Wed, Dec 07, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Gaping holes in US security system still exist: report

AP , WASHINGTON

Time, money and ever-present terror threats have done little to close gaping holes in the US' security system, the former Sept. 11 Commission said in accusing the government of failing to protect the country against another attack.

The panel cited disjointed airplane passenger screening methods, pork-barrel security funding and other problems in saying the administration of US President George W. Bush and Congress had not moved quickly enough to enact the majority of its recommendations of July last year.

"We're frustrated, all of us -- frustrated at the lack of urgency in addressing these various problems," said Thomas Kean, a Republican and former New Jersey governor who was chairman of the commission.

"We shouldn't need another wake-up call," Kean said on Monday. "We believe that the terrorists will strike again; so does every responsible expert that we have talked to. And if they do, and these reforms that might have prevented such an attack have not been implemented, what will our excuse be?"

Rather than disbanding like most federally appointed commissions when their terms expire, Kean and the other nine commissioners continued their work as a private entity called the 9/11 Public Discourse Project.

Wrapping up more than three years of investigations and hearings, the former commission on Monday issued what members said was their final assessment of the government's counterterror performance as a report card. It gave failing "F" grades in five areas, and issued only one "A" -- actually an A-minus -- for the Bush administration's efforts to curb terrorist financing.

The five "F"s were for:

Failing to provide a radio system to allow first responders from different agencies to communicate with each other during emergencies.

Distributing federal homeland security funding to states on a ``pork-barrel'' basis instead of risk.

Failing to consolidate names of suspicious airline travelers on a single terror watch screening list.

Hindering congressional oversight by retaining intelligence budget information as classified materials.

Failing to engage in an alliance to develop international standards for the treatment and prosecution of detained terror suspects.

The panel, which has operated as a nonprofit group since disbanding last year, also gave the government 12 "D"s and "B"s, nine "C"s and two incomplete grades.

Congress established the commission in 2002 to investigate government missteps that led to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Nearly 3,000 people were killed when 19 hijackers organized by al-Qaeda flew airliners into New York City's World Trade Center and the Pentagon and caused a crash in the Pennsylvania countryside.

On Capitol Hill, Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike agreed that Congress has not done enough to shore up security.

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