The independent commission that investigated the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States has issued a new report highly critical of the Bush administration and Congress for their efforts to make the country safer from future attacks.
The former September 11th Commission disbanded after its final report in July of 2004. But the commissioners issued one last assessment of how the White House and Congress have been implementing their recommendations to better detect, stop and deal with future terrorist attacks.
Former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean, a Republican, chaired the bipartisan 9/11 Commission.
"We are safer, no question about that. No terrorist attacks have occurred inside the United States since 9/11. But there is no question that we are not as safe as we need to be," he said.
The commissioners issued a report card that gives the Bush administration and Congress several failing grades on implementing a series of proposals to safeguard against and deal with future terrorist attacks.
These include improving communication among police officers and firefighters, the so-called first emergency responders, who would rush to the scene of terrorist attacks. In addition, the commissioners say Congress has not addressed how to better allocate homeland security funds on the basis of which communities face the greatest terrorist threat.
The commission includes ten distinguished Americans, five from each of the two major political parties.
"When will our government wake up to this challenge? Al-Qaida is quickly changing and we are not. Al-Qaida is highly dynamic and we are not," said former Indiana Congressman Tim Roemer, one of the Democrats on the panel.
The Democratic vice chairman of the commission, former Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton, says the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been a distraction for both the Bush White House and congressional leaders and have competed for attention with the need to implement anti-terror safeguards.
The 9/11 commission is urging Congress to end a deadlock over new spending to help emergency communications and fortify likely terrorist targets like New York City and Washington, D.C.
The 9/11 commission did offer some praise for the Bush administration and Congress for following through on some of its recommendations. Specifically, the commissioners noted the creation of the position of national intelligence director to coordinate intelligence gathering on terrorist threats.
Bush administration officials say they are continuing to work with Congress in enacting most of the recommendations made by the 9/11 commission.
"The 9/11 Commission made a number of recommendations, I think 74 recommendations," said White House National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley on Fox News. "The president reviewed them and we accepted 70 of them in whole or in large measure, and that is being implemented now. Obviously, as we have said all along, we are safer but not yet safe. There is more to do."
Bush administration officials note there have not been any terrorist attacks on U.S. soil since the 9/11 attacks.
But 9/11 chairman Tom Kean says he believes another attack, perhaps larger than the ones experienced on September 11, 2001, is likely down the road.
"We believe that the terrorists will strike again," he said. "So does every responsible expert that we have talked to. If they do and these reforms that might have prevented such an attack have not been implemented, what will our excuses be?"
The assessment is the final formal act of the former 9/11 commission. The group's recommendations will be promoted by a follow-on, privately funded organization called the 9/11 Public Discourse Project.