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9/11 Commissioners Say U.S. Terror Threat Is High From Hackers

July 22 (Bloomberg) -- The terrorist threat against the U.S. remains dangerous 10 years after the 9/11 Commission issued its first report -- only now the risk is greater online.

In a report to be issued today, members of the panel that studied the 2001 attacks urge Congress to enact cybersecurity legislation, the White House to communicate the consequences of potential cyber-attacks to Americans, and leaders to work with allies to define what constitutes an online attack on another country.

“The struggle against terrorism is far from over -- rather, it has entered a new and dangerous phase,” according to the 10th anniversary report, sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center and the Annenberg Public Policy Center. “America can not afford to let down its guard.”

The panel, led a decade ago by former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean, says readiness against hackers lags behind, citing one unnamed former U.S. agency official who told the panel “we are at September 10th levels in terms of cyber preparedness.” In addition, the report says al-Qaeda still poses a threat with new “breeding grounds” for attacks in Iraq and Syria.

The commission completed its work in 2004, after submitting its report and recommendations to then President George W. Bush.

The former commissioners points fingers at Congress for being resistant to reduce the 92 committees and subcommittees that have oversight of the Department of Homeland Security, which impedes the department’s work. They also said Congress has similarly left the intelligence budget fragmented. The panel says the administration of President Barack Obama has similarly failed to communicate to citizens the threat from hackers, according to the report.

“The American people remain largely unaware of the daily onslaught of cyber-attacks against our nation’s most sensitive and economically important electronic networks,” the group said. “Unfortunately, cyber readiness lags far behind this rapidly growing threat.”

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