Homeland security chair responds to Chertoff's 'gut'
Will Menaker
Published: Wednesday July 11, 2007
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Following yesterday's statement by Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff that his remarks on the increased risk of terrorism this summer were based "on a gut feeling," the Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson has sent a letter to Chertoff demanding an explanation, "what color code in the Homeland Security Advisory System is associated with a 'gut feeling?' What sectors should be on alert as a result of your “gut feeling?”

The letter states, "Over the past five years, tens of billions of taxpayer dollars have been dedicated to standing up and building capacity at the Department of Homeland Security. The Department of Homeland Security is charged with deterring, preventing and responding to the threat of terrorism. To that end, systems have been erected to identify risks and communicate them to the American public. With all the resources you have at your disposal and all the progress that you assure us that you are making, I cannot understand why you are quoted in the Chicago Tribune as saying you have a 'gut feeling' that we are entering a period of heightened risk this summer."

Thompson continues by asking Chertoff to further explain what measures the country should take based on his instincts, "What cities should be asking their law enforcement to work double shifts because of your “gut feeling?” Are the American people supposed to purchase duct tape and plastic sheeting because of your 'gut feeling?'"

Later, he stresses the importance of specific, actionable, intelligence as it relates to the function of the Department of Homeland security, and stressed how counter-productive vague warnings of terror are, "I urge you to follow up on your 'gut feeling' and share whatever information our nation’s first preventers need to be on alert and prepared. Otherwise, we run the risk of communities taking it upon themselves to mobilize for every possible threat. This not only would result in communities depleting their scarce homeland security resources but runs contrary to your efforts to move toward a risk-based approach to homeland security."

Chairman Thompson closes by offering to hold classified briefings on the subject of this summer's newly heightened terror alert.

Read whole letter here.