With bombs falling on Afghani soil, the federal and state governments have been taking increased security measures. Wisconsin’s state policy regarding terrorism has remained largely the same, but security and safety planning has been augmented.
Gov. Scott McCallum has increased security at the Capitol and other state buildings in response to the military strikes on Afghanistan.
Only the four main Capitol entrances, including State Street and King Street entrances, will be open, and Capitol Police will be searching bags. Truck traffic and some parking around the Capitol will be restricted.
McCallum’s press secretary, Debbie Monterrey-Millett, said there is no reason to believe any acts of terrorism will be directed at Wisconsin, but security has been upgraded because of the possibility of an attack.
Monterrey-Millett said increased security means maintaining a balance of safety and not imposing on civil liberties.
“I think that most people understand [increased security],” Monterrey-Millett said. “I think, more importantly, if there were no security presence here and something were to happen, people would wonder why we didn’t do something.”
To address the long-term safety issues, McCallum created a task force to prepare for terrorism; it will look at long-term state security issues. Monterrey-Millett said the task force has an open agenda because it is new.
“This is uncharted territory,” Monterrey-Millett said. “This is open-ended so the group can decide the best direction.”
According to Lt. Col. Tim Donovan, director of public affairs for the National Guard, President George Bush has called for increased security at seven state airports and has put the National Guard on alert.
“We are prepared to respond to any order of duty,” Donovan said.
On Oct. 1, President Bush called 50 members of the Wisconsin Army National Guard to active duty, and 50 additional members were called to duty on Oct. 4.
Maureen McNally, chief of staff for Sen. Mary Panzer, R-West Bend, said the Senate passed two terrorism-related resolutions last week. The first was in support of the president and the nation’s armed forces. The second expressed sympathy for the victims of the terrorist attacks and their families.
“I think that everyone is concerned about terrorist threats,” McNally said. “Everyone feels vulnerable, and it is important that we work together.”
Because there were early indicators of an economic slowdown before the Sept. 11 attacks, the state Senate was already working to keep state taxes low to help bolster the economy.
Mike Browne, press secretary for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala, D-Madison, said most terrorism issues are being dealt with at the federal level, not the state level. He said heightened security is important, but the debate about civil liberties and security has been played out.
“We are seeing [the debate] played out at a federal level,” Browne said. “It is a concern for everyone that when you say you are increasing security to protect freedom, that you still have freedom.”
Security is mostly a federal issue; individual states do not have the same threats that the federal government faces, like international borders.
“A lot of the issues that we are facing are for the federal government,” Browne said. “In Wisconsin we don’t have border-security issues.”