategy as soon as practicable; (4) designate a single government official responsible for homeland security; and (5) ensure that the strategy is carried out through the heads of appropriate executive departments and agencies."
The bill, and a related one by Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, is sitting in committee as the White House prepares its strategy. The National Security Council's CIAO now is developing a National Plan for Cyberspace Security and Critical Infrastructure Protection, and is working with state and local governments to increase awareness and coordination. In May, Bush ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to set up an Office of National Preparedness to take charge of the disorganized homeland-security functions spread across the bureaucracy. The often-criticized FEMA has been performing well recently after years of neglect, winning praise from a recent General Accounting Office (GAO) audit that found the agency making progress on terrorism preparedness.
Still, the effort requires high-profile leadership. "There is no single, coordinated U.S. government definition of `homeland defense,'" says Mark DeMier of ANSER Analytic Services, a nonprofit U.S. Air Force-funded think tank, and editor of its Homeland Security Bulletin. "It does not even appear in the Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms. However, consensus does seem to be emerging on the term `homeland security.' The Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review team defines it as the prevention, deterrence and preemption of, and defense against, aggression targeted at U.S. territory, sovereignty, population and infrastructure as well as the management of the consequences of such aggression and other domestic emergencies - a combination of homeland defense and civil support," according to DeMier.
Disagreement over terms and responsibilities has crippled the new cybersecurity arm of the FBI. The FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center, according to another GAO report, suffers from disagreement about the roles of organizations involved in cybersecurity, as well as absent leadership, and has only half the analysts needed. Those shortfalls have retarded the FBI's ability to fight attacks on the nation's information infrastructure.
The needed leadership for change may not be far off. When President Bush asked FEMA to create an Office of National Preparedness and for Vice President Cheney to chair a group to produce a terrorism-response plan, he assigned the FEMA office to implement the recommendations of the Cheney panel. In Bush's words, the new office will "coordinate all federal programs dealing with weapons-of-mass-destruction consequence management within the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Justice and Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies," and "will work closely with state and local governments to ensure their planning, training, and equipment needs are addressed. FEMA will also work closely with the Department of Justice, in its lead role for crisis management, to ensure that all facets of our response to the threat from weapons of mass destruction are coordinated and cohesive."
Bush said he personally would monitor FEMA's progress by chairing periodic National Security Council meetings specifically to review the matter.
Meanwhile, say insiders, the administration is trying to clean up the mess left by its predecessor. Clarke, Clinton's former national infrastructure chief whom Bush kept on, now admits that his first attempt under the Clinton administration to deal with infrastructure defense was a set of policies "written by bureaucrats" and that they were wholly inadequate. He attacked a 1999 Clinton/Gore infrastructure-protection plan as one that "could not be translated into business terms that corporate boards and senior management could understand."
He warns, however, that the private sector's failure to regulate itself only invites more government regulation. Due to the nature of the threat to the U.S. homeland, Clarke argues that the government must insist on cooperation from the private sector - especially because more than 90 percent of the country's critical infrastructure is in private hands. "There is a unique challenge here," Clarke recently told a CSIS gathering. "For the first time in our history, the armed forces cannot defend us from the foreign threat. They cannot surround the power grid. Therefore, we are asking the private sector to defend not only itself, but the country as well."
More refutation to Clarke's assertions that the threat of terrorism was being ignored.
I saw as I searched that one of the arguments the left is raising today is the assertion that the Bush administration ignored the Hart-Rudman report, and by implication, they ignored dealing with the concern at all. .
<sarcasm>I wonder if 60 minutes will interview him again to expose his fraud?</sarcasm>
So I decided to look into it and through my Googling of "Hart-Rudman report + Richard Clarke" I find that lo and behold Molly Ivins wrote just that in her column yesterday.
Fortunately, I kept googling and found this Insight article discussing what the then very new Bush adminstration was doing to address the threat of terrorism. I even searched FR to see if the Insight article was posted way back when, but when it didn't come up right away I thought it deserved highlighting.
This is one of the best finds yet to refute that lying bunch up there in DC! Cudos to you for posting this, and it needs to be widely seen!