Vol. 17, No. 17, October 25, 2004
IN THIS ISSUE:
This Reveille Home Page | The Friday Program: Eyewitness to History the 9-11 Commission | Preserve Planet Earth Work Party | Pink & White M & Ms Are Here! | Raffle Update | Ticket-Tearing Party | Friday Potpourri | Trip to Turkey | The Worldwide Reach of the Rotary Foundation | Exchange Student Looking for Action | Web Fun
The Friday Program:
Former U.S. Senator Slade Gorton presented a fascinating look at the workings of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, commonly known as the 9-11 Commission. The ten-person panel was given the task of finding out the causes of and recommending changes in how the United States protects itself from future terrorist aggression.
Introduced by Bob Vallat, the Senator is a Washington State asset. His long political career, encompassing 45 years of public service, culminated with his appointment as a member of the 9-11 Commission. He served three terms in the U.S. Senate beginning in 1980. Vallat said, This morning, you will hear 20 months of work boiled down to a 25-minute presentation.
The Senator began: On the 4th of September, 2001, Richard Clarke, former terrorism czar to four U.S. Presidents sent a note to Condoleezza Rice, the National Security Advisor warning that a terrorist strike appeared imminent. And, in the first week of the Bush Administration in January of 2001, Clarke warned of the danger posed by al-Qaeda.
Would all his alarms make any difference? Gorton asked. Even Clarkes imagination did not understand what was in store on 9-11. This was a failure of imagination. No one imagined it. It was not even mentioned in the 2000 Presidential race. A Senate committee asked no questions of Vice President Gore on the subject in 2000.
Gorton went on: We all failed, and I nominate the FAA the chief candidate for failure. There was a no-fly list on 9-11 that included 16 names of people who ultimately were part of the 9-11 plot. The State Department had a tip-off list. The question is, what relationship should there have been? The FAA learned of the State list only last January 2004. Thats a failure to communicate.
We had a systematic breakdown on 9-11. All hijacked flights crashed before the Air Force was notified. Prior to these attacks, the Air Force had monitored threats only from overseas. There were only two Air Force fighters available on East Coast, although the Air Guard had fighters that could have responded had they been notified.
The CIA never developed precise enough information for Presidential action, according to Gorton. The FBI was led by Director Louis Freeh. He and President Clinton didnt like each other; so much so, they never met! On August 6, 2001, President Bush was briefed. The two agencies claimed there were 70 investigations ongoing, but in reality, there were really only 35.
So, in summary, we saw a spectacular breakdown, centered on 19 individuals who were successful in their goal. As far as post 9-11, our efforts to rein in the terrorist threat have been rapid and successful. The defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan and creation of a Homeland Security agency are milestones in our effort. We are safer, but not safe.
The Senator observed that the victims families succeeded in getting Congress to form the 9-11 Commission, against the will of the President. Bush got one appointment; there were ten total members with five Republicans and five Democrats a partisan committee. Henry Kissinger and George Mitchell were initially appointed as committee chairs, but resigned within a week.
They were succeeded by polar opposites: Thomas H. Kean, former Governor of New Jersey, Chairman; and Lee H. Hamilton, former member of the House of Representatives from Indiana, Vice Chairman. The remaining members were Richard Ben-Veniste, Fred F. Fielding, Jamie S. Gorelick, Slade Gorton, Bob Kerrey, John F. Lehman, Timothy J. Roemer, and James R. Thompson
Philip D. Zelikow was appointed Executive Director of the Commission Staff. Zelikow pulled together eighty mid-level professionals, who became part of the best, hardest-working staff Ive ever seen in action, Gorton commented. Over the course of our 20 months together, not a single partisan vote was taken. After 3 million pages of documents and 1200 witnesses the draft report was collectively checked up to seven times before it was released. The report contains a history of the issue, plus commission recommendations.
Senator Gorton framed the nature of the struggle in which we find ourselves. The rise of bin Laden, his goal to make the United States abandon the Middle East, to have us all convert to Islam and change our civilization is the core of this struggle. He draws on a long tradition of a strain of Islam that doesnt distinguish between politics and religion. It feeds on resentments from millions of Muslims. You cannot negotiate with this group. For us to succeed, we must separate these extremists from the majority. Change must come from within.
Gorton laid out a global strategy of what to do.
Attack the growth of their numbers.
Prepare for terrorists attacks, stepping up border patrols, and bulking up law enforcement.
How should we prepare for the terrorists?
Establish intelligence sharing and enforce cooperation among agencies.
Create a unity of effort of intelligence by appointing a czar. This person should have budget & personnel authority. Most controversial. Defense doesnt want it.
Senate acted promptly and passed a bill that pretty much embraced all the recommendations. Its far easier to reform the executive branch than the Senate themselves, Gordon wryly observed. However, the House has strayed far from the recommendations. Senate and House are now in conference. The Senate has remained non-partisan on the subject of these recommendations, while the House has been very partisan.
Today, the head of Homeland Security reports to 88 different Congressional committees. Consolidation of oversight is mandatory.
In response to audience questions, Senator Gorton said the FBI has undergone the most thorough internal reforms since 9-11. FBI Director Bob Mueller is now training agents in counter-terrorism. Even though these are highly partisan times, the Commission was able to work in a non-partisan way. The Status Quo is a powerful lobby. 9-11 altered our thinking.
The question was: What was so important about Sandy Bergers pilfering copies of important documents? Gorton replied, I dont understand what his motivation was. He didnt take any originals.
What percentage of Muslims are extremists? Only a small percentage of Muslims are extremists, but this amounts to a large number of people. They have had success in recruiting and there is a large group that provides funds for their efforts.
Why cant we revamp the 15 intelligence-gathering groups? Probably not a good idea to delete some because of the unique brand of intelligence they gather, but all of the agencies should be encouraged to communicate.
The Senator closed his presentation with the greatest single story to come out of our deliberations! In order for us to answer the question Should we leave counter-terrorism in the FBI? we called as a witness the director of Britains famous intelligence organization, MI-5. The director happens to be a woman, who began her career as a teacher and worked her way to the top job in British intelligence. Shes very candid. When we asked her the question whether we should restructure the FBI in the likeness of MI-5, she told us, Dont do it. Youve got 13,000 police agencies. We only have 78 and I know each head personally. The IRA is not suicidal and they dont target women and children. They all come from one place, a sort of 'Game Farm.'" We guess the Senators story indicates that were dealing with a little bit different foe in al-Qaeda and that the structure of the FBI should remain as it is.
President Johnson awarded Senator Gorton a certificate showing that 1220 pounds of food has been donated in his name to food banks in this area, courtesy of Rotary First Harvest. Our thanks to Bob Vallat for his introduction.
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