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Tuesday, 16 July, 2002, 14:47 GMT 15:47 UK
Bush plan to thwart terror at home
Guards at Boston airport
The US has 'an almost infinite array of targets'
A wide-ranging strategy to protect the United States from further terror attacks has been laid out by President George W Bush.

The long-awaited homeland security strategy includes using troops to enforce quarantines during a biological attack and "red teams" of agents thinking like terrorists to pinpoint weaknesses.

George W Bush (right) and Dick Cheney
Mr Bush has upset some civil liberties groups
"Protecting Americans from attack is our most urgent national priority," Mr Bush said in a speech at the White House Rose Garden.

President Bush released details of the measures to the press on Monday and spoke to legislators before Tuesday's speech.

The strategy warns of "a new wave of terrorism" and says holes in the nation's defences need to be plugged.

"Our enemies are working to obtain chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons for the purpose of wreaking unprecedented damage on America," the plan says.

The 88-page plan calls for tighter border controls, more executive powers and new secrecy laws, among other measures.

"The US Government has no more important mission than protecting the homeland from future terrorist attacks," Mr Bush says in an open letter released by the White House.

"Yet the country has never had a comprehensive and shared vision of how best to achieve this goal."

Other major proposals include:

  • Expanding extradition agreements with other countries
  • Stockpiling vaccines and antidotes
  • Increasing security checks for cargo
  • Improving the FBI's "analytic capabilities"
  • Improved sensors and procedures at borders and ports

The measures would also increase secrecy, making it harder for the public to get access to information about US chemical and nuclear plants.

The plan asks Congress to allow the president to reorganise federal agencies in times of crisis.

Flexible response

"Our society presents an almost infinite array of potential targets that can be attacked through a variety of methods," the White House's summary of the strategy warns.

"We must be prepared to adapt as our enemies in the war on terrorism alter their means of attack."

Few areas remain untouched by the plan. It even recommends that states harmonise their driver's-licence procedures so would-be terrorists have more trouble getting false identification.

The "red teams" would try to think like terrorists in order to expose weak spots in the federal government's defences.

When Mr Bush first proposed the cabinet-level Homeland Security Department - which could combine as many as 22 federal agencies into one - Democrats criticised him for not yet having a finalised security strategy in place.

Guards prepared for anthrax attack
More protection against biological attacks is planned

Now, the new proposals look to put some teeth into the idea of better co-ordinating the fight against terror.

The Select House Committee on Homeland Security, charged with putting together a bill on the proposed new department, is to hear from several more cabinet secretaries on Tuesday.

White House homeland security chief Tom Ridge defended the Bush administration's plans - which some critics say try to do too much - before the committee on Monday. He is also to appear before the Senate committee on Tuesday.

Informants

Another Bush administration anti-terrorism plan has alarmed the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

As part of the Citizen Corps initiative, the government says it plans to recruit one million workers - drawn from "truckers, letter carriers, train conductors, ship captains, utility employees and others" - as informants who will report any suspected terrorist activity.

ACLU legislative counsel Rachel King said the programme, called the Terrorist Information and Prevention System (TIPS), threatens to "turn local cable or gas or electrical technicians into government-sanctioned peeping toms".

See also:

07 Jun 02 | Americas
02 Jul 02 | Americas
04 Jul 02 | Americas
16 Jul 02 | Americas
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