Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff says Chicago 'doing pretty well'
September 11, 2006 (WLS) -- Has security really improved since 9/11? And where is Chicago on al-Qaeda's current hit list? In this Intelligence Report, an interview with US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
As the Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff is supposed to know as much as anyone about the terrorist threats to America. Chertoff tells ABC7 that intelligence experts consider Chicago at "high-risk" to an al-Qaeda attack, that the Sears Tower deserves special attention from law enforcement, and he has high praise for the counter-terrorism efforts underway in Chicago. "I think we'd be wise to recognize that Chicago is a high-risk city," Chertoff said.
Secretary Chertoff says that al-Qaeda is still intact and capable of mounting an attack in Chicago or anywhere else in the world.
"There's a little bit of a tendency, I think, when people evaluate risk to only look backwards. I mean to say, well, there was an attack on New York and an attack on Washington, and clearly New York and Washington have to be at the top of any list of terrorist targets. But if you look at some of the other plots that have been uncovered, and if you look at the critical position Chicago has in the economy and the large population there, I think we'd be wise to recognize that Chicago is a high-risk city," said Chertoff.
This is one major reason why: the Sears Tower, the tallest building in the nation. On several occasions since 9/11, American intelligence agents have found information about the Sears Tower in al-Qaeda databases.
"Well, Sears Tower has been mentioned from time to time, it's obviously a landmark and that kind of icon tends to attract a certain amount of attention," Chertoff said.
Even though Homeland Security officials consider Chicago a prime terrorist target, they praise what the city has done to protect itself.
"I'd say Chicago is doing pretty well," said Chertoff. "I should also point out ... that in our last round of urban grants, Chicago was one of the four cities that shared in half the money, that got a very large sum of money for their Homeland Security work.
"Chicago has a terrific video system which they use in their public spaces. I had the opportunity to visit with the mayor some months ago and actually see that system work. That's a great capability in terms of both preventing and responding if there were some sort of terrorist incident. so that's the kind of approach I think that's probably going to serve Chicago well and is also a model we are holding out to some other cities."
Chertoff says federal agents are trying to head off the next wave of terrorism that may come from newly formed organizations.
"While we continue to concentrate on al-Qaeda as perhaps the highest consequence threat, we're beginning to look at other threats as well because we need to analyze whether the ideology of hatred that animates al-Qaeda is beginning to affect other groups and other people," Chertoff said.
Secretary Chertoff says intelligence collection and the sharing of intelligence between agencies is, as he puts it, "light years ahead of where it was five years ago." Chertoff points to the US borders where he maintains security has gone from primitive to sophisticated.
But in a surprisingly open assessment, the secretary also admits that al-Qaeda continues to keep pace with our efforts to stop them.
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