9/11 Panel Issues Poor Grades for Handling of Terror

FINAL REPORT ON 9/11 COMMISSION RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Final Report on 9/11 Commission Recommendation (PDF)
  • One page summary of grades (PDF)
  • Prepared Statement by Thomas H. Kean and Lee H.
    Hamilton
    (PDF)

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 – The members of the Sept. 11 commission gave
dismal grades to the Bush administration and Congress on Monday in
measuring the government’s recent efforts to prevent terrorist attacks
on American soil, concluding that the government deserved many more F’s
and D’s than A’s.

The
commissioners awarded the grades in a privately financed "report card"
that found that four years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the nation
remained alarmingly vulnerable to terrorist strikes, including attacks
with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

"While the
terrorists are learning and adopting, our government is still moving at
a crawl," said Thomas H. Kean, the commission’s chairman and a former
Republican governor of New Jersey. "Many obvious steps that the
American people assume have been completed have not been. Our
leadership is distracted."

The new report by the 9/11 Public
Discourse Project, a private group established by the commission’s five
Republicans and five Democrats when the panel formally went out of
business last year, graded the government’s response to the 41
recommendations made in the commission’s final report 17 months ago.

There
were 17 F’s or D’s – including an F to Congress for its failure to
allocate the domestic antiterrorism budget on the basis of risk and a D
for the government’s effort to track down and secure nuclear material
that could be used by terrorists. There was only one A – and it was an
A minus – awarded for the government’s efforts to stem the financing of
terrorist networks.

With the release of the report, the
commissioners announced that they were shutting down the Public
Discourse Project, which had represented an unusual private effort by
members of a federal commission to retain some political viability and
lobby for their recommendations.

The White House, which often
tangled with the Sept. 11 commission during its official investigation,
defended its performance in dealing with terrorist threats, insisting
it had acted on most of the panel’s recommendations.

"We have
taken significant steps to better protect the American people at home,"
said Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman. "There is more to do.
This is the president’s highest responsibility."

To the likely
disappointment of the White House, however, the commission’s
Republicans voiced some of the strongest criticism of the
administration and Congress on Monday at a news conference held to
release the report.

"The American people ought to demand
answers," said James R. Thompson, a Republican commissioner and a
former Illinois governor. "Why aren’t our tax dollars being spent to
protect our lives? What’s the rationale? What’s the excuse? There is no
excuse."

Mr. Thompson joined with other commissioners in
offering special criticism of Congress as having failed to ensure that
the billions of dollars in domestic security money distributed by the
federal government each year are divided up on the basis of risk,
instead of pork-barrel politics that often sends money to remote areas
where there is little danger of terrorist attack.

The new report
noted that Congress and the Bush administration enacted the
commission’s centerpiece recommendation last year, the creation of the
job of director of national intelligence to force the government’s spy
agencies to work closely together. The post went to John D. Negroponte,
the former American ambassador to Iraq and the United Nations.

"The
framework for the D.N.I. and his authorities are in place," the report
found, giving an overall grade of B to Mr. Negroponte’s performance and
to the government’s effort to support him.

The report gave a
failing grade to the administration’s development of common policies
for treatment of terrorist suspects held abroad; human rights groups
and some members of Congress have accused the administration of
condoning practices that amount to torture. The administration has
opposed legislation to prohibit the use of cruel and degrading
treatment against detainees in American custody.

"U.S. treatment
of detainees had elicited broad criticism and makes it harder to build
the necessary alliances to cooperate effectively with partners in a
global war on terror," the report said.

Mr. Kean said at the
news conference that as a result of the controversy over the treatment
of prisoners, the United States "is not viewed with the same respect we
were just a short time ago."

Timothy J. Roemer, a Democratic
commissioner and a former House member from Indiana, said inhumane
treatment of prisoners was counterproductive and might breed a new
generation of terrorists. "We should not go down the slippery slope of
what other countries might do to terrorize detainees," he said.

The
new report was also strongly critical of the government’s failures to
tighten airline passenger screening, to provide adequate radio
spectrums to allow police and fire departments to communicate in a
terrorist attack and to push for political reforms in Saudi Arabia.

There
was sharp criticism of Congress as having failed to overhaul its
methods of oversight on intelligence issues, and of the F.B.I. as
moving too slowly to overhaul its antiterrorism operations.

 

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