BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: In Depth: September 11 one year on  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
September 11 one year on Sunday, 1 September, 2002, 19:22 GMT 20:22 UK
Tasked with homeland security
Tom Ridge, Homeland security chief
A difficult job, securing the homeland

There was universal praise, both from Democrats and Republicans, when President Bush announced, in a speech before a joint session of Congress last September, that Tom Ridge would become his homeland security chief.

A popular Governor from Pennsylvania, who was awarded a Bronze Star for valour as an infantry staff sergeant in Vietnam, he seemed the ideal candidate for the post.

At a time of national peril, he was viewed throughout the country as a reassuring presence - likeable, dependable, and a proven administrator.

With six terms behind him as a US congressman, the Republican also knew how to navigate his way around Washington's corridors of power.

His only drawback, critics said quietly, was that he was too nice, that given the bureaucratic turf battles he was likely to become embroiled in, he might well be outmanoeuvred by officials at the Justice Department and FBI.

Under-resourced

President Bush hardly helped, depriving him of a staff and a budget. He did not have the tools to do the job.

Almost a year after his appointment, the sceptics have been proved right. Lacking a staff and a clearly-defined role, he has often looked and sounded ineffectual.

Up against Attorney General John Ashcroft, a consummate Washington insider, he has often found himself operating only on the fringes of power.

President Bush with Tom Ridge
Task not fully funded by President Bush

America's new colour-coded terror warning system - red indicates a severe level of threat, green represents a low risk of attack - is a case in point.

Although Ridge unveiled the system, Ashcroft decides upon the colour. The Attorney General has pegged it at 'yellow', an elevated risk of attack, since the system came into effect in March.

That is not to say that Ridge's time in charge has not been without success. The simple fact that America has not yet suffered a second wave of terrorist attacks offers proof of his effectiveness.

Progress has certainly been made on airline safety, with improved baggage screening and air marshals stationed on more flights. But there are still glaring weaknesses.

Tackling weaknesses

US airports are nowhere near meeting the target set by Congress for the complete screening of all baggage by the end of the year.

Right now, only about 20% of the required screening machines are in place.

The ports are another area of weakness.

The Customs Service can screen only about 2% of the containers which enter the country, although officials have worked harder this past year to gather intelligence to identify 'high risk' cargo.

Given the amount of drugs which pour into America each day, there are security chiefs who think it would be relatively easy for terrorists to smuggle in a small amount of chemical and biological weapons.

Ridge's job will likely become a lot easier if, and when, Congress creates the Department of Homeland Defence which the President Bush says he wants.

In what would be the biggest re-organisation of government since the creation of the Pentagon, the new body would draw together a multiplicity of departments and agencies.

But will Ridge lead it?

Neither the Governor nor the White House will say.


New York despatches

IN DEPTH

TALKING POINT

FORUM

INTERNET LINKS

AUDIO VIDEO
Links to more September 11 one year on stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more September 11 one year on stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes