Archive for Saturday, July 31, 2004

9-11 panelists see lack of urgency on reforms

July 31, 2004

Advertisement

— Three years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, there's still no one coordinating government efforts to thwart a new assault, the co-chairmen of the Sept. 11 commission told Congress Friday.

"I don't find anyone is in charge," former Congressman Lee Hamilton said. In their testimony, he and former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean outlined a government bureaucracy that had missed clues to the attacks because it didn't share information or take responsibility for stopping terrorists.

Many of those problems still exist, Hamilton said.

"The whole government just is not acting with the urgency we think is required across the board, whether it's screening for cargo or checking airplane passengers or checking the airspace or whatever," Hamilton said. "Lots of good things have been done, and what seems to us to be lacking is that real sense of urgency."

While acknowledging that reforms take time, Kean said three years was a long time to allow vulnerabilities to continue to exist. "We can't really afford it any longer," Kean said.

Kean also urged Congress to go beyond simply reorganizing government agencies as it looks to prevent terrorist attacks.

"Organizing the government alone will not make us safe and more secure," Kean said. He urged lawmakers to make changes to foreign and economic policy while stepping up border and transportation security.

"If we favor one tool while neglecting others, we leave ourselves vulnerable and weaken our national effort," Kean said.

Hamilton and Kean appeared before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee in the first of what will be as many as 20 hearings scheduled for August as Congress responds to the commission's report.

Congressional leaders originally said they wouldn't take up the recommendations until after their traditional summer break.

But public criticism forced Congress to move more quickly, and the senators tried to convey a sense of urgency at Friday's hearing, just eight days after the commission's report was made public.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.