TROTTING OUT CHERTOFF....

TROTTING OUT CHERTOFF. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff yesterday made the rounds of the Sunday shows, once again proving his status as an administration toady, and one with no apparent interest in keeping you and me safe from the designs of terrorists.

On Meet the Press, NBC's David Gregory asked Chertoff to comment on Friday's statement by Vice President Dick Cheney, who said that Ned Lamont's win in the Connecticut primary "would only encourage �Al Qaeda types.�" Chertoff replied, "I stay out of domestic politics. What I do think is important is that we be very clear in our message to the world�and this has to be true on a bipartisan basis�that we are steadfast and resolute in the war against terror. I think if we suggest any weakness, that does encourage them to believe they can carry out their missions."

In other words: I stay out of domestic politics, but Cheney is right.

Over at Face the Nation, Scott Pelley of CBS, in something of a get-tough battle of the substitute hosts, tried to pin Chertoff down on what his department was doing to protect train travelers, making note of the carnage that resulted from the bombing of trains in London and Madrid. As Pelley stated, the heavily traveled Amtrak route between New York and Washington is virtually unprotected -- no metal detectors, no explosives detectors, no baggage screening, no checking of tickets to IDs before boarding.

"We are continuing to increase the security for rail passengers...," Chertoff said. "What have we done? We've got more dog teams in, more detection teams. We're funding video cameras, which worked very well in London. We are experimenting with the kinds of devices that would allow us to detect explosives at a distance but not make people pass through portals. So with things we're doing now and things we're researching, we are constantly elevating the level at rail."

In other words: We haven't done much of anything.

Yesterday the Associated Press reported that the Bush administration tried to divert $6 million that Congress granted the Homeland Security Department for bomb detection research to other programs, and that Congress had to rescind $200 million in funding it had granted the department over the last few years for research and development of detection tools because the Homeland Security never used it.

--Adele M. Stan

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