Two interesting articles that provide some useful background for ABLE DANGER.
The Houston Chronicle profiles Fran Townsend. Clearly, she has become a major player in the Bush administration.
But by all accounts, Townsend has impressed Bush with a tough efficiency and a bit of a swagger that resembles his own. Her influence has grown to the point that Cabinet secretaries and agency directors who do not normally return media calls about White House staff members rush to phone with lavish praise for a profile.
She is also not shy about using her clout:
Asa Hutchinson, then an undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security, recalled that he deferred to his absent boss. But Townsend, the top White House adviser on counterterrorism and homeland security, had a higher authority to invoke. "You don't understand," she said. "The president will be calling momentarily. We need your position."
From a basement office in the West Wing, Townsend runs President Bush's far-flung campaign against terrorism. Her two predecessors were four-star generals who brought decades of experience to the fight. Townsend, 43, a former mob prosecutor, has a different credential - the president's ear.
Townsend may be Bush's Gorelick. ABLE DANGER raises serious questions about her leadership of OIPR. Yet her powerful role in the White House may hinder our ability to discover the whole story.
This is especially true if Donald Sensing is correct that Chertoff is in trouble as head of the Department of Homeland Security. What if Bush replaces Chertoff with Townsend as head of HS?
The other article is a 2001 piece that gives a flavor of how domestic counter-terrorist efforts by the military were viewed pre- 9/11.
A couple of representative quotes:
Some argue that the role makes sense in light of the threat posed by modern terrorist groups. But a diverse coalition of civilian law enforcement agencies, civil rights advocates and libertarian groups worry about allowing the military to play so prominent a role on U.S. soil.
"There used to be a bright line separating the military from involvement in civilian affairs," says Steve Aftergood, who directs the Project on Government Secrecy at the American Federation of Scientists. "The pernicious aspect of terrorism is that it threatens to erode what is a clear distinction. We are seeing them on all these 'fronts.'"
Officials at several key civilian agencies - from the FBI to the Public Health Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency - say the military's growing role in preparing for a domestic terrorist attack is disconcerting.
"We used to be the main people involved in this," said a domestic preparedness official with the Public Health Service who spoke only on condition of anonymity. "Now, there are fewer of us and more of them."