Transcript: 9/11 Panel Releases Its Final Report
Now, these are tough recommendations. These are not easy to implement. One of the reasons some of the ones haven't been implemented yet that have been made already is because they're tough, they're not easy to do. A lot of these recommendations require changing around the United States government in ways that take power away from some people and reorganize in other ways. That's tough in this town. Very hard to change government agencies. But we think it's essential and we think it's necessary and we have absolute determination to make the tough recommendations if they were right.
And the other thing we decided to do, all 10 of us together, is our charter expires and we go out of business as a commission, we do not go out of business as people.
KEAN: And all 10 of us have decided to keep in touch, to work to implement these recommendations, do everything we can -- whether it's testimony or lobbying or speaking or whatever is necessary -- to let the American people know about these recommendations, know how important they are, our belief that they can save lives, and continue to work as a group long after our charter goes out of existence. And we agreed to meet in a year to determine our progress.
HAMILTON: Tom, may I add a word to that?
I've certainly served on more commissions than any sane man should.
In my experience, commissions have clout and impact relating to two factors.
One is the quality of work done in the report. At the end of the day, this town does examine ideas. And if the professional work that is done in this report is of the highest quality, as we think it is, that will have an impact on decision-makers.
The second think that brings about impact by a commission is the stature of its membership. And I do not think you could exceed the stature of the membership of this commission. We're all, or most of us at least, are former politicians, some of us, as one of my friends said a moment ago in the Congress, we're washed up politicians. That's an accurate description, I guess. But we have a pretty sense and feel of the politics of this town.
If you want to look back on commissions, take a look at the Social Security commission of a few years back and ask yourself whether or not that commission had impact. Believe you me it had impact; it restructured the entire Social Security system.
And even those commissions that are said to simply file their reports on the wall, we built on the commission reports of a dozen commissions. We stand on their shoulders. We are indebted to them. And I think that we cannot judge, we cannot claim at this time that this commission is going to have a big impact. That remains to be seen.
But Tom and I have been enormously pleased by the reception we have had in the Republican and Democratic caucuses, in the House and in the Senate, by the extraordinary reception we had this morning by the president and the vice president of the United States.
HAMILTON: And so we entered the fray here optimistic that we can get some important things done.
KERREY: If I could disagree slightly with that, I would call myself hopeful but not optimistic that these changes will be enacted prior to another terrorist attack on the United States, regrettable though that may be.
These are significant changes we're recommending. John Diamond (ph) asked earlier -- he described it as restructuring. It is -- this is not a private sector company we're talking about restructuring here. These are changes in law that we're asking for, changes in law that would give those who apparently have responsibility the authority necessary to carry out their job.
And it will require members of Congress in some cases to give up committee assignments that they currently have that they love. It will require in the government people to give up authority that they currently have over hiring, over budgets. The Department of Defense most notably will be asked to give up substantial authorities, though they will get substantial new authorities.
And in experience in politics, when somebody is asked to give up something, they will come up with all kinds of reasons, other than the most important one, which is they don't want to surrender authority, to cite for why they don't want to do it.
And I am hopeful that the circumstances surrounding this commission will cause Congress to act differently, but I am not optimistic.
And I will say as well that, under the leadership of Governor Kean and Congressman Hamilton, this commission did something extraordinary. I want to emphasize that. We were selected by elected politicians in the most partisan city in the world, and we reached a unanimous conclusion.
And that didn't happen accidentally. This is not the virgin birth you're looking at here. This is 10 people who made a decision that the most important thing for us to do is acquire the unity of purpose that this nation had after we were attacked on 11 September, and we need it again before we're attacked again.
And I hope -- as I said, I'm hopeful that we will acquire, but I'm not, based upon my experience, optimistic that we will.
GORELICK: We thought about this issue from the very beginning. And we made a couple of decisions which I think are very important.
One, we decided to be transparent, which is different from the way prior commissions have operated. And you can see that in our report. One little factoid is that our footnotes, if set in a normal typeface that a normal person could read, would be a 250-page book on their own.
