Transcript: Democratic Response to Bush's Address

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The following is a transcript of the Democratic response to President Bush's weekly radio address, delivered by California Congresswoman Jane Harman:

Good morning. I'm Congresswoman Jane Harman from California, the Ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

This week, we stopped to remember the devastating terrorist attacks on America that took the lives of more than 3,000 people from all over America, and 12 foreign countries. On September 11 two years ago, America lost sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, courageous firefighters, police and emergency personnel.

Heroes died, and heroes were created. In an instant, America's innocence — our belief that our homeland would be secure from terrorism - was shattered. On that dreadful day, we, our children and our futures were changed — forever.

In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, Congress responded with unprecedented unity and speed. We authorized the President to use all necessary force to destroy the al Qaeda network and the Taliban government that provided it safe harbor.

We enacted legislation to overhaul our airport security system, to fortify our borders, and to provide our intelligence and law enforcement agencies with new tools to track down terrorists at home and abroad. And we passed legislation to secure our seaports.

I was among a group of Democrats who proposed legislation creating a homeland security budget and forming a powerful new Cabinet-level department. Months later, the President endorsed our idea and we worked hard to pass legislation establishing the Department of Homeland Security, the largest government reorganization since the 1947 National Security Act.

The goal of the new Department was not to rearrange the deck chairs. It was to create one deck: one national integrated strategy. Although Americans are still at risk from terrorist attacks, two years after 9/11 — and almost a year after the legislation passed — we still don't have that strategy.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has said that, 'we are more secure and far better protected than on September 10, 2001. And every single day we get even more secure.' But he sets the bar far too low. Two years after the most deadly single-day attack in our nation's history, the question is whether we are as secure as we need to be from future terrorist attacks.

Unfortunately, the answer is 'no.' Indeed, according to experts from the nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations, the nation remains 'dangerously unprepared' to prevent and respond to another terrorist attack.

We have a Homeland Security Department that is understaffed and underfunded — a department struggling to make do on an annual budget less than half the President's $87 billion proposed Supplemental for Iraq.

Democrats in Congress have outlined priorities to secure our homeland and have identified serious shortcomings in the Bush Administration's actions.

First, we must catalog and develop specific plans to protect our critical vulnerabilities across the country. Funding should go where needs are greatest — and the best technologies, many of which have been developed by America's talented private sector, should be identified and deployed.

Second, we still lack the radio spectrum and emergency equipment to assure interoperable, or direct, communications for our first responders. Brave firefighters died needlessly in New York City because they could not be warned that the Trade Towers were falling down as they were climbing up. Adjacent jurisdictions responding to the attack at the Pentagon could not talk to each other — and still can't communicate with their federal partners.

Third, information sharing remains totally inadequate. A threat warning system only works if it gives local law enforcement and the public specific and timely information about what to look for and what to do. Though improvement has been made, there remain huge gaps in our ability to get information to those who need it.

Fourth, incredibly, we lack a comprehensive 'Watch List' to help all relevant agencies keep terrorists out of our country, and find them if they are already here — before they do us harm.

Finally, while we must swiftly and dramatically improve America's homeland security, we must not do so at the expense of the freedoms and values that define us as a nation.

Protecting civil liberties must be an integral part of any homeland security strategy and is not something that can be tacked on as an afterthought. Any talk of expanding current law is premature until we are confident that it is being properly implemented.

The Democratic plan puts security first and focuses on what America needs most — and right now. Democrats call on the Administration to make Americans safer and more secure. Now, and for the future.

I'm Congresswoman Jane Harman. Thank you for listening.