Are Terrorists Slipping into the U.S. Through Europe?

This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," July 18, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HEATHER NAUERT, HOST: New concerns tonight that our country is vulnerable to more terrorist attacks and this time from Europe. Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff now says that terrorists could be making their way into the United States using European Union passports with clean records. Chertoff saying, quote, "I have a good degree of confidence we can catch the people coming in. But I have to tell you, there's no guarantee. And they are working very hard to slip by us."

So, what is the government's plan to protect us from these threats?

Former Lieutenant Colonel James Carafano is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and he specializes in homeland security.

Watch Heather Nauert's interview

Welcome, James. Let me ask you, does it sound to you like Michael Chertoff knows of some impending threat?

DR. JAMES CARAFANO, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Well, this isn't news and it's certainly not new. I mean, this has been widely discussed since 2003.

NAUERT: Well, yes. I mean, it is no secret that Al Qaeda has wanted to recruit Westerners, people who will blend in with us or are from Western Europe to get into the United States because we are less likely to suspect them. But the fact that he brought this up today makes me wonder if he knows about something.

CARAFANO: Well, I don't think so. I mean, that's not his style. I mean, there are several times that Chertoff has kind of said things and people have made news about them. A couple of years he said, "Well, I'm worried about terrorist attacks." So, everybody just ran around saying, "Oh, my God, what does he know? Is there going to be a terrorist attack?"

I mean, the truth is, you know, this is a huge country. You know, we're never going to prevent every terrorist attack all the time, everywhere. Sometimes, the secretary just reminds people that good security doesn't mean perfect security. We're going to have perfect security. And then we make big news stories out of this, in the sense, it's a new threat.

NAUERT: OK. Fair enough. Fair enough! So he's giving us a heads up, let's be on the lookout for these guys coming from European Union. What are we are supposed to look for? Explain that.

CARAFANO: Well, we've added a lot of steps to the process since 2003 to look for people like that. You know, we have terrorist watch lists, for example. We have manifests that we got early. We have intelligence screening. We do behavioral monitoring. So, we have a whole range of things in place that we didn't have in 2003.

NAUERT: Are you talking guys in the airports who are looking out for suspicious behavior, people coming off from overseas flights? Is that what you mean?

CARAFANO: We do that here. We also do it for domestic airports and they also do it at airports overseas as well. So that's one layer. So, we've got lots of these things that we've added to the system to try -- the best thing, right, is, even before the terrorist leaves his apartment, to know he's a suspicious character and to find him even before he gets near an airplane.

So, what we've done is, we try to put all these things together, that they talked about in the 9/11 Report connecting the dots, if different people have different pieces of information -- putting them together.

NAUERT: Right.

CARAFANO: So we said, what if one of the terrorists and he has no record and we're going to send the United States. Well, if you get a terrorist, as soon as you talk to him, he's got a record, there's a cell phone there and that's the kind of information we need to get.

NAUERT: All right. James Carafano, we're going to have to leave it there. Thanks so much for joining us. We'll see you soon.

CARAFANO: Thanks for having me.

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