- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Former 9/11 Commission official Lee H. Hamilton said Wednesday the United States has made progress in uncovering and foiling terrorist plots since 2001 but that President Obama and Congress are too impassive in their efforts.

“It takes political leadership to change that,” said Mr. Hamilton, a former congressman and member of the president’s Homeland Security Advisory Council. “Homeland security and the whole process has to rise to the level of priority that has not yet been achieved.”

Though such concerns resurfaced Friday when an alleged terrorist purportedly tried to blow up an international Northwest Airlines flight to Detroit, Mr. Hamilton said he has discussed them for years with Thomas Kean, chairman of the commission, formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.

Mr. Hamilton, Indiana Democrat and commission vice chairman, said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano highlighted that attitude when she said after the Christmas Day incident that “the system worked.”

Ms. Napolitano later said she was referring to the system of notifying other flights and law enforcement officials promptly after the incident occurred.

Mr. Hamilton, 78, said he intends to tell the president about his concerns, including that homeland security officials have “good intentions” but lack passion and urgency.

Among his major concerns are passenger-screening systems that cannot detect explosives, inadequate information-sharing among U.S. security agencies and the lack of a central place to process and share intelligence data.

“We’ve got some big problems here,” Mr. Hamilton said.

Still, he said the blame extends beyond U.S. lawmakers to includes airlines and their security efforts.

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