DHS Secretary Ridge Provides Update on Threat and Efforts to Ramp up
Statement for Secretary Tom Ridge U.S. Department of Homeland Security
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 8, 2004
You have heard me and other senior administration officials - the
National Security Adviser, Director of the FBI and the Attorney General
-- discuss with the American people the increased risk of a terrorist
attack this summer. I wanted to take this opportunity to update Americans
on both the status of that threat, as well as the efforts of law
enforcement and homeland security professionals across the country,
under the President's leadership, to increase security.
Since September 11, 2001, we have had intelligence that al Qa'ida
intends to launch more attacks against the homeland. Credible reporting
now indicates that al Qa'ida is moving forward with its plans to
carry out a large-scale attack in the United States in an effort
to disrupt our democratic process.
Based on the attack in Madrid and recent interdictions in England,
Jordan and Italy, we know that they have the capability to succeed
and hold the mistaken belief that their attacks will have an impact
on America's resolve.
We lack precise knowledge about time, place and method of attack
but, along with the CIA, FBI and other agencies, we are actively
working to gain that knowledge.
A few weeks ago, I led a classified briefing on the threat for our
Nation's governors in an effort to keep them apprised as we continue
through this period of heightened risk. Last night, I spoke with
state homeland security advisers, law enforcement leaders, and first
While we are not raising the color-coded threat level today, we
are constantly reviewing threat reporting and strengthening the nation's
security. We have permanent protections in place today that did not
exist a year ago. These protections make it harder for terrorists
to attack us.
As of today, we now have full nationwide connectivity to the Homeland
Security Operations Center -- a 24 hour a day, 7 days-a-week, nerve
center for homeland security information and incident management
-- and all 50 states through our Homeland Security Information Network.a
goal we've reached five months ahead of schedule.
For the first time ever, this national operations center allows
us to receive information in real time, and turn that information
into actions that protect the homeland. It helps us to work even
more closely with all our Federal partners, sharing law enforcement
and state and local intelligence information about terrorists as
The most advanced technologies - including the newly created, internet
based Homeland Security Information Network - allow us to maintain
up to the minute information.to map that information against our
critical infrastructure and known threats.and then share it instantly
with the White House, all 50 states, more than 50 major urban areas,
and thousands of state and local agencies.
And the reverse is true as well - information flows into the Homeland
Security Operations Center from our partners throughout the country.
Many of them are physically represented in the operations center,
including seats for 35 government agencies and local representatives
such as the New York and Los Angeles police departments.
This is unprecedented communication and cooperation at the national,
state, and local levels. This new ability to receive and distribute
critical information allows us to make better decisions, more quickly,
and take action that will deter, detect, and defuse terrorist attacks.
For instance, we will begin a new pilot program that utilizes technology
to track high-risk trucks on our Nation's highways in all 50
states. And our "Operation Respond" will provide homeland
security and law enforcement officials with the ability to quickly
and track locations of rail shipments across the country.
We have also begun to deploy hundreds of handheld radiological
detectors - just the size of an average pager - for use by law
officers to help, for example, in locating and preventing the
use of so-called "dirty bombs". Hundreds more are on
their way so that these important resources can be used around
later this year.
And we will be monitoring - via web-enabled perimeter cameras -
chemical facilities of greatest concern. The cameras will link to
our Homeland Security Operations Center - they provide one piece
of the real-time data I spoke about earlier - and more are due to
come online by the end of the year.
In the coming months, the Nation will host high profile events,
including those associated with our democratic traditions. We are
working closely with State and local officials in New York and Boston
to ensure the security of the Democratic and Republican national
conventions. I have designated those events National Special Security
Events, making the United States Secret Service the lead agency for
identifying and implementing protective efforts in these locations.
I will soon travel to those sites myself to review the security measures
In two weeks we will meet the with security officials from the professional
and collegiate sports associations to determine how to increase security
for upcoming large sports events. We live in serious times, and this
is sobering information about those who wish us harm. But every day
we strengthen the security of our country, and as a nation we are
committed to the absolute protection of our citizens.
