This country is more at risk to terrorism today than it was last week.
There's one reason why: the 9/11 organization run by Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton has gone out of business. Why does this make us less safe? There is now absolutely no independent scrutiny of the nation's counter-terrorism programs, policies and agencies that has clout, expertise, resources, institutional knowledge, brains and guts.
What about the United States Congress? Fair question. Congress is part of the problem. Repeat: Congress is part of the problem. The upper and lower bodies desperately need a babysitter; thanks to partisanship and pettiness, Congress has amply proved it cannot be a very effective watchdog of the rest of the government's anti-terror apparatus, much less the sole watchdog, as it has become this week.
On Monday, the 9/11 Public Discourse Project issued its "Final Report on 9/11 Commission Recommendations." The report made some news (not a ton: page A22 in The New York Times). The headline, of course, was the bad marks received by most counter-terrorism initiatives. Only one program received an "A" (cutting off terrorist financing); there were four "F's" and 12 "D's." It was a concise, businesslike update – frustrating, but not depressing.
That wasn't the important story, however.
The real headline is that Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton have shuttered their operation.
On July 22, 2004, the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States issued a famous, book-like autopsy on the events of 9/11. On August 21, in accordance with the statute that created the commission, it dissolved as a government entity. But the ten members, five Republicans and five Democrats, weren't done. They re-formed as the 9/11 Public Discourse Project (bad name, I wish they had called me), got funding from some fine foundations and kept working. They issued more reports, cajoled Congress, waged a public education campaign and the ten commissioners served as high-profile credible advocates and experts. This week's report card was their final act.
There was only one proper response from people in government to the report card: "We'll try to do better and the government ought to properly fund your continued good works."