U.S. President George W. Bush toured a counterintelligence center and thanked workers for helping to bring about last week's arrests in England and Pakistan of more than 24 people. The arrests foiled what officials say was a plot to blow up as many as 10 passenger planes over the Atlantic. But Mr. Bush's anti-terrorism policies are getting increased criticism lately, especially from opposition Democratic Party leaders.
President Bush told reporters Tuesday that the discovery of a plot to bomb airplanes flying to the United States from Britain shows again that terrorism is an ongoing concern.
"America is safer than it has been. But it's not yet safe,” said Mr. Bush. “The enemy has got an advantage when it comes to attacking our homeland --- they've got to be right one time, and we've got to be right a hundred percent of the time to protect the American people."
Mr. Bush spoke while touring the National Counterterrorism Center, located at a secret site outside Washington, D.C. He congratulated the workers there.
"Recently we saw the fruits of their labor in conjunction with their counterparts in Great Britain. Because of the good work in Great Britain and because of the help of the people here at N.C.T.C., we disrupted a terror plot, a plot where people were willing to kill innocent life to achieve political objectives."
Democratic party leaders have stepped up criticism of the Bush administration's terror policies -- and said that Republicans are politicizing the issue. Former U.S. president Bill Clinton spoke to ABC News. "Why has the administration and congressional leadership consistently opposed adequate checks on cargo containers at ports and airports? I think the Republicans should be very careful before trying to play politics with this London airport thing, because they're going to have a hard time with the facts."
Republicans and Democrats are both aware that the midterm elections in November may turn, in part, on national security. Democrats contend that Mr. Bush's policies have made Americans less safe.
Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean said to a group in Washington, “Osama bin Laden is still running around in northwest Pakistan, evidently able to convince people they ought to blow up American airplanes. And we are bogged down spending half a trillion dollars in Iraq, which could be used to do the things the Democratic Party and the 9/11 Commission recommended, which is to make our airports, our nuclear power plants and our train stations safe here at home."
Republicans, in turn, argue that Americans will be safer with Republicans in charge. And they say that they're not playing politics with the issue.
"The lesson for those of us in Washington, D.C., is to set aside politics, and give our people the tools to protect the American people," Mr. Bush said.
Mr. Bush was referring to tools that have aroused controversy, including provisions in the Patriot Act, and secret surveillance of telephone and banking records.