The 9/11 Commission released a second report ten years after its first and found that the U. S. made significant gains but still has serious gaps in its fight against terrorism. The Commission, a bipartisan, independent body created by Congress in 2002, is chaired and vice-chaired by Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton, respectively. While its first report of 2004 analyzed the circumstances of the 9/11 attacks, this second report assessed developments in the ensuing decade. This second report can be downloaded here: http://bipartisanpolicy.org/library/report/rising-terrorist-threat-9-11-commission
The Commission found that most of its recommendations have been followed in American law and/or policy. For several examples, the U. S. has federalized airport security, tightened security at our ports of entry, spent hundreds of billions of dollars improving anti-terrorist intelligence gathering and sharing, considerably diminished Al Qaeda’s terrorist leadership, and prevented another attack on the scale of 9/11 within U. S. borders. America has undeniably made notable advances in its war against terrorism.
Even as the U. S. made important gains, the world became a more dangerous place. The first report stressed the importance of eliminating terrorist “sanctuaries,” geographic areas in which terrorist groups can assemble, teach, train and plot more comprehensive attacks. Nevertheless, even as Al Qaeda has been diminished, associated terrorist groups have grown and now operate in at least 16 countries, a greater number of areas than were involved years ago. The “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria” (ISIS) is one of the strongest groups and controls large geographic areas in Iraq and Syria. Furthermore, there are legitimate concerns that Afghanistan will revert to providing such sanctuaries after most American troops leave in 2014. While Middle Eastern terrorist groups sometimes fight each other and focus on other targets, they are united in their common hatred of the United States and may still attack our embassies, military bases and businesses in other countries.
Even as the world became a more dangerous place, the United States is less capable of meeting the danger in some respects. We reportedly have and/or commit too few resources to fighting cyber-terrorism, underestimate the danger of emerging terrorist groups and individuals at home and abroad, are too lax in supervision of the National Security Agency (NSA) and have seen a serious reduction in new recruits for the NSA. In addition, the Commission urges Congress to reduce its 92 committees and subcommittees overseeing the Department of Homeland Security and/or assign a single committee to that task, and update the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force to increase Congress’ involvement in fighting terrorist threats.
Reminding readers that “a period of quiet can be shattered in a moment by a devastating attack,” the Commission praises some progress while urging even greater vigilance and dedication to countering terrorism in an increasingly threatening world.
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