America is "massively vulnerable" to another big terrorist attack because of President George Bush's insistence on diverting resources from internal security to the war in Iraq, Richard Clarke, the former White House counter-terrorism chief has said.
He told The Independent the war in Iraq had taken focus and financing not only from the hunt for Osama bin Laden and his al-Qa'ida supporters but from homeland security programs in the US. "America is massively vulnerable," Mr Clarke said. "Its chemical plants are vulnerable; its train systems are all vulnerable. We are a target-rich environment. There are lots of targets that could be made harder to attack but we are not doing that."
The invasion of Iraq, which Mr Clarke believes presented no threat to the US, had created three serious security problems, he said. Insufficient aid was being given to countries such as Yemen and Pakistan, where there were known to be terrorists, to help them strengthen security measures. Second, troops and resources such as satellite imaging, special forces and unmanned Predator drones, had been moved from the hunt for bin Laden in Afghanistan to help the troops in Iraq. Third, the billions of dollars that had been spent in Iraq had used money that could have been spent on security within the US.
"The department has a long list of things they want to do - to secure trains for example, to prevent another Madrid [bombing] happening ... to secure chemical plants, to train first-responders. They are massively under-funded."
Mr Clarke served presidents Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr and Bill Clinton, then was kept on as counter-terrorism chief by President Bush.
The administration denies the invasion of Iraq diverted resources and attention from the hunt for al-Qa'ida.
© 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd