9/11 Commission Report

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(HOST) The 9/11 Commission has given failing grades to federal government’s reforms on terrorism preparedness. Commentator Bill Seamans can’t understand why the American public isn’t in an uproar about it.

(SEAMANS) First, let me apologize if I sound self-serving but after nearly forty years in the news business I, like many other news media elders, find it difficult to be surprised and or shocked by almost any event. The exceptions in my case were the Kennedy assassination and the 9/11 terrorism disaster.

So, to my surprise, I found myself profoundly disturbed by an event this week that I think should have received major coverage and follow-up by an angry public but, instead, received routine attention and faded quickly.

I’m talking about the final report of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission that criticized the Bush administration for not enacting numerous reforms aimed at protecting you and me and ours from the next terrorist attack here at home which the experts say will surely happen. How often have you heard them say “it’s not a matter of whether, it’s a matter of when?” Yet the members of the 9/11 commission said that both President Bush and Congress have not given the suggested homeland security reforms the priority they demand.

The 9/11 Commission made forty-one recommendations most of which, they said, have not been enacted. The Commission Chairman, Republican Thomas Kean said,”That’s simply not acceptable.” A major failure has been the mismanagement of funds handed out by the Homeland Security Department of Katrina fame. Mr. Kean said, for example, one city had spent its
antiterrorism money on air conditioning for garbage trucks.

Where there’s a lot of money there’s a lot of politics – and funds have been sent to low-risk areas with powerful congresspersons while high-risk cities like New York and Washington complain that they have received too little. While our intelligence agencies were blamed for not sharing information that might have prevented 9/11, the Commission said that despite it’s reform proposals information sharing had not improved sufficiently and charged the F.B.I. with “inertia” and “complacency.”

I was particularly surprised to learn that four years later the Bush administration has failed to establish recommended universal radio spectrums for first responders. We recall that on 9/11 many fire fighters and police died because they could not communicate with each other due to frequency problems. It was said the solution is action, not rocket science.

While President Bush tells us we are fighting in Iraq to keep terrorism away from home, a commission member said, “When will our government wake up to this challenge?” He said, “Al Qaeda is quickly changing and we are not. Al Qaeda is highly dynamic and we are not.”

I ask when will we, the people, wake up and demand fewer words and more action from those responsible for realistically preparing us for the terrorism attack they say will surely happen.

Too late is not an option.

This is Bill Seamans.

Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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