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20 Years After 9/11, Are We Safer? Experts Say Yes

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - After the 9/11 attacks, U.S. law enforcement agencies were criticized for not sharing valuable intelligence that might have prevented the attacks from taking place.

On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, top federal law enforcement officials and security experts say there has been a 180-degree change. They say Americans are safer thanks to better technology, intelligence, and coordination between law enforcement agencies.

"We have certainly learned our lessons, we learned what to do to prevent another 9/11, we are certainly stronger," said Anthony Salisbury, Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations in South Florida.

One of the best tools, Salisbury said, is the Joint Intelligence Operations Coordination Center, where five DHS agencies work together to assess security threats in real-time. The agencies are the Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration, Customs and Broder Protection, Homeland Security Investigations, and the U.S. Border Patrol.

"It's everybody working together," Salisbury said. "All hands on deck. When something comes in you take the whole of government approach to investigate it."

At the JIOCC, agents have eyes all over South Florida and can quickly relay information to law enforcement partners, something unheard of before 9/11.

"Americans are safe, but we can't guarantee safety," said Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo.

Acevedo says improved cooperation post 9/11 has gotten results.

"We've had a lot of success," he said. "Some of that success has been public and some has not, but we have a lot to be proud of."

Stuart Kaplan, an attorney and former FBI agents, believes Americans are safer since 9/11 but he worries the sudden pullout of American troops from Afghanistan could be a game-changer, providing fertile ground for terrorists to once again plot attacks on the United States.

"I think the abrupt pullout from Afghanistan is posing a significant threat which I see as an imminent threat to our allies abroad and here in the United States," said Kaplan, who heads a global security and risk assessment company.

But threats aren't only international, they're also domestic and homegrown. That's why, experts say, public cooperation is so important to prevent future attacks.

"Every day you think about another 9/11," Salisbury said. "Every day you make sure you pursue every lead, every possible aspect of every threat."

Chief Acevedo agrees and adds that the sense of unity we all felt after the 9/11 attacks is equally important.

"On 9/11 and after 9/11 we came together as a people," Acevedo said. "We moved away from that and I think that makes us vulnerable."

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