President Bush said Tuesday that the foiled plot to blow up flights between Britain and the United States is evidence the U.S. could be fighting terrorists for years to come.
“America is safer than it has been, yet it is not yet safe,” Bush told reporters at the National Counterterrorism Center just outside Washington. “The enemy has got an advantage when it comes to attacking our homeland: They got to be right one time and we’ve got to be right 100 percent of the time to protect the American people.”
The counterterrorism center is located at an undisclosed site in Northern Virginia known as Liberty Crossing. It merges hundreds of government experts and more than two dozen computer networks from various federal agencies focusing on potential threats.
Its high-tech, 24-hour operations center is among the most sophisticated in the U.S. government.
Bush received a briefing from his National Security Council and Homeland Security Council and had separate sessions with each team, attending lunch with all the officials in between.
Bush spokesman Tony Snow said the meetings focused on improving and streamlining efforts to more effectively fight terrorists. He declined to be more specific, saying that would just give notice to al-Qaida.
Bush credited the workers at the center with helping to bring about last week’s arrests of more than two dozen people in England and Pakistan in what officials say was a plot to blow up as many as 10 passenger planes between Britain and the United States.
“That plot and this building and the work going on here is really indicative of the challenge we face — not only this week, but this year and the years to come,” he said.
Snow said it is still not clear whether al-Qaida was involved with the plot.
“The characterizations in the past has been it has the looks of al-Qaida,” Snow said. “And I’m aware of reports from other governments that it’s al-Qaida. But our intelligence, at this point, does not permit us to say with confidence that that was the case.”
The nation’s safety looms as a major issue in the midterm elections Nov. 7. Both Republicans and Democrats are maneuvering for the political advantage in an election where control of Congress is at stake.
Democrats blamed Bush administration policies for making the country more vulnerable to outside threats.
“Five years after 9/11, al-Qaida has morphed into a global franchise operation, terror attacks have increased sharply across the world and the president has shut down the program designed to catch Osama bin Laden,” Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada said in a statement following Bush’s remarks.
Sen. Carl Levin (news, bio, voting record), D-Mich., in a teleconference with reporters Tuesday, accused the Bush administration of “stubbornness” and of holding an “oversimplistic” view of how to resolve Middle East tensions.
“One of the great failures of this administration has been a refusal to consider new approaches to problems,” he said.
Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press