Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge visited St. Louis in the first of a half dozen town hall meetings on terrorism issues. In a session at St. Louis University, organizers asked audience members using keypads to respond to questions. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that sixty-five percent said they would consider it appropriate to search public databases, such as Social Security records, to help track terrorists.
The goal of the sessions is to get people and local businesses more actively involved in fighting terrorism and to measure the thinking of people outside Washington. Other sessions are scheduled for Miami, San Diego, Houston, Seattle and Lexington, Ky.
Even with all the improvements since Sept. 11, 2001, Ridge said the terrorist threat can never be completely eliminated. Ridge asked the audience how many thought St. Louis is a terrorist target. Most raised their hands. “You are a target,” Ridge said. “The odds? I don’t know. “It’s global, and it’s not going to go away. It’s random. It’s unpredictable. We believe it is a permanent threat.”
Nearly a third of the audience said they expected that the next terrorist incident would target a public place, while about 20 percent said they expected a biological attack.
Missouri Homeland Security Director Tim Daniel estimated that the state would require $100 million annually for six years to meet its security needs. Much of the money would go for technology to protect critical infrastructure and develop better communication systems.