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9-11 Commission Ten Years after Attacks: We Are Safe-er.

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The 9-11 Commission got the band back together Wednesday nearly ten years after the attacks to assess progress on implementing their 2004 recommendations intended to make us all safe from al-Qaeda and like-minded creeps. The assessment: We are safe-er. “We are not as secure yet as we can or we should be,” Chairman Thomas Kean, the former New Jersey governor, told an audience at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington.

They also renamed the band. It is now the National Security Preparedness group, and seven of the ten members gathered in Washington to review the government’s progress.

The commission in July 2004 released a set of 41 recommendations for keeping the country safe. The panel says the government actually did quite well implementing 32 of those suggestions. I won’t bother cataloging those here, on account of few folks read the “Plane Lands Safely on Time” story. Let’s focus on the failures.

  • Unity of Command: The Hurricane Katrina debacle and then hiccups responding to the 2010 Gulf Coast oil spill show federal, state, and local governments still haven’t ironed out who is in charge when bad things happen.
  • Radio Spectrum Interoperablity: People died on 9-11 because of radio communication glitches. Congress needs to allocate some of the radio spectrum for public safety but — surprise! — that effort is stalled in a political fight on Capitol Hill.
  • Civil Liberties: The commission suggested a panel to monitor transgressions against us by our own government. The White House has dragged its feet appointing people and the Senate has lagged in confirming them.
  • Congressional Reform: Around 100 panels in Congress oversee various aspects of homeland security, which is ridiculous. Turf fights keep Congress from streamlining oversight.
  • Director of National Intelligence: There remains “ambiguity” over how much power this post maintains to oversee the intelligence community. That’s bad.
  • Transportation Security: The TSA doesn’t do a good job of researching, developing, and testing explosive-detection equipment.
  • Biometric Entry-Exit Screening: We have a biometric system to track people entering the country, but not when people leave. That means we don’t know who is overstaying a visa, like some of the 9-11 terrorists.
  • Standardize Secure Identifications: Only one-third of states have met standards for making it harder to obtain bogus state-issued IDs.
  • Develop Standards for Detention: The panel unanimously applauded President Obama for dumping torture, but Congress has not “reconciled” the law with the indefinite detention of terrorists. The authority and ground rules remain murky.

As  Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton put it, “All of us agree that there is much, much more to do.”

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