Monday, August 22, 2016


"15 years after 9/11, national security is stronger — but so are the threats" PBS NewsHour 8/15/2016


SUMMARY:  As we approach the 15th anniversary of 9/11, we ponder the question:  Is America safer now from terrorism than it was on that fateful day?  Steven Brill spent the last year evaluating what has changed, including tightened airline security policies, but also how the country returned to "politics as usual."  He speaks with Judy Woodruff about his findings -- and his recommendations.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  And now a look at the current state of security inside the U.S.

As we approach the 15th anniversary of 9/11, journalist Steven Brill spent the past year looking into how the country has changed since that terrible day, what's been spent and what gaps still exist.  His article, “Are We Any Safer?”, appears in the latest issue of “The Atlantic.”

And I recently sat down with him and asked him what he learned.

STEVEN BRILL, Contributor, The Atlantic:  In a nutshell, what I concluded was, the way we have responded to the terrorist attacks, to 9/11, which, you know, changed everything, is sort of a microcosm of what we are as a country today.

A lot of it was heroic, ingenious, people going beyond the cause of duty, doing really great things.  And then a lot of it was actually quite the opposite, a lot of Beltway boondoggles, billions of dollars wasted because government contractors promised technology and solutions that they couldn't produce.

And we have struggled as a country with dealing with the notion of this new kind of risk.  The idea, as President Bush explained, after 9/11, of never again, we're never going to have a terrorist attack again, that's just unrealistic in today's world.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  You clearly give the government — and it spans several administrations, two administrations — credit for getting some things right, as you just said, but…

STEVEN BRILL:  A lot of things right, and a lot of unsung people, tens of thousands of people going to work every day at the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, places like TSA, the Border Patrol, really obsessed with the job of keeping us safe.

And the only time we notice them is when something goes wrong.  And that makes it a tough job.  On the other hand, a lot of it went back to politics as usual.  Every small town that you can think of made a request for government grants for homeland security, for everything ranging from routine fire trucks to fish tanks in a police station.

So, there are a lot of abuses.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  I was struck because, early on in the piece, you say, yes, we are safer than we were on 9/11, safer against the kind of threat we faced on 9/11.


JUDY WOODRUFF:  But the threat has changed.


JUDY WOODRUFF:  And that's what the government is — all of us are grappling with right now.

STEVEN BRILL:  We have done a lot to batten down the hatches, to make us safer, at the airports, at the ports, all over the place.

But the threats have multiplied, the threats around the world.  Our defenses are much stronger.  The offense has multiplied and is much stronger.  And it's more difficult because, unlike the kind of coordinated, orchestrated attack that we faced on 9/11, where people were communicating, money was exchanging hands, that kind of stuff which we can now track, if some lone wolf in his basement is online
JUDY WOODRUFF:  What would you say to the next leader of this country, the next president about what most needs to be done to make this country…


STEVEN BRILL:  Well, the first thing that needs not to be done is to declare war on Muslims or Islam, because that’s exactly what those terrorists want.

They want this to be the apocalyptic, end-of-all-worlds war between them and us.  And President Bush didn’t take the bait, and President Obama has resisted taking that bait.

Donald Trump campaigns on that.  And it almost makes you think — in fact, it makes me think that ISIS would love to have someone like Trump be President, because they would get the fulfillment of their dream, which is to have the great confrontation with Western civilization.

The second thing is to keep educating the country.  While doing everything we can to prevent terrorism, keep educating the country to the reality that there are going to be some attacks, and that doesn’t mean it’s the apocalypse.  It doesn’t mean we’re weak.

Saying there are going to be attacks doesn’t mean you’re throwing in the towel, but it means we have to be realistic.

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