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Published on Wednesday, August 31, 2011

US security again gets failing grades

A vast government bureaucracy and hundreds of billions of dollars a decade after the 9-11 attacks did not prevent a dubious grade for American safety from terrorists, according to a new security report.

The report released Wednesday morning in Washington D.C. comes from the 9/11 Commission, which is devoted to protecting Americans from terrorist attacks.

The assessment does show some improvements over a report card issued just after the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations. That report card, also compiled by former members of the 9/11 Commission, assigned the government a series of failing letter grades — five F’s, 12 D’s and two “incompletes.”

“A decade after 9-11, the nation is not yet prepared for a truly catastrophic disaster,” said the new report called “Tenth Anniversary Report Card: The Status of 9-11 Commission Recommendations.”

The new report was chaired by former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean and former Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana.

The newest “Report Card” did not issue grades. But it covered the 41 recommendations made in 2004 by the 9/11 commission. Of the 41, nine have been inadequately implemented or not implemented at all, said the authors. The report also found various inadequacies:

  • Police and fire used different frequencies during 9-11. According to the commission, that problem still exists. It blames congress for not allocating new broadcast frequencies for common use by all so-called “first responders.”
  • The TSA still does not have the capacity to detect concealed weapons.
  • America’s ability to detect explosives hidden on passengers boarding airplanes “lacks reliability.”
  • The report said Homeland Security’s new full-body scanners are not effective (as officials claimed) at detecting hidden explosives.
  • The type of state legislation to prevent hijackers who in the past got state-issued ID’s to board airlines has been repeatedly delayed. Compliance has been pushed back over and over until the date is now 2013.
  • Prior recommendations that the government fingerprint visa holders as they leave the country that raised objections because of its high costs have also been ignored.

Some observers say many of the anti-terror recommendations have been pushed aside or delayed because of cost or because they ran afoul of privacy and civil liberty concerns.

“Until some of these things are done, we aren’t going to be as safe as we should be,” Kean said in an interview with the Tribune. He called it “outrageous” that the US Congress has not dealt legislatively with some of the problems.

The report cites some positive developments such as significant progress in improving homeland security, notably in the case of intelligence sharing and in the overall screening of airline passengers.

The new report is far from alone in the latest governmental findings stemming from the 9-11 attacks.

There’s an investigation into charities established to serve families of the victims. There’s also a series of intelligence hearings on Capitol Hill. Finally, there’s a national report on the various state’s plans to protect children in the event of another similar disaster.

By David Wilkening

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  • Time for rethinking the approach

    On some of these dimensions, like communications improvements, it's a disgrace we're still not doing better. But on others, such as detecting potential deadly weapons, the task is and always was impossible. There are still several ways to carry deadly weapons on to aircraft, or to destroy whole cities, as good evaluators pointed out to the feds years ago; AND THERE ALWAYS WILL BE. The time has come to think out of the box, as el Quaeda does—the 9/11 attack was an example that shows that they think outside the box, so nothing less is adequate. Example of out of box solutions: make it absurd to attack the U.S., by making the U.S. the main benefactor — instead of one of the promise breakers — on aid to those in need, all over the world. It might cost half what TSA costs, and do ten times more good, both to us and the world's neediest. Don't like that suggestion; do better, but keep out of petty politics, the present box! Michael Scriven

    By michael scriven, Friday, September 2, 2011

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