After 9/11, flaws remain in nation's emergency response system
INDIANAPOLIS - When the government began looking for answers after the 9/11 terror attacks, one of the people it looked to was former Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton. He was vice-chair of the 9/11 Commission, and ten years later, he says the United States is still vulnerable to attack from terrorists.
For 34 years, Lee Hamilton represented Indiana's 9th district in Congress. In the last ten, he has been working to improve the country's defense against terrorist attacks.
"I think it is important that we try to remove as much of the risk as we can," said Hamilton.
To do that, the 9/11 commission issued 41 major recommendations from foreign relations to intelligence gathering to emergency response. He says the government has implemented most of the recommendations, with one major flaw. Most first responders are still not able to communicate with each other while responding to an emergency.
"This really is a bit of an outrage. Ten years after 9/11, this no-brainer recommendation. It's very frustrating to me that we have not achieved that," he said.
Hamilton says it's important because the death of Osama bin Laden does not mean the death of Al-Qaeda, and he expects more attempted attacks on American soil.
"I think we are much much safer than we were prior to 9/11. We are not safe enough. We still have a lot to do. We must not become complacent and I hope the government will maintain a degree of urgency," he said.
Much of that falls on Congress, which Hamilton says has lost its effectiveness due to partisan bickering over other issues.
"The members of Congress better begin to take more seriously their oath of office, 'I swear to uphold and defend the constitution of the United States' and make the Congress a much more effective, viable and robust arm of government," Hamilton said.
Without an effective Congress, Hamilton says the government may not have the will to stand up to what he sees as a still-present danger of terrorist attack.
Hamilton likens the "war on terror" to the "cold war" in that he's not sure we can win a war on terror, but by being firm, terror - like communism -will collapse on its own.