A panel of leading security experts says the United States remains vulnerable to a major terrorist strike more than one year after the September 11attacks.
The report, sponsored by the independent Council on Foreign Relations, says America remains "dangerously unprepared to prevent and respond to a catastrophic attack" on the United States.
If the nation does not respond more urgently to address its vulnerabilities, the report says the next attack could result in greater casualties and disruption than the attack on September 11 last year.
Former senators Gary Hart and Warren Rudman, two former U.S. secretaries of state and two former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were part of the panel that wrote the report.
The panel says the need for immediate action is made more urgent by the prospect of the United States going to war with Iraq, because Saddam Hussein may threaten the use of weapons of mass destruction against America.
Stephen Flynn is the project director for the report (which is titled America Still Unprepared - America Still in Danger).
Mr. Flynn says among the risks facing the United States is that hundreds of thousands of police officials are operating in what he describes as a "virtual intelligence vacuum." "In terms of eyes and ears, it is the cops on the beats, the local and state police officials, there are 650,000 of them that could help ideally identify and intercept a terrorist if they get in our midst," said Stephen Flynn. "But there still is very serious structural problems in getting terrorist watch lists to those field-level agents."
Mr. Flynn also says too much emphasis has been focused on security at airports and not at many other entry points on America's borders. "We are spending so much effort and energy at our airports, which may amount to soon about $500 million a month for baggage and passenger screening." he said. "We are spending so little time and so little resources are being dedicated to ships, trucks, trains and containers that carry so much of our commerce across our borders and that area needs much greater focus."
The report recommends that federal funds be made available to clear the backlog of requests by local police, fire and emergency rescue personnel for protective gear, training and communications equipment.
It says police should have access to the State Department's terrorist watch lists and more needs to be done to strengthen efforts to detect and investigate the possibility of chemical and biological attacks on the food and water supplies in the United States.