Accessibility links

Breaking News

IN THE NEWS - October 12, 2001: Homeland Security - 2001-10-12

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program, IN THE NEWS.

Earlier this week, former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge became director of a new Office of Homeland Security. President Bush created this cabinet-level office to strengthen preparations and defenses against terrorism. This follows the September Eleventh attacks on New York and Washington.

Hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon military headquarters. The attacks killed more than five-thousand people.

In the federal government, more than forty agencies have some responsibility for fighting terrorism. New programs have been created since the nineteen-ninety-three bombing at the World Trade Center. Officials also linked that attack to Osama bin Laden.

Tom Ridge will try to get all these agencies to do more to cooperate and share information.

Mister Ridge served in Congress before voters in Pennsylvania twice elected him governor of that eastern state. He also served as a Marine in Vietnam during the war. He has been a close friend of the president for a long time.

About one-hundred people will work in the new homeland security office. Most already work in the Bush administration. The president also appointed an anti-terrorism expert and an adviser on computer security to report to Mister Ridge.

In addition, Mister Ridge will work with a Homeland Security Council led by President Bush. It will include several cabinet members. The directors of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will also serve on the council.

Mister Ridge's office is in the White House, not far from the president's office. The new agency has twenty-five-million-dollars in operating money. This comes from emergency spending that Congress approved after the attacks.

However, it is not clear how much control Mister Ridge will have over the budgets or directors of other agencies. Several national security experts say he must have enough power, for example, to help make sure one agency does not needlessly repeat the work of another.

Some lawmakers believe that, instead of the president, Congress should have created the Office of Homeland Security. That way, Congress could have set its budget powers.

Even the name of the new office has led to comment. Some observers say Americans do not really think of their country as a "homeland." Americans, after all, come from many lands.

Some people also question the need for another security agency. They worry that too much security may mean fewer constitutional rights. Right now, though, safety seems the deepest concern.

Before coming to Washington, Tom Ridge had been dealing with one of the events of September eleventh. One of the four airplanes hijacked that day crashed in Pennsylvania. All forty-four people on the flight died. The plane went down in a field, after passengers fought the hijackers.

This VOA Special English program, IN THE NEWS, was written by Jerilyn Watson. I’m Steve Ember.