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U.S. gets bad marks for terrorism preps

9/11 panel: Recommendations on U.S. security not being heeded

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Thomas Kean, shown last month, says United States needs to repair its image in the world.

ORIGINAL KEY FINDINGS

  • U.S. leaders did not understand the "gravity of the threat."
  • The United States wasn't prepared to meet al Qaeda's challenges.
  • Terrorism wasn't the chief security concern of the Bush or Clinton administrations.
  • Failures to thwart 9/11 highlight agencies' inability to adapt to new problems.
  • CIA effectiveness was limited by use of intermediaries to pursue Osama bin Laden.
  • Information and analysis wasn't shared across agencies.
  • KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Establish a Cabinet-level intelligence director
  • Establish a single counterterrorism center
  • Create a single, joint congressional committee to oversee homeland security
  • SPECIAL REPORT

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    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The former members of the bipartisan 9/11 commission gave Congress and the president a report card Monday heavy in B's, C's and D's -- with five F's -- saying the nation was ill-prepared for another terrorist attack.

    "Four years after 9/11 it is scandalous that police and firefighters in large cities still cannot communicate reliably in a major crisis," said Thomas Kean, the Republican who was chairman of the commission.

    "It is scandalous that airline passengers are still not screened against all names on a terrorist watch list.

    "It is scandalous that we still allocate scarce homeland security dollars on the basis of pork barrel spending, not risk."

    The bipartisan panel, charged with reviewing U.S. security efforts before and after the September 11, 2001, attacks, produced its final report in July 2004, offering 41 recommendations.

    The 570-page, 14-chapter report concluded that a "failure of imagination" kept U.S. officials from understanding the al Qaeda threat before the attacks.

    More than a year after the report's release, response to the panel's recommendations has been inadequate, Kean and other members said.

    "On 9/11 [Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda] killed nearly 3,000 of our citizens. Many of the steps we recommend would help prevent a disaster from happening again. We should not need another wake-up call."

    The panel's report card gave the government 12 B's, 12 D's, nine C's, five F's, one A- and two incompletes. The A- was for tackling terrorism financing; the incompletes were for reforms under way for the CIA director and the terrorist travel strategy, due in two weeks.

    F's were cited for the lack of an adequate radio band for first responders, poor airline passenger pre-screening, the "burying" of the overall intelligence budget within the defense budget, and coalition standards for terrorist detention.

    The report card gave an F to Congress for allocating homeland security funds "without regard for risk, vulnerability, or the consequences for an attack."

    The homeland security funds are allocated according to population, meaning that an area facing a low risk of a terror threat gets roughly the same amount of funding per capita as a high risk area, such as New York City.

    As a result, funds are being misappropriated, Kean suggested, pointing to the use of funds to buy air-conditioned garbage trucks and body armor for police dogs.

    White House, FBI defend progress

    White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush has "worked to address the recommendations of the commission" -- appointing a director of national intelligence, establishing a national counterterrorism center, tightening border security and implementing other policies.

    "President Bush's top priority is the safety and security of the American people," McClellan said in a written statement. "Since September 11, President Bush has restructured and reformed the federal government to focus resources on counterterrorism and to ensure the security of our homeland."

    The FBI said its progress has been "sweeping and continuous."

    "The FBI has institutionalized our counterterrorism posture by making counterterrorism our overriding priority, shifting resources, and executing an intelligence-driven coordinated national strategy," it said.

    It said it has more than twice as many agents, intelligence analysts and language analysts as it did on September 11, 2001, and four times as many members of Joint Terrorism Task Forces.

    Long road ahead

    The Bush administration has carried out one of the panel's main recommendations for overhauling the nation's intelligence system: the creation of the post of national intelligence director, charged with beefing up intelligence efforts and information-sharing among disparate agencies.

    Kean and Lee Hamilton, the Democrat who was vice chairman of the commission, said the United States needs to quicken efforts to secure nuclear sites, and that only "some progress" was made on that front. The report card gave a D to what it called "maximum effort by U.S. government to secure WMD."

    "We're talking about doing it in 14 years; nobody thinks we have 14 years," Kean told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday. Bin Laden "has said he wants to use nuclear weapons to attack the United States. So that's got to be a much higher priority."

    The report card wasn't intended to praise or criticize, Kean and Hamilton said. "Our purpose is to be constructive."

    It is up to President Bush and Congress to enact the necessary reforms, both men said.

    White House National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley acknowledged that the job of implementing the commission's recommendations is incomplete, but that nearly all have been reviewed and accepted.

    "The president reviewed them. We accepted 70 of them in whole or in large measure, and that is being implemented now," he said. "Obviously, as we've said all along, we are safer, but not yet safe. There is more to do."

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