9/11 Commission Returns, Warns of 'Nightmare Scenario'
Tuesday, July 22, 2014 07:35 AM
By: Elliot Jager and Melissa Clyne
The former members of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the U.S. — the 9/11 Commission — will issue a new report Tuesday warning that Americans have become complacent to looming terrorist threats, The Wall Street Journal reported.
"The threat remains grave, and the trend lines in many parts of the world are pointing in the wrong direction," the former commissioners say, according to The Washington Post.
The 2014 report, "Rising Terrorist Threat and the Danger to the United States," is based on assessments of intelligence community officials and addresses the dangers posed by violence in Iraq and Syria. The original report had warned that Iraq could become a breeding ground for terrorism against the U.S. homeland. "That nightmare scenario may now be coming to pass," the new report states.
"The sense of alarm surprised me. I have not heard this much concern since 9/11, said Tom Kean, the former GOP New Jersey governor who co-chaired the 9/11 commission, the Journal reported.
The current report says the U.S. homeland faces increasing threats — not the least of which are cyberattacks — from Islamist terrorists but that much of the public seems unworried.
"History may be repeating itself in the cyber realm," the report warns.
"The terrorist threat has evolved, but it is still very real and very dangerous," the report states. "Complacency is setting in. There is a danger that this waning sense of urgency will divert attention and needed resources from counterterrorism efforts."
In 2012, then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned that terrorists were targeting computer control systems that operate chemical, electricity and water plants, and those that guide transportation throughout the country, Bloomberg News reported at the time.
"We know of specific instances where intruders have successfully gained access to these control systems," Panetta said. "We also know they are seeking to create advanced tools to attack these systems and cause panic, destruction, and even the loss of life."
Panel members reconvened in advance of the 10th anniversary of their original report. The former commissioners spoke with current and former intelligence officials in preparing their 2014 assessment.
Among the issues the new report highlights is whether decision makers have sufficient authority from legislation passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks to address current evolving threats.
Another concern cited in the new report is duplication in congressional oversight. In 2004, the Department of Homeland Security reported to 88 committees and subcommittees of Congress. That number has risen to 92, The Huffington Post reported.
The new report also deals with the controversy over domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency. Lee Hamilton, the Democratic co-chairman of the panel, said the Edward Snowden revelations showed there had not been enough oversight from Congress and the courts, the Journal reported.
"I don't think that balance [between liberty and security] has been properly struck," he told the Journal. "The courts and the Congress need to become much more robust in their oversight."
The 9/11 Commission investigated the 2001 terrorist attacks by al-Qaida. The original commission closed on Aug. 21, 2004. The commissioners want the government to declassify materials related to their original work, the Post reported.