In the release of its report, the 9/11 Commission raised serious concerns about our nation's security nearly three years after the 9/11 attacks. The commissioners beseeched our leaders to act swiftly and resolutely to begin the difficult work of bolstering our nation's defenses and reforming our intelligence system. Newspapers from across the country are now weighing in on the Commission's report and where to go from here.
"The members of the 9/11 commission — led by Chairman Tom Kean of New Jersey, a Republican, and Co-Chairman Lee Hamilton of Indiana, a Democrat — have given their country as thorough and honest a report as seems possible on the failings that left us vulnerable to attack on Sept. 11, 2001. Their unanimous recommendations for further enhancing national security are the product of compromise and a willingness to accept the good faith and patriotism even of colleagues with a different point of view.
"According to a recent poll, 63 percent of Americans believe that we're equally or even more vulnerable to a major terrorist attack than we were before Sept. 11."
"Initially opposed by President George W. Bush and slow-rolled by some government bodies, the work of the commission has played an important role.
"New information continues to emerge. Evidence of contact but not collaboration between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein's Iraq revives the question of why America went to war there. It appears, for example, that Iran, not Iraq, was helpful to the al-Qaida terrorists prior to Sept. 11.
"The recommendation of the commission that will attract the most attention is that the federal government now add a new, sub-Cabinet-level intelligence czar. The reason is that the commission identified a fatal lack of coordination in collecting and analyzing intelligence among the elements of the U.S. government concerned with such matters before 9/11."
"While the 9-11 commission, which issued its final report Thursday, pinpointed specific instances of failures that enabled 19 hijackers to carry out their attack on the United States, they also made it clear that no specific person or agency is to blame. The danger in this conclusion is that if everyone – or at least a lot of people – are responsible for the failures that often practically means no one is responsible. To avert this unacceptable outcome, both the president and Congress need to quickly improve the country's intelligence and security operations.
"Someone needs to be in charge of all intelligence to ensure that information is shared and directed to the appropriate agency to be acted upon. Concerns have been raised that Cabinet-level intelligence director position would be too political. Given the commission's warnings, it should be possible to overcome politics to improve the gathering and sharing of information."
The Bradenton Herald – Bradenton, Fla.
July 23, 2004
"Though many of the commission's major findings have already leaked out in staff drafts, Thursday's official version is a chilling, depressing account of failure by elected leaders, cabinet officers, intelligence agency chiefs and presidential advisers.
"Also key is the recommendation for America and its allies to affect a global strategy to dismantle al-Qaida and deal with the militant Islamic ideology that feeds terrorist violence. Since 9/11, the Bush administration has had considerable success in building international cooperation in rooting out terrorist cells. However, that effort has suffered since the war in Iraq."
"Bush, though new in the Oval Office, was the man at the helm when the Central Intelligence Agency and FBI repeatedly missed opportunities to stop the Sept. 11 hijackers. And while the president had ordered development of a strategy to destroy al-Qaida, he and those around him failed to respond effectively to a crescendo of warnings in the months preceding the terror attacks.
"The United States is much better prepared now to stop another attack-by-airliner; most of its counterterrorism efforts since Sept. 11 have revolved around airports and commercial jets. But before Sept. 11, we were also well prepared for the last major threat – military intimidation by the Soviet Union. The challenge is to anticipate tomorrow's attack, not yesterday's."