Former Sept. 11 Panel Gives U.S. Bad Report Card
WASHINGTON – The former Sept. 11 commission gave "more Fs than As" to the federal government Monday in a report card that grades efforts to shore up national security and prevent another terrorist attack on the United States.
The Sept. 11 Discourse Project, which was offering its "final" assessment since the Sept. 11 commission was appointed by Congress in 2002 and disbanded following the release of its recommendations in July 2004, gave a progress report that included 41 measures for developing security. The measures are part of the commission's review of weaknesses in U.S. security at home and abroad.
Click here to read the Sept. 11 Discourse Project's report card (pdf).
"We believe that the terrorists will strike again — so does every responsible expert that we have talked to. And if they do, and these reforms that might have prevented such an attack have not been implemented, what will our excuse be?" asked former commission chairman Thomas Kean, a Republican and former New Jersey governor.
"We're frustrated, all of us, frustrated at the lack of urgency in addressing these various problems," Kean said.
Spending on homeland security for cities most at risk, improving radio communication for emergency agencies and prescreening of airline passengers all received "Fs."
Border security, intelligence oversight reform and efforts to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction all received "Ds."
The creation of a biometric entry and exit system, development of a National Counter-Terrorism Center and efforts in Afghanistan all received "Bs."
The one A, or actually an A-minus, went to administration efforts to curb terrorist financing.
The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States was tasked with investigating government missteps that led to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. After it disbanded, the Sept. 11 Public Discourse Project was created with private funds to monitor government progress.
Among the recommendations, the government has enacted the centerpiece proposal — creation of a national intelligence director, now filled by former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte.
But it has stalled on other ideas, including allocating federal dollars to the states to fight terrorism based on risk levels for each state and improving communication among first responders, who did earn praise from the former commissioners.
"Some of the failures are shocking. Four years after 9/11, it is a scandal that police and firefighters in large cities still can't talk to each other reliably when they are hit with a major crisis," Kean said.
"Our enemy is dynamic and agile; we are not," former Rep. Tim Roemer, D-Ind., one of the commissioners, told FOX News.
The White House acknowledged that some changes are stalled in Congress, but the administration has taken action on about 70 of them.
"We've made a lot of progress, we're fundamentally reforming the way our intelligence community works, the communication between our law enforcement and our intelligence community is better than it's ever been," White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett told FOX News.
"Congress has more work to do in the way that they fund certain grants and projects at the local level for homeland security funding. But the bottom line is that we are not satisfied about where we are but we have to take stock that after four years of being at war in a post-9/11 era we have not been attacked. And I think you need to give credit to the law enforcement, police and intelligence officials who are working around the clock to protect our country," Bartlett said.
Kean and commission vice chairman Lee Hamilton urged Congress to pass spending bills that would allow police and fire personnel to communicate across radio spectrums and to reallocate money so that Washington and New York, which have more people and symbolic landmarks, could receive more for terrorism defense.
Both bills have stalled in Congress, in part over the level of spending and turf fights over which states should get the most dollars.
"The legislators have to be willing to say to their constituents back home, and my district understands this, 'You will not get enough money or as much money as New York City or Washington, D.C., because there is not Wall Street and you don't have the Washington Monument," Roemer told FOX News.
"We have to make tough decisions based on a national strategy. Where are our sites where Al Qaeda is going to attack?"
Roemer added that another problem is that Washington has forgotten that national security "isn't Democratic or Republican but American," and that is how threats were handled in the past. To make security a partisan issue will only hurt the country, he said.
But some Democrats sought to capitalize on the poor grades given for homeland security.
Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., said 13 amendments offered by Democrats to various homeland security-related bills were all prohibited from consideration on the House floor.
The 13 measures, from adding border patrol agents and upgrading security at chemical facilities to inspecting airplane cargo and offering whistleblower protections, were based directly on the Sept. 11 commission recommendations, she said.
"Republicans have locked the Democratic agenda for homeland security in the basement while they have ignored critical 9/11 commission recommendations," she said in a statement. "It is no surprise Republicans have received a failing grade on homeland security from the 9/11 commission."
"The 9/11 commission's final report card is an indictment of the continued failure by the Bush administration and the Republican Congress to meet the security needs of our nation and make Americans safer," added House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
"Democrats continue to support addressing completely all of the recommendations of the 9/11 commission and will continue to fight for bipartisan solutions that will keep Americans safer."
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 Qaeda 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.
FOX News' Caroline Shiveley and The Associated Press contributed to this report.