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Democrats Charge DHS With Not Doing Its Job

The Homeland Security Department, created in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, has failed to fulfill 33 of its own pledges to better protect the nation, according to a report released Tuesday by House Democrats.

The report concludes that gaps remain in federal efforts to secure an array of areas, including ports, borders and chemical plants. There also are still delays in the department's sharing terror alerts and other intelligence with state and local officials, the review said.

Compiled for 13 Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee, the report analyzes public statements and congressional testimony on Bush administration security goals since 2002.

Responding, Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said the department is prioritizing resources and programs based on "today's greatest threats."

"Rather than looking backward at yesterday's threats, we are building upon what we have already accomplished to meet evolving threats," Knocke said.

According to the Democrats, since the department began operating in March 2003, it has failed to:

— Compile a single, comprehensive list prioritizing protections for the nation's most critical and potentially vulnerable buildings, transportation systems and other infrastructure.

— Install monitors at borders and every international seaport and airport to screen for radiation material entering the country.

— Install surveillance cameras at all high-risk chemical plants.

— Create one effective network to share quickly security-related intelligence and alerts with state, local and private industry officials.

— Track foreign visitors through a computerized system that takes their fingerprints and photographs as they enter and exit the country.

"It would be one thing if the department didn't identify security lapses in the first place, but a more troubling situation when they make promises to the American people and then leave them unfulfilled," Rep. Bennie G. Thompson of Mississippi, the committee's top Democrat, said in a statement accompanying the report.

Although the department has missed many of the original deadlines it set for some programs, it is working to complete them.

In June, for example, Homeland Security for the first time agreed to pursue federal security regulations for chemical plants that have been mostly policed by private industry.

And last week, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the department will have finished the entry portion of the system to track foreigners — named US-VISIT — by the end of the year at 115 airports, 14 seaports and 150 land crossings into the country.