Saturday, September 10, 2011

9.11 Commission's 10th Anniversary Report Card

by contributor Donna Shor

Cooperation―and the lack of it―was the theme of the Center for National Policy’s presentation of the 9/11 Commission’s status report that outlines how much progress has been made and what must still be done for our safety. The report card for Congress, alas, would have been mostly F’s.  The panel was part of a “Remembrance, Renewal and Resilience” event at the Newseum commemorating not only those lost in 9/11 and Katrina but also ensuing acts of heroism.

Newsman Steve Coll, president of the New America Foundation, moderated the discussion led by the Commission’s chairman. former Republican New Jersey governor Tom Kean, and vice chairman  Democrat Lee Hamilton.   Hamilton said that nonetheless, he and Kean quickly reached non-partisan consensus in deciding the commission’s goals, with the echo that non-partisan consensus in Congress is badly needed today.

Tom Ridge
He stressed that there would have been no commission if not for two members present: Mary Fechet, founder of Voices of September 11 who lost her 24-year-old son Brad in the Trade Center attack and Carie Lemack, founder of Families of September 11 who lost her mother Judy Larocque on American Airlines Flight 11.  Carie also lobbied for the creation of the 9/11 Commission, as well ad lobbying for  passage of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act.  She has since worked with victims of terror, coordinating events in Jordan, Pakistan and Indonesia and creating the award-winning film Killing in the Name to be screened on HBO September 14.

Kean and Hamilton said that some of the Commission’s recommendations for transforming the intelligence community, including more cooperation with the military and first responders have begun, but stressing that much has not been done... 

Mary Fechet is a strong advocate of national and local preparedness who tirelessly lobbies Congress and has testified five times before the Senate and the House of Representatives.  Speaking of the difficulty in getting Congress to pass anti-terrorist legislation, she attributed it to all the conflicting interests involved.   “Just after I think I have a congressman convinced to act, the lobbyists arrive and everything is undone,” she said.   

Senators Susan Collins and Joseph Lieberman joined the panel and were even more than outspoken in their disappointment with Congress’s failure to enact needed legislation citing turf battles between the various agencies and groups. They pointed out that during 9/11 and Katrina the inability of first responders to quickly communicate caused needless loss of life.  Improving such basic emergency issues, they said, has been held up by Congressional inaction. For instance, the Commission had proposed legislation for increasing the amount of bandwidth so that police and firefighters can
communicate and coordinate their efforts.

Leon Panetta and Tom Kean
“Despite the lives at stake,” according to the status report, “this has been stalled because of a political fight over allocating the 10 MHz of radio spectrum needed for a nationwide network.”

Continuing with even more pointed criticism the report says, “Congressional oversight of the government’s homeland security remains as dysfunctional as it was when we released the 2004 report.”
All this brings to mind a comment now making the Internet rounds: Animals in groups have special names, such as a herd of elephants, a flock of chickens, and a school of fish.  Of all the primates, scientists consider baboons the loudest, most viciously aggressive and least intelligent.

And what is the proper collective noun for a group of baboons?  Your call.