WASHINGTON -- The vice chairman of the Sept. 11 commission gave the federal government a ''mixed grade" yesterday on following through with recommendations the panel made to improve America's security.
''We're getting better at this," said Lee Hamilton, commission cochairman and a former congressman from Indiana. ''But we still haven't proved we are safe."
Hamilton, a Democrat, said the series of terrorist attacks in London on July 7 and on Thursday demonstrated that in the war on terrorism, ''the enemy is patient. They are skillful. Sometimes they make mistakes. They're very good at exploiting our vulnerabilities."
Hamilton and Fred Fielding, a former White House counsel who served on the Sept. 11 commission, said the attacks in Britain have heightened their concerns about Bush administration efforts to implement recommendations that their panel made a year ago.
''A lot of things have not been done," said Hamilton, appearing with Fielding on NBC's ''Today" show. ''We still do not have a single watch-list [for terrorist suspects] . . . that law enforcement can check on. That's been years that we've been working on it. I feel, I think some of the commissioners feel, a sense of frustration."
Among the principal recommendations the panel made after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was that there be wholesale changes in how intelligence is coordinated and how Congress oversees the Intelligence Committee.
Congress passed and President Bush signed into law legislation creating a position of director of national intelligence, and former ambassador John Negroponte has that post.
Hamilton said there have been disappointments as well as successes in terms of the follow-up to the report, issued in July 2004.
''We still don't have a law on the books to permit the first-responders to talk to one another" at the scene, Hamilton said.