Terrorism Panel Makes Recommendations to Congress

By Jason Pierce | July 7, 2008 | 8:28 PM EDT

Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - Testifying before a House subcommittee Wednesday, Virginia Governor James Gilmore outlined a list of measures to prevent further acts of terrorism in the U.S.

Gilmore's testimony, which was given before the House Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security, listed recommendations compiled by a group he chairs called the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction. The panel, created by Congress in 1999, investigates ways the U.S. can detect, deter and prevent acts of terrorism on the home front.

The advisory committee's four recommendations include investigating how our nation can improve health and medical capabilities to respond to terrorist attacks; how the U.S. can improve its immigration and border controls to prevent terrorists and their weapons from entering this country; how the role of the military should be clarified in responding to domestic terrorist attacks; and measures that the public and private sectors should take to guard against cyber-terrorism.

Gilmore said that since terrorists attack innocent civilians and possess the ability for unconventional weapons, the government's health system must be able to provide care for possibly thousands of citizens.

"Terrorists attack innocent citizens. In the unfortunate event that terrorists evade our detection and prevention mechanisms, the United States' health system must be prepared to care for thousands of injured civilians," Gilmore said. "The health threats are complex and could arise from either or both conventional weapons or more exotic weapons of mass destruction, including biological or chemical agents."

Gilmore's committee recommended that plans for preparedness and defense against biological and chemical warfare be enacted. The panel is also urging that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services work closely with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge's new national office for homeland security to ensure vaccines, antidotes, plans for emergency health care and emergency funds are ready in the case of another terrorist strike.

Gilmore also pointed out that U.S. borders are a major source of trouble when trying to prevent terrorism. He pointed to reports following the Sept. 11 events that showed several of hijackers came across the border from Canada.

"If America is to be secure we must have a coordinated policy of immigration enforcement and border security, and it must address the totality of all avenues of entry into the United States-land, sea and air," Gilmore said.

"With adequate coordination of effort and resources-and primarily through information sharing-these agencies could significantly improve a seamless enforcement and detection system without unduly hindering the flow of goods and people."

Gilmore added that even though the U.S. is not likely to find a 100 percent solution to the problem, the country should find ways to make it difficult to "exploit our borders for the purpose of doing harm."

Gilmore went on to point out that the U.S. military's role in national crises should be better defined so it is not the lead agency that responds to terrorist attacks.

"The reason for this conclusion was the paramount importance the panel places upon the protection of civil liberties and constitutional rights of American citizens," he said.

Gilmore also said cyber-terrorism is a major threat to the U.S., since such an attack could "potentially impact our national economy, infrastructures, businesses and our citizens in very harmful ways."

Gilmore said that even though America is looking to bring those terrorist organizations responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks to justice, the country must prepare for future possible attacks.

"Sooner or later, those who inflicted these injuries will feel the full weight of justice and the free world's combined efforts to hold them responsible," Gilmore said. "We cannot undo their actions now. If only we could. But we can, and must, move forward to do everything we can to prevent a tragedy of this magnitude from striking again in our homeland."