Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano avoids mention of terrorism or 9/11 in remarks prepared for her first congressional testimony since taking office, signaling a sharp change in tone from her predecessors.
Napolitano is the first homeland security secretary to drop the term “terror” and “vulnerability” from remarks prepared for delivery to the House Homeland Security Committee, according to a copy obtained by The Associated Press.
Tom Ridge, who headed the agency when it was launched in 2003, mentioned terrorism 11 times in his prepared statement at his debut before the oversight committee in 2003. And in 2005 Michael Chertoff, the second secretary, mentioned terrorism seven times, according to an AP analysis of the prepared testimonies.
Napolitano, a former Arizona governor, instead charts a course in very different terms than Chertoff, who used law enforcement and military jargon – “intelligence,” “analysis,” “mission” – to describe the agency’s objectives.
Napolitano’s prepared remarks also show her using the word “attacks” less than her predecessors. She is the first secretary to use a Capitol Hill debut to talk about hurricanes and disasters, a sign of the department’s evolving mission following Hurricane Katrina.
Napolitano is not alone in her departure from terror talk.
The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee doesn’t mention terrorism or 9/11 in his prepared remarks for Wednesday’s hearing either. Securing the borders, responding to natural disasters, ensuring transportation safety, protecting critical infrastructure and administering grants are the priorities, Mississippi Democrat Bennie Thompson says.
It’s all too easy, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, to blame the somnolence of the Clinton Administration for allowing the terror threat to grow unchecked; the failures of the 1990s, after all, were pervasive, systemic and bipartisan, and they continued in the first nine months of the Bush Administration. But today’s Democrats have no such excuse for lapsing back into complacency.