WASHINGTON – New York Sen. Charles Schumer will head the Homeland Security Task Force, a watchdog group organized by Senate Democrats to keep tabs on anti-terror efforts at home.
The group's scrutiny will cover the new Homeland Security Department as well as other agencies with anti-terror functions, such as the FBI and the Customs Service, Schumer said Monday.
"Homeland security has been a passion of mine since the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993," Schumer said.
Though the task force will comprise only Democrats, Schumer insisted it will function as a nonpolitical reality check on security, "to see where we're doing well as a nation in homeland security and where we're not."
Panel members will "not just take partisan shots for their own sake," Schumer said.
Schumer praised the administration's success in bolstering airline and airport security since the Sept. 11, 2001, hijacking attacks and the effort to incapacitate the Taliban militia and al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan.
He criticized the White House's overall response in the 16 months since the attacks, however, as "not close to enough to make us secure at home." He portrayed the administration's approach to the many problems as schizophrenic.
The senator said he would highlight what he called a lack of resources for border security and security at nuclear plants like Indian Point, N.Y., just north of Manhattan.
As part of his new role, Schumer will speak on domestic defense issues before and after President Bush's State of the Union address Tuesday night.