Panel Criticizes Technology, Other Changes Sought After 9/11

The privately-funded "Report on the Status of 9/11 Commission Recommendations" criticizes the President for making "minimal progress" in leading national security institutions into the information revolution, and the FBI for making minimal progress in its analytic capability.
The federal government has made minimal progress in improving technology in accordance with 9/11 Commission recommendations, according to a new report.

The 9/11 Public Disclosure Project released the second portion of its privately-funded "Report on the Status of 9/11 Commission Recommendations" Thursday. The report, by former 9/11 commissioners, examines government reform. It criticizes efforts to guard civil liberties, account for intelligence spending and share information.

It states that the President has made "minimal progress" in leading national security institutions into the information revolution and the FBI has made minimal progress in its analytic capability. The FBI also received an "unsatisfactory" grade for improving information systems.

In the original 9/11 report recommendations, the President was asked to lead a government-wide effort to bring major national security institutions "into the information revolution." The evaluation released this week said that the President has created a Director of National Intelligence but failed to provide adequate resources, personnel and backing.

"He should coordinate the resolution of the legal, policy and technical issues across agencies to create a trusted information network," the report noted, adding there are few signs that one actually exists.

The report said the FBI has been moving in the right direction, slowly. It states that efforts to improve FBI information technology capabilities have failed and the FBI's analytic capabilities, including information sharing, are "inadequate" It states that high turnover, staff shortages and the agency's culture have also impeded its success.

"The terrorists will not wait. Reforms must be accelerated or they will fail," the report states. "Unless there is improvement in a reasonable time, Congress will have to look at alternatives."

The Federal Aviation Administration and the North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) share radar feeds and coordinate action when protected air space over the nation's Capital is breached, but agency database records documenting such violations are not shared and there's no overarching plan to secure the rest of the nation's air space, according to the report. The commission claims that the administration is responsible for that, and for standardizing security clearances.

After 9/11 the government decided to make one federal agency in charge of hiring so security clearance would be standardized with a single database. The evaluation describes the security clearance process as "Balkanized." It reports that there is an excellent executive statement of policy, but changes haven't actually taken place. There are still obstacles to timely sharing of information within the government, as well as delays in hiring, according to the report.

An FBI spokesman did not immediately return calls for comment, but in April 2004, the agency stated that it had modernized its technology, improved coordination and had made significant strides in analyzing, integrating and sharing information since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. The agency reported that it had installed a high-speed network, purchased new computers, upgraded old computers and consolidated terrorist information into a single, searchable database.

The agency also touted its then newly developed "Virtual Case File," described as a state-of-the-art. However, plans for the case management system software have not yet materialized.

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