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White House - AP Cabinet & State
Report: Next Attack Could Top 9/11
Fri Oct 25, 2:32 AM ET

By KEN GUGGENHEIM, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - The United States remains "dangerously unprepared" to deal with another major terrorist attack, said a report by former top government officials, academics and business leaders.

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"In all likelihood, the next attack will result in even greater casualties and widespread disruption to American lives and the economy" than the Sept. 11 attacks, said the task force chaired by former Sens. Gary Hart, D-Colo., and Warren Rudman, R-N.H. The report was released late Thursday.

The report comes a week after CIA (news - web sites) Director George Tenet warned that Osama bin Laden (news - web sites)'s al-Qaida network is likely to strike against the United States sometime soon and that the current situation is similar to what existed before the Sept. 11 attacks. Tenet previously said a terrorist attack would be more likely if the United States takes military action against Iraq.

Because a year has passed without a major terrorist attack against the United States, the report says, "there are already signs that Americans are lapsing back into complacency."

Few of the ships, trucks and trains that enter the United States each day are searched, the report said. Emergency personnel are unprepared for chemical or biological attacks. Oil refineries and energy distribution lines could be sabotaged. State and local police still lack access to State Department terrorist watch lists.

"When it comes to combating terrorism, the police officers on the beat are effectively operating deaf, dumb and blind," it said.

Rudman and Hart had led a previous commission whose warnings in January 2001 of the likelihood of catastrophic terrorist attacks seemed prophetic eight months later. That commission, created by Congress, said the threat of international terrorism was growing and recommended creating a domestic security agency.

President Bush (news - web sites) created a Homeland Security office shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks and has proposed creating a full Cabinet department, but Congress has not yet approved it.

Hart and Rudman's latest panel was formed by the Council on Foreign Relations. Its 17 members included former Secretaries of State Warren Christopher and George Shultz, former FBI (news - web sites) and CIA Director William H. Webster and retired Adm. William J. Crowe, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In a foreword, Leslie H. Gelb, the council's president, noted that federal, state and local officials have taken many steps to strengthen homeland security, but their effects won't be seen for some time. "You cannot turn a nation as large and complex as this one on a dime," Gelb wrote.

The Office of Homeland Security is reviewing the council's report, said spokesman Gordon Johndroe. He said many of its suggestions are similar to what Bush has proposed.

"We continue to implement what we can and are hopeful that Congress will appropriate and enact the homeland security initiatives that the president placed before them," Johndroe said.

Among the panel's recommendations:

_Establish 24-hour operations centers in all states to provide terror watch list information.

_Provide federal funds to clear the backlog of state and local government requests for protective gear, training and communications equipment.

_Strengthen security for sea and land transportation.

_Evaluate areas of vulnerability for energy supplies and develop a stockpile of backup components so energy operations could be restored if damaged.

_Strengthen health agencies' ability to detect disease outbreaks.


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