9/11 Commission's '10 Years Later' Report: The Only Problem With US Counterterrorism Efforts Is The General Public

from the 9/11-hereafter-to-be-referred-to-as-'Dependence-Day' dept

The 9/11 Commission has released a followup to its original report, detailing the government's activity in response over the past decade. Unfortunately, those who feel the 9/11 attacks ushered in a new era of government overreach and diminished civil liberties will be hard-pressed to see anything encouraging in this report's concerns and recommendations.

Some of the Commission's findings are unsurprising. Yes, terrorist groups and tactics have evolved since 9/11 and yes, the government's counterterrorism efforts seem largely focused on preventing stuff that already happened (this being the TSA's particular area of "expertise"). But the report also warns that our efforts to prevent terrorist attacks are in danger of faltering due to "fatigue" and a "waning sense of urgency," while failing to point out that the government itself is largely to blame.

Many Americans think that the terrorist threat is waning—that, as a country, we can begin turning back to other concerns. They are wrong. The absence of another major attack on the homeland is a success in itself but does not mean that the terrorist threat has diminished. The threat remains grave, and the trend lines in many parts of the world are pointing in the wrong direction. We cannot afford to be complacent—vigorous counterterrorism efforts are as important as ever. Without public support, the government will not be able to sustain the robust capabilities and policies needed to keep Americans safe.
The government has repeatedly attempted to portray the nation as being under the constant threat of attack. While there are certainly threats out there, the danger posed has been overstated -- and the Commission echoing this only makes it worse. This "fatigue" will only intensify if the Commission's suggestions are acted on. To date, the NSA has been unable to point to much evidence that its broad collection efforts have actually reduced the terrorist threat, much less prevented any attacks. The FBI, whose main focus shifted to counterterrorism shortly after 2001, has been even worse. The terrorist plots "disrupted" by the investigative agency have almost exclusively been handcrafted by the FBI itself.

The Commission's "one page summary" (which in true bureaucratic fashion is actually two pages) is a good place to start to get some idea of how many bad ideas are espoused in the 40+ page report, like calling for CISPA/CISA-esque legislation, giving the government even more access to private companies' data in the name of fighting cyberterrorism.
Congress should enact cybersecurity legislation to enable private companies to collaborate with the government in countering cyber threats. Companies should be able to share cyber threat information with the government without fear of liability. Congress should also consider granting private companies legal authority to take direct action in response to attacks on their networks.
Other suggestions aren't nearly as bad. For one, the Commission suggests an overhaul of DHS oversight, something that is currently handled (in one way or another) by 92 committees and subcommittees. It also encourages more transparency, something the two administrations involved in the post-9/11 "War on Terror" have thoroughly avoided.
The National Archives and the administration should work expeditiously to make all remaining 9/11 Commission records available to the public.

National security leaders must communicate to the public—in specific terms—what the state of the threat is, how the threat is evolving, and what measures are being taken to address it.
But when the Commission begins discussing what it finds the US has handled well post 9/11, the wheels start to come off. Dubious statistics are deployed to portray the terrorist threat as constant and growing. The number of people currently on the government's "no-fly list" is presented without the faintest trace of incredulity, as if "20k+" splashed in bold, colorful text actually means the TSA is keeping 20,000 dangerous individuals from entering US airspace.

The report also cites the State Dept.'s statistics showing that terrorist attacks around the world increased 43% from 2012 to 2013. While it acknowledges this increase was almost completely relegated to regions where terrorist attacks have always been common (Pakistan, Iraq, etc.), the Commission goes on to claim this doesn't indicate a decreased threat to the US and cites in support… attacks in Libya and Kenya. While there's no doubt certain terrorists still harbor plenty of enmity towards the US, the likelihood of them succeeding in an attack on American soil still remains where it was on Sept. 10, 2011, Sept. 11, 2001 and every day since then: exceedingly minimal.

