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Local leaders reflect on 9/11

Five years ago today, people around the world watched a major terrorist attack play out in the United States.  Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives during the attacks.  The ensuing global war on terror catapulted national security to the top of the U.S. foreign policy agenda.  Today, Americans are learning to live with the constant threat of terrorism. On this anniversary, we take a look at the impact of 9/11 through a conversation with San Diego leaders.  How much has changed over the past five years and where do we go from here?   Reporter Heather Hill has more.

Jerry Sanders, San Diego Mayor: "Well, I think we're safer. I can't quantify how much. I think that certainly our intelligence organizations and law enforcement and the international relations, just as we saw a couple weeks ago when they discovered the plot that saved a lot of airliners, are working much closer together and working harder on it. But I think it's not necessarily a question of how safe we are but whether we'll have another attack, and I think at some point it's inevitable, unfortunately."
 
Dipak Gupta, SDSU Terrorism Analyst: "Psychologically, we are far worse than we were before because we were somewhat complacent about our overall situation in the world. We didn't understand the complexities. All of a sudden, it has come crashing down on us. I really think that at least, psychologically, we are far worse off than we were right after 9/11. "
 
W. Ralph Basham, U.S. Customs & Border Protection: "I do believe that we have made a great deal of progress in that five year period to better prepare and secure this country against future attacks. Are we totally prepared, are we totally ready? Possibly not. But the efforts of the men and women of the border patrol and the men and women of the national guard and our entire law enforcement community is very very focused on this issue. Yes I think we are prepared, I think we're much better prepared than we were on September 10, 2001."
 
Joyce Neu, Institute for Peace & Justice: "I think far less safe than we've been, probably in my lifetime. And I'm speaking from a global perspective. There have been terrorist attacks throughout the world, in the Middle East, in Asia… and so I think we have become less safe. And I think that is partially because we have lost our inclination to deal with conflicts in a non-violent, diplomatic way. And so the way that we have started dealing with conflicts now is through military means. And so I think we're seeing a very sad case of the death of diplomacy. And that I think makes us far less safe."
 
On the Global War on Terror
Gupta: "I think that we are in a very dangerous phase of the war on terror, if there is one single war. The reason being that these groups, they take heart from their victories, their sense of empowerment..."
 
Sanders: "Well I think San Diego is a very important part of the war on terror. We have the largest military installations in the country in San Diego, we have a high concentration of research facilities, we've got a bay that's home to the fleet and also cruise ships. But I also think that we provide a lot of good intelligence, I think we provide a lot of good technology to the rest of the country and the world."
 
Neu: "Why have we turned away from the international community? Why are we not intersted in interacting with other people? Why have we labeled every rebel movement in the world almost a terrorist organization. It means we can no longer talk to them. If you label someone a terrorist, how can you engage in a dialogue? And again we have to remember that it's in our best interest not to demonize people, because sooner or later, we are going to have to sit down and talk to them. Whether it's North Korea, whether it's Hezbollah, whether it is a Yassur Arafat, or Nelson Mandella...all people viewed in some way as terrorists and rebels. And yet at some point we need to talk to them. "
 
On the Future
Neu: "So the question is, I guess, how do we find out what the root cause is? How do we talk to these people? And I think part of it is engaging in a dialogue, and part of it is not isolating the moderates. And we are throwing people who are basically against the Osama Bin Laden's of the world more into their c38 by the fact that we use such incredible us versus them rhetoric that they don't quite fit with us, they know they don't like them, but they don't know where to go and we give them very little option. So I think we need to start being more inclusive and start talking to all of these groups and try to find out what are the issues and we need to start having better understanding of the regional dimension of everything we do."
 
Basham: "The Border Patrol is very focused here from an intelligence perspective -- gathering intelligence in order to be able to predict or be able to thwart future threats. But don't get me wrong, there's no point and no place on the border considered to be totally and absolutely secure at this point, and San Diego is no exception."
 
Gupta: "It's exactly the point I made...dancing on the razors edge. When you are on such a thin ground, you don't know which way you will fall. It is indeed possible that the forces of terrorism may lose, or it may wein. We have seen it many many times, but terrorism per se, what we understand as terrorism, has never left us. We have always had different threats. So it will continue to be with us as long as we are on this planet."

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