MALDEN, MA -- Today, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), a senior member of the House Homeland Security Committee, responded to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff’s appearances on the Sunday morning news shows this morning:

“I am troubled by Secretary Chertoff's continued rejection of high priority homeland security upgrades needed to address known terrorist threats.

”The Bush Administration and the Republican Congress continue to nickel-and-dime homeland security, while writing a blank check for the war in Iraq.  This has left our homeland security defenses stretched thin, with not enough screeners and technology to cover the known threats.  As a result, the Bush Administration seems to lurch from crisis to crisis, covering yesterday's vulnerabilities but leaving tomorrow's threats wide open to exploitation by terrorists.

”We have known since the 1994 Bojinka bombing of a Philippines airliner that liquid explosives could be used by terrorists to blow a passenger plane out of the sky, yet in 2006 the Bush Administration has drastically cut funding for explosive detection.  The latest plot in the UK just underlines the folly of cutting these funds. 

“The sad fact is that ten years after the liquid bomb threat was made public, Secretary Chertoff can only point to a handful of pilot programs to detect such explosives.  And while he says that many TSA screeners have been re-trained to catch such terrorist scenarios, he doesn't seem to know if a liquid bomb plot could be foiled by TSA or DHS.

”We have known since the 1988 bombing of Lockerbie Flight 103 that if you allow unscreened items to be placed in the cargo hold of a passenger plane, terrorists can use even a small bomb to blow the plane out of the sky.  Yet in 2006, when I questioned Secretary Chertoff at a hearing on whether he intended to screen all the cargo being placed on passenger planes, his answer was ‘no.’

“And we have seen over and over again that the "No-fly" list intended to keep terrorists from getting on planes is really a "Fly now - Check later" list, where an international flight bound for the United States can take off before the master no fly list is ever checked. 

“On the job for only a few months when Hurricane Katrina hit, Secretary Chertoff confronted the consequences of years of neglect by the White House and the GOP Congress of fundamental preparedness programs.  I can only hope that this most recent terror plot will embolden the Secretary to fight for more funding and resources to massively upgrade our ability to catch terrorists who seek to use the most vulnerable point in our security systems to attack us.”

August 13, 2006

CONTACT: Israel Klein