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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

President Signs Homeland Security Act

Aired November 25, 2002 - 13:27   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We are waiting for President Bush to sign the Homeland Security Act. That's expected any minute now. That bill will create the new Homeland Security Department, altering the entire structure of the federal government. It will set off the largest change witnessed in the government in half a century. As soon as the president steps up to the podium, we will bring that to you live.
Actually, we are seeing some people come out of the East Room there in the White House.

While we are waiting for the president to take to the podium, we will bring in justice correspondent Kelli Arena. She's live in Washington.

Kelli, can you hear me OK?

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: I sure can, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Let's talk about the proposed -- I guess hopeful of the success of the Homeland Security Act. This department born out of a need for intelligence agencies to talk to one another. But you wonder if it can be as simple as just picking up the phone. What do you think?

ARENA: Well, we've seen the potholes that the FBI itself has hit as it transforms itself from a law enforcement agency to an intelligence gathering agency. That, a microscopic view of what many officials believe will be the challenges that will be faced by this new department as it is being put together, while there is so much information coming in about the threat of another terror attack. Part of the problem the FBI has faced over this past year is that it has had to transform itself during a period of the highest risk to this country.

This new agency, as it's being put together and trying to find an identity for itself, will all be facing that same pressure, trying to deal with issues as it is in real-time facing the very real threat of another attack on U.S. soil. So a great challenge indeed in the bringing together all these different cultures, ways of doing business and, of course, years of tradition, in terms of guarding information and turf and turf battles will be very, very complicated -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: No doubt. I know specifically you know a lot with regard to the FBI and the role that it will have in the new Homeland office. Let's talk a little bit more about that, some of the details. ARENA: Interestingly, neither the FBI nor or CIA will come under the umbrella of Homeland Security. They remain separate. But how they play is that Homeland is supposed to be a receptacle of all of the intelligence gathered by ...

(CROSSTALK)

ARENA: Here is the president...

(CROSSTALK)

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you all. Thank you all for coming.

Thanks for coming. Thanks for the warm welcome. And welcome to the White House.

Today, we're taking historic action to defend the United States and protect our citizens against the dangers of a new era. With my signature, this act of Congress will create a new department of homeland security, ensuring that our efforts to defend this country are comprehensive and united.

The new department will analyze threats, will guard our borders and airports, protect our critical infrastructure and coordinate the response of our nation to future emergencies.

The Department of Homeland Security will focus the full resources of the American government on the safety of the American people. This essential reform was carefully considered by Congress and enacted with strong bipartisan majorities.

I want to thank Tom Ridge, the homeland security adviser, for his hard work on this initiative.

I want to thank all the members of my Cabinet who are here for their work.

I want to thank the members of Congress who are with us today, particularly those members of Congress who were essential to the passage, many of whom stand up here on the stage with me.

One member not with us is our mutual friend from Texas, Phil Gramm. I appreciate his hard work.

I thank the work of Senator Fred Thompson and Senator Joe Lieberman.

I appreciate Zell Miller and Don Nickles' hard work, as well.

Got a lot of members from the House here, and I want to thank you all for coming.

I particularly want to pay homage to Dick Armey who shepherded the bill through the floor of the House of Representatives. I'll miss him. I'm not so sure everybody will.

(LAUGHTER)

But I appreciate your fine work.

(APPLAUSE)

I thank Tom DeLay for making sure the bill got passed. I thank Rob Portman for his hard work. And I want to thank Ellen Tauscher as well for her leadership on this issue.

I appreciate Kay James (ph) from the Office of Personnel Management who worked so hard to make sure this effort was understood by everybody in our government. And I want to thank the other administration officials who are here, many of whom are going to be responsible for seeking to it this new department functions well. I want to thank all the local and state officials who are here with us today. I see governors and county judges, mayors for coming. My own mayor, the mayor of Washington, D.C., I appreciate you coming, Mr. Mayor.

I want to thank the local and state law enforcement officials who are here, chiefs of police and fire chiefs who are with us today. I see the chief of my city now, who's here as well. Thank you, Mr. Chief, for coming.

I want to thank the union representatives who are here. We look forward to working with you to make sure that your people are treated fairly in this new department.

I want to thank the federal workers who are here. You're charged with being on the front line of protecting America. I understand your job, we look forward to working with you to make sure you get your job done.

I want to thank the President's Homeland Security Advisory Council, as well. And thank you all for coming.

