Terror not used as electoral trump card ... yet

Don't look now, but it seems that quiet progress is being made in overcoming the bureaucratic and the partisan strife that has beset the war against terrorism.

Anticipating the creation of a national intelligence director, the administration has brought intelligence agencies together in a Terrorist Threat Integration Center, which holds an information-sharing session at 5 p.m. daily. It was such a session that preceded the declaration of an orange alert for financial institutions in New York and Washington.

The interagency group established that Al Qaeda had been methodically casing the banking institutions before 9/11. Documents and computer files established a detailed plan, but not the timing.

There has been relatively little partisan skepticism voiced about the orange alert. Former presidential candidate Howard Dean said that every time something happens that's not good for President Bush, he plays his trump card - terrorism. But Sen. John Kerry rejected the suggestion that Mr. Bush was raising the terror level for political reasons. The Democratic candidate said, "I haven't suggested that and I won't suggest that."

Senator Kerry was offered a private classified briefing by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, and accepted.

Bush, who originally opposed a 9/11 commission, has announced his readiness to act on its recommendations, with some qualifications, and he is prepared to implement some of them immediately by executive order.

Kerry, who has announced his unqualified endorsement of the commission's recommendations, says the Bush administration has "dropped the ball" on intelligence reform.

Both sides defend their positions, but neither seems eager for a head-on collision over an issue as sensitive as terrorism and intelligence.

Daniel Schorr is the senior news analyst for National Public Radio.

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