SEPTEMBER 16, 2013
Weak congressional oversight over the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) keeps the United States vulnerable to terrorist threats posed by small aircraft and boats, cyber attacks and biological weapons, according to a diverse panel of lawmakers and security officials.
This may be difficult to swallow twelve years after the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history but it’s the conclusion of a task force of Homeland Security officials and experts as well as current and former members of Congress from both political parties. The task force found that one of the key recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission, the special panel that Congress created to investigate the terrorist attacks and prevent them in the future, has not been fulfilled.
After all these years one of the commission’s most significant recommendations to guard against future attacks has not been implemented. It’s the call for consolidated Congressional oversight of DHS, the monstrous agency created after 9/11. Jurisdiction over DHS is fragmented and that impedes the agency’s ability to deal with the three major vulnerabilities mentioned above, the experts found.
DHS has no oversight structure like other crucial agencies such as the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), the panel of intelligence experts and lawmakers reveal. Instead, more than 100 Congressional committees and subcommittees claim jurisdiction over it creating a seriously disintegrated oversight system and massive bureaucracy.
The new report indicates that, as a nation, we’ve learned little from the 2001 terrorist attacks that killed thousands of innocent Americans. Here are some of the experts who helped put the report together; former Florida Governor Bob Graham, former Bush DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, Obama DHS Undersecretary of Intelligence Caryn Wagner and California Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, the second-highest ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.
“The recommendations of the 9/11 Commission addressed problems that contributed to the United States’ vulnerability to attack” in 2001, the report says. Graham, who was co-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee on 9/11 offers an example: “We found among other things that there had been inadequate communication among the agencies with a responsibility to alert us to a security threat. The FBI and the CIA had information which, had it been brought together, might well have allowed us to have avoided 9/11.”
This lapse is attributed to the fact that Congress was not doing its job of oversight of the intelligence agencies, the report goes on to say, adding that it was one of the lessons of 9/11. A dozen years later it’s still a problem even though it was specifically laid out in the 9/11 Commission report. Most of its recommendations have been implemented, but it seems the most important one has been ignored.
The fragmented oversight negatively affects the nation’s well-being and security, the panel of lawmakers and Homeland Security experts found, because it hampers the agency’s functioning in three primary ways; redundant requests from committees drain valuable resources; the overlap of legislative roles complicates Congressional oversight and results in less Congressional control; and that same fragmentation prevents Congress from addressing pressing concerns in a timely fashion.
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