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Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Carpetbagger Report »The Bush administration has its priorities

There seems to be a pattern. Before 9/11, the Bush administration de-emphasized counter-terrorism. Before Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, the Bush administration slashed funding for the Army Corps of Engineers, levee construction, and the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project.

And in advance of a terrorist plot to carry explosives onto U.S.-bound planes, the Bush administration asked to cut funding for explosive-detection technology.

While the British terror suspects were hatching their plot, the Bush administration was quietly seeking permission to divert $6 million that was supposed to be spent this year developing new homeland explosives detection technology.

Continued...to "Read More" click link below

CONTINUED:

Congressional leaders rejected the idea, the latest in a series of steps by the Homeland Security Department that has left lawmakers and some of the department's own experts questioning the commitment to create better anti-terror technologies.

Homeland Security's research arm, called the Sciences & Technology Directorate, is a "rudderless ship without a clear way to get back on course," Republican and Democratic senators on the Appropriations Committee declared recently.

It's stunning how much more we could be doing, at hardly unreasonable costs, but the administration chooses not to.

For more than four years, officials inside Homeland Security also have debated whether to deploy smaller trace explosive detectors - already in most American airports - to foreign airports to help stop any bomb chemicals or devices from making it onto U.S.-destined flights.

A 2002 Homeland report recommended "immediate deployment" of the trace units to key European airports, highlighting their low cost, $40,000 per unit, and their detection capabilities. The report said one such unit was able, 25 days later, to detect explosives residue inside the airplane where convicted shoe bomber Richard Reid was foiled in his attack in December 2001.

A 2005 report to Congress similarly urged that the trace detectors be used more aggressively, and strongly warned the continuing failure to distribute such detectors to foreign airports "may be an invitation to terrorist to ply their trade, using techniques that they have already used on a number of occasions."

Tony Fainberg, who formerly oversaw Homeland Security's explosive and radiation detection research with the national labs, said he strongly urged deployment of the detectors overseas but was rebuffed.

"It is not that expensive," said Fainberg, who retired recently. "There was no resistance from any country that I was aware of, and yet we didn't deploy it."

Fainberg said research efforts were often frustrated inside Homeland Security by "bureaucratic games," a lack of strategic goals and months-long delays in distributing money Congress had already approved.

For that matter, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), a senior Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee, explained the AP that he urged the administration in 2003 to buy electron scanners, like the ones used at London's airport to detect plastics that might be hidden beneath passenger clothes. "It's been an ongoing frustration about their resistance to purchase off-the-shelf, state-of-the-art equipment that can meet these threats," he said.

Don't worry, though, there will always be plenty of money for tax cuts.

SOURCE:
The Carpetbagger Report » Blog Archive » The Bush administration has its priorities

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