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Terror report offers policy suggestions

Tricia de Groot | Friday, October 8, 2004

Since the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, the country has been fighting a war against terrorism. “The 9/11 Commission Report: The Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States” has run up the ranks of the bestseller list and in the midst of campaign season and become an essential piece of national literature.

The report sheds light on many governmental problems that could have hindered the prevention of and response to the terrorist attacks, and puts forth proposals on how best to adapt the bureaucracy to our changing world.

The report identifies what is working as well and what needs improvement with the current political arrangement. In what many point to as the report’s most important development, it addresses the need to appoint a National Intelligence Director.

Currently, there is one member of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) who holds the position of Head of the CIA and Director of Central Intelligence. The 9/11 Commission Report criticizes the policy of giving one person both hats.

According to the report, the solution to this problem lies in dividing these responsibilities between two people instead of one, and assigning the role of coordinating all intelligence from all different agencies to one appointed individual.

The creation of this role -often referred to ask a “national intelligence czar” – is currently up for debate in Congress, leading to concerns over whether the issue will be resolved before Congress adjourns.

Additionally, there is worry that Congress will make mistakes in the rush to push the policy through this term.

“If Congress rushes ahead with intelligence reform, without adequate time to review and debate its own proposals, there could be nasty surprises when it comes time to implement the reforms,” Daniel Lindley, political science professor, said.

Curtis Kamman, visiting political science professor, detailed the opposition’s reasoning.

“The argument of the people who want to move ahead is that we have momentum and that people are still focused on the commission’s findings. If you wait, you lose momentum, and it will be harder with a new Congress,” Kamman said.

Repercussions from this debate are affecting the presidential election as well.

“Part of Bush’s pitch is that he’s a wartime president,” said Lindley.

Therefore, although Bush first opposed the report, he now embraces its proposals, said Lindley.

In addition, according to Kamman, “by in large, those who support Kerry support the recommendations of the Commission.”

“The key things the 9/11 Commission Report addresses are the ideas of changing the international community and the issue [and] role of Iraq and Al-Quaida and whether or not Iraq was a part of the terrorist network or not,” Kamman said.

If the position of National Intelligence Director is incorporated into the current government structure, it brings up the question of how the current intelligence agencies and other governmental figures will treat this appointee.

“Will the old, hard to reform intelligence bureaucracies, like the FBI, play nicely with the NID, or resist its authority?” Lindley said. “… We want to make sure the National Intelligence Director is not a political crony which you can do, in part, by making sure appointments have to be confirmed by the Senate.”

Kamman noted that the report was unique in that members of both parties agreed on many of its proposals.

“This is the best bipartisan report that has come along for a long time,” Kamman said.

While its 516 pages might deter most students from delving into the full text, Martha Merritt, associate director of the Kroc Institute, has incorporated the text into her senior seminar class, “The Struggle for Accountability.”

“The 9/11 Commission Report is an important, fresh example of the kind of scrutiny, analysis, and recommendation that make democratic societies distinctive,” Merritt said. “This particular document shows the important role the public plays in bringing pressure to bear once recommendations are made.”