Homeland Security Demands Long-Term Commitment
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 25, 2005 Zacarias Moussaoui's guilty plea last week in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and his admission that he was training for a separate, post-9/11 attack on the White House, reveal a chilling truth about al Qaeda, the new secretary of homeland security said today.
"They are very, very patient," Michael Chertoff said during an interview on NBC News's "Today" show. He acknowledged that other terrorists like Moussaoui, who told a packed Alexandria, Va., courtroom April 22 that he had been selected by Osama bin Laden to fly a commercial plane into the White House, may already be in the United States, planning another attack.
"So we are looking inside the country and outside the country at sleepers or agents who are waiting, biding their time, conducting surveillance, waiting for the moment," Chertoff said. "And it may be a moment that comes years from now when they launch their attack."
This demands vigilance, constant monitoring of intelligence, and being "prepared for anything," he said.
Chertoff's main priority since assuming the top post at the Department of Homeland Security in February is "to get ourselves in a position where we do everything we can to prevent a terrorist attack," he said.
Also critical, he said, is to ensure plans are in place to respond quickly in the event an attack does occur.
Protecting the homeland against terrorism requires putting a system in place that people can live with over the long run, he said. To do so, Chertoff said, the system must balance security requirements with concerns for freedom and privacy.
Most importantly, the American public must recognize that homeland security is a long-term commitment, Chertoff said, calling it "a marathon and not a sprint."