Brennan: US ready for 9/11 anniversary

President Obama's top counterterrorism adviser said Thursday the United States is "always on guard" against terrorist attacks, rather than focused on the threat of a possible attack prompted by significant events.

"We are taking appropriate steps to increase security" in advance of the high-profile events taking place on the upcoming 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan said Thursday at a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor.

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Events designed to commemorate the 10th anniversary are taking place at all three sites of the terrorist attacks — New York City, Arlington, Va., and Shanksville, Pa. — on Monday and over the weekend. President Obama will attend ceremonies at all three sites, former president George W. Bush will attend a memorial service at Ground Zero in New York City and Vice President Biden will attend the dedication of the National United 93 Memorial in Shanksville.

Brennan said the intelligence community found evidence that Osama Bin Laden had been "mindful" of the anniversary and was looking to plan an attack to coincide with the meaningful date.

The United States has raised the defense alert level as a precaution ahead of the anniversary.

However, Brennan indicated the threat of an attack on a meaningful date is not necessarily significantly higher than any other day. Terrorist groups relied more heavily on their operational timeline to prepare an attack than on a particular date, according to Brennan.

Although terrorists might appreciate the "coincidence" of attacking on an important date, Brennan pointed out that there was no significance to the date of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Brennan expressed optimism about the progress made by the U.S. intelligence community since Sept. 11, 2001. "Compared to 9/11 we have moved light years," Brennan said. The system is "more dynamic now," he said, and can change very quickly based on new intelligence.

He also criticized "individuals on both sides of the aisle" who use terrorist threats "for political gain."

"People who haven't ridden in the saddles of the counterterrorism cavalry don't understand the challenge we face," he said.

Brennan pushed for further advances in biometric screening technology, which would help continue to move anti-terrorism efforts away from a name-dependent intelligence system.

"The biometric front is one that I think we need to explore aggressively," Brennan said.

Brennan also advocated the controversial Department of Homeland Security program known as REAL ID. The 2005 Act provided standards for digitalized identity cards that have been rejected by 24 state legislatures. 

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