Transcript: 9/11 Panel Releases Its Final Report
We need reforms of the kind the military had two decades ago. We need a Goldwater-Nichols reform for the intelligence community.
The intelligence community needs a shift in mindset and organization so that intelligence agencies operate under the principle of joint command, with information sharing as the norm.
We need to reform the United States Congress. We need unity of effort in the Congress. Right now authority and responsibility are too diffuse.
HAMILTON: The Intelligence Committees do not have enough power to perform effectively their oversight work.
Oversight for homeland security is splintered among too many committees. We need much stronger committees performing oversight of intelligence. And we need a single committee in each chamber providing oversight of the Department of Homeland Security.
We need reform in the FBI. We need a stronger national security workforce within the FBI.
We do not support the creation of a new domestic intelligence agency. What the FBI needs is a specialized and integrated national security workforce consisting of agents, analysts, linguists and surveillance specialists.
These specialists need to be recruited, trained, rewarded and retained to ensure the development of an institutional culture with deep expertise in intelligence and national security.
We need changes in information sharing. We need unity of effort in that task.
The United States government has access to vast amounts of information, but it has a weak system of processing and using that information. "Need to share" must replace "need to know."
HAMILTON: And we need a better process for transitions between one administration and another for national security officials so that this nation does not lower its guard every four or eight years.
These and other recommendations are spelled out in great detail in our report. We have made a limited number of recommendations, focusing on the areas we believe most critical.
We are acutely sensitive to the need to vigorously protect our liberties as we secure and guard our security.
We endorse many of the actions taken in the wake of 9/11 to facilitate government action and information sharing. But we stress that these measures need to be accompanied by a commitment to our open society and the principle of review, safeguards that are built into the process and accompanied by vigorous oversight. We must, after all is said and done, preserve the liberties that we are fighting for.
KEAN: Thank you, Congressman Hamilton, one of the most decent and thoughtful men I've ever had the pleasure to know.
Before we close, we offer just a few more thoughts.
We approached our task with a deep respect for the place of September 11th in our nation's history. Some have compared the shock we felt to Pearl Harbor, others to the Kennedy assassination. There are no comparisons. This was a moment unique in its horror in our long history.
KEAN: As in every four years in this democracy, we are in the midst of a presidential campaign. Our two great parties will disagree, and that is right and that is proper. At the same time, on this subject we must unite to make our country safer. Republicans and Democrats must unite in this cause.
The American people must be prepared for a long and difficult struggle. We face a determined enemy who sees this as a war of attrition; indeed, as an epical struggle. We expect further attacks. Against such an enemy there can be no complacency.
This is the challenge of our generation. As Americans, we must step forward and we must meet that challenge.
We have reviewed as a commission 2.5 million pages of documents. We've interviewed over 1,200 individuals, including experts and officials past and present. Our work has been assisted by superb staff. Each one of these professionals has provided dedication and expertise that has often exceeded our very highest expectations.
And we also had the honor of working with an extraordinary group of Americans: our commissioners. Each has shown skill, determination and collegiality.
We close, most importantly, by thanking the families who lost loved ones on 9/11. You demanded the creation of this commission. You have encouraged us every step of the way as partners and as witnesses. From your grief, you have drawn strength. You have given that strength to us. And we are determined, as you instructed us, to do everything possible to prevent other families from ever suffering such a tragedy again.
On that beautiful September day, we felt great hurt but we believed and we acted as one nation. We united, as Americans have always united in the face of any common foe.
Five Republicans and five Democrats have come together today with that same unity of purpose. We file no additional views in this report. We have no dissents. We have each decided that we will play no active role in the fall presidential campaign. We will instead devote our time, as we have, to work together in support of the recommendations in this report.
You see, we believe that acting together as Republicans, Democrats, we can make a difference, we can make our nation safer, we can make our nation more secure.
We'd be happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: Why was it that you decided, as a commission, not to say whether the attacks could have been prevented or not prevented, given all the information that you have accumulated over the 20 months?
KEAN: What we did is present the facts as we learned them. As you look at these facts time after time, you will find, as we detailed, people who got in to this country that should not have gotten in because their travel documents didn't earn that distinction. We documented intelligence agencies that didn't share information. We document actions by the government that should have been taken and were not taken.
But you've asked, "Would any single one of these things or even in combination -- are we sure that if they had occurred in a different way that 9/11 would have been prevented?"
