It’s been nearly 15 years since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but the U.S. has hardly made any net gains against the brand of radical extremism that inspired al Qaeda and similar groups, co-chairmen of the 9/11 Commission claimed Wednesday.
“We’re not winning; we’re simply at a stalemate,” former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean (R) told reporters during a conference call.
“The obvious fact is that we haven’t had a major attack such as 9/11 in those 15 years,” he said.
“On the other hand, we’ve had a lot of small attacks … and around the world, the situation is probably even more dangerous than it was on 9/11,” he added, noting the rise of groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as well as extremists across Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.
The comments, days before the fifteenth anniversary of the al Qaeda attacks this Sunday, are a dispiriting reflection of the state of U.S. and global security. The government underwent a massive overhaul in the years following 9/11, including the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, and has spent untold billions of dollars on improving nearly every conceivable point of vulnerability.
Yet in some places, that ramp-up has only replaced one fumbling bureaucracy with another, Kean and 9/11 Commission co-chair former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.) suggested.
“We’ve got to crank it up and do better what we’re doing and do some things that we haven’t been doing, with a great deal of robust implementation,” Hamilton said. “We don’t want to go another 15 years before we get our strategy right.”
In 2004, the 9/11 Commission offered what has been taken to be a definitive accounting of the failures in U.S. intelligence and security ahead of the Sept. 11 attacks. Among other points, it highlighted bureaucratic oversights that made it difficult for intelligence agencies to communicate with one another, and criticized policies at the border and points of entry into the U.S.
The commission also called for a robust system of congressional oversight, which the two co-chairmen said Wednesday remains sorely lacking.
“Before 9/11 nobody was doing the oversight and there were problems. And right now we’re not doing an effective job at oversight,” said Kean, noting the multiple congressional committees in some way charged with overseeing the sprawling mandate of the Department of Homeland Security.
“And until the Congress decides that its going to have a single oversight committee for homeland security, and not this panoply of 94 different committee, that’s not oversight. That’s a total lack of oversight.
“In my opinion, that’s probably our most important recommendation that still hasn’t been acted on.”
Later this year, Kean and Hamilton are planning to launch a new task force at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a think tank, to examine themes from the 9/11 Commission’s original report which have yet to be addressed.