Report: U.S. can't prevent or respond to terror attack

| 10/28/2002

A report by a task force chaired by former Sens. Gary Hart and Warren Rudman says "America remains dangerously unprepared to prevent and respond to a catastrophic terrorist attack on U.S. soil."

The report says few trucks, ships and trains that enter the United States each day are searched. In addition, emergency personnel are unprepared for chemical or biological attacks, oil refineries and energy distribution lines could be sabotaged, and state and local police still lack access to State Department terrorist watch lists.

The report comes a week after CIA Director George Tenet warned that Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network is likely to strike against the United States and during a week when the FBI issued an alert warning of possible terrorist activity against America's transportation system.

The Hart and Rudman panel was formed by the Council on Foreign Relations. Its 17 members included former secretaries of state Warren Christopher and George Schultz, former FBI and CIA Director William H. Webster and retired Adm. William J. Crowe, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Among the panel's recommendations: Establish 24-hour operation centers in all states to provide terror watch list information; provide federal funds to clear the backlog of state and local government requests for protective gear, training and communications equipment; strengthen security for sea and land transportation; evaluate areas of vulnerability for energy supplies and develop a stockpile of backup components so energy operations could be restored if damaged; and strengthen health agencies' ability to detect disease outbreaks.