White House issues updated strategy for terror war

The White House Tuesday released what it describes as an updated strategy for defeating terrorism, saying a revised approach is needed as terrorists adapt their methods in response to U.S. efforts to defeat them.

But the report on the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism, mainly includes initiatives that the government has been engaged in for years or at least has begun. It frequently asserts that the government will continue to build on previous efforts but without stating specifically how it would do so.

Briefing reporters at the White House, White House homeland security and counterterrorism adviser Frances Townsend said the report "talks at a strategic level," adding, "What we don't do is go into tactical details of implementation and execution."

Republicans are hoping to draw on their traditional advantage over Democrats on national security matters during the upcoming election by highlighting the fight against terrorism. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said the report has been in preparation for months and that "it belittles it by trying to dismiss it as politics." Democrats today released their own report detailing President Bush's "national security failures."

The White House report emphasizes the need to eliminate terrorist leaders, disrupt the flow of weapons to terrorists -- particularly weapons of mass destruction -- deprive them of funds, squelch their ability to communicate and enlist operatives, and hold state sponsors of terrorism accountable.

Describing the United States as "safer" than it was on Sept. 11, 2001, but "not yet safe," the report emphasizes Bush's long-held goal of reducing the allure of terrorism by spreading democracy. It describes the terrorist threat as more diffuse than it was on Sept. 11.

Townsend pointed to the increasing threat from localized terrorist cells. "We find that as we've enjoyed some success in the war, the enemy has evolved," she said. "And so you see we have a growing concern over ... homegrown extremists."

The report points to the "increasingly sophisticated use of the Internet and media" by terrorists. "We and our partners will continue to target the communication nodes of our enemy," the report states. One of the goals is to eventually deny terrorists use of the Internet as a tool for advancing their agenda.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec