Friday, September 09, 2016

Fifteen Years After 9/11, Are We Any Safer?

Aug 9, 2016
Press Releases, The Atlantic

Washington, D.C. (August 9, 2016)—On September 11, 2001, 19 terrorists used four jetliners as guided missiles to kill 2,977 people, enveloping the nation in an aura of fear and vulnerability. Fifteen years later, and after $1 trillion has been spent, The Atlantic's latest cover story by Steven Brill tells the story of the September 12 era: how we have confronted—sometimes heroically and sometimes irrationally—the mechanics, politics, and psychic challenges of the threat of terrorism at home.

The Atlantic's September cover story, "Are We Any Safer?," is now on TheAtlantic.com. The multimedia package includes a video in which Brill unpacks the little-discussed impact of a dirty bomb in a U.S. city, and an email exchange between President Barack Obama and Brill, in which the president reflects on the lessons of September 11 and how that has informed his approach to evolving threats to the homeland.

In a year of intensive reporting, Brill scoured the 9/11 response: interviewing key national-security players—including Obama, Jeh Johnson, James Comey, Richard Clarke, Tom Ridge, Ray Kelly, and Janet Napolitano—and poring through thousands of pages of Government Accountability Office reports and congressional testimony. The article looks at the initial shock following the "failure to connect the dots," as well as the creation of an entirely new security apparatus. It is a the story of extraordinary progress and extravagant failures. From the rise of the Islamic State and lone wolves to the seeming inevitability of a dirty bomb, threats are evolving faster than efforts against them. All of this raises a much larger question: How do we come to terms with the fact that we'll never be completely safe?

Among the United States' many security successes, Brill's investigation reveals some wildly ineffective spending along the way:
  • FirstNet: The prize for the most wasteful post-9/11 initiative arguably should go to FirstNet—an agency set up to provide a telecommunications system exclusively for firefighters, police, and other first responders. Fifteen years after the problem it was supposed to solve was identified, it is still years from completion—and it may never get completed at all. According to the GAO, estimates of its cost range from $12 billion to $47 billion, even as advances in digital technology seem to have eliminated its very need.
(More here.)

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