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House Democrats criticize security efforts

DHS official: Report ignores progress, offers no solutions

From Mike M. Ahlers

DHS official: Report ignores progress, offers no solutions

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A group of House Democrats blasted the Bush administration's homeland security efforts Friday, saying that almost two-and-a-half years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, security gaps leave the United States vulnerable to terrorists.

"Gaps in our homeland security continue to exist, and the Bush administration is not moving fast enough, and is not taking strong enough action, to effectively close them," the group's report reads.

The report was released by the 23 Democratic members of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security.

A Department of Homeland Security official said the report fails to acknowledge progress that has been made and "does not point out any solutions on its own."

The report lists purported gaps in 11 areas, including aviation, port and border security, and first-responder preparedness.

According to the report:

• Undercover tests by three government entities show that prohibited items are passing through airport checkpoints. Additionally, at least five major airports are not screening all baggage electronically.

• Extensive portions of the country's 5,525-mile border with Canada and 1,989-mile border with Mexico have no physical security and are not regularly patrolled.

• The chemical industry remains self-regulated, and chemical facilities are not required to assess vulnerabilities or take steps to protect against attacks.

• No single senior official within the government is responsible for safeguarding the nation's nuclear stockpile.

• President Bush requested and obtained funds for 692 employees charged with matching threats to vulnerabilities. As of last week, only 36 percent of that number had been hired.

• The Department of Homeland Security "has not yet established clear, consistent procedures for sharing terrorist information with state and local officials."

• The government does not have a comprehensive list of suspected terrorists, and continues to rely on multiple lists maintained by multiple government agencies.

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