08 February 2008 17:41 [Source: ICIS news]
Representative Bennie Thompson (Democrat-Mississippi), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, has raised “significant concerns” with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff about the heightened risk of a terrorist attack in January next year when the federal government will be in transition to a new president and administration.
In a letter to Chertoff released on Friday, Thompson noted that the department, formed in the wake of the September 2001 terrorist attacks, will be making its first transition under a change of administrations when a new president is elected in this year’s 4 November national elections.
“One must be mindful that this process will be undertaken in the face of other significant concerns,” Thompson said, citing a recent national intelligence conclusion that “the
Chertoff told a presidential advisory council last month that “the period of administration transition is one of heightened vulnerability to terrorist attack”. Last year, Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Robert Stephan cited recent terrorist attacks abroad that were timed to influence elections or a newly formed government.
In March 2004 terrorists bombed commuter trains in Madrid, Spain, three days before that country’s national elections, killing 200 and wounding more than 2,000 others. The attack has been credited by some with affecting the Spanish election outcome.
In June 2007 terrorists attempted car bombings in
“In the event of an incident of national significance during the early days of a new administration, poor transition planning can put the security of our nation, the well-being of our people and the functioning of our commercial sectors at risk,” Thompson said.
He expressed concern about numerous job vacancies at the department and the expected “mass exodus of political appointees that will occur during the transition”, perhaps making the nation more vulnerable than it otherwise might be.
Thompson asked Chertoff to reply by the end of next week, 15 February, on what steps the department is taking to avoid transition vulnerability.
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