The report takes a turn for the ridiculous when discussing cyberattacks, going from warning against complacency and inadequate national security measures to praising the US for its highly symbolic, hypocritical and politically dangerous indictment of five Chinese military officers for hacking US companies' computers.
The Department of Justice’s May 2014 indictment of five Chinese military officers for hacking into the systems of large American companies has helped bring attention to this problem, but the American people remain largely unaware of the magnitude of the cyber threat. That needs to change. Senior leaders in the executive branch and Congress must describe to the American people, in terms as specific as possible, the nature of the threat and the tools they need to combat it.
Things go to completely absurd in the next sentence, which attempts to bring the cyberwar home by quoting copyright industry talking points.
Former NSA Director General Keith Alexander has described the ongoing cyber theft of American companies’ intellectual property (IP) as “the greatest transfer of wealth in history.” According to the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property, the annual losses from IP theft are over $300 billion—approximately the amount of U.S. exports to Asia. This ongoing plunder will harm American competitiveness, depress job creation, and ultimately reduce the U.S. standard of living.
Elsewhere, the Commission congratulates the TSA on a job well done, never acknowledging the fact that the agency's efforts are largely useless and mainly focused on reacting to the last threat that escaped their pre-boarding processes. (Shoe bomber, eh? Everyone start taking your shoes off!, etc.)
Senior leaders agree that America’s layered approach to homeland defense, which recognizes that no single security measure is foolproof, has improved our security. Each layer is effective in its own right, and each is supported by other layers of security. The system begins with intelligence gathered overseas and at home about individuals and organizations who may intend to do us harm. It includes screening systems that prevent suspects from boarding planes or entering the country via other means. At its best, a layered system integrates the capabilities of federal, state, and local government agencies.
More bizarrely, the same Commission that pointed out that the failure to share data between agencies allowed the 9/11 terrorists to reenter the country undetected now praises the "response" to the Boston Bombing as an example of "learning the lessons" of 9/11. The Commission glosses over the fact that the same sort of mistakes were made (info not passed along to other agencies, certain intel ignored) that could have prevented the attack.
America’s resilience has improved as well. Federal, state, and local authorities have absorbed and applied the lessons of 9/11 over the last decade. For example, joint federal, state, and local exercises staged in Boston over the last several years paid dividends in the well-executed response to the Boston Marathon bombings. Years of investment and planning helped ensure that the consequences of a terrible tragedy were dealt with in a controlled and systematic way.
The Commission also plays directly into the intelligence/national security narrative in its choice of language. While pressing for greater transparency and a larger emphasis on safeguarding civil liberties (in hopes of bringing Americans "back on board" with expensive, invasive counterterrorism efforts), the Commission poisons the well with these sentences.
Since 2004, when we issued the report, the public has become markedly more engaged in the debate over the balance between civil liberties and national security. In the mid-2000s, news reports about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs caused only a slight public stir. That changed with last year’s leaks by Edward Snowden, an NSA contractor who stole 1.7 million pages of classified material. Documents taken by Snowden and given to the media revealed NSA data collection far more widespread than had been popularly understood. Some reports exaggerated the scale of the programs. While the government explained that the NSA’s programs were overseen by Congress and the courts, the scale of the data collection has alarmed the public.
With this tone established, the Commission calls for greater oversight of the NSA, which it does need. But its brief nod towards protecting civil liberties doesn't even rise to the level of lip service. The Commission seems to feel that if the NSA/administration just talk about surveillance programs more openly, the American public will be more receptive. In summary: Americans just need to be told why their civil liberties are being violated and they'll be cool with it.
Senior leaders must now make this case to the public. The President must lead the government in an ongoing effort to explain to the American people—in specific terms, not generalities—why these programs are critical to the nation’s security. If the American people hear what we have heard in recent months, about the urgent threat and the ways in which data collection is used to counter it, we believe that they will be supportive. If these programs are as important as we believe they are, it is worth making the effort to build a more solid foundation in public opinion to ensure their preservation.
More transparency and specificity would be appreciated, but a "discussion" on national security isn't one small but powerful group telling everyone else how it's going to be, no matter how many details are included.

