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Monday, 14 August 2006 02:43

DNC: GOP Policies Have Made America Less Safe

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NEWS RELEASE

News from the DNC:

Washington, DC – The failed policies of Washington Republicans continue to make America less safe. As recently as this morning, RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman used misleading rhetoric to cover up the fact that Republicans have consistently blocked Democratic attempts to make our country secure. And, the latest polls continue to show that the American people are dissatisfied with the President and his party on a number of issues and want Democratic leadership in Congress.

“Whenever the Republican Party is in political crisis they fall back on their well adapted strategy of ‘fear and smear’ to try to win elections,” said Democratic National Committee Communications Director Karen Finney. “Ken Mehlman’s desperate ranting and childish name calling show just how loose his party's grasp on reality really is. He knows as well as anyone how many times his party has opposed Democrats’ efforts to improve America's security, if Republicans were serious about keeping America safe, they would join Democrats and enact the 9/11 Commission recommendations immediately. It’s time for Bush and Republicans to adapt to the reality that the American people want a new direction that only Democrats can deliver.

New Newsweek Poll: Americans Want A New Direction; Want Democrats To Win In November. “Right now 53 percent of Americans would like to see the Democrats win control of Congress, compared to just 34 percent who want the Republicans to retain control. Most worrisome for the GOP? Almost one in 10 Republicans, 9 percent, hope the Democrats win. … The worst news for the GOP, which controls the White House and both houses of Congress, is that a clear majority of Americans agree on one thing: 67 percent say they are dissatisfied with the direction of the country.” [Newsweek, 8/13/06]

GOP Opposed Democratic Proposals To Keep America Safe

Democrats Fought for Aviation Security; Republicans Blocked Effort To Increase Funding. Since 9/11, Senate Democrats have repeatedly tried to increase investments in aviation security. For example, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) offered an amendment to the FY 2006 Homeland Security Appropriations bill to provide $302 million for improved screening of cargo carried on commercial airliners. House Democrats have also repeatedly fought to increase aviation security investments. For example, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) offered a motion to recommit the FY 2006 Homeland Security Authorization with instructions to authorize $400 million more in FY 2006 for in-line checked baggage screening system installations as well as to require that all air cargo on passenger planes be screened within three years. [2005 Senate Vote #180, 7/14/05; 2005 House Vote #188, 5/18/05]

Democrats Fought for Port Security; Republicans Blocked Effort To Increase Funding. Senate Democrats have repeatedly fought to increase port security investments. For example, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) offered an amendment to the FY 2005 Homeland Security Appropriations bill to increase funding for Port Security Grants by $300 million. Since 9/11, House Democrats have repeatedly tried to increase investments in port security. For example, Rep. Martin Sabo (D-MN) offered an amendment to the FY 2006 Supplemental Appropriations bill to increase port security funding by $825 million. The amendment includes $400 million to place radiation portal monitors at all U.S. ports of entry. [2004 Senate Vote #171, 9/9/04; 2006 House Vote #56, 3/16/06]

Democrats Fought for First Responders; Republicans Blocked Effort To Increase Funding. Since 9/11, Senate Democrats have repeatedly tried to increase investments in first responders. For example, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) offered an amendment to the FY 2006 Budget Resolution to invest $5 billion to provide interoperable communications equipment for first responders. House Democrats have also repeatedly fought to increase first responder investments. For example, Rep. David Obey (D-WI) offered a motion to recommit the FY 2003 Continuing Appropriations bill, to add provisions ensuring $3.5 billion in new money for the nation's first responders. The President had requested only $1 billion in new money for first responders in his FY 2003 budget. [2006 Senate Vote #45, 3/15/06; 2003 House Vote #16, 1/28/03]

Democrats Fought for Border Security; Republicans Blocked Effort To Increase Funding. Senate Democrats have also repeatedly fought to increase border security investments. For example, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) offered an amendment to the FY 2005 Supplemental Appropriations bill to increase funding for border security by $390 million, providing for the hiring of additional Border Patrol agents and the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles. Democrats succeeded in adopting the Byrd amendment - by a vote of 65 to 34. However, most of this additional border security funding was removed by the GOP in conference. Since 9/11, House Democrats have also tried to increase investments in border security. For example, Rep. David Obey (D-WI) offered a motion to recommit the conference report on FY 2005 Supplemental Appropriations bill with instructions to add $284 million to fund an additional 550 Border Patrol agents, an additional 200 immigration agents, and unmanned border aerial vehicles. [2005 Senate Vote #105, 4/20/05; 2005 House Vote #160, 5/5/05]

