More F’s Than A’s
The former 9/11 Commission has given Congress and the White House poor marks on protecting the U.S. against an inevitable terror attack because of their failure to enact several strong security measures. The 10-member panel says the government deserves “more F’s than A’s” in responding to their 41 suggested security changes.
Since the commission’s final report in July 2004, the government has enacted the centerpiece proposal to create a national intelligence director. But it has stalled on other ideas, including improving communication among emergency responders and shifting federal terrorism-fighting money so that it goes to states based on risk level.
“There are so many competing priorities,” says vice chairman Lee Hamilton, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana. “We’ve got three wars going on: one in Afghanistan, one in Iraq and the war against terror. And it’s awfully hard to keep people focused on something like this.”
National security adviser Stephen Hadley says President Bush is committed to putting in place most of the recommendations.
Some members of the commission, whose recommendations now are promoted through a privately funded group known as the 9/11 Public Discourse Project, contended the government has been remiss by failing to act more quickly. Congress established the commission in 2002 to investigate government missteps that led to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Nearly 3,000 people were killed when 19 Arab hijackers organized by al-Qaida flew airliners into New York City’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon and caused a crash in the Pennsylvania countryside.
The panel’s 567-page final report, which became a national best seller, did not blame Bush or former President Clinton for missteps contributing to the attacks but did say they failed to make anti-terrorism a higher priority.
President Bush, however, has released a fact sheet outlining how the Administration has addressed some of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations. In addition to naming a national intelligence director, the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) has been established to assist in analyzing and integrating foreign and domestic intelligence acquired from all U.S. government departments and agencies.
The Administration has also established the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO); appointed a privacy and civil liberties oversight board; established the National Targeting Center (NTC) to screen all imported cargo; expanded the Container Security Initiative; and established the Terrorist Screening Center, which ensures that government investigators, screeners, and agents are working with the same unified, comprehensive set of information about terrorists.
Bush also cited continued progress of the Transportation Security Administration, saying the TSA has made significant advancements in aviation security, including the installation of hardened cockpit doors, a substantial increase in the number of Federal Air Marshals, the training and authorization of thousands of pilots to carry firearms in the cockpit, the 100 percent screening of all passengers and baggage, and the stationing of explosives-detection canine teams at each of the Nation’s largest airports.
Finally, Bush points to the US-VISIT Entry-Exit System, which uses biometric technology to help ensure that our borders remain open to legitimate travelers but closed to terrorists.