9/11 Commission Issues Update
RELEASED IN 2004, THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT detailed what led to the 2001 terrorist attacks and what could be done to make the nation safer. Ten years later, the Bipartisan Policy Center has released Reflections on the Tenth Anniversary of The 9/11 Commission Report, a look back on the changes made during the last decade, recommendations that were not followed, and where the terrorist threat stands today.
The center, which works to address challenges facing the nation through dialogue and analysis, interviewed unnamed national security leaders to understand the threat landscape. Findings included concerns over the changing face of terrorism, a lack of cyber readiness, and fragmented oversight of national security programs.
The report acknowledges that the “core” of al Qaeda has been diminished, but its affiliates have dispersed throughout the Middle East and pose a greater threat to more regions than ever before. Terrorist attacks rose by 43 percent worldwide in 2013, according to the report, and the United States still faces an evolving threat from terrorists. (For more on the increase in terrorist attacks, see “News and Trends” on page 14.)
A major concern discussed in the report is the nation’s inability to defend against cyberattacks. Although the threat is not from terrorists, state actors such as China, Russia, and Iran have caused damage in the digital world. Chinese hackers accessed U.S. weapons systems, Iran hacked into Navy computer systems, and a virus that originated in Iran disabled 30,000 computers owned by a Saudi Arabian oil company. “A growing chorus of senior national security officials describes the cyber domain as the battlefield of the future,” the report states. “Yet Congress has been unable to pass basic cybersecurity legislation, despite repeated attempts.”
The report did not hesitate to condemn Congress for being “deeply resistant to needed change.” In the 2004 9/11 Commission Report, authors urged Congress to garner control over the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to curb fragmented congressional oversight of the program.
“Regrettably, the Department of Homeland Security is still being simultaneously overseen by an unwieldy hodgepodge of committees,” the report states. “In 2004, we remarked with astonishment and alarm that DHS reported to 88 committees and subcommittees of Congress. Incredibly, Congress over the past 10 years has increased this plethora of oversight bodies to 92.”
Lastly, the report raises concerns over “counterterrorism fatigue”—the waning sense of urgency among Americans about the terrorist threat. “One of America’s most pressing challenges as a country is to resist the natural urge to relax our guard after 13 years of a draining counterterrorism struggle,” the report states. Underlying all recommendations is a call for bipartisan trust and cooperation.