From the morning of September the 11th, 2001, to this hour, America has been engaged in an unprecedented effort to defend our freedom and our security.

We're fighting a war against terror with all our resources, and we're determined to win.

With the help of many nations, with the help of 90 nations, we're tracking terrorist activity, we're freezing terrorist finances, we're disrupting terrorist plots, we're shutting down terrorist camps. We're on the hunt, one person at a time.

Many terrorists are now being interrogated. Many terrorists have been killed. We've liberated a country. We recognize our greatest security is found in the relentless pursuit of these cold-blooded killers.

Yet because terrorists are targeting America the front of the new war is here in America. Our life changed, and changed in dramatic fashion on September the 11th, 2001.

In the last 14 months, every level of our government has taken steps to be better prepared against a terrorist attack. We understand the nature of the enemy. We understand they hate us because of what we love. We're doing everything we can to enhance security at our airports and power plants and border crossings. We've deployed detection equipment to look for weapons of mass destruction. We've given law enforcement better tools to detect and disrupt terrorist cells which might be hiding in our own country.

And through separate legislation I signed earlier today, we will strengthen security at our nation's 361 sea ports, adding port security agents, requiring ships to provide more information about the cargo, crew and passengers they carry.

And I want to thank the members of Congress for working hard on this important piece of legislation as well.

The Homeland Security Act of 2002 takes the next critical steps in defending our country. The continuing threat of terrorism, the threat of mass murder on our own soil, will be met with a unified, effective response. Dozens of agencies charged with homeland security will now be located within one Cabinet department, with a mandate and legal authority to protect our people. America will be better able to respond to any future attacks, to reduce our vulnerability and, most important, prevent the terrorists from taking innocent American lives.

The Department of Homeland Security will have nearly 170,000 employees, dedicated professionals who will wake up each morning with the overriding duty of protecting their fellow citizens. As federal workers, they have rights, and those rights will be fully protected.

And I'm grateful that the Congress listened to my concerns and retained the authority of the president to put the right people in the right place at the right time in the defense of our country. I have great confidence in the men and women who will serve in this department and in the man I've asked to lead it.

As I prepare to sign this bill into law, I'm pleased to announce that I will nominate Governor Tom Ridge as our nation's first secretary of Homeland Security.

(APPLAUSE)

America's known Tom as an experienced public servant and as the leader of our homeland security effort since last year. Tom accepted that assignment in urgent circumstances, resigning as the governor of Pennsylvania to organize the White House Office of Homeland Security and to develop a comprehensive strategy to protect the American people. He's done a superb job.

He's the right man for this new and great responsibility.

(APPLAUSE)

We're going to put together a fine team to work with Tom. The Secretary of the Navy, Gordon England, will be nominated for the post of deputy secretary.

(APPLAUSE)

And Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, now the administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, will be nominated to serve as undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security.

(APPLAUSE)

The secretary designate and his team have an immense task ahead of them. Setting up the Department of Homeland Security will involve the most extensive reorganization of the federal government since Harry Truman signed the National Security Act.

To succeed in their mission, leaders of the new department must change the culture of many diverse agencies, directing all of them toward the principal objective of protecting the American people. The effort will take time and focus and steady resolve.

It will also require full support from both the administration and the Congress. Adjustments will be needed along the way. Yet this is pressing business, and the hard work of building a new department begins today.

When the Department of Homeland Security is fully operational, it will enhance the safety of our people in very practical ways. First, this new department will analyze intelligence information on terror threats collected by the CIA, the FBI, the National Security Agency and others. The department will match this intelligence against the nation's vulnerabilities and work with other agencies in the private sector and state and local governments to harden America's defenses against terror.

Second, the department will gather and focus all of our efforts to face the challenge of cyber terrorism, and even worse danger of nuclear, chemical and biological terrorism. The department will be charged with encouraging research on new technologies that can detect these threats in time to prevent an attack.

Third, state and local governments will be able to turn for help and information to one federal, domestic security agency, instead of more than 20 agencies that currently divide these responsibilities. This will help our local governments work in concert with the federal government for the sake of all the people of America.

Fourth, the new department will bring together the agencies responsible for border, coastline and transportation security. There will be a coordinated effort to safeguard our transportation systems and to secure the border, so that we're better able to protect our citizens and welcome our friends.

Fifth, the department will work with state and local officials to prepare our response to any future terrorist attack that may come. We have found that the first hours, and even the first minutes after the attack can be crucial in saving lives.

