Five years agothis week, the bipartisan National Commission on Terrorist Acts Upon the United States released the "9/11 Commission Report," a comprehensive review of the circumstances and actions leading up to, including, and following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The Report's concluding chapter offered a set of recommendations to dramatically refocus the federal government's efforts to prevent and prepare for future terrorist attacks.
While the scope of the Commission's recommendations was comprehensive, the ultimate goal was straightforward: in order to protect the American people, the many components within our government responsible for national security and law enforcement had to break old habits and communicate with one another more effectively.
Though clear in principle, the goal of interagency cooperation had proven elusive in practice. Before the attacks of 9/11, federal counterterrorism efforts were impeded by the failure to share key information. As a result, law enforcement officials""the men and women who often serve as the first line of defense against potential attacks""did not always receive the tools and intelligence they needed.
Since 9/11, and the Commission Report that followed, conditions have improved significantly. Both the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Division of the Department of Justice were created in the wake of the attacks. Yet in the years since, many of the interagency conflicts that proved so damaging leading up to 9/11 persisted.
In the few short months that we have served, however, we have worked together to break through remaining barriers in order to cooperatively protect the security interests of the American people. Our Departments now are diligently working together closely to ensure that intelligence about potential terror threats is shared, analyzed, and integrated into law enforcement efforts at the state, local, and tribal levels.
Department of Homeland Security and FBI agents are now physically present in each other's intelligence gathering and analysis facilities. When threats are detected, we issue joint bulletins containing vital intelligence to local law enforcement agencies. And, to ensure that improvements in communication between our Departments at the federal level reach the state, local, and tribal level, we are collaborating efforts at more than 100 Joint Terrorism Task Forces and more than 70 law enforcement "Fusion Centers" across the country.
Because the threats we face extend beyond our borders, the cooperation between the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security is increasingly global in scope. We have jointly signed agreements with a number of European Union member states "" including, most recently, Spain and the Czech Republic""that allow us to share fingerprint and other information relating to terrorism and serious crime, while at the same time ensuring that personal privacy is protected.
These agreements strengthen our collaborative efforts to investigate and prosecute terrorists, and to facilitate legal travel, while interdicting those who seek to do us harm before they cross our borders.
The threat of terrorism is still very much alive. All law enforcement agencies""and indeed all Americans""must remain vigilant. We recognize that within our Departments, significant work still remains. Yet, as we reflect upon the goals of the 9/11 Commission Report on the fifth anniversary of its release, we can report that our government is making great strides every day, and that we will move forward as partners to fulfill our solemn duty to keep the American people safe.
originally published in the wall street journal
reprinted on OEN because both authors are govt. employees.