Democrats Fought for Rail and Transit Security. Since 9/11, Senate Democrats have repeatedly tried to increase investments in rail and transit security. For example, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) offered an amendment to the FY 2006 Homeland Security Appropriations bill to provide $1.2 billion for transit security grants and $265 million for intercity rail transportation. House Democrats have also repeatedly fought to increase rail and transit security investments. For example, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) offered a Democratic substitute to the FY 2006 Homeland Security Authorization bill. This substitute included key provisions to bolster rail and transit security - including a three-year $2.8 billion grant program to improve transit security and a three-year $1 billion program to improve rail security. [2005 Senate Vote #184, 7/14/05; 2005 House Vote #187, 5/18/05]

GOP Failed To Implement 9/11Commission Recommendations

  • 9/11 COMMISSIONER THOMAS KEANE: "We're Not As Safe As We Should Be." In an interview on “Meet the Press”, Hamilton said, "When you and I go to the airport, there still is not a unified watch list. There should be. We should know everybody who’s getting on that plane. If any agency has any problems with them, they shouldn't be allowed to get on the plane. … We still haven't got the proper technology for screening baggage. … The Congress simply has not given the agency dollars to put those things into effect. But those are major steps that no should be taken at the airports. Until they're done, we're not as safe as we should be.” [“Meet the Press”, NBC, 8/13/06]
  • 9/11 COMMISSIONER LEE HAMILTON: "We Are Not As Safe As We Should Be." In an interview on “Meet the Press”, Keane said "I'm still nervous about it [the possibility of an attack]. I think we are not as safe as we should be five years after the event." [“Meet the Press”, NBC, 8/13/06]

9/11 Commission Gave F’s And D’s To The Bush Administration. The 9/11 Commission gave the Bush Administration 5 F's and 12 D's on the implementation of the Commission's recommendations for homeland security. [Final Report on 9/11 Commission Recommendations, 12/05]

AIRPORT SECURITY: Still No Unified Terrorist Watch List. There remains no unified terrorist watch list for screening airline passengers. In its December 2005 report card, the 9/11 Commission gave the Administration a failing grade for its efforts to improve passenger pre-screening, noting that "few improvements have been made to the existing passenger screening system since right after 9/11. The completion of the testing phase of TSA's pre-screening program for airline passengers has been delayed. A new system, utilizing all names on the consolidated terrorist watch list, is therefore not yet in operation." While $130 million has been spent on the Secure Flight program - a system that would match airline passengers against terrorist watch lists - the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that it remains in development and faces considerable management and oversight challenges. The TSA is in the process of reassessing the viability of Secure Flight, after suspending the program in March due to security and privacy concerns. [9/11 Public Discourse Project, December 2005; govexec.com, 6/25/06]

PORTS: Screening Technology at U.S. Ports Still Inadequate. “The radiation-detection technology currently used in the world’s ports by the Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection Agency is not adequately capable of detecting a nuclear weapon or a lightly shielded dirty bomb…The flaws in detection technology require the Pentagon’s counterproliferation teams to physically board container ships at sea to determine if they are carrying weapons of mass destruction. Even if there were enough trained boarding teams to perform these inspections on a regular basis -- and there are not -- there is still the practical problem of inspecting the contents of cargo containers at sea…This factor, when added to the sheer number of containers on each ship -- upwards of 3,000 -- guarantees that in the absence of very detailed intelligence, inspectors will be able to perform only the most superficial of examinations.” [“Port Security is Still a House of Cards,” Stephen E. Flynn, Far Eastern Economic Review, Jan./Feb 2006]

BORDERS: Millions Wasted On Inadequate Border Security Efforts. Millions of tax dollars have been wasted as a result of failed border security technology initiatives that have been undertaken by the Department – the Integrated Surveillance Intelligence System and the America’s Shield Initiatives. The Administration has failed to provide promised funding for Border Patrol agents (20 percent short), detention bed spaces (20 percent short), and the Immigration and Customs agent resources called for by the 9/11 Act (75 percent short). [“The State of Homeland Security, 2006” prepared by the Democratic Staff of the Committee on Homeland Security; 2/06]

