- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 7, 2001

You are Tom Ridge. Your job is to ensure that our homeland is secure from terrorism.
This is what you must protect:
Almost 600,000 bridges, 170,000 water systems, more than 2,800 power plants (104 of them nuclear), 190,000 miles of interstate pipelines for natural gas, 463 skyscrapers (each more than 500 feet tall), nearly 20,000 miles of border, airports, stadiums, train tracks, the food supply, schools, industry.
More than 281 million people, spread out over 3,717,792 square miles.
"If you start out defending the homeland with the premise that you're going to defend every high-profile, highly vulnerable target you lose," says Donald Hamilton, deputy director of the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism in Oklahoma City.
"If you can't fill a yellow legal pad with hard-to-defend targets in 30 minutes, you're not thinking very hard. Oil pipelines, the Holland and Lincoln tunnels [in New York], the food supply you could sink the whole national budget into trying to defend these things very quickly."
But this is not to say that Mr. Ridge the former Pennsylvania governor who takes charge tomorrow as the first head of the Office of Homeland Security is on a fool's errand. Experts on terrorism and domestic security say the new department can accomplish a lot. It can coordinate the agencies already at work against terrorism; it can focus public attention on what needs to be done.
And most likely, it will lead the way to a less defensive approach to protecting Americans on these shores.
This will not be the old idea of civil defense the one that sent New York Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia running around the country, warning of air raids in the days before World War II; the one that featured an animated creature, Burt the Turtle, telling children to "duck and cover" in the event of nuclear attack in 1950.
Nor are we likely to hear instructions on how to dig our way to safety from nuclear attack, as we did early in the Reagan administration. "Everybody's going to make it if there are enough shovels to go around. Dig a hole, cover it with a couple of doors and then throw three feet of dirt on top. It's the dirt that does it," said T.K. Jones, deputy undersecretary of defense, in 1981.
"Everybody is playing a harder, tougher game right now," says Michael Greenberger, a law professor at the University of Maryland, who was principal associate deputy attorney general from 1999 to 2001 and who planned a simulation in which top Cabinet and government officials responded to a crisis in three cities. He uses a baseball metaphor: Before Sept. 11, the United States was playing in the minors, somewhere between A and AA ball, "and now we find out this is a major league sport we're in."
Mr. Ridge's most important role, Mr. Greenberger says, is to coordinate the activities of 40 federal agencies devoted to public security. In the past, they've often been competitors. "Somebody has to play the referee, somebody has to be the mediator, somebody has to be the coach," he says.
He likens Mr. Ridge's position to that of Condoleezza Rice, the president's chief national security adviser.
He will get things done because he has the president's ear, Mr. Greenberger says. A Homeland Security bureaucracy, he says, "would just waste a lot of valuable time."
Mr. Ridge can be an advocate for the funds and resources needed to face the threat.
The FBI has long sought more translators; now, the urgency is apparent. Mr. Ridge can help recruit the brainpower needed to make America secure, perhaps turning to a technology industry that has been ravaged by the downturn, Mr. Greenberger says.
But some of the methods that might be used are anathema to civil libertarians. "We're going to have to have a national debate, and people are going to have to decide" whether these are steps that must be taken, says Mr. Hamilton, who was an adviser to the National Commission on Terrorism.
Mr. Hamilton thinks that this, too, will be an aspect of Mr. Ridge's job framing and fostering the debate on civil liberties.
For example, he cites proposals for a national identification card. He likes the idea: "People are going to discover the ancillary benefits real quickly. Hey, this is a wonderful tool for tracking deadbeat dads." And yet he recognizes we would be giving up something that is "almost palpable the ability to leave, go elsewhere, start over."
The same goes for tougher immigration policies and more scrutiny of communications. The easy part of homeland security, Mr. Hamilton says, might be instituting these changes; the hard part might be arriving at a national consensus so they can go forward.

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