America Safer, But Still Vulnerable to Terrorism
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 22, 2004 America is safer today against potential terrorist attack, but still remains vulnerable, the Sept. 11 commission chairman said here today.
The American government and its people, Commissioner Thomas H. Kean told reporters, "were unprepared" for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist-hijacked airliner attacks in New York City, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania that killed 3,000 people.
Earlier today Kean and commission vice chairman Lee H. Hamilton presented the bipartisan National Commission On Terrorist Attacks Upon The United States report to President Bush at the White House.
Bush thanked Kean and Hamilton for the commission's efforts, noting he assured the pair "that where government needs to act, we will."
The president said he and the federal government realize "there's still a threat" to the homeland and pledged "to do everything in our power to safeguard the American people."
Bush said he looked forward to studying the commission's recommendations, reiterating, "The most important duty we have is the security of our fellow countrymen."
Prior to 9/11, Kean noted at the later news conference, the United States "did not grasp the magnitude of a threat that had been gathering over a considerable period of time."
The al Qaeda attacks, he said, resulted from "a failure of policy, management, capability -- and above all, a failure of imagination" that spanned two government administrations.
A series of intelligence and security failures, Kean noted, enabled the 19 terrorists to carry out their plans.
"Our border, immigration and aviation security agencies were not integrated into the counterterrorism effort, and much of our response on the day of 9/11 was improvised and ineffective, even as extraordinary individual acts of heroism saved countless lives," he pointed out.
Consequently, Kean said, "there's no single individual who is responsible" for failing to stop the terrorists.
Today, "our goal is to prevent future attacks," he noted. However, Kean said experts believe that another - bigger -- terrorist attack on the United States "is now possible, and even probable." Now, he urged, is the time to prepare.
The al Qaeda terror network and its subsidiaries "are sophisticated, patient, disciplined and lethal." Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's "hate-filled ideology" against America and its policies, he noted, has "instructed and inspired untold recruits and imitators."
Al Qaeda and other terror organizations, Kean asserted, pose "one of the greatest security challenges" in U.S. history. The U.S. military has struck back at the terrorists since Sept. 11, he acknowledged, and subsequent attacks on the homeland have been thwarted.
Americans "are safer today," Kean said, "than we were on 9/11."
Yet, "we are not safe," he concluded.