WASHINGTON – Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said "credible" information indicated that Al Qaeda wants to stage a "large-scale attack" in the United States. Following is a transcript of Ridge's remarks as provided by the Department of Homeland Security:
Good morning. You have heard me and other senior administration officials – the National Security Adviser, Director of the FBI and the Attorney General -- discuss with the American people the increased risk of a terrorist attack this summer. I wanted to take this opportunity to update Americans on both the status of that threat, as well as the efforts of law enforcement and homeland security professionals across the country, under the President’s leadership, to increase security.
Since September 11, 2001, we have had intelligence that al-Qaeda intends to launch more attacks against the homeland. Credible reporting now indicates that al Qaeda is moving forward with its plans to carry out a large-scale attack in the United States in an effort to disrupt our democratic process. Based on the attack in Madrid and recent interdictions in England, Jordan and Italy, we know that they have the capability to succeed and hold the mistaken belief that their attacks will have an impact on America's resolve. We lack precise knowledge about time, place and method of attack but, along with the CIA, FBI and other agencies, we are actively working to gain that knowledge.
A few weeks ago, I led a classified briefing on the threat for our Nation’s governors in an effort to keep them apprised as we continue through this period of heightened risk. Last night, I spoke with state homeland security advisers, law enforcement leaders, and first responders.
While we are not raising the color-coded threat level today, we are constantly reviewing threat reporting and strengthening the nation’s security. We have permanent protections in place today that did not exist a year ago. These protections make it harder for terrorists to attack us.
As of today, we now have full nationwide connectivity to the Homeland Security Operations Center -- a 24 hour a day, 7 days-a-week, nerve center for homeland security information and incident management -- and all 50 states through our Homeland Security Information Network…a goal we’ve reached five months ahead of schedule.
For the first time ever, this national operations center allows us to receive information in real time, and turn that information into actions that protect the homeland. It helps us to work even more closely with all our Federal partners, sharing law enforcement and state and local intelligence information about terrorists as never before.
The most advanced technologies – including the newly created, internet based Homeland Security Information Network – allow us to maintain up to the minute information…to map that information against our critical infrastructure and known threats…and then share it instantly with the White House, all 50 states, more than 50 major urban areas, and thousands of state and local agencies.
And the reverse is true as well – information flows into the Homeland Security Operations Center from our partners throughout the country. Many of them are physically represented in the operations center, including seats for 35 government agencies and local representatives such as the New York and Los Angeles police departments.
This is unprecedented communication and cooperation at the national, state, and local levels. This new ability to receive and distribute critical information allows us to make better decisions, more quickly, and take action that will deter, detect, and defuse terrorist attacks.
For instance, we will begin a new pilot program that utilizes technology to track high-risk trucks on our Nation’s highways in all 50 states. And our “Operation Respond” will provide homeland security and law enforcement officials with the ability to quickly identify and track locations of rail shipments across the country.
We have also begun to deploy hundreds of handheld radiological detectors – just the size of an average pager – for use by law enforcement officers to help, for example, in locating and preventing the use of so-called “dirty bombs”. Hundreds more are on their way so that these important resources can be used around the country later this year.
And we will be monitoring – via web-enabled perimeter cameras – chemical facilities of greatest concern. The cameras will link to our Homeland Security Operations Center – they provide one piece of the real-time data I spoke about earlier – and more are due to come online by the end of the year.
In the coming months, the Nation will host high profile events, including those associated with our democratic traditions. We are working very closely with state and local officials in New York and Boston to ensure the security of the Democratic and Republican national conventions. I have designated these events National Special Security Events, making the United States Secret Service the lead agency for identifying and implementing protective efforts in these locations. I will soon travel to those sites myself to review the security measures being implemented.
In two weeks we will meet the with the security officials from the professional and collegiate sports associations to determine how to increase security for upcoming large sports events as well. We live in serious times, and this is sobering information about those who wish to do us harm. But every day we strengthen the security of our country, and as a nation we are committed to the absolute protection of our citizens.
Efforts each of you make to be vigilant – such as reporting suspicious items or activities to authorities – do make a difference. Every citizen using their common sense and eyes and ears can support our national effort to stop the terrorists.
Thank you for your continued resolve in the face of the ongoing threat of terrorism. We must continue to work together – to ensure that the freedom we just celebrated continues as the hallmark of this great nation.