NEWS

White House Unveils New Homeland Security Strategy

By Matthew Harwood

The White House today released its new strategy to secure the nation from both natural and man-made disasters with the focus remaining on al Qaeda terrorism.

The report defines homeland security as "the concerted national effort to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States, reduce America's vulnerability to terrorism, and minimize the damage and recover from attacks that do occur." (To read the full strategy, click here.)

The Washington Post reports:

The 53-page National Strategy for Homeland Security comes as the Bush administration, with little more than 15 months left in its term, seeks to institutionalize its post-9/11 policies and pass on lessons painfully learned after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005.... The document sets four goals: to prevent and disrupt terrorist attacks; protect the American public, critical assets and resources; respond to and recover from incidents; and strengthen the nation's homeland security foundation. It emphasizes relying not only on defensive approaches but going on "offense at home and abroad" against threats, improving the training of state, local and private sector partners and better using science and technology.

Three chief concerns of the new strategy is al Qaeda's continued determination to attack the nation; the threat from improvised explosive devices or IEDs; and making the recent changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act included in the Protect America Act permanent.

The Democratic opposition in Congress has already responded to the third concern, offering legislation in the House to curtail some of the changes to FISA while similar legislation is drafted in the Senate. However, The New York Times reports both pieces of legislation will preserve much of what the Bush Administration wants.

Regarding the House version, the Times says

The bill to be proposed on Tuesday by the Democratic leaders of the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees would impose more controls over the powers of security agency, including quarterly audits by the Justice Department inspector general. The measure would also give the foreign intelligence court a role in approving, in advance, “basket” or “umbrella” warrants for bundles of overseas communications, a Congressional official said.

The Senate version is likely to retroactively extend immunity to the telecommunications industry for participating in the U.S. intelligence community's warrantless wiretapping program—which the Bush Administration supports. Civil liberty groups argue the utilities violated the law by participating in the program.

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