Leahy Welcomes 9/11 Commission Recommendations

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(Host) Vermont Senator Patrick is among New England Democrats welcoming the bipartisan 9/11 Commission’s recommendations. But as Melinda Wittstock of the Capitol Hill Bureau reports, the question of whether safety is improving depends on what side of the political divide you’re on.

(Wittstock) Senator Leahy says there shouldn’t be any partisan divide when it coems to homeland security.

(Leahy) “People don’t look at terrorism as a Republican or Democratic issue – they look at it as an American issue. We should work together as Americans. History will really condemn us if we don’t set aside partisan politics and really work on this.”

(Wittstock) The Vermont Democrat says it’s urgent that Congress acts quickly on the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations – particularly its call for a new national intelligence director to oversee more than a dozen U.S. intelligence agencies. But most Republicans, including Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, oppose the move. They say it will add an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy. The GOP took the report to mean we are safer now.

(Wittstock) “Are we safer now than we were on September 11?”
(Leahy) “No.”
(Wittstock) “Why not?”
(Leahy) “We’re just not.”
(Wittstock) “What needs to be most urgently?”
(Leahy) “We’ve got to dramatically improve our intelligence capability. I mean, the Justice Department still hasn’t hired the translators. We gave them money to hire them, they haven’t hired them. That’s one of the very first things I’d do. Just start using the tools we’ve given them.”

(Wittstock) The commission warned that attacks deadlier than 9/11 are possible – even probably.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Melinda Wittstock on Capitol Hill.

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