And our first responders need the carefully plan and drill strategies that will make their work effective. The Department of Homeland Security will also end a great deal of duplication and overlapping responsibilities.

Our objective is to spend less on administrators and offices and more on working agents in the field, less on overhead and more on protecting our neighborhoods and borders and waters and skies from terrorists.

With a vast nation to defend, we can neither predict nor prevent every conceivable attack. And in a free and open society, no department of government can completely guarantee our safety against ruthless killers who move and plot in shadows.

Yet our government will take every possible measure to safeguard our country and our people. We're fighting a new kind of war against determined enemies.

And public servants long into the future will bear the responsibility to defend Americans against terror. This administration and this Congress have the duty of putting that system into place.

We will fulfill that duty. With the Homeland Security Act, we're doing everything we can to protect America. We're showing the resolve of this great nation to defend our freedom, our security and our way of life.

It's now my privilege to sign the Homeland Security Act of 2002.

(APPLAUSE)

PHILLIPS: Taking the steps to be greater prepared in understanding the enemy. It's all about strengthening security, according to President George W. Bush, live from the East Room of the White House.

You are watching the president sign the Homeland Security Act. The bill now will create the new Homeland Security Department. This is going to alter the entire structure of the federal government. It will also set off the largest change witnessed in government in more than half a century.

Also, the president naming Tom Ridge, now the White House domestic security adviser. He will now be the department's first secretary as this department opens its doors, in late January. Also being named is deputy secretary, Navy secretary Gordon England.

Few details of Homeland Security bill, 170,000 employees, budget of about $40 billion. Also, neither FBI nor CIA are part of this new department.

We're going to bring in our justice correspondent Kelli Arena. It's been a big talking point, Kelly, as this has all been going forward, some law enforcement experts criticizing that decision. Give us -- let's talk a little about that.

ARENA: Well, the idea is to have those agencies, the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, continue to gather intelligence as they always have and to pass along all of that intelligence to this new office of Homeland Security, which will bring it all together, analyze it and then compare it to existing vulnerabilities in the nation's structure. Whether that is utilities or our borders or our water supply. Whenever those vulnerabilities are identified, to find out how this intelligence affects that and to try to get the government and private industry to work together to deal with those challenges that will ultimately exist.

Obviously, some question as to how smoothly that will all work. You know that there is already, some officials say there's already a problem in terms of shares information just between the CIA and FBI. Those two agencies have had to overcome years of differences in terms of what they do, being very protective of the information that they've gathered. Now to bring one other government agency into the mix will be quite a challenge. There are, obviously, some issues of national security and concerns about information leaking or getting into the wrong hands, not being dealt with properly. But as September 11 proved for many, there does need to be a central receptacle for all of this information.

So we've heard a lot about connecting the dots. Well, this, at least on paper and in theory, is supposed to be, overcome that problem, to have one receptacle that's able to analyze everything and figure out what the threat truly is in a more comprehensive manner.

PHILLIPS: Kelly, do you think the FBI is capable of handling its new mandate?

ARENA: Well, that is the question, isn't it? last week we heard of an e-mail that was sent out to 56 field offices around the country from the deputy director of the FBI telling his troops to get on the ball, to make sure that they made terrorism their number one priority, to get out in the field and make the sources, find the sources that they needed to have in order to gather the intelligence they need to gather. Still a way to go at the bureau. As you know, there's been some discussion about creating an entirely separate domestic intelligence gathering agency, possibly under the umbrella of Homeland Security. It's an idea that has not gained much traction, but the pressure is still on. It remains on the FBI.

But of course, the other side of the coin is some observers have said if you thought the FBI under Hoover was scary, well you definitely don't want to see a whole new agency created, you know, primarily with the focus of gathering domestic intelligence. It raises a whole host of privacy concerns already with some moves that we have seen in terms of giving agents more flexibility in the field. There has already been an uproar from civil liberties and privacy groups saying wait a minute, wait a minute, this is infringing on some rights. So it's a very delicate balance that has to be struck, obviously. But for now, the role does remain, at least for domestic intelligence gathering, does remain within the FBI, and there has been no deadline given. No one has given a drop dead date: Either you can do it by this point or forget it. There does seem to be some willingness to let the FBI continue to iron out some of the problems.

