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The threat from al Qaeda that Secretary Ridge spoke about this morning is all too real, though not new. However, the Bush administration response is confusing, inadequate and undercuts the credibility of our homeland security system. It is sadly a reminder of the Bush administration's misplaced priorities and its politics of fear.

In the latest of what appears to be monthly homeland security alerts with competing messengers and vague warnings, Secretary Ridge told us that while an al Qaeda attack is being planned, we actually have no specific threat information. He had no specific message for the American people; did not announce any specific response to this heightened threat; and chose not to change the increasingly worthless color-coded alert system. Attorney General Ashcroft followed a similar script on May 26.

Secretary Ridge spoke today of progress within the new Department of Homeland Security, but we have not advanced sufficiently from where we were three years ago when the administration knew of a threat, but could not connect the dots. There remains a dangerous disconnect between the Bush administration rhetoric and the resources it has committed to homeland security, particularly port and rail security.

Unfortunately, the ongoing and urgent al Qaeda threat to the United States is also a reminder of how the administration's war of choice in Iraq has undercut our ability to protect the American people from the real and immediate threat against our homeland posed by Osama bin Laden and his resurgent al Qaeda network.

Whether we actually have our homeland protected remains to be seen. However, it's clear that the Bush administration is primarily focused on covering its political behind between now and November.

P.J. Crowley is a senior fellow and national security expert at the Center for American Progress.

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