Efforts each of you make to be vigilant - such as reporting suspicious
items or activities to authorities - do make a difference. Every
citizen using their common sense and eyes and ears can support our
national effort to stop terrorists. Thank you for your continued
resolve in the face of the ongoing threat of terrorism. We must continue
to work together - to ensure that the freedom we just celebrated
continues as the hallmark of this great Nation, the United States
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, do you have any specific credible intelligence
that terrorists are targeting either the Democratic Convention or
the Republican Convention?
SECRETARY RIDGE: We do not.
QUESTION: Sir, once again you're saying that al-Qaeda wants to disrupt
the democratic process. There are some, you know, who will interpret
that as the Administration sending a subtle message that a vote for
John Kerry is a vote for Osama bin Laden. How do you address those
concerns, people who think that this is political?
SECRETARY RIDGE: I think that, first of all, it's a wrong interpretation.
We are basically laying out before the general public the kind of
information that we have received and it's not us. These are not
conjectures or mythical statements we are making. These are pieces
of information that we could trace comfortably to sources that
we deem to be credible.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, in what way do the arrests in England,
Jordan and Italy tell us -- what do they tell us about -- you said
the capability or capacity of terrorists to carry out these attacks.
What do those overseas arrests tell us about that?
SECRETARY RIDGE: Well, I think -- and again I will defer a more
detailed explanation later on to the analysts that accompany me this
morning. But what we are alluding to there is not only did they have
individuals in place, but they had the means to the end that were
part of the plot. They had the people ready to operate and they had
the munitions and the ability to conduct the terrorist attack. That
was all part of the apprehension and it is a international network.
There are cells and sources that are international and here, consistent
with an effort to disrupt democracies and to further their cause
against democratic countries, particularly, we have apprehended individuals
who had the means to operate.
QUESTION: And can you give us some indication of how, since the
last big serious concern around the holidays, what is the -- compared
to that, what is the volume of the kind of information that you're
following here? Is it at those kinds of levels?
SECRETARY RIDGE: I will let the analysts comment more specifically.
The only thing I can say to you is that we are very comfortable with
the credibility of the sources themselves. Obviously, how credible
some of the information is something that we continue to try to corroborate.
But in terms of the sources we have, they are deemed by everyone
involved as credible.
QUESTION: Secretary Ridge, one question I have deals with timing.
There has been a steady stream of this kind of information coming
in since, roughly, March, or so. Why now? Why give all of these briefings
at this particular point?
SECRETARY RIDGE: Why? I'm sorry. I didn't --
QUESTION: Why give all of these briefings at this particular point
SECRETARY RIDGE: Well, actually, we started this process several
months ago, and I think there was a -- I gave a speech to the National
Association of Broadcasters some time ago. I thought that in the
post-Madrid environment, it would be very important on a periodic
basis to, frankly, just give Americans an update as to where we are
and what we are doing, and you can fully anticipate that in the weeks
and months ahead, we will ask you to convene again for another update.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, are you concerned that the public is going
to become complacent? Is that why we keep hearing the same message?
SECRETARY RIDGE: No, I -- one of the advantages I have as Secretary
of this Department is the opportunity to travel around the country
and to talk to the security and law enforcement professionals, as
well as individual citizens. And I can say without a doubt that the
level of security is higher and the level of vigilance, really, in
my mind, has never abated.
And, frankly, whenever I have an opportunity to speak publicly to
you, but as well to America, remind them as part of our national
effort, individual citizens, using their common sense and their eyes
and ears, can help us stop terrorists. I'm absolutely convinced that
one of these days that we're going to be able to trace either a report
or actual -- or interdiction to a citizen or a local law enforcement
QUESTION: With Senators Kerry and Edwards living so close to each
other in Georgetown, are there any plans to make any extraordinary
security measures down there, closing streets, et cetera?
Well, as you know, under the law, both the men and their families
are entitled to Secret Service protection. As
a matter of fact, the day that Senator Kerry announced that his running
mate would be Senator Edwards, we received a formal communication
requesting that support, and the same day, within hours, we communicated
back, "We'll have the Secret Service knocking on your door to
set up the arrangements to give you additional security." And
we'll leave those kinds of decisions to be discussed with both the
candidates, but not to be revealed publicly.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, a prominent member of the Election Assistance
Commission has expressed his concern that with all the flurry of
information about the election, Homeland Security has made no provision
about rescheduling or possibly what to do with the elections in the
event of a terrorist attack.
