Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Importance of Homeland Security in Flyover Country

When homeland security emerged as a major issue in the election -- and a major reason George Bush was re-elected -- New Yorkers whined that red staters have no right to declare homeland security their issue because the red states weren't attacked by terrorists. Al-Qaeda, they argued, targeted New York and Washington, not the Amana Colonies.

Today in the Wall Street Journal, Brendan Miniter explains why homeland security spending is just as important for New York as it is for New Ulm, and consequently, why homeland defense is a nationwide issue, not just an issue for blue-state cities on the east and west coast.

From New York City much of America may look like a collection of cow towns. But rural Homeland Security spending is here to stay, and we are lucky it is. Just because al Qaeda targets big cities doesn't mean that's their operatives aren't living in the heartland awaiting the opportunity to strike. To catch them, we have to go on the offensive by giving first responders around the nation the equipment and the training necessary to spot and kill or capture terrorists. We also must imbue in them a sense that in this war, we are all on the front lines. Thwarting the next attack likely depends on the actions of an alert sheriff's deputy or border agent well outside of Los Angeles or New York.

We saw this in late 1999, when an alert border agent in Port Angeles, Wash. -- population 18,000 -- unraveled the so-called Millennium Plot. Ahmed Ressam tried to cross the border from Canada with more than 100 pounds of explosives in his car. Likewise, Zacarias Moussaoui -- now on trial for his alleged involvement in the 9/11 plot -- was picked up not in Los Angleles or New York, but in Minnesota, where he was taking flight lessons.

Many Americans probably don't realize that the North Star State's large Muslim refugee population and its proximity to Canada make it an attractive place for militant Islamists. That's one reason why Coleen Rowley, chief legal advisor in the FBI's field office there at the time, was alert enough in August 2001 to realize Moussaoui might be part of a larger plot to attack the United States after he was discovered taking flight lessons in Eagan, Minn.


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