Feds Scolded for Failing to Heed Advice of 9/11 Commission

By Monisha Bansal | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - The federal government has received five F's and 12 D's on a report card issued by the former 9/11 Commission, which investigated the worst terrorist attacks in U.S. history and made recommendations on how the government could prevent such attacks from happening again.

Government agencies still don't communicate well enough with each other, airline passenger pre-screening is still abysmal, Congress is still short-changing the individuals who would be first on the scene of a terrorist strike and the U.S. is not doing enough to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists and rogue countries, according to the Final Report on 9/11 Commission Recommendations .

There are many other deficiencies mentioned in the commission report, which includes 41 grades separated over three categories of Homeland Security and Emergency Response; Intelligence and Congressional Reform; and Foreign Policy and Nonproliferation.

"If my children were to receive this report card they would have to repeat a year. We cannot afford to repeat this mistake," said Timothy J. Roemer, a member of what was formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.

The bipartisan commission issued its original report on July 22, 2004 and then formed a non-profit organization called the 9/11 Public Discourse Project to keep track of the government's response to the recommendations for strengthening national security.

"We see some positive changes. But there is so much more to be done," said Tom Kean, the former Republican governor of New Jersey who chaired the 9/11 Commission.

"We are safer, but we are not yet safe. Four years after [Sept. 11, 2001] we are not as safe as we could be and that is not acceptable," Kean added. "There is no question that we are not as safe as we need to be. Many of the steps we recommend would help prevent such a disaster from happening again. We should not need another wake-up call."

The commission gave the government only one A-minus, for addressing terrorist financing, but 9/11 Commission Member Fred F. Fielding reminded those attending Monday's news conference at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C. that "these changes are to be made in full. They are not a Chinese take-out menu to pick and choose from."

While the 9/11 Public Discourse Project officially disbanded Monday, members stressed that communication between government agencies still needed improvement, first responders needed more funding and a more intense effort was needed to secure weapons of mass destruction.

"Given the potential for catastrophic destruction, our current efforts fall far short of what we need to do. There is simply no higher priority on the national security agenda," said Lee H. Hamilton, vice chairman of the commission, in reference to weapons of mass destruction.

The 9/11 Commission also pushed for intelligence and Congressional reform.

"Al Qaeda is quickly changing, we are not. Al Qaeda is dynamic, we are not. Al Qaeda is imaginative, we are not," said Roemer.

Kean added that "while the terrorists are learning and adapting, our government is still moving at a crawl."

But Russ Knocke, spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, disagreed.

"The administration has made significant strides in securing the homeland since 9/11 and with the creation of the department, virtually every facet of our society you've seen advances [in security]," Knocke told Cybercast News Service . "If you look at aviation security for example, you would see that we screen 100 percent of passengers and cargo, we have hardened cockpit doors, federal flight deck officers, thousands of air marshals. These are all things that did not exist on Sept. 10, 2001.

"Pick any other element of the report and you are going to see other similar advances in security," Knocke said.

Jamal Ware, communications director for the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, defended Capitol Hill lawmakers. "Broadly speaking, Congress has implemented much of what the 9/11 Commission is calling for. The national intelligence director was created by Congress as a result of a call for doing more to bring intelligence together under one agency," Ware said.

Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) "appreciates the thoughts of the 9/11 Commission and we'll take their comments into consideration," Ware told Cybercast News Service.

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