Nearly three years ago, the bipartisan 9/11 Commission submitted its 41 recommendations to Congress on how to better protect America from terrorism.
Unfortunately, during the next two and a half years, the former GOP-led Congress failed to enact many of these recommendations into law. Indeed, in December 2005, the 9/11 Commissioners gave the GOP-led Congress poor grades on their implementation of the commission’s recommendations, including 5 F’s, 12 D’s, 9 C’s, and 2 Incompletes.
By contrast, implementing the remaining 9/11 Commission recommendations has been a top priority of the new Democratic-led 110th Congress. The first bill that the House passed this year was H.R. 1, the 9/11 bill, and the Senate passed its version in March.
Both the House and Senate bills contain strong provisions to better protect America from terrorism. They include better screening of aircraft cargo, beefing up efforts to prevent WMD from falling into terrorist hands, enhancing first responder communications interoperability, and strengthening public diplomacy to reduce the appeal of extremism at home and overseas.
This week, an unclassified version of the latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) — prepared by the National Intelligence Council, a coordinating body for the opinions of the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies – was released. It states that Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network has been able to restore key capabilities for launching another attack on U.S. soil. And, according to three top U.S. intelligence officials, al-Qaeda has rebuilt its headquarters in Pakistan and is more dangerous than at any time since the Sept. 11 attacks.
While this information first raises the question of why, nearly six years after 9/11 and two wars later, al Qaeda is still a major threat, it also makes clear how crucial it is that we enact these stalled recommendations post haste.
The House and Senate plan to go to conference committee this week to iron out differences between the two chambers’ bills. These differences are thought to be relatively minor and agreement is expected to be reached in short order.
Enactment of the conference report on H.R. 1 will be one of the key achievements of the 110th Congress. This Congress is committed to taking the steps necessary to fight terrorism and protect the homeland from attack. The blue ribbon 9/11 panel put considerable effort into coming up with their recommendations. It is our duty to see that these security-enhancing proposals are taken from the shelf, dusted off and enshrined into law.