Bush pushes for new domestic security office
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Saying the government has identified and corrected "weaknesses" in intelligence gathering, President Bush warned Wednesday of killers "lurking around" and said a Department of Homeland Security would further help in the war on terrorism.
Separately, the president also signed the Bioterrorism Response Act, which earmarks $4.3 billion for stockpiling vaccines, improving food inspections and boosting security for water systems.
Speaking to his 21-member Homeland Security Advisory Council, Bush said about 2,400 "terrorist, killers" have been detained by coalition forces.
"The problem is there's still quite a number of them still out there," the president said. He said a Department of Homeland Security -- which he proposed last week -- would "focus the mission" in the United States.
"I know it's going to help us be more effective here at home," Bush said, adding that he anticipates some resistance from Congress because of "turf" battles. While most lawmakers have voiced general support for the idea of the new department, there has been some debate on its size and mission. Some individuals have criticized the fact that the CIA and FBI --the two lead agencies in intelligence gathering -- would not be part of the new department.
The two agencies were roundly criticized for not sharing intelligence information and missing what FBI Director Robert Mueller has described as "signals" before the September 11 attacks.
"We're doing a better job of finding our weaknesses here at home and working on the weaknesses," Bush said. "The CIA and the FBI now are doing a much better job today than they had been prior to September the 11th of sharing information across these -- what were once formidable jurisdictional boundaries."
Bush vowed to take his proposal to the American people -- "the real influence peddlers" -- to build support for the idea.
"We're not interested in increasing the size and scope of the federal government," he said. "We're interested in efficiency."
The Department of Homeland Security, with an initial budget of $37 billion, would be second only in size to the Defense Department, but Bush said most of its 170,000 employees would come from transfers from other offices.
As he has before, Bush warned of the potential of more terrorist attacks.
"These people, you know, these killers, they're still lurking around," he said.
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