WASHINGTON – Spurred by a growing number of independent reports that confirm his own conclusions about the Administration’s insufficient efforts to secure the homeland, Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said Wednesday the Administration’s opposition last year to the creation of a Department of Homeland Security is reflected in its current record on domestic defense.
“Simply put, there is no real White House leadership, much less vision, on homeland security,” Lieberman said. “And the result is that the American people are still at risk. “The Administration is heavily invested in fighting the war on terror abroad. And I support that effort. But the evidence is mounting from independent analysts across the board that the Administration has not committed the same vision, leadership, nor resources to fight the war on terror at home. “Perhaps this lack of commitment stems from the Administration’s belief that the war on terrorism can be won abroad and its failure to recognize this is essentially a two front war. That may be why it objected to the establishment of a Department of Homeland Security in the first place. But, having lost that fight, the White House should fulfill its responsibility – to the American people, to the families of those who died on September 11th , and to the families of soldiers sent abroad to protect us from terrorism – and do what must be done to make this nation safe.” Lieberman’s comments came on the heels of a Democratic Leadership Council – Progressive Policy Institute report rating the Administration’s efforts in a number of homeland security categories. Among those in which the Administration receives a poor grade are coordination of intelligence information and coordination with state and local officials, two areas Lieberman has repeatedly focused on in his Governmental Affairs Committee oversight work this year. On state and local coordination, Lieberman said, “Today’s report confirms what many of us have known for months: The Administration is passing the responsibility – but not the money or the information – onto struggling state and local governments, shifting the obligation for what should be a national priority down to those who can least afford it. “Even as they are saddled with new financial responsibilities, our first preventers and responders are out of the information loop. Despite its steady stream of rhetoric, the Administration continues to hoard information, depriving the eyes and ears on our front lines of critical resources in the war against terrorism.” In the intelligence area, Lieberman noted that the DLC-PPI report “describes a still diffused and ineffective system of coordinating intelligence, a system responsible in part for the failure to prevent the worst terrorist attack in modern history. Since last year’s negotiations over the Homeland Security bill, I have been pushing for a strong and consolidated intelligence apparatus within the Homeland Security Department. But rather than providing clarity, the Administration has added to the bureaucratic structure and compounded the confusion.” The failure of the Administration almost two years after September 11th to consolidate 12 terrorist watch lists at nine federal agencies is another disappointment, Lieberman said.. “The Administration’s continuing obstinance in consolidating the watch lists costs us our best chance to deny visas to terrorists, to detain and deport them at the borders, and to arrest them if they manage to enter the country. If two of the September 11th terrorists had been watch listed when the CIA first learned of their involvement in other terrorist activities, we might have unraveled that horrific plot. I am at a loss to explain the Administration’s callous indifference to consolidating these lists.” The DLC-PPI report follows a series of assessments that have raised serious questions about the extent and effectiveness of the Administration’s homeland security efforts, including reports by the bipartisan Council on Foreign Relations, the Partnership for Public Service, the Heritage Foundation, and the Brookings Institute.