9/11 Commission Heads: U.S. 'Vulnerable' to Terrorist Attack

Thursday, Jan 7, 2010  |  Updated 5:18 PM CDT
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9/11 Commission Heads: U.S. 'Vulnerable' to Terrorist Attack

WASHINGTON, DC, September 9, 2008 (ENS) - Today, almost seven years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the threat of a new, major terrorist attack on the United States is "still very real," and the country is "still dangerously vulnerable," according to a new bi-partisan, independent report that will be released on Wednesday.

Authored by former members of the federal government's 9/11 Commission and independent experts, the report by the Partnership for a Secure America evaluates progress made by the Bush administration to safeguard the United States against weapons of mass destruction.

It gives the administration an overall grade of "C" for its efforts to prevent nuclear terrorist, chemical terrorism and biological terrorism.

The Partnership for a Secure America is a not-for-profit organization "dedicated to recreating the bipartisan center in American national security and foreign policy."

The introduction to the report is written by three men - former Congressman Lee Hamilton, a Democrat of Indiana, who served as vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission, and currently serves on the President's Homeland Security Advisory Council; former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean, a Republican who served as chairman of the 9/11 Commission; and former Senator Warren Rudman, a Republican of New Hampshire.

They urge that "our next President, in close cooperation with the US Congress, must elevate to the highest priority our efforts to secure these weapons and materials at their source, and prevent their transit into the United States."

In 2004, the 9/11 Commission concluded that Al Qaeda still sought to commit major terrorist attacks against the United States, and that in the future they and other terrorists would try to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, Hamilton, Kean and Rudman state in the introduction.

The Commissioners advised the President and Congress that “preventing the proliferation of these weapons warrants a maximum effort.”

In 2005, the followup 9/11 Public Discourse Project found that the US government had made “insufficient progress” in implementing that recommendation, giving implementation efforts a “D” on its final report card.

In 2006, the Partnership for a Secure America repeated this conclusion in a statement signed by 22 former senior officials from both parties.

The new report gives the Bush administration a "B-" for efforts to prevent chemical terrorism, the highest of the three grades given. However, it still faults the administration for "failure to recognize adequately chemical terrorism threat" and "lacking follow through" for multilateral non-proliferation and counter-proliferation initiatives.

The report says response exercises to potential chemical terrorism threats are occurring but are "unrealistic/inadequate."

Under an international treaty the United States is obliged to destroy all its chemical weapons. Evaluating this effort, the report notes that half the US stockpile has been destroyed, and states that additional funding is needed for construction of the remaining destruction facilities to reduce the overall risk.

The report gives the administration a "C" for efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism. It faults the administration for nonproliferation programs limited by "lack of interagency coordination and long term strategy," and a mismatch of US and foreign expectations." It warns that new multilateral counter-proliferation initiatives are "lacking US follow through."

The report credits the administration for a tenfold increase in port security funding, and the fact that 90 percent of US-bound cargo is now prescreened for radioactive threats, but warns that public/private sector collaboration is "still inadequate."

And finally, the report gives the administration a "C-" for efforts to prevent biological terrorism. It faults the Bush administration for its "disengagement" from the Biological Weapons Convention and urges that the United States, "Take the lead in negotiating transparency and confidence-building measures to promote non-proliferation and compliance" with the convention.

To make better progress in protecting the country, the report offers three recommendations:

  • Put someone in charge. There is a critical need for a top-level official with authority to make government-wide decisions on funding and programs. Someone needs to be responsible for turning our resolve into results.

  • Build the blueprint. We need a strategic plan that links all existing programs together, prioritizes funding across the Federal Government, and coordinates implementation. We can no longer afford to hope that our patchwork of programs and initiatives will naturally cohere into an effective whole.

  • Strengthen international cooperation. The United States cannot be safe working alone. Terrorism does not respect borders. We must utilize multilateral institutions, regional organizations and bilateral ties. We must be firm in our goals, but flexible in our approach.
When the report is made public on September 10, it will online at Partnership for a Secure America.

{Photo: Lee Hamilton, left, and Thomas Kean address an audience at DePauw University, June 2008. Courtesy DePauw U.}

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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