Monday marks six months since the terrorist attacks on the United States. The head of U.S. homeland security says the country is more prepared than ever to deal with terrorism.
Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge says the Bush Administration is working out the final details of a $3.5 billion federal anti-terrorism plan. The plan would help localities cope with a terrorist assault.
Appearing on the television program Fox News Sunday, Mr. Ridge said there are new agreements being forged between state and local governments. "We need the local communities in the regional areas to build their plan under a statewide architecture," he explained. "That way we can assure there are mutual aid agreements, communities can rush to the aid of other communities, they can share communications equipment, they can respond in the event of a terrorist attack."
Mr. Ridge says even remote towns are significantly more prepared for a terrorist attack than they were on September 11. He says virtually all state governors have appointed Homeland Security Directors.
He says one area that still needs improvement is moving vast numbers of people through U.S. airports every day. "I think consumer confidence is rising," he observed, "but when you are screening three-year olds..."
At a public meeting a 67-year-old grandmother got up and talked to me about being screened and detained. Flight attendants are being detained. We have to do a better job about using our human and technology assets to focus on a more narrow group of people."
The people that law enforcement wants to stop at the airplane gates are members of al Qaida, the terrorist network the Bush Administration blames for leveling the World Trade Center and destroying part of the Pentagon with hijacked jets six-months ago.
Mr. Ridge cautions that because of the large number of potential terrorists trained by the network, the public should assume that al Qaida members are still in the United States.