Ridge Warns Iraq War Could Raise Terror Threat
Editor's Note: This is the most important passage of the story below: " In a classified intelligence bulletin last month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation offered a similar warning to state and local law enforcement agencies, alerting them to the possibility that a war with Iraq could unleash acts of anti-American violence by extremists who do not belong to Al Qaeda or other Middle Eastern terrorist groups but sympathize with their grievances against the United States." Truthout, along with a chorus of other voices, have been warning of this eventuality for months. Despite Mr. Ridge's protestations to the contrary, our country is simply not prepared to defend itself against a wave of terrorist attacks. A wise king strengthens the walls around his own castle before marching off to war. We do not have a wise king. - wrp
Ridge Warns Iraq War Could Raise Terror Threat
By Philip Shenon
New York Times
Monday 3 March 2003
WASHINGTON, March 3 - The Bush administration today offered its bluntest warning that a war with Iraq could bring new terrorist attacks within the United States, with Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge defending the administration's invasion plans but acknowledging, "There may be more threats, there have been more threats, if we go to war."
Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups have vowed to carry out strikes in the United States in the event of an American war against Iraq. And with his comments today, Mr. Ridge made it clear that the administration took the threats seriously.
"I think we can anticipate more noise in the system, more threats, because of a potential invasion," Mr. Ridge said at a meeting with reporters. "I mean, it's fairly predictable, and we see some of that now."
"Our job at Homeland Security is to be prepared, regardless," said Mr. Ridge, who took formal control last weekend of several large law enforcement and security agencies, including the Customs Service, the Secret Service and the Coast Guard. "Our job is to be prepared as much as we possibly can."
Senior administration officials said that Mr. Ridge's comments today - which came as he and other officials continued to express their delight over the weekend capture of a senior Qaeda operative, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed - were an effort to lay the public groundwork for a decision soon to put the nation on a higher level of alert and take other actions to prepare for a domestic terrorist strike.
Just last week the administration lowered the alert level to "elevated risk," or yellow on its color-coded scale, after a jittery 20-day period during which the nation was at "high risk," or orange.
The officials said that while there was no solid evidence of an imminent domestic terrorist threat, intelligence agencies were reporting from a variety of sources - including interviews with captured Qaeda terrorists and electronic surveillance - that terror groups hoped to time a major attack to the beginning of an American military campaign against Iraq.
In a classified intelligence bulletin last month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation offered a similar warning to state and local law enforcement agencies, alerting them to the possibility that a war with Iraq could unleash acts of anti-American violence by extremists who do not belong to Al Qaeda or other Middle Eastern terrorist groups but sympathize with their grievances against the United States.
When the administration raised the terror alert last month, Mr. Ridge's department urged the public to buy duct tape and plastic sheeting to prepare to deal with a chemical or biological attack, setting off a wave of public anxiety rarely seen since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Mr. Ridge spoke today as if war was a certainty and the public needed to prepare itself for the possibility of a terrorist strike.
Even while acknowledging that the domestic terror threat might grow, Mr. Ridge insisted that a war to oust Saddam Hussein and disarm Iraq was a necessary step in combating terrorism. "The war on Iraq is clearly a critical piece of the war on terrorism," he said.
"The war in Iraq is involved in the disarmament of Saddam Hussein, who has chemical and biological and, we believe, is building the capacity to develop nuclear weapons," Mr. Ridge said. He described the "nexus" between terrorist groups and nations like Iraq that "build the capacity to create and deliver weapons of mass destruction."
"Those are partnerships that we never want to see develop," Mr. Ridge said.
Asked if military action against Iraq would lead the government to raise the alert level back to "high risk," Mr. Ridge replied, "I think it certainly would be incumbent on us to take into consideration military involvement as we determine the level of protection we need for homeland security - we'd be foolish if we didn't."
In separate remarks today to a meeting of the National Association of Counties, Mr. Ridge defended the early record of the Homeland Security Department, which came into existence in late January.
Despite criticism from Congressional Democrats and private security specialists who have said the department is underfinanced, Mr. Ridge suggested that his initial budget - at least $30 billion through September, according to initial estimates - would allow the new department to make widespread improvements in domestic security.
The White House has requested a budget of $37.7 billion for the department for the next fiscal year, which would increase overall spending on its programs about 7 percent.
"Input is important, dollars are important," Mr. Ridge said. "But equally as important is how we're spending these dollars."
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