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August 4, 2004
Experts To Congress: Not So Fast On 9/11 Recommendations

With John Kerry constantly harping on the theme that George Bush hasn't yet implemented all of the recommendations in the weeks-old 9/11 Commission report, and with Bush himself promising to use executive orders to push them through quickly, one gets the impression of a broad consensus that these results are beyond question. However, at a public hearing before the House Intelligence Committee, several former national-security officers advised Congress to go slow and rethink the commission's conclusions:

Former government officials told Congress on Wednesday not to rush to adopt all of the recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission. They expressed reservations about a key recommendation creating a national director of intelligence and questioned whether focusing on issues related to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks might worsen other problems that became apparent after the war in Iraq.

The people urging caution aren't just Congressional staffers and low-level functionaries looking to protect some turf. They cut across political boundaries and represent years of experience in the field. In fact, I wonder why they weren't asked to give testimony or even be asked to sit on the commission itself:

Former Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre said the commission examined only problems surrounding the Sept. 11 attacks, notably intelligence agencies failure to connect clues that might have led to discovery of the plot. ...

Hamre and William E. Odom, a former director of the National Security Agency, expressed doubts about the national intelligence director position. Hamre said he feared that it would be poorly implemented, and Odom said the commissions proposals could cause far more problems than they will solve." ...

Odom said the most important change would be one not in the commissions report: removing counterintelligence responsibilities from the FBI. As long as the FBI has counterintelligence, you will have poor counterintelligence. No agency with arrest authority will ever share intelligence, Odom said.

Doesn't that last point appear to be a gaping hole in the commission's findings? I don't recall if they even evaluated the FBI's performance in counterintelligence, but the subject should have received some review.

I believe that Congress needs to approach the report and its recommendations with caution, implementing the most obviously beneficial items with all haste but giving debate and thought to the rest. As Odom hints, the problem of jurisdictions and duplications of effort were hardly even acknowledged in the commission's final recommended structure for intelligence work. They kept all the same agencies and stuck two more layers of bureaucracy on top of them. What is needed is to streamline intelligence at the source, not funnel it at the top, and the commission took the wrong approach.

A lot more work, debate, and thought needs to go into this overhaul, as it is more important that it be done correctly rather than quickly. Politicians looking to score points on the campaign trail should look elsewhere, and allow grown-ups to do the necessary review to ensure that the final product protects America, and not the reputations of a few Washington insiders.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 4, 2004 6:12 PM

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» Build It...Slow! from A Stitch in Haste
Analysis of the report and action based upon its recommendations should take place at a reasoned, moderate pace. ... UPDATE: Experts agree with me, as does Captain Ed. [Read More]

Tracked on August 4, 2004 7:33 PM

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