Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

December 29, 2005

Who will take up the mantle of the 9/11 Commission?

Filed under: Congress and HLS,General Homeland Security — by Christian Beckner on December 29, 2005

Carie Lemack, a co-founder of Families of September 11, had an editorial in USA Today on Tuesday asking who would take up the role of the 9/11 Commission and its successor, the 9/11 Public Discourse Project:

More than four years after the attacks, shocking gaps remain in our nation’s defense against terrorism. Keeping a watchful, skeptical eye on the government is in the best tradition of our republic.

As the commissioners go their separate ways, the question remains: Who will champion the reforms that haven’t been adopted?

That’s a good question. I’m still not sure why the Public Discourse Project was ended – was it a money issue? Hopefully the ten commissioners will still be engaged in the public dialogue on an individual basis. And the Government Accountability Office, Inspectors General of the key agencies, and the media are all key cogs in holding government officials accountable and bringing these issues to public attention.

And I think the blogosphere has an important and growing role. This site will certainly strive to play a small part in keeping a “watchful, skeptical eye” on homeland security activities, in the bipartisan spirit of the 9/11 Commission, and promote an open, informed dialogue on key issues.

The editorial continues:

Progress to address the greatest threat — the threat of nuclear terrorism — does not appear to be a top priority. At the current rate, the U.S. government’s effort to “lock down” nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union, so it can’t be stolen or bought by terrorists, will not be completed for 14 years.

And the most difficult recommendation from the 9/11 Commission has been all but abandoned: Who will push Congress to reorganize itself to provide adequate oversight over intelligence and homeland security?

On this first issue, I couldn’t agree more. This needs to be the #1 priority for U.S. national security today. Period.

On the issue of congressional oversight, I think it’s too strong to say that this recommendation has been “all but abandoned” – there was some very real progress on homeland security oversight between the 108th and 109th Congresses, particularly in the House, where the Homeland Security Committee now has solid jurisdiction over most of the key homeland security issues. But it’s correct to say that there is still much more to do, especially in the Senate, where efforts to consolidate jurisdiction in the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee (HSGAC) went only halfway, with committees like Judiciary and Commerce retaining substantial jurisdiction.

My thoughts are with Ms. Lemack and others who lost loved ones on 9/11, in what must be a difficult time of year.

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