9/11 Commission chiefs: "America cannot afford to let down its guard"

The two former leaders of the 9/11 Commission warned on the 10th anniversary of their post-9/11 terror report that terrorism is still growing around the world.

"We must not become complacent. Terrorists are still plotting attacks on our homeland and aviation systems. The trend lines overseas are pointing in the wrong direction," wrote the commission's leaders, Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton, in an op-ed in USA Today Tuesday. "The 'generational challenge' against terrorism we anticipated 10 years ago has entered a new and dangerous phase. America cannot afford to let down its guard."

Among the top concerns the pair listed are the threat of U.S. and European passport holders who have gone to fight in Syria and have become radicalized, the rise of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which possess advanced bomb-making capabilities, homegrown terrorists who "self-radicalize" like the brothers that carried out the Boston Marathon bombing, cyber attacks, and the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Iraq.

"As we warned 10 years ago: If 'Iraq becomes a failed state, it will go to the top of the list of places that are breeding grounds for attacks against Americans at home.' That nightmare scenario may now be coming to pass," they wrote.

Kean and Hamilton say the government is better equipped to fight terrorism after adopting many of the recommendations they made, but said there are still areas where leaders have fallen behind. While they praise the increase in government data collection, they warned it must be balanced against civil liberties.

"Because data collection occurs out of the public eye, it is the government's burden to explain to the public what is being done and why the chosen tools are necessary. The government has failed in that regard," they wrote. While they do not mention the National Security Agency (NSA) collection by name, it is clear they are referring to the public outcry that occurred in the past year as the extent of domestic spying came to light.

The pair also said Congress has failed to implement one of the committee's key recommendations, which is reforming the "dysfunctional committee structure" that oversees homeland security. The number of committees and subcommittees with an oversight role has only grown in the last 10 years, up from 88 to 92, they wrote.

"When everyone is responsible, no one is. Reporting to a vast array of committees places a massive administrative burden on the Department of Homeland Security and distracts from other tasks," Kean and Hamilton wrote. "This congressional inaction makes America less safe and has persisted too long."

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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