There are many more troubling assertions and suggestions scattered throughout the report. The Commission revisits the TSA, again praising the no-fly list and making a blatantly false statement in its defense.
Before September 11, there were only 16 names on the no-fly list. Today, there are more than 1,000 times that many, along with a redress process to correct mistakes.
Bigger isn't always better and the redress process is such a joke that a judge has declared it to be unconstitutional. The Commission also calls for faster implementation of REAL ID and biometric databases. So much for the civil liberties concerns, apparently.
With the REAL ID Act gradually being implemented by the states, the country is poised to fulfill our recommendation that the federal government “set standards for the issuance of birth certificates and sources of identification, such as drivers licenses.” But another key recommendation, a biometric exit-tracking system, has still not been implemented, and there is no end in sight.
In total, the Commission's report is everything the DHS/NSA/FBI, etc. could have hoped for. It calls for more of the same, only faster, harder and with bigger budgets. Very little of what has sprung in place as the result of hasty post-attack legislation is questioned. The ongoing farce that is the TSA is given a solid thumbs-up. The only problem with the DHS is that it answers to too many masters. The major problem, it seems, is that the American public isn't nearly as comfortable with a no-rules, by-any-means-necessary "War on Terror" as it was in the wake of the September 11th attacks. The Commission believes the only thing really missing is a governmental voice persuasive enough to talk the public out of its civil liberties in exchange for some shiny "safety" baubles.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

    silverscarcat (profile), Jul 25th, 2014 @ 2:06am

    Oh gee...

    I wonder WHY the public doesn't care about terrorism as much as they used to... Hmm...

    Something about a boy and a wolf and yelling that a wolf was attacking too often and no one came to help him when it really did.

    I'm not sure why I think a boy crying for help when a wolf eats him comes to mind, but I'm sure that's what's going on here.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2014 @ 4:27am

    For one, the Commission suggests an overhaul of DHS oversight, something that is currently handled (in one way or another) by 92 committees and subcommittees.

    My solution involves absolutely zero oversight for an agency such as the DHS. By disbanding it.

    At this point we are better off if we roll back the overwhelming majority of our security policies to those on Sept 10, 2001.


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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2014 @ 4:31am

    For one, the Commission suggests an overhaul of DHS oversight, something that is currently handled (in one way or another) by 92 committees and subcommittees.

    And here we have it, the cause of global warming is all the hot air that that oversight generates, while leaving the DHS to do whatever the hell it likes.


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    me, Jul 25th, 2014 @ 4:58am


    When we see the FBI manufacturing terror plots much as the news is packaged by the networks, how trust worthy are the people really?

    How much of this is bullshit manufactured by bullshit artists to justify their army surplus and the war on terror and drugs......

    Hows the drug war goin with increasing numbers of states legalizing weed? Sucik it up, because they're losing it.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2014 @ 5:28am


    Never I thought that I would be broblem against TERRORISM.
    Perhaps some humanoids are starting to think cost and effect of those War against ___________ stuff and realize that stupid people do stupid stuff, and human minds don't often do well with power. They also have habit to like it and do those stupid things to keep it.

    Conclusion: Unfortunately those who like those ideas or behaviors have broken minds.
    (sedatives don't help BTW)


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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2014 @ 5:42am

    Who is the real terrorist?

    America or the people they claim to be the terrorists?

    Tyranny will come to this nation under the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.

    Proven truth right there! People have forgotten that the Citizens are responsible for keeping OURSELVES safe and free... not the actual government, this was one of the reasons for the 2nd amendment!

    When you take the guns away from the free so they that the 'free' may be guarded by a police, then the free gave up all freedom they had and now only enjoy the privileges allowed at their 'protectors' pleasure.

    The government has become a literal racket!


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2014 @ 5:52am

    The Commission seems to feel that if the NSA/administration just talk about surveillance programs more openly, the American public will be more receptive. In summary: Americans just need to be told why their civil liberties are being violated and they'll be cool with it.

