New Strategy In Anti-Terror War

passengers boarding an Amtrak train in Virginia (November 2001)
AP
Proclaiming the Homeland Security Department "open to change," Secretary Michael Chertoff on Wednesday announced plans to centralize his agency's terror analysis, put a higher priority on bioterrorism and enhance detection systems in mass transit.

In welcome news to Washington-area commuters, the department also will lift a rule that forbade passengers from leaving their seats for 30 minutes before flying into or out of Reagan National Airport, Chertoff said in revealing the details of a sweeping overhaul of the 2-year-old agency founded in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

"It's the only noticeable easing of a security rule announced by Chertoff," reports CBS News Correspondent Peter Maer. Aides indicate he is still considering the future of the color-coded terror alert system, Maer added.

Chertoff ordered the review in March, shortly after he took office, to ensure Homeland Security puts most of its resources into the nation's most vulnerable areas.

"Over time, as intelligence warrants and progress allows, DHS will be open to change. We will be straight forward. If something goes wrong, we will not only acknowledge it, we will be the first to fix the error," Chertoff told a packed ballroom of lawmakers, department employees and other officials.

Chertoff opened his speech offering condolences to the British people after the London bombings. He did not give any specifics about his plan to put explosives, bioterror, chemical or radioactive material detection systems in the nation's rail, subway and bus systems.

He also renewed his pitch to retool terror-watch lists used to screen passengers on airline flights to eliminate what he called "an unacceptably high number of false positives."

Chertoff said the United States needs to improve its immigration system as part of bolstering border security. Though the department will deploy more personnel and technology at borders to deter illegal immigrants from entering the country, Chertoff said a newly approved temporary worker program should help migrants seeking jobs in the United States "into regulated legal channels."

He said he and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will soon announce plans to ease visa hassles for foreigners entering the country to visit, work and study.