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Cyber domain is next battleground, authors of 9/11 report warn

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By The Washington Post
Tuesday, July 22, 2014, 7:27 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The authors of the 9/11 Commission report say that a decade after completing their seminal look at the rise of al-Qaida, the threat of terrorism has not waned and the country can ill afford to let its guard down again.

“The threat remains grave, and the trend lines in many parts of the world are pointing in the wrong direction,” former commission members wrote in “Reflections on the Tenth Anniversary of The 9/11 Commission Report,” which was released on Tuesday.

The reflections echo many of the concerns voiced in recent years in the intelligence community, particularly in relation to the growing strength of al-Qaida affiliates in Yemen, Syria and Iraq.

The authors describe the threat of a cyberattack as a significant concern, likening it to the threat of terrorism before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. They describe the “cyber domain as the battlefield of the future” and say the country needs to take further steps to prevent the cyber equivalent of 9/11.

The report is critical of Congress and urges lawmakers to enact “structural changes in oversight and appropriations for homeland security and intelligence.”

The former commission members note that in 2004 the Department of Homeland Security, which was created in the wake of 9/11, answered to 88 committees and subcommittees of Congress. Today, that number has increased to 92.

As in their previous report, the former commission members make a series of recommendations.

They urge Congress to pass cybersecurity legislation to let private companies work with the government to counter threats, despite concerns about privacy provisions. In addition, the authors say more transparency is needed to help a skeptical public understand the threat.

“Platitudes will not persuade the public,” they wrote.

The authors urge the government to declassify materials related to the commission's previous work. Those records include interview summaries and other documents held by the National Archives and Records Administration.

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