'Safe But Not Safe Enough,' Says 9/11 Commission

By Monisha Bansal | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Six years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, leaders of the 9/11 Commission said the U.S. is safer -- but not safe enough.

"It is our belief that we've made some progress, but that we have a very long way to go," said former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, a Republican who chaired the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. He spoke Tuesday at a briefing in Washington, D.C.

"We have made progress at home in our ability to detect, prevent, and respond to terrorist attacks," he said. "It's been difficult, incomplete and very slow, but real progress has been made. Our defenses are certainly better than they were."

But, Kean added, "On the international front, our record is frankly of far greater concern."

"Six years after 9/11, the National Intelligence Estimate speaks of a persistent and evolving terrorist threat to the United States," he said. "The long-term threat to security is as great as ever.

"The enduring threat is young Muslims without jobs or hope," said Kean. "They perceive America as a threat, not just to them, but to Islam." Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton

Former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.), vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission, said the war on terror is a "generational problem" that's going to persist long after individual leaders of al Qaeda and other terror groups have been eliminated.

"So often when we talk about the war on terror, we think of defeating ... Osama Bin Laden and the other leaders of al Qaeda -- if we can wipe them out, we've solved the problem of terror," Hamilton said.

But the long-term threat is "the radical Islamic young people," he said.

"If you're going to win the war of ideas and if you're going to win the war on terror, you're going to have to deal with these hundreds of millions of Muslims across the world," Hamilton said.

"If we continue to have this remarkable alienation in the Muslim world ... we're going to have a war on terror that will go on for many, many generations," he said.

"We can best protect our long-term security if the Muslim world views us not as a threat, but as a source of opportunity and of hope," Kean added.

Hamilton added that the United States needs to make national security a top priority.

"We do not think that our government has done a good job deciding what it is we need to protect and what kind of threats are most likely and what kind of threats are least likely," he said. "The list of potential targets is long, and the dollars get spread around because no one wants to be wrong."

Hamilton said he thinks terrorists will try to strike America again. "Unfortunately, the passage of time has left us distracted and complacent," he said.

But James Carafano, a senior fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, told Cybercast News Service that America is better prepared to deal with the threat of transnational terrorism than it was before 2001.

He noted that the government has uncovered and thwarted at least 16 terrorist conspiracies in the United States and helped disrupt major plots aimed at America or U.S. persons in Canada, Britain and, most recently, Germany.

"Ironically, many of the most important tools for homeland security are the instruments we used to combat terrorism before 9/11," Carafano said, noting that intelligence activities, information-sharing, counterterrorism, and law enforcement investigations and cooperation are the most important tools.

"The difference is, after September 11, the U.S. and its friends and allies take these tasks a lot more seriously," he said. "Terrorists may be taking the offensive in other parts of the world. But there is no question that they find America and its allies are harder targets than they were in 2001."

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