FIRST RESPONDERS: Emergency Preparedness Still Inadequate. The President’s budget for 2007 proposed to cut $612 million from first responder grants and training programs. The budget cuts funding levels for programs designed to assist state and local law enforcement agencies by more than $1 billion compared to FY 2006, the Firefighters Grant Program was cut by 50 percent, and the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium, which trains first responders, was cut by 66 percent. In addition, the President’s 2007 budget requested no funding to enhance interoperable communications. [“The State of Homeland Security, 2006” prepared by the Democratic Staff of the Committee on Homeland Security; 2/06]

RAIL AND TRANSIT SECURITY: Bush Has Not Improved Rail and Transit Security. Terrorist groups have already targeted surface transportation for attacks, including the attack on a Moscow Metro rail car in 2004, a coordinated series of 10 explosions on four commuter trains in Madrid that same year, and a coordinated series of four explosions on three London subway trains and one bus in 2005. Despite this, the TSA budget dedicates only 1 percent of the department’s funding to surface transportation security. The budget also eliminates dedicated grants used by public transportation systems to increase security, forcing surface transportation to compe te with ports and other critical infrastructure for funding. [“The State of Homeland Security, 2006” prepared by the Democratic Staff of the Committee on Homeland Security; 2/06]

America Is Less Safe Because Of The Bush Administration

9/11 COMMISSIONER LEE HAMILTON: “I think [the London terror plot] says that they’re still out there, they're still plotting... this is a scenario that was included in the 9/11 report.” [“Meet The Press”, NBC, 8/13/06]

HUNT FOR BIN-LADEN: Failure to Hunt for Bin Laden "Gravest Error in The War against al Qaeda." According to the Washington Post, "The Bush Administration has concluded that Osama bin Laden was present during the battle for Tora Bora late last year and that failure to commit U.S. ground troops to hunt him was its gravest error in the war against al Qaeda, according to civilian and military officials with first-hand knowledge." "We messed up by not getting into Tora Bora sooner and letting the Afghans do all the work," said a senior official with direct responsibilities in counterterrorism. "Clearly a decision point came when we started bombing Tora Bora and we decided just to bomb, because that's when he escaped.We didn't put U.S. forces on the ground, despite all the brave talk, and that is what we have had to change since then." [Washington Post, 4/17/02]

NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION: Iran Pursuing Nuclear Arms Program. Iran hid its nuclear program for more than a dozen years from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the nuclear monitoring arm of the United Nations, and now the United States and Europe contend that Iran is pursuing an arms program. In January of 2006, Iran restarted its effort to make atomic fuel after negotiations with Britain, France and Germany over the fate of its atomic program broke down. [New York Times, 4/28/06; New York Times, 8/7/06]

Experts Say Bush Administration Strategy Emboldened Iranian Nuclear Program. The Bush Administration refused to negotiate with Iran for years, when the country was willing to make real concessions on its nuclear program. Just after the U.S. takeover of Baghdad in 2003, Iran proposed a dialogue with the United States. According to former senior director of the National Security Council, Flynt Leverett, the offer was "a serious effort." The Bush Administration's refusal to enter into talks, according to Middle East expert Trita Parsi, "strengthened the hands of those in Iran who believe that the only way to compel the United States to talk is not by sending peace offers, but by being a nuisance." [Washington Post, 6/18/06; American Prospect, June 2006]

IRAQ / CIVIL WAR: Top Generals Pace And Abizaid: "Sectarian Violence…As Bad As I've Seen It." Two top U.S. generals said that the sectarian violence in Iraq was much worse than they had ever anticipated and could lead to civil war in what the Washington Post called "the military's most dire assessment of conditions in Iraq since the war began 40 months ago." "The sectarian violence is probably as bad as I've seen it," General John P. Abizaid, commander of U.S. military operations in the Middle East, said. "If not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move toward civil war." General Pace agreed, saying, "We do have the possibility of that developing to a civil war." [Washington Post, 8/4/06]

NEWS RELEASE

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