The Gate

Former Drug Czar calls for Greater Homeland Security; American Trial Lawyers President-Elect Opens New Office as a National Center for Victims' Rights
Jason B. Johnson, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, April 21, 2002
© 2002 San Francisco Chronicle

Gen. Barry McCaffrey, former federal drug czar, said yesterday the Bush administration should do more to strengthen homeland security and supported Israel's efforts to combat Palestinian terrorists.

Now a professor of national security studies at West Point, McCaffrey made his comments during a visit to San Francisco.

McCaffrey said the Bush administration should root out the criminal drug trade that he alleged funds terrorist cells, have federal law enforcement do direct screening of airline passengers and cargo, and use the National Guard more to respond to civil emergencies.

"We're doing better in the international arena than we are at home," said McCaffrey, who was national drug policy director during the Clinton administration and served as the assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and commander of the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division during Desert Storm.

McCaffrey said Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge will have a tough time coordinating the counterterrorism efforts of more than 40 federal agencies, including the FBI and CIA, with a staff of just 100 people.

"We didn't give Gov. Ridge the tools he needed to do his job," said McCaffrey. "He needed to have a federal law telling him what the Congress wants him to do."

McCaffrey defended the recent Mideast trip of Secretary of State Colin Powell, an old friend and mentor, and compared suicide bombings in Israel to the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.

"At the end of the day Israel must be allowed to defend itself from terrorism," said McCaffrey. "We don't want these tools of terror to work."

McCaffrey came to San Francisco for the opening of his sister-in-law's new law offices on Montgomery Street. Mary Alexander said her offices will become a national center for victims rights in July when she becomes president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.

More than 2,000 attorneys are working pro bono to help more than 1,800 families of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks navigate a sea of red tape to get benefits from the federal government, said Alexander.

Two of her clients include Bay Area residents -- a man whose daughter was killed on Flight 93 and the family of a Navy ensign working in the Pentagon.

E-mail Jason B. Johnson at

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