Sleeper says officials reluctant to share terrorist threat info

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(Host) Vermont’s public safety commissioner has some harsh words for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Kerry Sleeper says federal officials have been reluctant to share information with states and major cities about potential terrorist threats.

(Sleeper) “They’re just not up to speed right now.”

(Host) Sleeper’s criticism comes in the wake of controversy over Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff’s comment last week that he had a gut feeling there’s an increased risk of terrorist attacks this summer.

Sleeper has been a leader of a National Governors Association group that coordinates local and national homeland security efforts.

He says many local agencies have given up on getting the information they need from the federal Homeland Security Department.

They rely, instead, on agencies like the FBI or New York City Police.

(Sleeper) “We don’t need secret information. We don’t need information that’s going to compromise an investigation. But we certainly, certainly need more than a gut feeling from the secretary and we’re demanding that, basically, at this point.”

(Host) A U.S. Homeland Security Department spokesman says information and threat assessments are sent out regularly to local and state officials.

But Senator Patrick Leahy says he’s lost confidence in the department, too.

(Leahy) “I think that the administration likes to talk about all the things that they’re doing to stop terrorism. But if this is what they’re going to do to stop terrorism, I worry about having another 9/11.”

(Host) Leahy is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over law enforcement.

He says the committee plans to confer with police around the country to determine how many agencies are having problems with the Department of Homeland Security.

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