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Bush Attempts to Ease Public Fears Over Terrorist Threat - 2003-02-15

President Bush Saturday sought to calm the nerves of a nation on "high" alert for a possible terrorist attack. Congressional Democrats say the president is not doing enough to help local authorities prepare for a another attack.

President Bush said his decision to raise the national terrorist threat level was primarily meant for law enforcement to take additional precautions and increase security at potential targets.

He again urged Americans to go about their lives knowing the government is working at every level to prevent another attack. "Our nation is preparing for a variety of threats we hope never will arrive," he said. "Many of these dangers are unfamiliar and unsettling. Yet the best way to fight these dangers is to anticipate them, and act against them with focus and determination."

In his weekly radio address, the president said the new Department of Homeland Security has issued plans to help local officials secure the country's dams and power plants, electrical goods, computer networks and communications systems.

Mr. Bush says he is deploying the nation's first early warning network of sensors to detect a biological attack. He is also asking Congress to spend almost $6 billion to quickly make available effective vaccines and treatments against small pox, anthrax, botulinum toxin, Ebola and plague. "These recent threats are a stark reminder that our country remains engaged in a war on terror," the president said. "Our enemies are still determined to attack America, and there is no such thing as perfect security against a hidden network of killers."

Since the September 2001 attacks in New York and Washington, Mr. Bush said there are now more than 50,000 newly trained federal screeners who are tightening security at airports.

He says federal officials are expanding their terrorist identification system so 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies will be able to determine whether people they have arrested or pulled over might have terrorist links.

Throughout the country, Mr. Bush says joint terrorism task forces of federal, state and local officials are working together to coordinate their response to another attack.

In Washington, the president says government agencies are better coordinating their analysis of intelligence information of potential threats. "The FBI, CIA, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Defense are working together as never before to assemble and analyze the threat information so we can act before our enemies can strike us," he said. "We are gathering the best information possible, and using it to make sure the right people are in the right places to protect our citizens."

Congressional Democrats say the president's budget for homeland security does not adequately funded local fire and rescue crews who would likely be first on the scene of another attack.