SECRETARY RIDGE: Well, I read the letter. I don't exactly agree
with its conclusion. But there are constitutional and security questions
that are certainly involved and we're working on them, and certainly
he will be involved, that individual and that group will be involved
in the process.
QUESTION: Sir, Mr. Secretary, you mentioned the Homeland Security
Information Network, also known as JRIES -- it now operates at the
sensitive but unclassified level -- as being expanded to the Secret
SECRETARY RIDGE: By the end of the year we'll have the firewalls
in place to get that done.
QUESTION: Meanwhile, the TTIC Online system, which operates at the
Top Secret level, is being expanded downward to the Secret level
for an additional capability. Doesn't this mean there are two stovepipe
systems in this arena of information sharing, so we're looking back
at the same problem we have seen for many years?
SECRETARY RIDGE: Well, I'm going to let the senior intelligence
officials take over now, and respond to that when I've concluded.
But the Department of Homeland Security, both as a department but
the professionals involved, including our intelligence officials,
have as good a day-to-day working relationship as any other members
of the intelligence-gathering community.
And to the extent that we have and will continue to collaborate
and make sure that the messages that we send out to law enforcement
or citizens or the private sector are consistent with our analysis,
it's what we've done in the past and what we plan on doing in the
future. We work very closely with them and the statements that we
communicate to our partners at the state and local level and within
the private sector is always coordinated with them.
QUESTION: Sir, can I ask you a question about the conventions?
SECRETARY RIDGE: Yes.
QUESTION: Both Boston and New York seem to have a lot of concern
about subway or rail bombings --
SECRETARY RIDGE: Yes.
QUESTION: -- particularly in light of Moscow and Madrid, and they're
taking a lot of precautions. Is there anything that indicates that
there's a particular concern on your part about rail as opposed to
any other means?
SECRETARY RIDGE: Well, I think the concern, both at the local level
at the convention sites but actually at the national level within
our department, is based upon precisely the kind of targets that
they have been in the past.
Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations have targeted mass transit.
Remember the sarin gas incident in Japan as well. You alluded to
the incident in Russia, the Spanish incident.
And as part of the overall comprehensive security plan, the Secret
Service is working with those mass transit agencies. But I should
tell you that as part of our overall national plan, we're not just
working with the mass transit authorities in the convention cities,
we're working with mass transit authorities in every community that
But clearly, given the particular venues that have been selected
and the proximity to railroad and mass transit, that is of a concern
but we feel we can adequately address it. And one of the reasons
we've been able to draw that conclusion is because of the extraordinary
cooperation with state and local law enforcement.
QUESTION: At this point, what would it take to raise the alert to
And have you heard from any state -- state or local leaders that
are telling you we just can't afford it?
SECRETARY RIDGE: Well, we wouldn't necessarily broadcast to the
terrorists what it would take for us to raise it to Orange, but we
know internally that there are a couple of tripwires that might cause
us to pull everybody together to begin that whole process. We share
with you a -- I've said this on many other occasions. We churn information
daily. We begin discussing that information in the White House, and
then twice a day the intelligence community, by secure video, goes
over not only the threat information of the day but the threat information
that's been accumulated over a period of time. And I think we all
know internally the kind of environment which includes perhaps the
nature of reporting or the amount of reporting, but we have in our
own minds what the tripwires might be for us to begin that process.
But again, we have more protective measures in place at Yellow today
than we did six months or a year ago, and there will be more put
in place on a day-to-day basis every single day for as long as the
Department exists, which means hopefully we get smarter and better
about integrating people and technology all around the country. But
be assured that on a daily basis, several times a day, we take a
look at what we've received and what we have gained to make a determination
as to whether we ought to raise it. And you should know that -- and
I mentioned in our remarks -- the CIA and the FBI and Homeland Security
have put together the multiple task forces that are trying to secure
more additional information about this threat reporting stream.
Thank you very much.