Released in 2004, The 9/11 Commission Report detailed what led to the terrorist attacks and what could be done to make the nation safer. Ten years later, the Bipartisan Policy Center has released a look back on the changes made during the last decade and where the terrorist threat stands today in Reflections on the Tenth Anniversary of The 9/11 Commission Report.
The organization, which works to address challenges facing the nation through dialogue and analysis, interviewed unnamed national security leaders to understand the threat landscape. Findings included concerns over the changing face of terrorism, a lack of cyber readiness, and fragmented oversight of national security programs.
The report acknowledges that the “core” of al Qaeda has been diminished, but its affiliates have dispersed throughout the Middle East and pose a greater threat to more regions than ever before. Terrorist attacks rose by 43 percent worldwidein 2013, according to the report, and the United States still faces an evolving threat from terrorists.
Although the U.S. homeland has not been targeted in recent years, the report acknowledges an increased focus on the American presence overseas, including diplomatic posts, military bases, and American businesses in foreign countries.
“The absence of another 9/11-style attack does not mean the threat is gone: as 9/11 showed, a period of quiet can be shattered in a moment by a devastating attack,” the report states.
Another concern brought up in the report is the nation’s inability to defend against cyberattacks. Although the threat is not from terrorists, state actors, such as China, Russia, and Iran, have caused damage in the digital world. Chinese hackers have accessed U.S. weapons systems, Iran hacked into Navy computer systems, and a virus originated in Iran left 30,000 computers of a Saudi Arabian oil company inoperable.
Security officials are afraid that these attacks will continue to increase and that terrorist groups will begin to take their attacks to the digital realm.
“A growing chorus of senior national security officials describes the cyber domain as the battlefield of the future,” the report states. “Yet Congress has been unable to pass basic cybersecurity legislation, despite repeated attempts.”
The report emphasizes the importance of informing the American public of this problem to garner more support in bolstering the nation’s cyberdefenses. Cyberattacks are largely affecting private companies and cost the country more than $300 billion in intellectual property theft, and this plunder will harm American competitiveness, depress job creation, and reduce the standard of living.
The report did not hesitate to condemn Congress for being “deeply resistant to needed change.” In the 2004 9/11 Commission Report, authors urged Congress to garner control over the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to curb fragmented congressional oversight of the program.
“Regrettably, the Department of Homeland Security is still being simultaneously overseen by an unwieldy hodgepodge of committees,” the report stated. “In 2004, we remarked with astonishment and alarm that DHS reported to 88 committees and subcommittees of Congress. Incredibly, Congress over the past 10 years has increased this plethora of oversight bodies to 92.”
Lastly, the report raises concerns over “counterterrorism fatigue”—the waning sense of urgency among Americans who believe the terrorist threat is waning.
“One of America’s most pressing challenges as a country is to resist the natural urge to relax our guard after 13 years of a draining counterterrorism struggle,” the report states.
To read the full report, visit the Bipartisan Policy Center Web site.