- The Washington Times - Monday, June 16, 2003

Former Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III said yesterday his antiterrorism commission, in its final year, will try to determine how to safeguard the country without infringing on the rights of Americans.

“The objective is long-term” Mr. Gilmore said during a commission meeting at Rand Corp. in Arlington. “What is the preparedness and the level of risk the American people should be asked to tolerate?”

Mr. Gilmore, who has chaired the congressionally chartered commission since its founding in 1999, said he is concerned about the use of high technology such as video cameras and other recording devices that can track people because it can infringe on Americans’ freedom and jeopardize individual privacy.

“Security is the most important thing, but it has the risk of diminishing our civil liberties,” he said. “[We have to look at] what kind of country the enemy is making us become.”

Commission member George W. Foresman, Virginia Gov. Mark Warner’s deputy assistant for commonwealth preparedness, said the commission’s main goal is to strike the right balance of physical security, economic security and societal stability.

One of the commission’s challenges, he said, is addressing the economic concerns brought on by terrorist attacks.

“First responders are very visual and are images that leaders can wrap their arms around and policy leaders can easily understand,” Mr. Foresman said. “Sustained economic impact is not easily seen, it’s not tangible. … You can reach out and touch a firefighter or a police officer, but you can’t touch the economy. We have to make the public and private sectors aware of the economic impact.”

Commission member A.D. Vickery, deputy chief for the Seattle Fire Department, said the country’s ability to mobilize would help implement the commission’s strategies. “We can get something done when we make a commitment as a body,” he said. “As a country, we have a unique opportunity to put together a strategic dynamic that will have the ability to adjust to an ever-changing threat whether man-made or not.”

Mr. Gilmore said the commission has focused on public health, border control, military use, cyber-terrorism, and training and preparing rescue crews to respond to terrorist attacks.

“We haven’t sought a high profile. Instead, we want good policy,” Mr. Gilmore said. “We’ve always tried to stay ahead of the discussion, to set the tone and not to just participate in it.”

The Gilmore Commission, once known as the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction, has been studying the changing threats to U.S. security and the kinds of responses the nation requires. It has provided recommendations to the president, Congress and federal agencies.

The Department of Homeland Security has implemented 66 of 79 of the commission’s recommendations.

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