updated 1/16/2008 8:57:24 AM ET 2008-01-16T13:57:24

The U.S. Homeland Security secretary said Wednesday that Washington fears Europe may be a staging ground for terrorist attacks on the United States.

Michael Chertoff said in an interview with British Broadcasting Corp. radio that his fears were based on how easy it is for Europeans travel to the United Sates. He said there was also evidence of homegrown terrorism in European countries.

"One of the things we've become concerned about lately is the possibility of Europe becoming a platform for a threat against the United States," Chertoff said.

Washington has no plans to start asking Europeans to apply for visas to travel to the United States but they could be required to register online before traveling, Chertoff said.

"We have the visa waiver program, which allows most Europeans who come to be tourists to come without visas — that means the first time we encounter them is when they arrive in the United States, and that creates a very small window of opportunity to check them out," he said.

Homegrown terrorism
The U.S. concerns are based on cases of homegrown terrorism in Europe — such as the March 2004 bombings in Madrid that killed 191 people, the deadly 2005 transport bombings in London and a failed attempt to blow up two commuter trains in Germany in 2006.

"We have watched the rise of homegrown terrorism," Chertoff said. "We are obviously mindful of the Madrid bombings, the attempted bombings in Germany, and that suggests to us that the terrorists are increasingly looking to Europe as both a target and a platform for terrorist attacks."

He said there was a "certain sense of complacency" about terrorism in the United States, suggesting that the Bush administration had been a victim of its own success in thwarting any attacks since the Sept. 11 attacks.

"But when I lift my eyes and I look around the world, and I look at what happens in Britain, in Germany, in Spain, in Bali, in Pakistan, I don't see terrorism going away; I see an al-Qaida that's evolving," he said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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