The former chairs of a commission established to examine the nation's security in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, say the country is still vulnerable to assaults by al-Qaida and other terrorist groups nearly a decade later.
The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks changed America forever, having a profound effect on daily lives, the government and the private sector.
The economic damage from the attacks was severe and massive amounts of taxpayer dollars have been spent on efforts to keep America secure. Experts say that while a devastating attack like 9/11 is less likely now, the threat is more complex and diverse than at any time in the past decade.
In the first of a series of hearings in the U.S. Congress to review the response to the assaults, former 9/11 Commission chairman Thomas Kean said Wednesday that future attacks by terrorists are likely.
“Al-Qaida and its allies continue to have the intent and the reach to kill dozens or even hundreds of Americans and do so in a single attack," said Thomas Kean. "There is a high risk of attacks, but we believe that they will likely be smaller.”
In the past decade, the United States has vastly improved security at airports and seaports, and the nation’s borders are guarded with more agents using new technology. More than 20 different government agencies responsible for action during disasters have been folded into the Department of Homeland Security and a National Counter Terrorism Center has been created to detect, prevent and disrupt terrorist activity.
The Obama administration has launched a major initiative to secure nuclear materials, a move former 9/11 Commission Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton said must be the nation’s top priority.
“The access to nuclear materials and the ability to use those materials and to explode them is much greater than people generally think," said Lee Hamilton.
The former leaders of the 9/11 Commission say the United States is better prepared to prevent attacks like those on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, but there are gaps in America’s security that require urgent attention.