9/11 Chairs Return To The Hill

The co-chairmen of the 9/11 Commission testified before a Senate committee Wednesday. They talked about the changes in government in the nearly 10 years since the terrorist attacks.

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This fall will mark 10 years since the attacks of 9/11. And according to the chairman of the 9/11 Commission, the government still has a way to go to protect its citizens against another terrorist attack.

As NPR's Brian Naylor tells us, today, former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean and former Indiana congressman Lee Hamilton brought that message to a Senate hearing.

BRIAN NAYLOR: The 9/11 Commission's report served as a blueprint for what its authors believe should be the way the government organizes to prevent another large-scale terrorist attack. Seven years after the report, and a decade after the attacks themselves, commission co-chair Hamilton says work remains.

Mr. LEE HAMILTON (Co-chair, 9/11 Commission): Significant progress has been made since 9/11 and our country is undoubtedly more secure. Yet important 9/11 Commission recommendations remain to be implemented. And over the next few years, a lot of heavy lifting still needs to be done.

NAYLOR: Many of the changes, the commission's chairman told the Senate Homeland Security panel remain to be made, don't seem to involve heavy lifting, but rather, bureaucratic maneuvering.

One part of the problem is at the local level. Chairman Kean says, for example, in many communities there are still no clear lines of authority or unified command structure in case of a terrorist attack.

Mr. THOMAS KEAN (Chairman, 9/11 Commission): There is still a number of communities, some of them fairly sizeable and people tell us there is still that question, if something really happens, who is in charge?

NAYLOR: Another communications issue is the still vexing problem of getting first responders on the same frequency, literally. On 9/11, emergency workers were hampered in some instances by radios that wouldn't allow rescuers from different agencies to talk to one another.

The commission has recommended setting aside part of the radio spectrum for public safety, but Congress has balked, which Kean says must change.

Mr. KEAN: It is unacceptable that the government still has not allocated the additional 10 megahertz of radio spectrum to public safety, so that our first responders can communicate the disaster.

NAYLOR: The intelligence community also came in for criticism. The chairman commanded the FBI for expanding its traditional crime fighting role into intelligence gathering. But Hamilton says those analysts remain second-class citizens.

Mr. KEAN: Analysts do not appear in the FBI to be driving intelligence within that organization, nor have they achieved status on a par with the special agents who traditionally rise to management of the bureau.

NAYLOR: The chairman praised Congress for carrying out a key recommendation creating the position of director of national intelligence. But they said that DNI's authority over such key issues as the intelligence budget and personnel is ambiguous. And while the chairmen believe a massive attack such as occurred on 9/11 is less likely and the country is on the whole safer, they say al-Qaida continues to have the intent and the reach to kill dozens, if not, hundreds of Americans.

Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington.

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