Rep. Christopher Shays

February 15, 2004

Republican, Connecticut Chairman, National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations Subcommittee of the House Government Reform Committee

Chris Shays is in a hurry. As vice chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee and chairman of its National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations Subcommittee, Shays, 58, is privy to classified information most people will never see. He is also a member of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, and the more he learns, the more worried he becomes and the faster he wants the Homeland Security Department to move.

"It's not a question of if [there will be another terrorist attack], but of what they attack, where they attack, and whether it's a chemical, biological, or nuclear attack," Shays said. "That's the reality we live in."

A native of Darien, Conn., and graduate of Principia College and New York University, Shays applied twice, unsuccessfully, to join the CIA. The former Peace Corps volunteer and state legislator has focused on the terrorist threat since coming to Congress in 1987.

"The one thing that happened to me after 9/11," Shays said, "was that I determined that I would be very outspoken. I wouldn't spare people the truth." Nor has he minced words in his unwavering assessment of both pre-9/11 intelligence failures and the Homeland Security Department's post-9/11 track record. "The thing they'll say when the story is told is, if we would've just listened to what was said in Arabic, we would have known," Shays said. "We just weren't listening."

But in Shays's view, the Homeland Security Department still doesn't know the nature of the terrorist threat, nor does it have a comprehensive strategy for addressing it. "I feel like the people they have now are figuring out what the room should look like and still arranging the chairs. They need to know what their mission is," Shays said. "Essentially, DHS is not able to connect the dots."

February 15, 2004