Originally created 11/15/02

A safer homeland



Following Nov. 5, President George W. Bush got the wind at his back on the Homeland Security bill. Senate Democrats, putting union security above America's security, took a beating at the polls for obstructing the measure's passage. This led to the surprise takeover of the U.S. Senate by Republicans.

But as if that wasn't enough to ensure creation of a new Homeland Security Department, along came Osama bin Laden's voice tape to remind everyone that the terrorists' war against the United States has not abated and that homeland security is as important now as it was the day after 9-11.

The House on Wednesday easily passed the bill, 299-121. The six-member South Carolina delegation voted unanimously for it; the 11-member Georgia delegation voted 9-2 in favor - U.S. Reps. John Lewis and Cynthia McKinney, both Democrats, casting the "no" ballots.

The Senate will vote later this week or next, but according to Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., Democrats have gotten the message. There'll be no stopping it. Daschle says even he's likely to vote for it. The result will be the largest government reorganization in nearly 60 years.

The Cabinet-level department will combine 22 different agencies, including the Coast Guard, the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Secret Service, and employ more than 170,000 people.

Despite administration opposition earlier in the year to arming commercial pilots, the legislation does allow pilots trained in firearms to carry guns in cockpits - a good safeguard, in our view. And in a nod to hard reality, airports are given a one-year delay in the Dec. 31 deadline to install explosive detection systems to screen all checked baggage.

The bill, says House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., "will enable our nation to have the tools it needs to monitor, track and prevent future terrorist acts from happening again."

The speaker is being overly optimistic, of course. No one can guarantee terrorist acts won't happen again. But they can be made a good deal more difficult to carry out.

Let's hope the bill accomplishes that much.