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Expert's Notebook

Aired June 22, 2002 - 09:43   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Now, the subject of homeland security in the forefront, we've been talking about it all morning. We've been taking your e-mails, we hope we have some phone calls on the line for you now, that number is 404-221-1855.

Our expert's notebook begins right now with Mike Brooks, a man who knows about law enforcement, man who knows about terrorism.

Mike, let's -- I don't want to belabor this whole thing, but let's talk abut expectations. We've -- you've got some poll numbers here which talk about how people are entering into this holiday with some trepidation, I think.

MICHAEL BROOKS, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Memorial Day, right before Memorial Day, we had the threat against the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge. And they kind of took that in stride, they didn't close down the Statue of Liberty. There were a number, a couple of suspicious packages, because people were a little more, they're aware, their sense of awareness was heightened.

But we go into it now, and there -- the "Time"-CNN poll is very interesting, I think. It says that 57 percent of the 1,003 adults that were polled said that they feel that it is very, very likely or somewhat likely that a terrorist act will occur on the 4th.

Now, I think that says a lot. And then they go into talking about the color coding, you know, right now the homeland security chief, Tom Ridge, put out this color code, green, blue, yellow, orange, and red, red being a severe threat of a terrorist attack, right now we're at yellow. But 76 percent of the people polled said that it's either severe, high, or significant that they believe a terrorist attack will happen.

You know, so I think that says a lot. That's quite a few Americans, 1,003 (ph), that think something will happen. And I think with the warnings that have been coming out, you know, the full disclosure mode of the government, I think that people are starting to take that in stride now and not just totally discounting it, you know, with the cry-wolf syndrome.

I think people are actually starting to listen to this.

O'BRIEN: All right. We have lots of questions relating to this. Let's begin, Alex Horovitz in Acton, Massachusetts, has a very interesting question. This is just an excerpt of it. He was talking about how, in the days of the cold war, it was easier for us to learn about Russia because they have the centralized KGB.

And his question is, "Do people worry that by centralizing homeland security operations, it will make it, ironically, easier for our enemies to analyze our efforts and find weaknesses that can be exploited?"

BROOKS: I don't think so. In fact, Director Mueller was talking about this the other day. They're talking about possibly taking the FBI and putting them under homeland security. And his argument is that they should not. And one of the reasons being that, yes, the raw data will still come to the FBI, which has responsibility, main responsibility for terrorism.

But then they will take that raw data and along with the other intelligence agencies, then give the -- analyze the analysis of if there's a threat or not to the homeland security, because if they're -- all the raw data went to the analysts at homeland security, they would be just inundated and overwhelmed, I think.

But, you know, I think we're looking at towards a model more like that.

O'BRIEN: All right. Paul Blair has this question for us, it's a good one too, "With all of the terrorist threats that are currently out there, especially in regards to the possibility that there may be attacks around July 4, what other security steps can possibly taken that already have not been considered? And what steps should Americans take to ensure their safety during the Fourth of July holiday?" Good question, Paul.

BROOKS: That is a good question. I think one of the biggest things that they can do is just be aware of their surroundings. You know, again, with a heightened sense of awareness, people will notice suspicious packages. I was in Washington yesterday, and at FBI headquarters, all around the headquarters where tourists come and go on a daily basis, going through the FBI tour, there are signs that say, "Report any suspicious packages to one of the officers."

Now, this is -- and there -- you'll see signs like this up more and more around the country. It's just again kind of a vigilance alert for people to say, If you see something, report it.

And it's -- and law enforcement wants people to do this. They don't want people to just see a package on the street and just, just ignore it. They want people to do it.

There are a lot of measures that are being taken, especially now. This is the first Independence Day since the June -- the September 11 attacks. There will be increased police presence on the Mall in Washington. They probably will not allow coolers like they have in the past. Or if they do, they'll be scrutinized more so than they were in the past.

Central Park, every place where there's going to be a large gathering, you'll see a lot many more police and law enforcement presence.

O'BRIEN: All right. Well, this leads me to a question that's been on my mind. This comes from Brian. And you talk about people being vigilant. You know, we've run the risk of creating a nation of snitches. "Can we demand constant safety as a country but not be willing to give up personal freedoms?" Brian has hit the nub of the issue, I believe.

BROOKS: We talk about personal freedoms. You know, we talk about, as you said, a country of snitches. Right now, the FBI, CIA, the number of assets, they call them assets, but sources, you know, snitches, if you will, there's a lot of them out there.

But I think there are people that -- we have to be careful that someone that has a vendetta against someone else giving out information, Hey, Miles O'Brien is plot -- is thinking about plotting to do this or that.

We also just saw a change in the FBI's attorney general guidelines. This is a strict set of guidelines that they've been operating under for years and years on investigations to make sure that people's constitutional rights are not violated. And this is something that came up in the Appropriations Committee the other day, and there's some concern that the expanded role and the changing of the guidelines will give the FBI and other law enforcement expanded responsibility or expanded power and possibly violate their -- the citizens' rights.

But I can guarantee you that there will be -- the Department of Justice and the Congress will make sure that that doesn't happen.

O'BRIEN: All right. I want to leave it on this comment from Amy Hamilton. You don't need to respond to this, Mike, but I just want to leave it at this, because it's so good. "Complacency has two faces, one that results from not being warned and developing a false sense of security, and one that results" -- excuse me -- "from being warned so often that the boy who cried wolf syndrome takes effect. Our American psyches have a lot to learn about balancing the two, as neither option on its own will result in appropriate vigilance."

Amy Hamilton, you said it all for us, thank you very much.

Mike Brooks, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

BROOKS: Thank you, Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right.




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