    For a long time the management at my former job used the same mindset each time the employee survey results came back showing poor satisfaction with compensation. "We're going to put together a presentation on how compensation works, because it's clear a lot of people still don't understand it."

    That was never the problem. People understood how it worked. It got low scores because they didn't like it.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2014 @ 6:33am

    The entire report can be summed up in a few words:
    Completely oblivious to public concern.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2014 @ 6:33am


    ...or just Oblivious for short.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2014 @ 7:05am

    Re: Re:

    It is not oblivious, don't for one second treat information that is structure this way as oblivious.

    How you spin your lies are very important when it comes to fooling people! This whole NSA/Terrorism apparatus we allowed our corrupt government to build is just a backdoor effort to do what the politicians like Clintoon, Bush tards, and now Hoebama's have always wanted via their corporate masters... enslave the nation and its sheep in all but name.


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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2014 @ 7:18am

    how the hell can they blame this on the general public, when what is wanted is some privacy and freedom as well as security. having security and nothing else is unacceptable! those that think it's ok haven't been under the spotlight, yet, so try it and see how it feels. to lose everything else in payment for security, that price is way too high!!


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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2014 @ 7:19am


    Politicians are the worst for that mind set, as rather than representing the people they want to rule them. Proselytizing religious leader are the same as well. All these people will enslave you for your own good.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2014 @ 8:43am

    I feel like I'm reading government propaganda from 2002. If there's an increased threat of terrorism, it's due to the US causing Middle East's collapse and arming ISIS. Syrian Islamist who make the Taliban look tame.

    I didn't see any of that in the report anywhere. I also didn't read anything about Neo Nazis in Ukraine. The 9/11 propaganda report also left out that the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdad was probably radicalized in a US run prison in Iraq.


    Did I miss the section of the 9/11 report about taxpayer bailouts of world banks, which caused global destabilization and social unrest? Or was that major event of the last decade just completely skipped over?

    My interpretation of the report. The US tried to fight terrorism, but went about it all wrong. Now the entire world is worse off, more unstable, and the US managed to make things worse. Not better.

    So an all around complete failure. Now the 9/11 commission wants to double down on those failures. That's the very definition of insanity.

    The 9/11 commission wants everyone so wound up and scared, that nobody can even think straight. It's the completely wrong strategy, as the past 12 years have shown with Iraq and the debt ridden US economy. A lot of it is war debt.


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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2014 @ 9:23am

    In a nutshell they're opting for a complete takeover by security and privatized corporations and a public burning of the Constitution.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2014 @ 9:37am


    Democracy just doesn't work unless the leaders educate the people on how to think and vote.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    Raging Alcoholic, Jul 25th, 2014 @ 9:53am

    Jesse Ventura could fix the DHS. Look at all the other government corruption he has exposed with his TV shows. Jesse Ventura loves America and can save us.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    Jeremy Lyman (profile), Jul 25th, 2014 @ 10:30am

    It just ain't terrorism without the constant fear.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    Mason Wheeler (profile), Jul 25th, 2014 @ 11:07am

    This ongoing plunder will harm American competitiveness, depress job creation, and ultimately reduce the U.S. standard of living.

    The problem is, this is exactly what's happening, but for a very different reason that most people aren't aware of, and since most people don't understand the causality behind it, when it keeps happening (and getting worse), copyright abusers will be able to point to this and say "see, we told you so!"

    The simple truth is that the US economy, and American competitiveness and the job market that it supports, is overwhelmingly driven by one factor: consumer spending. And consumer spending is overwhelmingly driven by the largest, most influential consumer demographic: the baby boom generation. But the baby boomers are beginning to retire now, which means they're starting to care more about saving money, paying off debts, and reducing expenditures to fit reduced incomes... which means they've switched from driving the economy to dragging it down. And that's not going to change until the vast majority of them are dead.

    The last time the US had a major "boom generation" starting to age was the 1930s, and we all know how that turned out. The US is going to be in decline for the next couple decades, and there's really nothing we can do about it, short of taking a page directly from the playbook of Nazi Germany. If we aren't willing to go to such horrendous extremes (and I certainly hope that we aren't!) then we just have to do the best we can and wait it out.


