Senator Sam Brownback

Lynn Neary speaks with Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS).

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LYNN NEARY, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Lynn Neary.

We--this morning we are following the story of what is an undergoing--what's going on right now in London. There have been a series of explosions in the city this morning. Three of them rocked the London subway system. One of them tore open the top of a bus. At a press briefing by Scotland Yard just a few minutes ago, we learned that at least 33 people have been confirmed dead. There were more fatalities, but we do not have the exact number in the bus explosion at this point. Hundreds of people have been injured. Scotland Yard has confirmed that at least 45 people were seriously injured. At that press conference, Scotland Yard said that it has not had any report of who's responsible for this, but earlier today there was a group that claimed responsibility that is associated with al-Qaeda.

Senator Brownback is on the phone with us now. Is that correct?

Senator SAM BROWNBACK (Republican, Kansas): Yes.

NEARY: Senator Brownback, what is the reaction on the Hill right now to this?

Sen. BROWNBACK: Well, first and foremost, just our hearts go out to the people of Great Britain and London. Having experienced a terrorist attack ourselves in 9/11, you just know the stunning impact that that has. And then secondly is resolve that we're not going to let terrorism drive the industrialized world underground or into complete fear. We're going to continue to move forward and move forward with the agenda of free societies and democracy building around the world.

NEARY: We heard from President Bush, who is in Scotland at the G8 summit. He said that the leaders there are certainly this morning in solidarity in terms of these terrorist attacks and that the United States is fully resolved to continue its war on terrorism.

Sen. BROWNBACK: And that's correct. We are going to continue to move forward. The effort that the terrorists seek is to just so plant fear in our hearts and minds that we'll pull back from what we believe in, that we'll pull back from the notion of liberty from all, that we'll pull back from a notion of open societies. And we're not going to do that. We're going to continue to press forward, even as we mourn the situation that happened today in London.

NEARY: Now the president in his remarks in Scotland also said that he has called on Homeland Security officials to be extra vigilant, and a number of cities around the country are stepping up security. What can you tell us about the security situation in the United States?

Sen. BROWNBACK: Well, it is better than it was at 9/11 in 2001, but we are not completely secure. And I don't know if you can ever get to the point where there will be complete security without having just an enormous level of law enforcement and individuals around. One of the key things that individuals can do is to be alert themselves and to notify authorities because that multiplies so much greater our ability to be able to observe and see and to take quick action, which we need to do in these types of situations.

NEARY: What needs to be done here, do you think, to shore up security? Speaking with some officials in London this morning, they said, `You know, we expected that something like this was going to happen. It was almost inevitable that something like this would happen in London.' That might be the case in this country as well.

Sen. BROWNBACK: Well, you look at it, and it is a daunting task to try to make everything completely secure. And you notice today that the terrorists attacked at the mass-transit systems, which I think we're going to have to step up even further here. We have added further security on those mass-transit systems. We're going to need to do more. I also think that we're going to have to engage much better in the use of technology in these areas to be able to sense when you have particular substances that can be used as explosive devices to cause such destruction on these mass-transit systems.

NEARY: Have you been in touch with anybody in the administration this morning?

Sen. BROWNBACK: I have not.

NEARY: What about the conversations that are going on among your colleagues?

Sen. BROWNBACK: Well, it just--it's one of these things that you knew after 9/11, and even before 9/11, that we were in a different world. We had been attacked for 10 years prior to 9/11, although all of it had been offshore--but Khobar Towers, USS Cole, two embassies in Africa. Europeans had experienced this prior to 9/11. After 9/11 it became very real for us, and that's when we invested heavily in homeland security, and we moved aggressively in the war on terrorism. The sense is that we've just got to continue to move forward on both of those fronts.

NEARY: What is the role that President Bush has to play now? He is remaining at the moment at the G8 summit in Scotland. Is that the appropriate thing for him to do, do you think, at this point?

Sen. BROWNBACK: I think it is the appropriate thing for him to do. These happened in London. These happened, it looks to me like--and this is all conjecture on my part--but as a way to try to frighten the leaders of the industrialized countries, to try to scare them away from doing their function. And it's interesting to me that one of the lead items they're talking about is aid to Africa, aid to a developing area that's going to be the key--one of the key regions, really, in the world in the war on terrorism, but also for our humanitarian push and effort and development. I think the key for them is to stay there and to do their jobs and not be driven away by this terrorist attack.

NEARY: Yeah. And do you expect any--that anybody on the Hill--that this will be taken up in the Senate today in any way?

Sen. BROWNBACK: I don't anticipate that it'll be taken up on the Hill today. The security agencies are stepping up review here and seeing what else we need to do, although the heightened level--we had not gone to a heightened level. That's usually a precursor to when we get a num--a lot of, as I say, chatter--trying to anticipate or hearing more talk about possible terrorist attacks in this country.

NEARY: You know, something may have just crossed the wire that said that the terror alert has gone up. Do you know anything about that, or is that the appropriate thing to do at this point, do you think?

Sen. BROWNBACK: Well, I think it is the appropriate thing to do. And it was--I believe--I do not know this for certain--I believe that it was in response to what's taken place in London, that there might be additional attacks in other countries, including the United States. I think that's an appropriate thing. The key on that is for us officially to step it up, but it's also just for individuals to be much more cognizant of what's happening around them. We tend to get lax over a period of time.

NEARY: All right, thank you so much for joining us this morning, Senator.

Sen. BROWNBACK: Thank you.

NEARY: Senator Sam Brownback is a Republican from Kansas.

RENEE MONTAGNE (Host): This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne with Lynn Neary.

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