9/11 Panel: U.S. Fails Terror Test

Mary Fetchet, whose 24-year-old son Brad was killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center, wipes away tears as she listens to members of the 9/11 Public Discourse Project.
Since September 11, taxpayers have spent tens of billions of dollars to secure airports, harbors and cities and to better prepare first responders.

But in a scathing final report Monday, the former 9/11 commission warned that the U.S. remains at great risk to another terrorist attack.

The panel cited disjointed airplane passenger screening methods, pork-barrel security funding and other problems in saying the Bush administration and Congress had not moved quickly enough to enact the majority of its recommendations of July 2004.

"We're frustrated, all of us — frustrated at the lack of urgency in addressing these various problems," said Thomas Kean, a Republican and former New Jersey governor who was chairman of the commission.

"We shouldn't need another wake-up call," Kean said Monday. "We believe that the terrorists will strike again; so does every responsible expert that we have talked to. And if they do, and these reforms that might have prevented such an attack have not been implemented, what will our excuse be?"

View the report card (.pdf).

Rather than disbanding like most federally appointed commissions when their terms expire, Kean and the other nine commissioners continued their work as a private entity called the 9/11 Public Discourse Project.

In what they say is their final assessment of the government's counterterror performance, panel members gave failing "F" grades in five areas, and issued only one "A" — actually an A-minus — for the Bush administration's efforts to curb terrorist financing.

The five "F"s were for:

  • Failing to provide a radio system to allow first responders from different agencies to communicate with each other during emergencies.
  • Distributing federal homeland security funding to states on a "pork-barrel" basis instead of risk.
  • Failing to consolidate names of suspicious airline travelers on a single terror watch screening list.
  • Hindering congressional oversight by retaining intelligence budget information as classified materials.
  • Failing to engage in an alliance to develop international standards for the treatment and prosecution of detained terror suspects.

    The panel, which has operated as a nonprofit group since disbanding last year, also gave the government 12 "D"s and "B"s, nine "C"s and two incomplete grades.

    Commission members say homeland security dollars have been squandered, CBS News correspondent Bob Orr reports. Police and fire crews like those who struggled in Hurricane Katrina still can't talk to one another by radio. Columbus, Ohio, bought bulletproof vests for its fire department dogs. And Newark, New Jersey bought air-conditioned trash trucks.

    "If our children in our country were receiving five F's and 12 D's, they would be repeating grades. We can't have our government, that's supposed to be protecting us, getting this kind of scandalous report card," former Congressman Tim Roemer, a member of the panel, told CBS News' The Early Show.