Tom Ridge believes another attack on US is inevitable
* Departing homeland secretary says it could be Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda-like organisation
WASHINGTON: Departing Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said on Friday he believed another attack on the United States was inevitable, and warned that America should not focus just on Al Qaeda, but also on similar groups that could carry out attacks.
“I have accepted the inevitability of another attack or attacks,” Ridge said in an interview on the eve of his departure from the department launched two years ago to guard against another attack like that of September 11, 2001.
“It could be Al Qaeda or it could be Al Qaeda-like organisations,” said Ridge, who departs on February 1. “I do think, when we talk about global terrorism, (it is) better ... that America doesn’t focus just on Al Qaeda.” “There are a lot of Al Qaeda-like organisations and there are quite a few (Osama) bin Laden wannabes out there - you’ve got one of them operating in Iraq right now,” he said, referring to Al Qaeda’s leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Ridge said the other groups he views as possible threats are driven by the same ideology as Al Qaeda and they would use “terrorist attacks” as their means to that end. When asked what type of attack he viewed as the biggest threat, Ridge said a biological or nuclear attack were of concern since they could involve “catastrophic” loss of life. “I’m convinced that if they had a nuclear weapon they’d use it,” he said in a joint interview with Reuters and the Associated Press.
Although there were no new attacks during Ridge’s tenure, the administration was criticized for not giving him enough leeway or resources to properly set up an effective department. Ridge was assailed for the five-tiered, color-coded terror alert warning system he created.
Some charged that he timed the raising of security alerts, particularly during last year’s presidential campaign, to boost support for Bush. Ridge said politics had no place in his department. Others complained about vague or incomplete information that accompanied changes in the alert level.
The department was also criticized for a program to photograph and fingerprint most foreign visitors entering the United States as part of the effort to toughen border security. Ridge said the new department was still overcoming problems, including sharing information and analyzing intelligence.
He urged Michael Chertoff, the man President George W Bush has nominated to succeed him, to keep pressure on the agencies that share information with Homeland Security to ensure the flow continues and improves. The “no-fly” list of foreigners who are prohibited from entering the country or boarding a plane to the United States was an example of how the FBI and CIA help Homeland Security decide who should be allowed in the country, Ridge said.
But “it’s an imperfect world,” he said, and the agencies needed more work on the list to ensure the right people are stopped and the right people are allowed in. reuters