January 3, 2004 - Middletown Press: Shays warning shows that more guidance is needed

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2003: December 2003 Peace Corps Headlines: December 30, 2003 - Stanford Advocate: RPCV Congressman Chris Shays says avoid Times Square celebration : January 3, 2004 - Middletown Press: Shays warning shows that more guidance is needed

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Shays warning shows that more guidance is needed

Shays warning shows that more guidance is needed

Terrorism experts say more guidance is needed

By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN , Associated Press Writer 01/03/2004
STAMFORD -- On New Yearís Eve, with the nation under an "orange" terror alert, a Connecticut congressman advised revelers to avoid Times Square.

New Yorkís mayor countered that U.S. Rep. Chris Shays could use an infusion of courage.

Was Shays overreacting, or was Mayor Michael Bloomberg downplaying the real threat of terrorism?

The conflicting advice underscores flaws with the nationís alert system, and the difficulty of striking a balance between security and normalcy, some experts said Friday.

"The reason that we have this useless debate is because the government hasnít given the American people anything better in the way of guidance or information in which to operate," said Dan Goure, vice president of the Lexington Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C. that has done studies on homeland security.

Goure said the debate between Bloomberg and Shays shows the need to improve the color-coded alert system. The government, he says needs to provide more details of threats and better guidance so the public can make informed decisions about how to respond.

"We have a better rating system for movies than we do for homeland security," Goure said. "For the American public, itís essentially almost taking a dare."

Shays, a member of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security and chairman of a terrorism subcommittee, said Friday he plans to hold a hearing in the coming months focusing on the alert system.

"We need to understand how this system works," Shays said. "We may need to make it clearer and better."

Shays, R-Conn., said Friday he does not regret warning against going to Times Square, and said he would not take a plane to Europe these days either.

Shays said it was irresponsible for officials to make people think they donít need to take precautions, like avoiding packed crowds in New York City when the nation was under the second highest alert level, signaling the possibility of a major attack.

"If you have an alert system, you need to be honest about it," Shays said. "To tell people we have a problem and then to downplay a risk, itís an absurdity."

The Department of Homeland Security defended the system, saying it is designed to signal to local law enforcement a series of steps they should take when the alert is raised.

"We think that the system is working well," said Tasia Scolinos, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security.

When the threat level is elevated, homeland security officials provide as much information as possible without divulging classified information, Scolinos said. The department is discussing the possibility of providing more detailed alerts, she said.

"Those ideas would include the homeland security advisory system being applied to specific regions of the country or specific industries if the information warranted it," Scolinos said.

James Carafano, a homeland security expert with the Heritage Foundation, also said the government should provide more details about threats.

"I do have problems with the terrorism alert system," Carafano said. "It tells you absolutely nothing. Thereís plenty of room for revamping this system."

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Story Source: Middletown Press

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Congress; COS - Fiji; Terror



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