Skip to main content /POLITICS

Bush to highlight arrest of 'dirty bomb' suspect

From John King
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Tuesday plans to highlight the disruption of an alleged "dirty bomb" plot as proof of his view that government agencies are cooperating effectively to fight the terrorist threat, officials said.

The president also will make the case that his proposed Department of Homeland Security is critical to improving intelligence analysis and coordination between the federal government and state and local officials who oversee the infrastructure that may be targeted for attack.

At a White House meeting Tuesday morning with lawmakers, Bush called "dirty bomb" suspect Jose Padilla "a bad guy."

Padilla, also known as Abdullah Al Muhajir, is a suspected al Qaeda operative alleged to have planned to detonate a dirty bomb in the United States. A dirty bomb is a conventional explosive that scatters radioactive material. Padilla is being held at a military prison in South Carolina.

"And he is where he needs to be -- detained," Bush said.

The meeting with members of Congress focused on the president's homeland security proposals.

"My message here is we want to work as closely as we can with the Congress to achieve this significant change and to leave behind a legacy for future presidents and future congresses, the legacy of a department that will work in close coordination to secure the homeland," Bush said.

After the meeting, leaders in both parties said they would begin work on the legislation immediately, and House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Missouri, suggested Congress try to pass legislation creating the new department by the September 11 anniversary -- so that it could be up and running by the first of 2003.

Lawmakers in both parties said they needed to see a specific legislative plan before they could say whether Congress will push significant changes to what the Bush administration proposes.

The White House said it should be ready to send legislation to Congress within three weeks, and congressional hearings on the outline of the plan will begin this week with Senate testimony by Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge.

Bush also is expected to press his case in a speech later Tuesday at a water treatment plant in Kansas City, Missouri.

Bush will focus on a key element of his plan for the new department: a division to analyze intelligence about potential terrorist threats and then pass on recommendations for action by other divisions within the department.

According to his prepared remarks, the president will make the case that having the intelligence analysis in the same department as the agencies that would respond to threats will streamline the government's response time and reduce the possibilities for delay and confusion.

In those remarks, Bush refers to the arrest of Padilla as proof that his directives to improve coordination between the CIA, FBI and other government agencies "are yielding results."

Bush is expected to say the proposed new department is crucial to improving coordination, not only within the federal government but also with state and local agencies.

As the next step in that effort, Bush will convene a meeting Wednesday of a 21-member advisory committee being set up to consult with the White House on homeland security issues.

The panel will include state and local officials as well as representatives from businesses, such as those in the transportation and chemical industries, with major stakes in the homeland security debate.

The White House has asked Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt to take a leadership role in the new council.




Back to the top