(4 of 4)
But whether the feds share anything more than vague, all-point alerts is another story. Ever since the attacks, cops and sheriffs from small towns to big cities have complained about being left out of the loop by the feds on information that could help them capture terrorists or foil their plans. Many state officials don't even have the required security clearances. Last week was no exception. In New York City, Mayor Rudy Giuliani testified before a special congressional subcommittee hearing on homeland security that legislation was needed to require the sharing of crucial information. His sentiment was echoed by Philadelphia police commissioner John Timoney, who says, "It's my sense that these terrorists are obviously going to screw up somewhere along the line, and it's not going to be the feds that grab them--it's going to be local."
And the locals are having a hard enough time keeping up. "An up-to-date haz-mat suit costs upwards of $20,000," says Pat Hays, mayor of North Little Rock, Ark. "I have to decide whether to buy five suits or a hundred bulletproof vests, to decide which is the bigger threat to my public safety team, anthrax spores or two ounces of lead." Within 18 hours of the alert, the Los Angeles police department went back to "modified tactical alert," a fancy label for business as usual, which doesn't require as much overtime.
In Washington concern about bill paying has taken a back seat to inventing a real homeland-defense system. How bad are deficits when the borders are still so porous? President Bush launched a foreign terrorist-tracking force to better coordinate the sharing of information among various agencies, and he ordered the INS to make visa and immigration guidelines more strict. All these actions, Administration officials hope, will help make such alerts unnecessary in the future. In the meantime, Americans are left to decide for themselves just what to do when the government tells them that danger is lurking around the corner.
--Reported by Massimo Calabresi, Elaine Shannon, Douglas Waller and Michael Weisskopf/Washington, Steven Frank/Toronto and Sean Scully/Los Angeles, with other bureaus