Senior 9/11 commission official says follow-up on panel recommendations has not been sufficient. The vice chairman of the Sept. 11 commission gave the federal government a "mixed grade" Friday on its performance in following through on recommendations the panel made to improve America's security.
"We're getting better at this," said commission co-chairman Lee Hamilton, a Democrat and a former congressman from Indiana. "But we still haven't proved we are safe."
Hamilton said the series of terrorist attacks in London on July 7, followed by less-serious bombings this week, demonstrated that in the war on terrorism, "the enemy is patient, they are skillful" and "they're very good at exploiting our vulnerabilities."
Hamilton and Fred Fielding, a former White House counsel who served on the 9/11 commission, said the terrorist attacks in London have heightened their concerns about Bush administration efforts to implement a host of recommendations that their panel made a year ago. "A lot of things have not been done," said Hamilton, appearing with Fielding on NBC's "Today" show. "We still do not have a single watch list (for terrorist suspects) ... that law enforcement can check on. That's been years that we've been working on it. I feel, I think some of the commissioners feel, a sense of frustration."
Among the principal recommendations the panel made in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks in New York and Washington was that there be wholesale changes in how intelligence is coordinated and how the Congress oversees the intelligence committee.
Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed into law legislation creating a new position of director of national intelligence, and former Ambassador John Negroponte is on the job. But Hamilton said Friday that not enough has been done.
"I think it's a mixed record," he said. "We always have to keep in mind that to keep rearranging the boxes doesn't necessarily mean you have an effective counterterrorism record."
Hamilton said there have been disappointments as well as successes in terms of the follow-up to the 9/11 report issued in July 2004, but there must be "even greater urgency in implementing the recommendations."
"The Congress has not made the changes to enable it to have very robust oversight of the intelligence community," Hamilton believes.