- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 17, 2002

President Bush says the war on terror is "advancing on all fronts," amid new signs Osama bin Laden may be alive and threatening new attacks.
"This was a productive week in the war against terror, both at home and abroad," the president said yesterday in his weekly radio address. His upbeat remarks came two days after an FBI warning that al Qaeda terrorists might be planning "spectacular attacks" against landmarks, and aviation, petroleum and nuclear targets in this country in a bid to hurt the economy, cause mass casualties, and "inflict massive psychological trauma."
Earlier in the week, the Al Jazeera satellite television network broadcast an audiotape message purported to be bin Laden, who had been unaccounted for months. In the message, the speaker, whom intelligence analysts concluded was probably bin Laden, praised recent attacks against Western interests worldwide and warned of further attacks against the United States and its allies if the United States invades Iraq.
In his radio address, the president mentioned neither bin Laden nor the new FBI threat of additional attacks by the Saudi fugitive's al Qaeda terrorist network. Al Qaeda was responsible for the September 11 hijackings, which killed more than 3,000 people at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and on a field in Pennsylvania.
Instead, Mr. Bush discussed how "members of the House and Senate reached a crucial agreement to create a new Department of Homeland Security," legislation the administration had been pushing for months. "I look forward to signing it into law as soon as possible," he said.
Sen. Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told the Associated Press that he does not think the FBI's warning about "spectacular attacks" is exaggerated. "There are ominous signs we should not ignore," said Mr. Shelby, who is leaving the intelligence committee after eight years and is likely to become chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.
Mr. Shelby has repeatedly criticized the failure of the FBI, the CIA and other intelligence agencies to share information. He said the new Department of Homeland Security should have a role collecting intelligence from agencies. But he doesn't know whether that will be sufficient to improve communications. He suggests a single center where all intelligence from all agencies would be gathered and analyzed.
In his radio address yesterday, Mr. Bush acknowledged the "threat of terror will be with us for years to come, and we remain resolved to see this conflict through to its end." He assured Americans that employees in the Department of Homeland Security will be "well-organized and well-equipped" and will be "working day and night to oppose the serious dangers of our time."
"With Congress' vote on the final legislation, America will have a single agency with the full-time duty of protecting our people against attack. This new department will focus and unify responsibilities that are now spread among dozens of government agencies," the president said, adding:
"The department will significantly improve our ability to protect our borders, our coasts and our communities. It will pool together the best intelligence information and coordinate our response."
The new department "will help develop the technology America needs to detect and defeat chemical, biological and nuclear threats." He stressed that the United States intends to take its war on terror to Iraq, if Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein refuses to give up his weapons of mass destruction, as called for in a resolution passed unanimously by the U.N. Security Council.
Mr. Bush hailed the fact "under the agreement reached this week" to establish the new Homeland Security Department, "I will have the flexibility to move people and resources to where they are needed without bureaucratic rules and lengthy labor negotiations."
Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, who will serve as House minority whip in the 108th Congress that convenes in January, urged bipartisan cooperation on issues such as the economy, education, health care and the environment. "And, at the same time, we must ensure that we invest in the strength of our armed forces," he said in the radio response by Democrats.


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