The world is a better place now that the tyrant from Tikrit has been hoisted out of his fetid little hole. Our president, intelligence officers, and brave men and women in uniform deserve the highest praise and prayers for a job well done.
But the euphoria over Saddam Hussein's capture abroad must be tempered by the lingering reality of national security deficiencies here at home. Yes, we are safer now that Hussein is in custody. But we could and should be a lot safer still.
A little-noticed report released this week by the federal homeland security commission cautioned that anti-terrorism "momentum appears to have waned" and efforts are often hampered by "the lack of a clear, articulated vision from the federal level." Chaired by former GOP Virginia Gov. James Gilmore, the nonpartisan panel warned of the nation's vulnerability to agroterrorism, among other weaknesses, and outlined continuing problems with intelligence and information-sharing between the feds and local and state law enforcement agencies.
Indeed, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's promise to expand immigration-related data being given to state and local police agencies (including data on felons, foreigners in the country who have registered through the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, immigration-law violators and aliens with outstanding criminal warrants) is proceeding at a "snail's pace," according to Republican Sens. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, John Cornyn of Texas and Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, and Democrat Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia.
More than two years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the federal government is only now getting around to comprehensively assessing its biodefense spending priorities. According to The Washington Post, a classified report cataloguing gaps in the nation's safeguards against biological attack is "nearly finished" and that "first steps" toward reducing the bioterror threat are finally being taken. The 2001 anthrax attacks remain unsolved.
Airport security remains hostage to Norm Mineta's politically correct handcuffs, the travel industry's profiteers and immigration corruptocrats. On Monday, former INS official Maximiano Ramos was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in a ring that smuggled illegal aliens from the Philippines into the United States through Los Angeles International Airport. Ramos admitted conspiring to exploit loopholes in the federal Transit Without a Visa program, which allowed people from certain countries -- including the Philippines and several other countries with a significant al Qaeda presence -- to stop briefly in the United States while waiting for a connecting flight to another country. The ring smuggled in at least 40 people between 1996 and 1999, and continued to operate until last June.
As I've reported previously, this same loophole has been exploited by illegal aliens from the Middle East suspected of terrorism, many of whom walked out of the Los Angeles airport never to be seen again. The program was closed temporarily this summer after intelligence indicated that al Qaeda might be planning to use the program to send new teams of terrorist hijackers into the United States. But the Transit Without a Visa program is being revived thanks to industry lobbying. Last month, Alfonso Martinez-Fonts Jr., special assistant to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, told the Albuquerque Journal: "The program was stopped on Aug. 2, but we've met with airport and airline officials and hope to bring the program back in the next 60 to 120 days."
From homeland security personnel, I continue to hear open-borders horror stories. A Border Patrol agent who works along the northern border reports that federal immigration judges in his area are subverting the deportation process by refusing to issue arrest warrants for illegal alien absconders (fugitives who have been ordered deported but never showed up for their hearings). A special agent notes that San Diego supervisors continue to discourage interior immigration enforcement near the southern border. And countless rank-and-file immigration enforcement officers have written to express disgust at Washington's bipartisan talk of "amnesty" for millions of immigration law-breakers whose presence makes a mockery of homeland defense.
What good is it, they wonder, to send American soldiers to defend other countries' borders if we're not willing to defend our own?