January 23, 2006- "Keeping America Safe Will Take More Than Domestic Wiretapping Programs"

Washington, DC:  Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), a senior Member of the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee made the following remarks in response to President Bush’s speech on terrorism today at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.

"If the President can name one example of a search that he could not make within the restriction of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), let’s hear it.  But there are none, because the FISA law has been repeatedly adjusted post-9/11 at the request of the administration to accommodate everything they wanted to do. There is no issue of a search that couldn’t be made properly without compromising national security.  This is not about spying – it is about spying without a warrant, and the president is wrong – deeply, profoundly and consistently wrong,” said Rep. Markey.

Markey continued, “While the White House taps phones without a warrant, it’s failing to take action to close gaping homeland security loopholes that leave us vulnerable to another terrorist attack.  Passenger airplanes, nuclear power plants, shipments of toxic chemicals and cargo containers arriving at our ports remain dangerously unprotected because, time and time again, the White House and Republicans in Congress bend to the interests of big business rather than require the strong security mandates that are needed.  The need for an all-out effort to identify and capture terrorists is indisputable - we must stop Al Qaeda and its affiliates before they can launch another attack against our country.  If the White House believes this effort is constrained by current laws, it must work with Congress and improve, not ignore, them.  The President needs to face the facts, we need to do more than spy on Americans in order to keep America safe.” 

“Part of my job is to educate the American people about the threats we face.”  (President Bush Remarks to Kansas State University January 23, 2006)

FACT: The 9/11 Commission’s recent report card on terrorist attack prevention gave the federal government 5 F’s, 12 D’s, and 2 incompletes, representing nearly half of the categories the Commission provided grades for. This included such vital measures of safety as providing maximum effort to prevent terrorists from acquiring WMD and improving airline passenger and cargo screening.

[Final Report on 9/11 Commission Recommendations, 12/5/05: Link to 9/11 Report]

FACT: The possibility of a nuclear weapon ending up in the hands of terrorists is arguably the greatest threat we face as a nation. However, despite widespread expert agreement that obtaining nuclear weapons materials is more difficult than designing a weapon, the Bush Administration’s 2005 budget request sought to cut funding for Nunn-Lugar programs, which help to secure nuclear material in the former Soviet Union overseas before it ends up on a boat heading to the U.S.

[Arms Control Association, 3/04: Link to Arms Control Association ]

FACT: The tragedy of September 11, 2001 showed us the dangers of terrorists exploiting vulnerabilities in our air transportation network. However, almost none of the cargo carried on passenger planes is inspected, and TSA has not systematically collected and used information on air cargo security breaches, which could provide useful information to identify the full range of potential air cargo security vulnerabilities.    Planes originating overseas are allowed to take off before the no-fly list has been fully checked because DHS has yet to propose a solution to this problem, almost a year after they were mandated to by “The 9/11 Reform bill.”

(GAO report “Federal Action Needed to Strengthen Domestic Air Cargo Security, GAO-06-76, October 2005) [“Homeland Security Late With Plane Plan.” AP, 5/18/05: Link to "Homeland Security Late With Plane Plan"]

FACT: Osama bin Laden remains at large, as his recently released tape proves. As journalist and bin Laden expert Peter Bergen recently pointed out, capturing the al Qaeda leader would make us safer because “through videotapes and audiotapes since 9/11…he continues to influence what happens,” and “capturing him would be a major psychological victory for us in the war on terrorism.”

[“The Osama He Knew,” CBS News, 1/11/06: Link to CBS News, "The Osama He Knows" Report ]

FACT: More than 1 million people live close enough to be threatened by a terrorist attack on one of over 100 chemical plants in 23 different states. However, the Bush administration refuses to set federal security requirements for the industry, choosing instead to let the industry secure itself if it feels like it.

[“U.S. Plants: Open to Terrorists.” CBS News, 11/13/03: Link to CBS News, "60 Minutes" Report ]

January 23, 2006
 CONTACT: Tara McGuinness
Mark Bayer