State Journal-Register

September 04, 2002

Lawmakers offer no guarantees against future attacks


WASHINGTON - A year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Illinois lawmakers believe U.S. intelligence and security capabilities have
improved significantly. But they offered no guarantees against future attacks.

"There are going to be other attacks," said Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria. "When you have the kind of system of open government and society that we have in our country, we are very vulnerable."

However, "we're much better prepared" to thwart future attacks than one year ago, said LaHood, a member of the House Intelligence Committee. That committee is working with its Senate counterpart to evaluate whether U.S. spy agencies might have prevented the terrorist attacks.

"Prior to 9/11, I thought we had a very good intelligence-collecting capability," LaHood said. "The problem was the information wasn't being shared with people who could react to it."

Since announcing the joint inquiry in February, the committees have had several setbacks including internal divisions and the resignation of their initial staff director. Public hearings were postponed until this month. The FBI has launched its own investigation of lawmakers to determine who leaked classified material to the media.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, expressed frustration with the pace of the congressional inquiry.

"My personal feeling is that we should concede the obvious," he said. "This intelligence committee inquiry is not going to get to the bottom of this." He urged a separate, independent review be undertaken.

Durbin said small steps had been taken to improve security at airports and on commercial flights. "We certainly need a much greater effort and much more investment of resources," said Durbin, who also is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Durbin blamed the dwindling budget surplus and the Bush administration for blocking efforts to increase federal aid to states, including Illinois.