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Cheney: US Safer Today Than Before 9/11

On the eve of the five-year anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, the Bush administration says anti-terror efforts are making progress at home and abroad. VOA's Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where Vice President Cheney appeared on U.S. television.

Vice President Cheney says during the past five years the United States has spent billions of dollars to make the nation more secure, and the investment has proven its worth.

"I think we have done a pretty good job of securing the nation against terrorists. We are on the fifth anniversary [of 9/11] and there has not been another attack on the United States. And that is not an accident," he said.

Cheney was speaking on NBC's Meet the Press program. He said U.S. anti-terror efforts have been aided by the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, by programs to track and monitor terrorist activities at home and abroad, and by interrogating those captured or detained in the war on terrorism.

In addition, the vice president said the United States is safer thanks to a proactive foreign policy.

"I think part of what we did right was to take the fight to the enemy, to treat this as a war and not a law enforcement problem," he said. "To actively and aggressively go after the state sponsors of terror, as we did, for example, in Afghanistan and Iraq."

The vice president added that any sign that the United States is losing its resolve to persevere in Iraq or Afghanistan would embolden terrorists and undermine America's allies in the Muslim world.

But continued strife in Iraq is worrisome to many, including the chairman of the former U.S. 9/11 Commission, Thomas Kean, who spoke on ABC's This Week program.

"Where we are right now is in a very difficult place," he said. "There is no question that the war in Iraq is radicalizing people in that area. If it becomes a civil war, that civil war could spread outside the boundaries of Iraq. It is a very dangerous situation, and in that kind of a situation, in that area, that is where terror likes to breed."

Another 9/11 Commission member, Richard Ben-Veniste, said America's troubles in Iraq have diverted attention from one of President Bush's primary goals in the wake of the September 11th attacks.

"We have not killed or captured Osama bin Laden five years after 9/11," he said. "And he remains the central focus for Islamic radicals who mean to kill us. The war in Iraq has been a recruiting poster for jihadists throughout the Muslim world, and there are far more terrorists now than there were before 9/11."

In its Sunday edition, the Washington Post newspaper quoted an unidentified U.S. intelligence official as saying that American efforts to locate Osama bin Laden have been entirely unsuccessful, and that the trail for bin Laden is "stone cold" [no leads].

Appearing on CNN's Late Edition program, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States has in no way abandoned the search for bin Laden, but noted that the terrorist threat is greater than any one individual.

"We will continue on the hunt for him [bin Laden]. But we are also going to continue to remember that his is not about one man. This is about disabling the al-Qaida organization and its capacity to hurt us," she said.

Monday, President Bush will participate in a series of events in New York marking the September 11th anniversary.