Article

Are We Safer Since 9/11?

The government has taken steps to improve security, but disagreement exists over their effectiveness.

  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8

Yes

From airports to sports arenas, most Americans have experienced some of the security measures implemented since Sept. 11, 2001. Yet color-coded threat announcements and magnetometers at concerts are only part of homeland security after 9/11.

America is safer today thanks to comprehensive efforts behind the scenes. We continue to increase the layers of security and strengthen information sharing at all levels of government and in the private sector.

One example of new technologies is the Homeland Security Information Network, a computer-based system designed to strengthen the two-way flow of threat information.

This initiative includes a 24/7 operations center — the primary national nerve center for incident management operations. For the first time, first responders and private-sector partners have real-time communications with officials and lawmakers nationwide.

The Homeland Security Advisory System is our much-publicized color-coded system, which not only indicates changes in the threat level to the public, but triggers extensive protective actions in communities nationwide.

Students, their families, and all Americans can assist professionals by remaining vigilant, being patient with new security measures, and visiting www.Ready.gov or calling 1-800-BE-READY for more information about being prepared.

These new tools help thwart the terrorists and defend America. While there is still much to be done, we continue to work together every day to protect and prepare our great nation.

—Tom Ridge, Secretary of Homeland Security

No

Three years after the devastating 9/11 attacks, the government has not done enough to protect Americans against terrorists.

Because this is such a large country and we pride ourselves on being a free and open society, we will never be able to guarantee against another terrorist strike. But there is much that we can do to lessen the odds.

The biggest problem has been the war in Iraq. President Bush diverted military and intelligence resources from Afghanistan to Iraq before we finished the job against Al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden and other top operatives remain free. As a result, Al Qaeda has regenerated and launched deadly strikes in Spain, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and elsewhere.

Our long occupation of Iraq and incidents like the Abu Ghraib prison abuse have inflamed anti-American feeling in the Muslim world. Terrorist networks have been able to recruit new members at an alarming rate.

At home, our highest priority should be reform of the intelligence community, which includes the CIA and a dozen other agencies that must function as our early-warning system.

Several panels of experts have found serious problems in the way our intelligence is gathered, analyzed, and used. Former CIA Director George Tenet said he recognized the threat Al Qaeda posed in 1998 — and that he declared war against it. But few inside the CIA, and no one at other agencies like the FBI, responded to that battle cry.

Overhauling the intelligence community has been recommended for years, but there has been little, if any, real action.

—Senator Bob Graham, Democrat of Florida

top