LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES
Interview With Asa Hutchinson, Michael Guido
Aired July 2, 2003 - 20:07 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to move on to some other domestic news now. The U.S. terror alert has gone from an elevated code yellow to high risk code orange four times since it was introduced just last fall.
Now, the first time almost all city and state enforcement agencies fell into step by beefing up security, but some now say if the terror alert gets raised again, they may not increase security after all. I am joined by Asa Hutchinson, undersecretary for border and transportation security at the Department of Homeland Security, and the mayor of Dearborn, Michigan, Michael Guido. Welcome to both of you gentlemen. Good to have both of you here with us tonight.
MAYOR MICHAEL GUIDO, DEARBORN, MICHIGAN: Thank you, Paula.
ASA HUTCHINSON, UNDERSECRETARY FOR BORDER AND TRANSPORTATION SECURITY, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Thank you.
ZAHN: Mr. Hutchinson, I'm going to start with you first. Do you understand why some of these local communities are now saying they won't jump when the federal government jumps?
HUTCHINSON: Well, sure. They have a sense of frustration because they want very specific intelligence. They want to know exactly where the threat is, where the target is. We would like to have the same information, and so we share their frustration, but I think also they understand that we want to share information. We are doing a better job of giving as specific intelligence to them as we have. They've been very good about responding. I think that response has deterred attacks and terrorist activities.
So I think that in that sense it has worked well, but obviously, it is a cost. We share in that burden with them, but I understand that frustration. We're trying to improve the system, and we're certainly trying to improve our intelligence sharing to be as specific as possible with the cities and the states as we get that information.
ZAHN: Mr. Guido, does any of what you just heard make you feel more optimistic about the challenges that lie ahead for your own community, particularly the financial burden you face every time the threat level is raised?
GUIDO: Well, I think that that's one of the reasons that some cities have suggested that they may not go to full alert if the color code changes. It's a matter of financial -- it's a financial issue for some cities. For the city of Dearborn, obviously, and for other mayors around the country, it's a call that they have to make. I mean, we will respond in the fashion that the Department of Homeland Security tells us to, but I understand that you have to make choices. You have to decide whether you want to have longer hours at a library or close a park or have total coverage for homeland security.
ZAHN: Mr. Hutchinson, how do you confront all the various attitudes facing this critical issue? On one hand, I know you know that some people have said they believe every time the threat level is being raised it's the administration covering its derriere. You recognize what this costs individual states, individual communities, and you also understand the impact it has on the psyche of the American public. How do you confront that?
HUTCHINSON: We do understand that very clearly, and everyone needs to understand that the threat level will not be raised without a great deal of thought, analysis, and, obviously, very clear intelligence that justifies it. It is the consensus of the intelligence community.
We realize the impact that it has and the costs, but we do have a responsibility to alert America, particularly the law enforcement officials, when we have that intelligence.
I might say that the last two times it's been raised I think there was a consensus in America that it should be raised. Whenever we went to war in Iraq, obviously there was a threat against the homeland. We raised the threat level at that time. Subsequently raised it at one point when there were bombings overseas. Clearly the United States was a target.
And so I think there's been a positive and understanding response. It is expensive, and we do believe, though, that the states and cities will respond. We'll give them as clear as intelligence as we have, and we understand that they are going to measure what the response is. We want security increased, but in tough times they might alter patrols, they might do different things to enhance security and respond to it, and obviously the response in New York might be different than the response in Michigan or Arizona or Arkansas, depending upon what intelligence we're able to share with them.
ZAHN: Mr. Guido, I just wanted to share with you a quote from the head of homeland security, Tom Ridge. He said "God forbid something happens in a major city and you didn't go up to a higher level. We can't mandate it, but at least I'm hopeful that under these circumstances that state homeland security advisers will think twice about not doing something." Last year your city spent an estimated $2.6 million on these raised threat alerts. Can your city afford a raised alert?
GUIDO: Well, we have to respond. I think I agree with Secretary Ridge and Mr. Hutchinson when he says that it's important for us to try to provide as much coverage as we can when the alert level is raised. I think that some of the mayors and police chiefs that you've been hearing about or reading about in the last couple of weeks have said that it's come down to a financial issue. Now, Congress has appropriated money for homeland security. It's just now starting to come to states. It may trickle down to the first responds here in the cities, and it will be helpful, but for us, we're just like the federal government. We can't take those chances either. We have to be able to protect our communities. We have to be able to respond in the fashion that the people that elected us want us to.
So we don't take it lightly when the color level changes, or if there's intelligence that suggests that there might be an attack. We have to respond.
ZAHN: Mr. Hutchinson, I hate to do this to you, but we only have 10 seconds left of the segment. How do you want Americans to feel as they approach this 4th of July weekend? Should they feel safe?
HUTCHINSON: We want them to be careful, but we have not raised the alert level. We'll continue to evaluate, we want them to have a great patriotic time this weekend.
ZAHN: Boy, you take a cue and then some. Thank you very much, Asa Hutchinson, undersecretary for border and transportation security at the Department of Homeland Security, and Michael Guido, mayor of Dearborn, Michigan. Happy holidays to both of you.
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