Mar. 4, 2003
Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Hearing on War Against Terrorism
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would like to talk about the homeland security advisory system, gentleman. When a decision is made, as it was recently, to raise the alert level from yellow to orange, that determination puts the entire country on a heightened state of alert. News reports at that time suggested that prompting the change were serious threats to New York and Washington, D.C. And yet there may have been entire areas of the country where the danger level of terrorist activity had really not changed at all.
Surely, one cannot suggest that every part of the country has the same level of risk. In fact, it is likely that more than half the country live in areas that did not need to go on a heightened state of alert at all. The threat level certainly varies depending upon whether you live in, for example, rural Wisconsin or in a major urban area.
So I ask, what can be done to improve the advisory system so that we know which regions of the country are truly at risk and which regions are not?
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One more question, gentlemen. Most Americans live in communities that do not have important national landmarks, like the Sears Tower or Golden Gate Bridge, and yet they are concerned about the chance of a terrorist attack against our water sources, power plants and bridges. When I surveyed Wisconsin sheriffs and chiefs of police, 40 percent reported that they feel at risk of a terrorist attack in their jurisdiction, but they report that they are unsure how to evaluate the risks to their local infrastructure and how to protect their schools, for example, or their shopping malls. If they conclude that their communities are at risk, they tell us they cannot afford to pay for the protection that's necessary.
These are real concerns, I believe, that impact our communities on a daily basis, so how can we help them protect their population? Doesn't the federal government need to do perhaps a better job of informing, educating, and when appropriate, funding our state and our local officials?