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9/11 Panel Chairmen Say US Safer, But 'Not Safe Enough'


The two chairmen of the independent September 11 Commission, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, told reporters in Washington Tuesday the United States is safer today than it was six years ago when it was attacked by al-Qaida. But the former governor and the former congressman also agree the nation is not safe enough, and say that U.S. foreign policy has actually lost ground in its efforts to stem the tide of extremism in the Muslim world. VOA's Cindy Saine reports from Washington.

The two chairmen of the the commission that studied the lessons of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States got together again to assess if the United States is safer now. Former Governor of New Jersey Thomas Kean says he believes U.S. defenses are better.

"We have made progress at home in our ability to detect, prevent and respond to terrorist attacks," said Kean. "It has been difficult, incomplete and it's been very slow, but real progress has been made."

Kean says the federal government has implemented many of the recommendations made by the 9/11 panel to prevent future attacks. He said the National Counterterrorism Center is forcing greater sharing of intelligence and that the Central Intelligence Agency's collection and analysis of intelligence is improving. The terrorist screening center checks the manifest of every international flight entering the U.S., he said, and airport screeners are better trained today.

But Kean said he and former congressman Lee Hamilton are not pleased with the government's performance on the international front.

"Six years after 9/11, the National Intelligence Estimate speaks of a persistent and evolving terrorist threat to the United States," he said. "Inside Pakistan, al-Qaida has protected or regenerated key elements of its homeland attack capacity."

Kean and Hamilton say Pakistan should take the lead in rooting out al-Qaida, but the U.S. must act if Pakistan will not.

They also blame U.S. foreign policy for undermining support for America in the Muslim world. Hamilton cites Iraq as a negative example.

"I do think we agree that Iraq has been a powerful recruiting tool for terrorists, and therefore has a much longer term fuse to it than might otherwise be the case," said Hamilton.

Hamilton said the terrorists now being trained in Iraq will turn their sights on other targets long after the conflict there has been resolved.

Speaking ahead of the September 11 anniversary, White House aide Frances Townsend gave the United States a more positive report card. She said the government has made considerable progress in protecting against terrorist attacks and that the country is safer now than it was in 2001.

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