Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 22, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

9/11 COMMISSION RECOMMENDATIONS....I would rather stick bamboo shoots under my toenails than actually read the entire 9/11 report, but I am curious about what their recommendations are. Since most of the media accounts seem to be focused instead on gathering reaction quotes from various public figures or showing videotape of security checkpoints, that means I have no choice but to go to the document itself. But at least I can confine myself to the summary.

Basically there are two sets of recommendations, organized as "What To Do" and "How To Do It." Here are the highlights.

What To Do

  • Attack the terrorists where they live: We need "realistic" strategies for dealing with terrorist sanctuaries as well as long-term commitments to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Also, we need to go "beyond oil" and confront our problems with Saudi Arabia.

  • Prevent the growth of terrorism: This is mostly some yammering about setting a good example, offering an agenda of opportunity, etc. etc. Also: we need more focus on WMD nonproliferation and a change in the way we track terrorist financing.

  • Protect against terrorist attacks: This is a laundry list of specific programs like biometric entry/exit programs, non-aviation security, more radio spectrum for public safety communication, and so forth. Also: quit spending money on Wyoming and focus on New York and Washington DC.

How To Do It

"Unity of Effort" is the watchword: we need more centralization of responsibility and more information sharing. In particular:

  • Counterterrorism: A unified National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) modeled on the joint unified command adopted by the military after the Goldwater-Nichols reforms of the 80s.

  • Intelligence: A national intelligence director, working out of the White House with cabinet level authority, but not a member of the cabinet. Reporting to this person would be the head of the NCTC, the CIA director, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, and the assistant director for intelligence at the FBI.

  • Sharing information: Less stuff should be classified, more stuff should be shared. We also need to reform our back office operations, "turning a mainframe system into a decentralized network," whatever that means.

  • Congress: Congress needs a joint committee that combines both authorization and appropriation. Overall, congressional oversight of intelligence should be much stronger.

  • Homeland defenses: This is mostly fluff: we should "regularly assess" how good a job we're doing, blah blah blah. Unlike in foreign intelligence, no major reforms are needed in domestic intelligence, which should stay with the FBI but be rejiggered a little bit.

For now, I'm just going to summarize and leave it at that. Other smarter people will likely analyze this to death in the days to come.

UPDATE: The full report is here (from the New York Times) or here (from the 9/11 Commission website).

Kevin Drum 7:22 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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