business news in context, analysis with attitude

In a press conference yesterday, US Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge addressed the creation of “Operation Liberty Shield” as a “comprehensive national plan of action will help protect our citizens, our infrastructure and, very importantly, help deter those who plan further terrorist attack” as the US plans and executes an invasion of Iraq. Ridge specified steps being taken to heighten security in the American food processing industry.

“Liberty Shield is a unified operation that integrates selected national protective measures with the involvement and, I might add, terrific support of federal, state, local and private responders and authorities from around the country,” Ridge said.

In general, Ridge said, “Operation Liberty Shield focuses on the following imperatives: We will increase security at our borders. There will be more Coast Guard air and sea patrols off our shores and in our ports. More escorts of passenger ships, and hundreds of more agents and resources on the border. We will strengthen security for our transportation systems. There will be more security at airports and rail facilities around the country.”

The US “will increase disease surveillance and food security,” Ridge said. “The Department of Health and Human Services has alerted state and local health departments, hospitals and medical care providers to report any unusual disease or disease patterns. There will be greater inspection of imported food. The Department of Agriculture has alerted employees and representatives throughout the food and agricultural community to take extra precautions to monitor feedlots, stockyards, processing plants, import and storage areas.”

Asked if there were a particular reason that he was concerned about the food supply, Ridge said, “I think the Department of Agriculture and the food and agricultural industry since September 11th have elevated security and have taken additional precautionary measures. I know it's certainly something the Secretary of Agriculture has directed and led. And again, as we put together a coordinated national effort to enhance security, we identified potential -- potential problems within agriculture in the community. So again, it's with the notion that we have a national plan. Clearly, a basic staple for our existence, our food and food processing, and working with the Secretary of Agriculture and the private sector just to make sure that the preventive measures that they've undertaken in the past are sustained. And, depending on the facility, enhanced as a part of our objective.

“I think what we need to understand, and hopefully -- we need to remind ourselves from time to time that bin Laden and al Qaeda and the network of terrorists around the world have historically targeted the broadest possible range of economic interests, national interests, symbolic interest in our country. I daresay if you went back and take a look at the list of threats that have -- generic threats, generic targets that we've heard from bin Laden and al Qaeda and the network the past 17 months, you'll find just about everything that we view as assets and very important to our way of life has been included in that on a list somewhere.

“And so, again, as we developed Liberty Shield, taking the broadest possible approach to ensuring that there was a level of precaution, a level of prevention, a level of security, again, across all national interests was at the heart of what we were trying to do.”

Published reports say that consumers are unlikely to see any disruption to service and availability in the near term, and that that there has been no specific threat to the nation’s food supply.
KC's View:
Perilous times. Even people who disagree with the Bush administration are hoping that it is charting the right course on this.