After weeks of top-secret meetings, President Bush took to the airwaves on June 6 to outline his plans for a new, cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security with 170,000 employees and a budget of $37 billion. Polls showed immediate support for the proposal, and Democrats were caught off-guard by the popularity of the biggest government reorganization in more than 50 years.
But it didn't take long for Big Labor to find an objection, and Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill took up their cause almost at once: Tens of thousands of new airport screeners and other employees of the new department would be denied certain union protections in the name of national security.
With mid-term elections nearing, Democrats saw an opportunity to energize a key constituency. Despite relatively quick passage in the House, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle dug in against the proposal, insisting that security workers must enjoy the same labor protections as fruit pickers and flight attendants. That turned out to be a crucial miscalculation, as November's election results would show.
Collaring the dirty bomber?
Although he'd been held in secret for more than a month, Jose Padilla didn't burst into the headlines until June 11, when Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that the Brooklyn-born Muslim convert was plotting to explode a nuclear device in the United States. Mr. Ashcroft described the would-be terrorist as a close associate of al-Qaeda who had received explosives training in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He was arrested in Chicago, where he was reportedly scouting locations for detonating a radioactive "dirty bomb."
Suburban parents around the country started double-checking their window locks after Elizabeth Smart disappeared from an upper-middle-class neighborhood in Salt Lake City. The 14-year-old was kidnapped at gunpoint from the bedroom she shared with her 9-year-old sister. Authorities suspected the family's former handyman, who later died in prison, but the case remained unsolved at year-end.
Her case was the first of several child-abduction cases that dominated headlines through the summer and gave momentum to creation of more statewide Amber Alert plans. Amber Alerts began in Arlington, Texas, after the 1996 abduction and murder of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman.