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Thomas Kean (voanews.com)

Members of the 9-11 commission criticized the U.S. government for not doing enough to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists.

Thomas Kean – chairman of the panel established by Congress to probe the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks – said “the most striking thing to us is that the size of the problem still totally dwarfs the policy response,” Reuters reported.

Kean, former Republican governor of New Jersey, noted President Bush has called the spread of nuclear weapons the country’s most serious threat, pointing out al-Qaida’s pursuit of an atomic bomb over the past decade.

“In short, we still do not have a maximum effort against the most urgent threat – everybody agrees – the most urgent threat to the American people,” Kean told reporters today.

As WorldNetDaily has reported, bin Laden’s 10-year effort to acquire nuclear weapons and deliver them inside the U.S. for an attack on seven major cities, raises the specter of an imminent “nuclear hell storm,” according to Paul Williams, author of “The Al-Qaeda Connection.”

While the 9-11 panel’s major report in July last year centered on the attack and U.S. response to the terrorist threat, today’s assessment charted progress on proliferation, foreign policy and public diplomacy issues.

The commission formally disbanded, but members are organized now as the 9/11 Public Discourse Project to track implementation of the 2004 report.

Kean said that under the current rate of progress, the U.S. won’t be able to safeguard nuclear weapons from terrorists for 14 years, Bloomberg News reported.

“Is there anybody anywhere who thinks we have 14 years?” Kean asked. “This is unacceptable.”

Most of the unsecured stockpile is in the former Soviet Union, he said. About half of those weapons are not adequately protected.

The panel, which made 41 recommendations in its original report, also said the U.S. has done a poor job presenting its image to the Muslim world, allowing fundamentalists to exploit ill will toward the U.S.

Democratic panel member Richard Ben-Veniste pointed to abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

“These excesses are un-American,” Ben-Veniste said.

Kean said the U.S. “must define itself in the Islamic world.”

“If we do not, the Islamic extremists will gladly do it for us,” he said.

Republican panel member Fred Fielding, a former White House counsel, pointed to some “bright spots” in the report, noting President Bush has improved trade with Muslim countries and cracked down on groups that finance terrorists.

Kean said a final update on the panel’s recommendations will be issued Dec. 5.

Meanwhile, President Bush’s opponent and the popular-vote winner in the 2000 election, former Vice President Al Gore, said in an Australian newspaper interview published today he believed global warming to be a more serious threat than terrorism.

“I don’t want to diminish the threat of terrorism at all, it is extremely serious, but on a long-term global basis, global warming is the most serious problem we are facing,” Gore told The Age of Melbourne.

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