PHILLIPS: And Kelli, we're continuing to look at live pictures of Tom Ridge there in the East Room of the White House. Some details on him. We do want to talk a little about him for a moment: 57 years old, from Erie, Pennsylvania. Military career -- he was in the U.S. Army from '68 to '70. A congressman from 1982 to 1984, and then governor January 1995 to January of 2002. Key selling points for George W. Bush I'm told that number one, he gets things done. Also he believes he was quite a team player. He's not a headline seeker. Also has good relations with Vice President Dick Cheney and other key players.

Kelli Arena our justice correspondent, thank you very much for joining us and talking about Tom Ridge and also the new Homeland Security Department. Appreciate it.

ARENA: You're welcome.

PHILLIPS: We're going to continue talking about the new Homeland Security Department. We're going to bring together two dozen federal agencies, security agencies. We're going to talk more about this.

Former FBI investigator William Daly joins us live from New York.

Bill, good to see you.

WILLIAM DALY, FORMER FBI INVESTIGATOR: Good to see you.

PHILLIPS: Let's talk first about this department. Creating this department, and do you think it really will address all the actual vulnerabilities head on? I mean, there is a lot of institution building to do here, don't you agree?

DALY: Absolutely, for any of us who have seen companies merge together just on a one-to-one basis. You can imagine when we're bringing 20 different agencies under one roof. So there certainly is a lot of team building that needs to go on.

Kyra, I think the time is now. There's no good time to wait for this to happen. We're under continual threat, and we need to do something immediately, even if it takes a year or two for the bones of this thing to come together.

PHILLIPS: And bringing it down to a level that we sort of understand on a daily basis, local law enforcement, I am being told that still needs -- law enforcement officials are telling me we need a lot more real-time information with regard to terror suspects, etcetera. Do you agree with that? Are the resources there? Are they getting the resources? DALY: Are they getting the resources? This agency, this department, will help solidify that. There is a great cry from local law enforcement as well as local response and emergency service coordinators to get more information about how they can best handle situations, as well as even for the general populace to handle more about what happens when a threat comes out. I hope that as we go forward with this department is that we'll get some more clarity on threat evaluation and annunciation to the public. Right now we're getting from different agencies -- the FBI and other agencies -- I think coming from one mouth piece would be very beneficial to the everyday populace.

PHILLIPS: There's been a lot of talk, Kelli Arena touching on it, we've been talking about it, this rivalry between the agencies: CIA, FBI. You were with the FBI a long time. Can everyone move past the egos and the politics, and can this work and can we all have faith that the communication will happen?

DALY: I believe, Kyra, that on an everyday level and what I have seen between agencies is that people who work for the different agencies work very well together. Sometime it gets clouded up on the higher levels between, you know, turf issues and budget issues. But I think when we're focused in on our own safety and security, everyone has the same game plan in mind. They want to make sure it works. I think it will take a little bit of team building. It will take certainly a bit of personality with Senator Ridge to go over and cajole and work with the different agencies. But I think on an everyday basis, operating basis, I think it will come together.

It will take awhile, but I think immediately we're going to see some results. We have the recourses in place to tighten up our borders. It will certainly be the charge, I know of them, to head to those things first.

PHILLIPS: So you think we'll see immediately changes within the INS, the immigration issues?

DALY: I think the whole issue of protecting our borders, everything from immigration issues as well as physically protecting our coastline and issues such as cargo coming in, I know those will be some of the first charges put in place by the new department. I think that's where we'll see some of the immediate attention given. But overall, I think that we're going to see some results. Maybe not to the day-to-day person in the street, but to those of us who watch it, will see some things.

Also, on the other side, just talking about the private sector, is that having worked with a lot of people in the private sector, they're looking for some guidance as to what they should be looking for, whether it's for companies that deal with infrastructure, whether it's utility companies, whether it's petrochemical companies or the everyday financial firms that are concerned about their security. They're looking for some guidance. I do believe that this department will start to provide that and provide some guidelines for people to operate under.

PHILLIPS: Quickly, Bill, I've got to get this question in: Bottom line, are we going to be safer or not?

DALY: I believe we're going to be safer. I think that the government has responded. I think this is a great example of our government in action. I think it should be all very rewarding to all of us as citizens to see our government responding. I think at the end of the day, bringing in organizations that have responsibility for protecting and responding to our domestic security is a smart way to go. I think it can only do one thing: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) improve security for us.

PHILLIPS: Bill Daly, former FBI investigator, thanks so much for your time, Bill. Always a pleasure.

DALY: Thank you.

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