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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Interview with Dexter Ingram, Heritage Foundation

Aired August 15, 2003 - 07:26   ET

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

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Another guest to bring in here, Bill -- Dexter Ingram. He is a threat assessment specialist with the Heritage Foundation, and even though, in fact, this was not a terrorist incident, there are a lot of questions about what went wrong and how it won't happen again. Dexter Ingram is joining us from Washington, D.C. this morning.
Good morning.

DEXTER INGRAM, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Good morning.

KAGAN: We heard Governor Pataki -- Bill had a chance to talk to him -- just a few minutes ago. The governor, you could hear a sense of anger in his voice -- 2003, it's almost two years since 9/11. There's definitely a sense that something like this should not be happening at this time.

INGRAM: I agree with the governor. There is a certain sense since 9/11 that we need to ensure more the different aspects of our critical infrastructure when it comes to power grids, communication nodes, transportation systems. These are things that are still in the work. A lot of them are interlinked.

And the fact that many of the localities that were involved, local governments, actually came together -- the police, the fire, the emergency systems. It shows that a lot of the dry runs that have happened in the last year or so actually are working. They're actually learning to work together. You have DHS monitoring what's happening. You have the New York City Police Department actually involved in the decision-making process, as well as other local aspects of management.

KAGAN: What does this say about the U.S. electrical grid, Dexter?

INGRAM: Well, obviously, that's something that needs to be looked at. I think there are a few steps that need to be taken. First of all, they're going to look at what happened today and yesterday, and try to find the ways to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Second of all, they're going to say, OK, how vulnerable are we? This happened, and we're going to find out why it happened. But let's say somebody has ill will toward the U.S. Now, how could we better protect our infrastructure, especially our power systems? Whether that means more guards, monitoring, sensors, higher fences. And thirdly, how are we going to respond if or when this does happen again? If this happens again, are we going to make sure that we have the backup systems in place and the communications and the training involved, so that local governments can have the autonomy they need to make the decisions they need? A lot of countries -- or a lot of localities throughout the country should actually look at this as a lesson. And those not directly involved can actually work or talk to those in New York, those in Detroit, those in Ontario, and hopefully develop lessons learned.

KAGAN: And just finally, so there is a lot that didn't work, but do you see things that did work in this so-called dry run?

INGRAM: I think a lot of things did work, actually. I think, obviously we're not where we need to be yet when it comes to ensuring all aspects of our nation's critical infrastructure.

But, as you've heard, many people in New York haven't panicked. When you see a situation like this occur, a lot of people rise to the occasion, whether it's the average citizen out in the street directing traffic or whether it's, you know, local city management coming together and making sure that the basic needs and necessities are met.

If this was an actual terrorist incident or a terrorist threat, yes, there would be a little disruption. But I think the resolve when it comes to Americans and our local government can overcome the situation.

KAGAN: Well, we certainly did see a lot of people coming to the aid of their fellow human beings, at least here in New York City. Dexter Ingram, thank you for joining us from Washington, D.C. this morning. Appreciate it.

INGRAM: Thanks for having me.

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