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9/11 Commission Chairman Tom Kean, left, and Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton delivered the final 9/11 Commission Report in 2004. / Tim Dillon, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON - The global struggle against terrorism has "entered a new and dangerous phase'' with growing threats posed by foreign fighters returning from the civil war in Syria and the vulnerability of critical systems to cyber attack, the original authors of the 9/11 Commission report concluded in a new analysis.

Marking the 10th anniversary of the panel's landmark report, which identified an array of intelligence failures leading up to the 2001 terrorist attacks, panel chairman Tom Kean said Tuesday there was "broad agreement'' on the new threats facing the nation and rest of the world.

The core leadership of al-Qaeda, which was responsible for launching the 9/11 assaults, has been dramatically weakened. Yet the panel concluded that "affiliated groups are gaining strength throughout the greater Middle East'' and are operating in 16 countries.

"The country may be suffering from a waning sense of urgency,'' vice chairman Lee Hamilton said.

The commission's work effectively concluded after presenting its original findings to the White House and Congress in 2004. This year, the group reconvened as "private citizens'' to offer an analysis of the national security landscape in the new report sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Some of the group's most biting commentary was aimed at Congress, which panel member James Thompson, a former Illinois governor, called "embarrassing'' for its deeply partisan political ways.

The new commission report found that Congress has "resisted'' decade-old recommendations to streamline its oversight of the Department of Homeland Security, which now reports to 92 congressional committees and subcommittees, up from 88 in 2004.

"The Congress of the United States is failing us and failing us badly,'' Thompson said during a briefing.

Tim Roemer, a commissioner and former six-term Indiana congressman, said Congress is the "last branch (of government) that people are looking for to solve our problems.''

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, a speaker at Tuesday's briefing, mockingly thanked the commission for its "resounding endorsement'' of the Congress. He then went on to outline a series of national security "challenges'' that he believes represent the greatest threats.

He called the 2012 Boston Marathon bombings a "textbook case'' for its involvement of two self-radicalized suspects who apparently operated on their own, making detection difficult for investigators.

"What you saw in Boston is the kind of threat you are going to see play out more,'' McCaul said.

Of the unauthorized disclosure of the government's secret surveillance programs, McCaul said former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked information about the programs to select journalists, did great damage to the country's security strategy.

"He's not a hero,'' McCaul said. "In my book, he's a traitor.''

National Intelligence Director James Clapper, who also spoke to the group, said the existing threat landscape represented the "most diverse'' in a career of more than 50 years.

"The recent world events show how complex the challenges are,'' he said.



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: 9/11 panel: Terrorism fight is in 'new and dangerous phase'

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