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Kennedy School faculty members Ashton Carter and Juliette Kayyem addressed the 9/11 Public Discourse Project panel Monday in Washington. The Project, launched by the former members of the 9/11 Commission once the Commission disbanded last year, is intended to sustain national interest in issues relating to homeland security. Monday's discussion focused on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Carter, professor of international affairs and co-director of the Preventive Defense Project, presented an ominous perspective of efforts to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of terrorists.
"America in my judgement is as asleep at the WMD switch now as it was at the terrorism switch before 9/11," he remarked. "The actions to stop nuclear terrorism that have been taken by us since 9/11, especially Libya and the disruption of the A.Q. Khan network, should be noted, graded highly. But others do not go to the decisive step of capping fissile material."
Kayyem, lecturer in public policy and former member of the National Commission on Terrorism, told the panel that U.S.-led efforts to eradicate Al Qaida in Afghanistan have been successul, but the organization remains a potential threat to be dealt with.
"Al Qaida is damaged, but not defeated," she said. "The conditions that made the old Al Qaida have ceased, and we must continue to ensure that that is the case."
Kayyem pointed to Iraq and Pakistan as regions where Al Qaida may attempt to rebuild itself and plan new terrorist attacks. Counterterrorism efforts must be stepped up there, she said, but only in concert with those "hearts and minds issues" which resonate so widely in the Middle East.
All ten members of the 9/11 Commission serve on the Board of Directors of the bipartisan 9/11 Public Discourse Project. The Project is intended to remain active for one year.
A full transcript of the June 27 hearing is available for review.