9/11 Commission Offers Roadmap To Protection
High technology and a reorganization of the nation’s intelligence gathering efforts are the best tools to prevent future terrorist attacks, according to the 9/11 Commission report.
The release of the report in late July from an independent panel appointed by Congress to analyze the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks has drawn response among both Republicans and Democrats. Presidential hopeful John Kerry, in fact, alluded to the report in his speech at the Democratic National Convention, contending that every recommendation in the report should be implemented immediately.
Republicans are urging a more cautious approach, however, and President Bush has said many of the suggested changes will be implemented over time.
“We cannot afford to make changes blindly or in unnecessary haste,” says Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.), the chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence.
After the report was released, a nearly 600-page printed version soared to the top of the bestseller list, where it remained; and more than 3 million free copies were downloaded from a Web site (www.9-11commission.gov) in just a two-week period.
The White House has issued its own 20-page response, outlining plans to address the 41 recommendations in the report. Bush favors a national director of intelligence and a National Counterterrorism Center, and is crafting strategies to move forward in areas of intelligence gathering, information sharing across the government and official identification.
“The report confirms the Department of Homeland Security’s overall strategy,” says Asa Hutchinson, undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security. “We have made significant strides in each area commented on in the report.”
Much of the report focuses on analysis of the events of and leading to Sept. 11, 2001, and whether they could have been prevented. The forward-looking part of the report outlines strategies to prevent and prepare for future terrorist attacks. The commission says the United States needs to:
Address problems of screening people with biometric identifiers across agencies and governments, including border and transportation systems.
Quickly complete a biometric entry-exit screening system for persons entering the country — one that also speeds through qualified travelers.
Set standards for the issuance of birth certificates and sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.
Determine guidelines for gathering and sharing information in the proposed new security systems that are needed, thus integrating safeguards for privacy and other liberties.
Base federal funding for emergency preparedness solely on risks and vulnerabilities, putting New York City and Washington, D.C., at the top of the current list. Such assistance should not be a program for general revenue sharing or pork-barrel spending.
Make Homeland security funding contingent on the adoption of an incident command system to strengthen teamwork in a crisis, including a regional approach.
Allocate more radio spectrum, improve connectivity for public safety communications, and encourage widespread adoption of standards for private-sector emergency preparedness — since the private sector controls 85 percent of the nation’s critical infrastructure.
The 9/11 Commission’s proposed National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) would build on the existing Terrorist Threat Integration Center and would replace it and other terrorism “fusion centers” within the government.
The proposed National Intelligence Director would oversee national intelligence centers and the agencies that contribute to the national intelligence program. This person would report directly to the President.
Other panel recommendations include:
A Presidentially-led, government-wide effort to bring the major national security institutions into the information revolution, transforming a mainframe system into a decentralized network.
Do more in Congress to minimize national security risks during transitions between administrations.
Establish a specialized and integrated national security workforce at the FBI.
Call on the Department of Homeland Security and its oversight committees to regularly assess the types of threats the country faces and to determine the adequacy of the government’s plans and readiness to respond.