- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 26, 2002

Sen. John McCain is questioning the terrorist alerts, raising concerns they are making Americans nervous without providing safety benefits.
"I think we've got to take a look at all these warnings very carefully and what the effect is on the American people." Mr. McCain, Arizona Republican and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said yesterday on CNN's "Novak, Hunt & Shields."
However, two other senators interviewed yesterday on CNN Democrat Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas offered support for the alerts. "We live in a dangerous world," said Mr. Durbin, a member of the intelligence committee, on CNN's "Saturday Edition." Bush administration officials "perceive dangers that even Congress has not been alerted to, and they're trying to warn the American people. Let's accept that at face value," he said.
Mr. McCain also said he believes that Vice President Richard B. Cheney was right to criticize Democrats who suggested that President Bush might have had enough intelligence information about the September 11 attacks to prevent them.
"I agree with the vice president that it is irresponsible to, in any way, insinuate the president of the United States would not have acted if he had sufficient information," said Mr. McCain, who called Mr. Bush a "patriot."
But the Arizona Republican made it clear he has concerns about the rash of terrorist alerts the government has issued in the past week that have included potential targets such as apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty.
"Is there discrimination in these warnings that isn't just frightening Americans and, yet, at the same time, [is] achieving the goal of keeping us on alert?" Mr. McCain asked.
"I worry that, over time, with so many warnings with such frequency, Americans will begin to not take them seriously."
In the CNN interview, Mr. McCain discussed his confusion about how to address the terror alerts when his 17-year-old daughter called him Friday night and said she was thinking of going to New York. He said she asked, "'Dad should I go to New York? Should I, shouldn't I?'"
"Well, it's hard for me to tell her whether she could go or not," he said.
Mr. McCain commented, as the Associated Press reported yesterday, that the FBI "has issued a fresh warning that terrorists may be interested in using small planes to carry out suicide attacks" during the Memorial Day weekend.
However, FBI spokesman Steven Berry said in an interview that it was "patently false" that this was an alert. What it was, he said, was an "intelligence update" for law enforcement and not the general public that the FBI had issued Wednesday. "This was just to tell law enforcement there is a possibility" terrorists are interested in using small general-aviation aircraft for suicide attacks in this country, Mr. Berry said.
However, on Friday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta warned the nation's subway and railroad systems to check their security after receiving unspecified information that they could be terrorist targets.

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