The Nine 9/11 Commission Recommendations Still Unmet

Tuesday, September 06, 2011
Since the 9/11 Commission issued its report on the causes of the 2001 attacks, governments at the federal, state and local levels have implemented about 75% of the recommendations put forth by the special panel.
But that’s not good enough, says the Bipartisan Policy Center’s National Security Preparedness Group, a follow-on to the 9/11 Commission. More work still needs to be done to better protect the nation and respond to terrorist attacks and other disasters.
In a new report the group cites nine recommendations from the 9/11 Commission’s report that require more attention and effort.
They are:
1. Unity of Command and Effort: The commission said federal, state, and local emergency responders should adopt the Incident Command System which would put a single official in charge of directing all agencies during a disaster. While government officials have made progress in improving coordination, the BP oil spill in 2010 demonstrated that more changes are needed in this area.
2. Radio Spectrum and Interoperability: The September 11, 2001, attacks exposed a serious problem when police, firefighters and others were unable to communicate with each other following the attacks. The commission recommended that part of the radio spectrum be dedicated for public safety purposes. “To date, this recommendation continues to languish,” reads the preparedness group’s report. “Despite the lives at stake, the recommendation to improve radio interoperability for first responders has stalled because of a political fight over whether to allocate 10 MHz of radio spectrum—the D-block—directly to public safety for a nationwide network, or auction it off to a commercial wireless bidder who would then be required to provide priority access on its network dedicated to public safety during emergencies.”
3. Civil Liberties and Executive Power: The emphasis on tightening security in America has produced “significant privacy and civil liberty concerns. In particular, as the FBI and the rest of the intelligence community have dramatically expanded their surveillance of potential terrorists, they have used tools such as National Security Letters that may implicate the privacy of Americans.” To address these concerns, the commission recommended creating a Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to monitor actions across the government. Such a board was officially established through federal legislation—but it has remained dormant for more than three years and the Obama administration has shown little interest in activating it.
4. Congressional Reform: According to the report, “Congress should create a single, principal point of oversight and review for homeland security. Congressional oversight for intelligence–and counterterrorism–is now dysfunctional…. The rules governing congressional organization reflect the needs and economy of the 19th century, not the challenges of the 21st century.” In order to satisfy the power desires of various members of Congress, the Department of Homeland Security must report to more than 100 committees and subcommittees.
5. The Role of the Director of National Intelligence: The Bush administration did follow the recommendation of the original 9/11 Commission by creating the position of Director of National Intelligence (DNI) “as the principal intelligence advisor to the president, responsible for directing and coordinating the efforts of the 16 agencies of the intelligence community.” However it is still not clear whether the DNI really controls budgets and personnel matters and whether he is the driving force in integrating the various intelligence agencies.
6. Transportation Security: Although security procedures at airports have improved, explosives detection had not kept pace. “Unfortunately, explosives detection technology lacks reliability and lags in its capability to automatically identify concealed weapons and explosives. The next generation of whole body scanning machines also are not effective at detecting explosives hidden within the body and raise privacy and health concerns that DHS has not fully addressed.”
7. Biometric Entry-Exit Screening System: The report praises the implementation of the biometric entry system known as USVISIT that checks foreign nationals upon their arrival in the United States. However, there is no equivalent system to record and monitor foreign nationals when they leave the U.S.
8. Standardize Secure Identifications: According to the report, “Eighteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers obtained 30 state-issued IDs that enabled them to more easily board planes on the morning of 9/11.” Following the recommendation of the original 9/11 Commission, Congress, in 2005, passed the Real ID Act, which set federal standards for states to follow in issuing birth certificates, driver’s licenses and other forms of ID. One third of the states have met the initial standards, but the date for full compliance has been set back to January 2013.
9. Develop Coalition Standards for Terrorist Detention: The report recommends that “The United States should engage its friends to develop a common coalition approach toward the
detention and humane treatment of captured terrorists” Both President Bush and President Obama have been unable to reconcile respect for U.S. law with the indefinite imprisonment of alleged terrorists. Unfortunately, in some cases, the government lacks evidence for successful prosecution or else the evidence was obtained through torture.
-David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff


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