- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2001

RICHMOND (AP) A new state terrorism-prevention panel will submit its initial report in November so the new governor and the General Assembly can address its recommendations early next year, Gov. James S. Gilmore III said yesterday.
Mr. Gilmore created the 21-member Virginia Preparedness and Security Panel in response to this month's terrorist attacks on the Pentagon in Northern Virginia and the World Trade Center in New York.
The task force of elected officials, law enforcement officers, public safety experts, educators and business executives will assess the threat of terrorist attacks in Virginia and the state's readiness to respond to them. It will meet for the first time Friday.
"In the wake of the events on Sept. 11, it has become more urgent to ensure that all the mechanisms are in place for protecting against and preparing for another terrorist attack," Mr. Gilmore said at a news conference.
Mr. Gilmore, chairman of a national anti-terrorism task force that warned that the United States was vulnerable to attacks, is barred by the Virginia Constitution from seeking re-election. He said his successor, Republican Mark L. Earley or Democrat Mark R. Warner, will be briefed on the state panel's findings.
Mr. Gilmore said the new panel builds on a "domestic terrorism working group" that he created in 1999. That group has been advising Mr. Gilmore in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, he said.
"Virginia is fortunate that we're not starting from scratch," Mr. Gilmore said.
Former State Police Superintendent Wayne Huggins, chairman of the panel, said he does not have any particular security risks or corrective actions in mind at this point. "I don't go into this with any predisposition," he said.
One possible security problem already has been exposed. Prosecutors said Monday that a man has been charged with helping some of the hijackers fraudulently obtain identification cards from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.
Mr. Gilmore said the DMV in recent years has tried to become more customer-friendly by making it easier to get driver's licenses and ID cards.
"When there is an organized, military-type enemy determined to invade the United States, they will seek out and find any potential vulnerabilities they can find," Mr. Gilmore said. "Convenience to the citizens of Virginia has created a military vulnerability."
State Sen. Kenneth W. Stolle, Virginia Beach Republican and a member of the new panel, said that just a few weeks ago nobody could imagine terrorists hijacking airplanes and crashing them into buildings. The panel's challenge will be to consider what other previously unfathomable tactics terrorists might employ.
"Our imagination has to be broader than in the past," Mr. Stolle said.

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