WASHINGTON -- Despite creating a Homeland Security Department and spending $10 billion to screen airline passengers and secure the nation's airports, the Bush administration hasn't done enough to protect the nation against the threat of terrorism, Democrats maintain.
Minority Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee make the charges in a scathing report, which was released yesterday.
The report lists a dozen areas where Democrats say the administration has failed to adequately address weaknesses that terrorists could exploit more than two years after the suicide hijackings of Sept. 11, 2001.
Among other things, it says dangerous items are still passing through airport security, and US commercial aircraft do not yet have defenses against a possible attack by shoulder-fired missiles.
Representative Jim Turner of Texas, the top Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee, told reporters yesterday it was unclear how much the government must spend to resolve the problems identified in the report.
"The real question we must ask when we talk about funding a stronger homeland defense is, what is the cost of failure?" Turner said. "Whatever the cost is certainly worth it in terms of the lives and safety of the American people."
The Homeland Security Department said the report "woefully ignores" what has been accomplished thus far.
"It is unfortunate that there are those in Congress who merely point out criticism, rather than propose concrete solutions," department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan cited a number of steps taken, including waging the global war on terrorism, creating the Homeland Security Department, tightening borders, and improving aviation security.