The federal advisory panel to "Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction" released a report today with damning assessments of the administration's record on protecting civil liberties and funding homeland security: The attacks of September 11 and the subsequent anthrax attacks in the fall of 2001, led to newlaws, policies, and practices designed to enhance the nation’s security against the terrorist threat.These security measures have prompted a debate about their effect on civil liberties, especiallyprivacy. The panel believes that the debate should be reframed. Rather than the traditionalportrayal of security and civil liberties as competing values that must be weighed on oppositeends of a balance, these values should be recognized as mutually reinforcing. Under this framework, counterterrorism initiatives would be evaluated in terms of how well they preserveall of the unalienable rights that are essential to the strength and security of our nation: life,liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. While these fundamental rights are guaranteed by our Constitution they should not be confused with privileges, which may be imposed upon to protectnational security. However, even privileges should not be imposed upon lightly; they arefundamental to our quality of life. For example, the opportunity to fly may be viewed as aprivilege rather than a right, but overly stringent and arbitrary security measures can not only have an economic impact but could also increase public skepticism about security measures generally. As more terrorist attacks occur, the pressure will rise to lessen civil liberties, albeit perhaps with different labels. Governments must look ahead at the unintended consequences of policies in thequiet of the day instead of the crisis of the moment. One thing we have learned from Al Qaeda is that they pick the time and day that they will strike. They are ideologically patient. We are not.There is probably nothing more strategic that our nation must to do than ensure our civilliberties... Every State and most localities in America have taken steps for combating terrorism, but it is time to ask ourselves: If local responders are in fact our first line of defense, have we succeededin effectively empowering and enhancing State and local capabilities? The overall picture that emerged from the RAND survey is that State organizations tend to feel that the Federal government is giving them some of the support they need, although there are areas for improvement. By contrast, local organizations tend to feel less positive about Federal empowerment. This may reflect the fact that the State governments have more experience in working with Federal grant programs and understand the wide gap between “an announcement”and the reality of the time frame for funding to actually flow, once it has been appropriated bythe Congress. Local organizations sound a consistent theme of the need for direct Federalsupport, and this may indicate that States need to do a better job of managing expectations andproviding better education on grant-making processes. For example, more than 80% of “FirstResponder” funding has been dedicated to local governments, a much higher percentage thanthat available to States. A continuing problem is a lack of clear strategic guidance from the Federal level about the definition and objectives of preparedness and how States and localities will be evaluated in meeting those objectives. While some progress is being made, it is not happening at a pace commensurate with the flow of Federal funding to communities and States. By the time clear definition and objectives are provided, many communities and States may have embarked on paths that are measurably different from those adjacent to them and potentially inconsistent witha national approach. Moreover, deadlines should not be allowed to overtake deliberative approaches. Such actions further weaken our ability to establish the foundation for a unified national enterprise approach. The panel's chair? Former Republican Party Chairman and current Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore.


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