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    Ninja (profile), Jul 25th, 2014 @ 11:23am

    As we've discussed before, the real enemy is "the people".


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    Ninja (profile), Jul 25th, 2014 @ 11:25am


    Actually, if we know this doesn't work and that one bonanza generation fucks up the next then we have to start rethinking the system, no?


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    Mason Wheeler (profile), Jul 25th, 2014 @ 11:45am

    Re: Re:

    Rethink what system? The consumer-driven economy?


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    Deserttrek, Jul 25th, 2014 @ 12:26pm

    Don't believe a word of it

    this is a just another government lie to get more power over our lives and finances..... i do not believe a word that comes out of any agency and for those charged to protect and o prosecute i trust even less... the country is safe from the outside, it is the militarized cops and extreme anti freedom government that scares me the most


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    Padpaw (profile), Jul 25th, 2014 @ 12:56pm

    To be fair Americans are under constant attack. Though that is from those in their government that are actively trying to destroy their constitution and any rights citizens have.

    You have those in power funding and training terrorism across the world, The CIA supporting terrorists with guns and money, the FBI creating fake terrorism plots, the CEO's of the big banks laundering money for terrorists.


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    John Fenderson (profile), Jul 25th, 2014 @ 1:08pm

    What strikes me about this report

    What strikes me as particularly out of touch about the report, particularly where it talks about how the public just needs to be educated and they'll be on board, is that it assumes that there exists a measure of trust between the citizens and the government.

    There is no such trust, especially since the Snowden leaks (and the government's response to those leaks) have proven without a shadow of a doubt that the government lies to us constantly, and the more important the topic, the more lying they do.

    Even if the commission's report was correct in every conclusion, to get the public on their side requires more than education. It requires rebuilding trust, and the damage to credibility has been so severe that this won't happen in less than one generation (at the most optimistic.)


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    Padpaw (profile), Jul 25th, 2014 @ 1:31pm


    that is a very dangerous attitude for anyone in power, at least until they get rid of that pesky 2nd amendment enabling people to fight back against their opressors


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    Padpaw (profile), Jul 25th, 2014 @ 1:38pm

    Re: What strikes me about this report

    Maybe they will go the route of mandatory re education. That is already a court decided fate. Anyone that distrust their government must be mentally ill and needs to go for treatment until they trust their government. As in the case of Lauryn Hill who was sentenced to re education counseling for her beliefs about the government.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    John85851 (profile), Jul 25th, 2014 @ 2:41pm

    Re: Oh gee...

    I was just about to say this.

    Of course the public has "fatigue"- wouldn't you be fatigued if you were fighting a "war" for the past 10 years, especially with nothing to show for it.

    Where are all the big terrorist cells that the FBI and NSA have broken up? Where's the "saved at the last minute" rescue, like we see on "24"?
    Instead, we get vague announcements that the airport is on "orange alert".

    So like the last poster said, of course people are going to stop listening to the government that keeps crying wolf.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    Anonymous Coward, Jul 25th, 2014 @ 9:13pm


    Even when you consider various policy blunders, the cast of the movie Predator has still given us a higher percentage of serviceable politicians than the graduating classes of all the Ivy League schools combined.

    I'm also hoping that somehow Roddy Piper will wind up replacing Diane Feinstein.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

    GEMont (profile), Jul 26th, 2014 @ 12:06pm

    I pledge Allegiance to the False Flag...

    Oh oh.

    Looks like its time for another "Oops! We somehow missed that terorrist" situation again, like the one in Boston.

    They'll have to make it a much bigger bomb and kill way more innocent civilians this time though, because the US public was unimpressed with that last one.

    Time to put the fear back into JQ Public, and get all those tax-payer funded multi-billion dollar Anti-Terrorism Budgets back online for another decade or three.

    Look out US. Your Federal Government Special Ops teams are about to don their "Rag-head Drag" once again and blow up another of your cities, in the name of Allah.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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