Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) held a hearing on Tuesday on “9/11 Commission Recommendations: Balancing Civil Liberties and Security” featuring testimony by 9/11 Commission co-chairs Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, two members of the oft-criticized Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), and four family members of victims of the 9/11 attacks. The hearing focused on two pieces of legislation introduced by Shays et al.: H.R. 5000, the 9/11 Commission Civil Liberties Board Act (which would strengthen the PCLOB by giving it subpoena power and making it more independent); and H.R. 5017, the Ensuring Implementation of the 9/11 Commission Report Act. Shays’ opening statement and the the prepared testimony for each of the witnesses is available at this link.
The most notable document is the joint written testimony of Kean and Hamilton, documenting the status of the government’s progress in satisfying the 9/11 Commission recommendations. Kean and Hamilton note that they would not change any of the very poor 9/11 PDP grades issued last December, and go on to detail the lack of progress in a number of areas. Their testimony contains harsh words both for DHS and the Senate on homeland security grant allocations:
In our report we recommended that homeland security funds be allocated on the basis of the greatest risks and vulnerabilities of attack. Secretary Chertoff has stated many times the position of the Administration in support of funding based on risks and vulnerabilities â€“ a position we strongly support.
Therefore, we are surprised and disappointed that analysis by the Department of Homeland Security has led to proposed cuts in homeland security funding for New York City and Washington, D.C.
The terrorists targeted New York and Washington. So far as we know, they continue to target symbols of American power.
It defies our understanding of the nature of the threat to reduce funding designed to protect New York and Washington. We await further explanation.
Last year, the House of Representatives passed a very good bill â€“ three times â€“ that would focus scarce resources on the greatest risks and vulnerabilities.
On two separate occasions — including most recently the conference Committee on renewal of the PATRIOT Act earlier this year â€“ the House provision on homeland security funding was in conference with the Senate. In both cases, nothing emerged from the conference. Senate conferees rejected the House position.
The Public Discourse Project gave the Congress an â€œFâ€ because of its failure to act on a risk-based & vulnerability-based formula for homeland security funding. A letter grade of failure is fully deserved. Unless and until the Congress sends a bill to the President allocating homeland security funding on the basis of risk, scarce dollars will continue to be squandered.
Kean and Hamilton go on to discuss challenges such as information-sharing, interoperable communications, airline passenger screening, and congressional organization.
Overall, I’m glad to see Shays holding this hearing and putting forward this legislation. I doubt that it can pass as free-standing legislation, but hopefully many of its provisions will find their way into the DHS authorization legislation that the House Homeland Security Committee is expected to take up again soon.
Update (6/7): The Newark Star-Ledger covers the discussion of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board during the hearing.