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In the Crossfire

Homeland security: More red tape or a red-hot plan?

(CNN) -- A well-thought-out plan or a knee-jerk reaction to FBI and CIA infighting? That's the debate between two U.S. senators over the Cabinet-level homeland defense department President Bush proposed on Thursday. Sen. Robert Torricelli and Sen. Kit Bond step into the "Crossfire" with hosts Robert Novak and James Carville to discuss the effectiveness of Bush's plan.

NOVAK: Do you have any problems with the fact that the Coast Guard, which has a lot of duties to pick up stranded people who have been out drinking on their boats or something, and the agencies that do pest control, really don't have much to do with terrorists, and they are going to be in the Department of Homeland Security.

In fact ... should all that be in this very big Cabinet-level department?

TORRICELLI: Well, I think, in fact, Robert, you're going to find out with most of the people who'll be working with this office, the FBI has functions in dealing with terrorism. It also has some mundane functions that it undertakes.

That's true with almost every government agency. That is why -- well -- my impression is that this makes sense [but] my concern would be that it almost appears this is written on the back of an envelope.

And the suspicious among us might suggest this was done in reaction to the revelations of recent days, the president's obvious anger at the FBI and the CIA fighting with each other in dueling links.

It did does not appear to be the result of a thoughtful process. Nevertheless, I think it's the right judgment, but it does have to be and I think through congressional hearings has to be fleshed out to ... ensure that this succeeds. One thing we cannot afford is to give Tom Ridge or anyone this responsibility and then a year from now find out that it didn't work or the FBI or the CIA or others are still engaged in intramural warfare here.

CARVILLE: Senator Bond, Senator Torricelli makes, I think a pretty serious charge here that this thing has not been very thought out by the administration. Do you think Congress should look into -- as they consider this -- how much thought the administration has given to this and whom they consulted and who was behind this and wrote this up?

BOND: Well, I tell you what, ... this is a real rope-a-dope kind of attack on it. I hear on one hand, they didn't move soon enough. Then I hear on the other hand, they moved too quickly. It seems to me that they have gone through and taken those agencies, which have the potential to respond to terrorist attacks and brought them together. Now somebody's making fun of the fact ...

CARVILLE: So, senator, you ...

BOND: Let me finish. They were making fun of the fact that the Animal, Plant Health and Safety from USDA was moved in. Well if you -- if you think about it for a minute, one of the dangers we have is to our food supply, and those who have looked at terrorist activities know that we need to protect the safety of our food supply as well. So that does fit in. And frankly, I think the criticisms of that were a little bit slapdash and on the back of an envelope.

CARVILLE: So, you're saying Senator Torricelli's criticism is slapdash and on the back of the envelope, senator?

BOND: Yes, I think -- I think that was -- he's jumped -- he's jumped to conclusions when he hasn't even seen the full proposal. I know we're all -- we're all awaiting the full proposal. And it may ... surprise you to find out that Tom Ridge and the administration have looked at bipartisan suggestions, looked at the way the two agencies work and come up with a good proposal. I think they have, and you know, I'm not surprised but I'm a little disappointed that we're having the critic in chief leading the charge against it on a political basis before we even get the details.




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