- The Washington Times - Monday, August 14, 2006

The Department of Homeland Security last night reduced the terrorism threat level for U.S.-bound flights from Britain from red, for “severe,” to orange, for “high,” in the wake of last week’s raids that officials say broke up a London-based bomb plot by Islamist radicals.

“I think the likelihood is, the main elements of the plot have been scooped up,” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said yesterday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

But Mr. Chertoff said the United States needs “maximum flexibility” to thwart terrorist attacks.

“What helped the British in this case is the ability to be nimble, to be fast, to be flexible, to operate based on fast-moving information,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”

“We have to make sure our legal system allows us to do that. It’s not like the 20th century, where you had time to get warrants.”

While the red alert was reduced for flights from Britain, all other flights operating in or destined for the United States remain at the orange level.

Meanwhile, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) yesterday announced an amendment to its carry-on ban for all liquids, which was put in place after last week’s foiled terror plot. It said small amounts of liquid medications would be permitted on all flights. The TSA also said that all passengers will have to remove their shoes before flying for X-ray screenings. The agency previously had suggested the procedure, but it wasn’t required.

Mr. Chertoff told “Fox News Sunday” that officials are still investigating whether al Qaeda was behind the plot.

“There’s a huge amount of evidence to be gone through, but certainly this plot bears the earmarks or the hallmarks of an al Qaeda-type plot in sophistication, global reach, and really, the nature of the plot itself,” he said.

When questioned by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Mr. Chertoff defended the administration’s use of wiretapping and terrorist financial tracking.

“I’m not going to talk about specific classified programs,” he said. “But I can tell you this, the kind of techniques you’re talking about, surveillance of communications, tracking the flow of money and transactions, that is — those are the weapons of the modern war against terror.”

Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican, said the British were better prepared to capture terrorist suspects because of that nation’s more robust surveillance laws.

“The British have better tools,” Mr. Roberts said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “If you want to get a warrant, all you have to do is call up a [government] minister.”

When asked by Fox News whether the British have better tools than the United States to track suspected terrorists, Mr. Chertoff said, “In some respects, they do.”

Sen. Russ Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, took issue with Mr. Chertoff, telling Mr. Stephanopoulos the Bush administration has abused the legal process.

“I just want the White House to stop making up their own laws,” he said. “If they want to propose changes, I’m open to it, but not making up your own laws.”

cThis article is based in part on wire service reports.

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