DHS has made America only “marginally safer,” new book says
The Department of Homeland Security has made the nation only “marginally safer” than it was before the 2001 terror attacks that spawned its creation, the agency’s former internal watchdog says in his memoir.
The book, released Monday by former Homeland Security inspector general Clark Kent Ervin, also accuses Tom Ridge, the department’s first secretary, of shutting down critics instead of focusing on terrorists, The Associated Press reports.
Ridge has responded by calling Ervin’s charges “simply untrue.” The AP reports a Homeland Security spokesman saying that Ervin’s remarks were “disingenuous.”
Ervin served as the first DHS inspector general for nearly two years. His book, “Open Target: Where America is Vulnerable to Terrorism,” outlines security gaps at U.S. airports, in mass transit systems and at borders. It points to DHS’ sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina as proof that the department remains unprepared for threats.
“Clearly, (DHS) has served to make us only marginally safer, and in the age of terror, marginally safer is not enough,” Ervin writes.
Though Ridge stepped down in 2005 and was replaced by current Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, “to a large degree, the same old security gaps remain,” Ervin adds.
The 256-page book by Ervin, now a security expert at the Aspen Institute, is described by former 9/11 Commission chairman Tom Kean as “a must-read for those interested in the security of our people in this age of terror.”
“We’re the first to admit that there’s more that we want to accomplish,” says Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke. “But I think it’s disingenuous to make the suggestion that somehow only marginal progress has been made.”
Most of Ervin’s barbs were directed at Ridge, recalling a May 2004 conversation in which he said the then-secretary took him to task for issuing public reports highlighting security vulnerabilities. “Instead of taking the terrorists on, he would take me on,” Ervin writes of Ridge.
Ridge issued a statement Monday calling Ervin’s version of the story “wrong.” He denied he ever pressured Ervin against releasing critical reports, as the book charges.
“I thought our discussions were civil and professional,” Ridge says. “I never sought to keep any reports from Congress. The allegation is simply untrue.”