When George W. Bush signed the Homeland Security Act in 2002, the goal was to improve national security by strengthening government at various levels and helping them identify and respond to threats, particularly terrorism.
”The continuing threat of terrorism, the threat of mass murder on our own soil, will be met with a unified, effective response,” said Bush. ”Dozens of agencies charged with homeland security will now be located within one cabinet department with the mandate and legal authority to protect our people.”
The law contained “severe privacy and civil liberties problems,” the ACLU argued, but the legislation enjoyed broad bipartisan support. Only nine Senators voted against it (eight Democrats and one Independent).
Bush tapped Tom Ridge as the first secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, but public policy experts admitted it was unclear precisely what the new department would do.
”The first challenge is to lower expectations,” Paul C. Light of the Brookings Institution told The New York Times. ”People should think they will be safer, but remember we have a long way to go.”