KEAN: I can't say we are sure. We do not know. We think it's possible. But we have not drawn that absolute conclusion, because we don't believe that absolute conclusion is justified by the facts.
QUESTION: Going through the report, the findings seem to focus on a whole array of problems. The proposals for solution are focused narrowly in structural solutions, changes in the shape of government.
The families are already being quoted today as saying that they view this as very, very important. Their next step will be to see that these are implemented.
I'm wondering if there's any concern that it's, kind of, a false promise, the idea that if the structure is fixed that -- as you say, Mr. Chairman, that there will not be -- or may not be another attack such as this, that structural reform is the answer to preventing another 9/11?
HAMILTON: I think the report is much broader than your question might suggest.
You are correct that an important part of the report focuses on organizational change in the executive branch and in the Congress. And in my remarks a moment ago I emphasized those.
But in the complete report, we recognize the necessity of doing a number of things to attack the terrorists, to deny them sanctuaries, to provide stability and security in the key countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
We have a section in the report on trying to prevent the growth of terrorism. And this is a very formidable challenge, as all of you can appreciate, because what it means is we have to engage in ideas with the Muslim world.
HAMILTON: We have to develop American policies that we understand the consequences of. We need to put together all of the elements of a counterterrorism strategy, which I identified, I think, a little earlier. And we recommend a number of steps to be taken to protect against and to prepare for terrorist attacks.
So if you look at all of the report, you will find a good many recommendations beyond those relating to the organization of government, dealing with American foreign policy, dealing with how you respond to attacks, dealing with the important question of the security of our borders and immigration policy, dealing with the question of terrorist financing, and, of course, law enforcement and many other matters.
I think it's a very complete and comprehensive report. The report, of course, is driven by the mandate of the commission. We did not choose the mandate; it was given to us. And the statute identifies the areas that we are to approach, to make recommendations on, and that is what we've done to the best of our ability.
KEAN: Congressman Roemer?
ROEMER: What we have tried to do in making recommendations is not to look only at the boxes and the dynamic, structural and systemic changes, but to also concentrate on the people.
ROEMER: We have looked in the intelligence area and, as Lee and Tom have said, made some very dramatic changes, revolutionary changes with a national counterterrorism center and with a national intelligence director.
But we also have stressed the importance of transforming our capability of training people in languages, in rebuilding our human intelligence, in making sure that when we're recruiting people in the front end that we get the right kinds of people for the CIA.
We have done the same thing in the FBI. While we have not picked an MI5 and not endorsed the Directorate of Intelligence Reform that the FBI is currently doing, we picked a third option, a national security intelligence service, concentrating on the people and the skills, concentrating on making sure, again, linguists and analysts are trained properly, that they have career tracks within the FBI that will award that intelligence and counterterror service.
And finally, in Congress, we have said dramatic change is needed, but the people in Congress that are so instrumental for us to tackle this problem have to do their oversight better, more appropriately and more diligently.
This is not only about structure and reform of systems and organizations. It is also about the people in those roles that are so dramatically important to getting this done right. Both must be reformed.
THOMPSON: I think the philosophy which has guided our recommendations and their presentation in that narrow-focused form is driven by first things first.
If you look at the failures in the American governments that led to 9/11, it was largely a failure to unearth and share information, because the boxes were spread out all over the place.
THOMPSON: Look at Moussaoui. It rose all the way, in Moussaoui, to the head of the CIA, but it only rose to this level in the FBI, and they never came together; a very stark failure of information-sharing and focus.
Could that have prevented 9/11? We don't know. But that failure is there.
If I were the president of the United States, I would want sitting next to me in a Cabinet meeting a national director of intelligence so that I could fix responsibility in one person for issues of this sort. And I would want those counterterrorism center people down the hallway.
And if I were in the Congress of the United States, I would want to make sure that I was protected from the accusation that oversight funding, authorization and appropriations were not adequate.
Our reform recommendations are urgent. We have come together with the families to agree on that.
If these reforms are not the best that can be done for the American people, then the Congress and the president need to tell us what's better. But if there is nothing better, they need to be enacted and enacted speedily, because if something bad happens while these recommendations are sitting there, the American people will quickly fix political responsibility for failure and that responsibility may last for generations and they will be entitled to do that.
Everyone was caught unaware by September 11th: the president, the Congress, the American people, law enforcement agencies. Blame, if there is blame, has to be spread all across the people because the American people never demanded more or better.
© 2004 FDCH E-Media