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9/11 Panel Wants New Intelligence Body (July 26)

Members of the independent commission that investigated the September 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States are pressing for swift action to safeguard the country from further harm.

Days after Thursday’s release of a much anticipated, 500-page report, September 11 Commission Chairman Tom Kean said the United States remains vulnerable to terrorism. Speaking on the NBC “Meet the Press” program, Mr. Kean expressed dismay that, nearly three years after the 2001 attacks, more has not been done to improve America’s ability to detect and defeat terrorist plots.

“We do not think a number of the problems we identified in our report from 9/11 have been fixed,” he said. “And that is the urgency of our report, really, that now is the time. We cannot wait any longer, with everyone telling us that attacks are coming, and may be coming very soon. Not having these problems fixed is intolerable.”

Speaking on the same program, the commission’s vice-chairman, Lee Hamilton, said there are many reasons why no one should doubt that terrorists continue to plot against the United States.

“Because of intent, it is very clear these people want to kill us. Because of capability, they have the capability to strike us,” he said. “Because of the environment in which they live, I picked up the [news]paper this morning and saw [poll numbers showing] 100-percent of Egyptians are hostile towards Americans. That is the environment in which terrorism is growing.”

In its report, the September 11 Commission says America must do a better job of gathering and processing intelligence. The primary recommendation is to create a new intelligence super-structure, headed by a national intelligence director, who would work to assure better coordination of information between the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies.

“Our biggest weapon of defense is our intelligence system,” said Mr. Kean. “And if that does not work, our chances of being attacked are so much greater. And so, our major recommendation is to fix that intelligence system and do it as fast as possible.”

Some observers have suggested the commission’s recommendations amount to adding a new layer of bureaucracy to agencies that need to be more nimble, not weighed down by an expanding group of overseers.

But commission member John Lehman said the opposite is true. Speaking on ABC’s “This Week” program, Mr. Lehman said the national intelligence director’s job would be to cut through the institutional hurdles that have hindered the processing of intelligence in the past.

“He can break up these layers of bureaucracy that prevent the free-flow and the entrepreneurial gathering and analysis of intelligence to create analysis that is useful for the president,” he said.

Mr. Lehman added that the United States must also win the battle for ideas, and echoed a commission recommendation to boost funding for U.S. government broadcasts to the Muslim world.

9/11 Commission Presses Anti-Terror Recommendations