September 11 panel leaders say US still at risk
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is still
unprepared for another inevitable terrorist attack after not
doing enough to improve communications for emergency personnel
and bolster security at nuclear plants, the heads of the former
September 11 Commission said on Sunday.
Former commission chairman Thomas Kean said preparing for
another attack has not been a high enough priority for
President George W. Bush and Congress.
“A lot of the things we need to do really to prevent
another 9/11 just simply aren’t being done by the president or
by the Congress,” Kean, the former Republican governor of New
Jersey, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The comments come ahead of the commission’s final update,
which will be released Monday, grading the status of its
post-September 11 security recommendations and in most cases
the Bush administration and U.S. lawmakers earned a failing
grade, said Kean and Lee Hamilton, the former Democratic
representative from Indiana who was the September 11
Commission’s vice chairman.
While there has been a little progress in some areas,
several major issues remain, Kean and Hamilton said. Among the
major shortcomings they cited was setting aside radio airwaves
for police, firefighters and other first responders to use in
Allocating funds in areas most at risk and setting up a
central command system with clear leaders also is floundering,
“We believe that another attack will occur and we had
better get to it and protect the American people,” Hamilton
said. “It’s not a question of if.”
In the last of a series of updates since the commission’s
official report was released in August 2004, Hamilton said they
plan to highlight “that there is a lack of a sense of urgency”
in making reforms.
Work by the Department of Homeland Security to evaluate the
risk of attack at nuclear power plants and chemical plants was
“totally inadequate,” Kean said.
“It doesn’t set the priorities out,” he said. “It just sets
basically vague guidelines, what the priorities should be.”
Congress is working to finish two bills on the first
responder issue and the appropriations process.
“If these two bills are passed on radio spectrum and
allocation of funds, the grades will quickly switch to a B or
an A,” Kean said.
The chairmen also criticized the Transportation Security
Administration’s decision last week to allow small scissors and
screwdrivers back on U.S. airplanes as a step backward.
They said efforts to conduct random passenger checks were
misguided and more should be done to screen cargo for