- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 26, 2002

In 1968, during the war in Vietnam, a U.S. officer told an American reporter that U.S. forces bombed and shelled the South Vietnamese community of Bentre because "it became necessary to destroy the town to save it" from the communists.
Today, as we begin our war on terrorism and search for the most effective strategy and tactics to win this new conflict, we must not let it become necessary to destroy our freedom to save it from the terrorists.
Instead, we must remember the advice Benjamin Franklin gave in 1759 when he warned: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
Unfortunately, the war on terrorism may not only be different from any war in American history, but longer than any war in our history. A federal commission I chair the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction has been examining how we can fight and win this new war for years into the future without destroying our freedom in the process.
Working with the Rand Corporation, which provided us with research and analysis on the challenge of fighting terrorism and protecting our homeland, our commission issued our fourth annual report to the president and Congress earlier this month.
One of our key recommendations was that a "National Counter Terrorism Center" should be created to operate as an independent intelligence agency that would coordinate information about potential terrorist attacks in the United States and report directly to the president. We recommended that such a center be a separate entity and not connected to the FBI, CIA or the Department of Homeland Security.
Just as the end of World War II and the start of the Cold War resulted in the creation of the Defense Department, CIA and our current intelligence system, we believe the end of the Cold War and the start of the war on terrorism require a changed intelligence system.
Our military must also be clear in its role as we fight the war on terrorism. We are faced for the first time since the Civil War with fighting enemy forces on U.S. soil. But the military must remain clearly relegated to the support of civilian authorities, especially in a response situation when containment and recovery might require a long time. Our nation is based on the principle of the armed forces serving and being controlled by our elected leaders and their appointees not the other way around.
The advisory panel, known informally as the Gilmore commission, also found that the threats of terrorist attack on our nation are not diminishing. We said the United States must accelerate the pace of preparation to prevent, respond to and contain the full realm of potential attacks.
In addition, we found that the establishment of the Office of Homeland Security alone will not make our homeland secure. The current reorganization in the federal executive branch will not be a panacea in countering the threat posed by terrorists. In fact, these current changes must be carefully implemented and additional actions are needed if we are to be successful. It is imperative that a plan to enable state and local response be designed, funded, implemented and exercised if our national effort is to succeed.
And we found that measuring performance and sustaining efforts will be key to success. Billions of dollars are being committed to countering the terrorist threat. A system must be designed to define priorities, set standards and measure progress to advance real preparedness. We face the danger of spending money only to provide a false sense of security. Success cannot be measured by the dollars spent. It must be measured by setting priorities, good planning, proper equipment and exercise.
The savage attacks of September 11 mobilized and unified this nation in the way our parents and grandparents were mobilized to fight World War II. Winning the war on terrorism is just as vital today as winning the fight against fascism was 60 years ago.
But as we fight this new war, we must remember that coming through this crisis without diminishing our freedoms or our core values of individual liberty is the entire game. If we pursue more security at the cost of what makes us Americans, the enemy will have won. All of us together will meet this challenge at this unparalleled time in the history of the United States. When this latest enemy is gone, the United States will remain and will continue to be the beacon of freedom in a troubled world.

Former Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III is a partner at the law firm of Kelley Drye & Warren LLP and chairs the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction.

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