Our commission -- and I have served on other commissions, most notably the Scowcroft review that dealt with some of these same issues -- most commissions look at policy issues. We started with the facts. And our policy recommendations are tied to those facts and flow ineluctably from them. And so you will find in this report the basis for every single recommendation. And as Jim Thompson says, policy- makers ignore that at their peril.
So we have the facts.
GORELICK: We have 9/11 as a tectonic moment in our history.
Slade Gorton and I visited with an editorial board yesterday, and one of the questions we got was essentially this one: Why will you be any different?
A Pew poll has come out that shows that over 60 percent of the American people, even before the rollout of our report, have been following our work and think it's important.
We think that this issue has resonance in the country. And the proof will be in whether our leaders come together with the same unity of purpose that we have had to create a unity of effort around the counterterrorism mission.
There are bad consequences to being in the middle of a political season and there are also good ones, because everyone who is running for office can be asked, "Do you support these recommendations?"
ROEMER: I will be brief. And I just want to say that I believe the recommendations in this particular report will be different, not so much because of the stature of this commission, nor because of the Pew Trust polling data, but because of the perfect storm that is coming together politically.
The eyes of history are on our backs, the claws of Al Qaida are on our shoulders, and the grief of 9/11 is still in so many Americans' hearts.
I think those indicators and reasons are all going to come together and compel members of Congress and others to pass what's in this report and to act on this.
We don't have time to waste with another attack coming.
ROEMER: We will do a report card in six to 12 months to assess what the Congress or the White House has done or not done. We will work with the 9/11 families that have been instrumental in their energy and their commitment to create this commission and keep it going on the right track.
And furthermore, with the American people as agents of change, I think they will compel the elected officials and policy-makers in this country to make the significant changes, to make this a country that is safer and more secure in a bipartisan manner. We must take those actions today.
KEAN: Mr. Fielding?
FIELDING: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Just add another thing: You know, often in Washington, when a problem occurs and people don't know what to do or it's a meddlesome problem, they appoint a commission. But what we have here today and the action-forcing event of this commission was something quite unprecedented.
And we assumed that responsibility and that that was a charter for us to think surgically but think big. We had a lot of discussions about this. And many people have said, since it started to leak out as to what our recommendations were, they've said, "You know, why do you make recommendations that are so bold? Why do you make recommendations that are going to be very difficult because somebody has to give up something, somebody has to break a cookie jar? Why do you do that? Why don't you do something that you know has a better percentage chance of passing?"
I think after our discussions, the answers that we came to, and the reason you see the recommendations we have, is -- the question is: If not now, when?
So thank you.
KEAN: I might say, by the way, that the conversations that Congressman Hamilton and I have had with the leaders in both houses, House and Senate, both parties, with the president of the United States, with Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards, all those conversations are encouraging. And they give us hope that some of these bold recommendations are, in fact, going to be taken very seriously.
QUESTION: I was struck in the report by the statement about the failure of imagination in our country. And I would just like to know -- you've interviewed many government officials throughout your research -- is that failure subsided? Are we beyond that failure of imagination now? And what is the current state of that?
KEAN: Do you want to take that one?
HAMILTON: I think the failure of imagination we consider to be one of the major failures of the government.
The fact of the matter is we just didn't get it in this country. We could not comprehend that people wanted to kill us, they wanted to hijack airplanes and fly them into big buildings, and important buildings.
Policy-makers did not have the imagination to think of that kind of a scenario. There were hints here and there in a variety of places, but as a whole the government didn't grasp the potential scenario that occurred.
We were often advised, during the course of the hearings, to read very imaginative writers, like Tom Clancy, and encouraged to think outside the box. And I think that's an important part of the counterterrorism effort.
HAMILTON: Have we gotten beyond the lack of imagination? I'm not sure I can answer that today. But I think all of us are aware of the fact that we have to understand we're contending here against a very entrepreneurial, very innovative enemy who know how to penetrate our open society. They understood that they could get a four-inch knife on board, but maybe not a six-inch knife. And they understood a lot of other weaknesses in the system.
So we have to have an imagination strong enough to think about a number of different scenarios, and it is a very key part of a counterterrorism strategy.
KERREY: Let me add to this. Part of the problem here is that it's very difficult to imagine something if the facts are withheld from you. And let me lead with one and use our vice chairman's novelist as the example.
In order to have a debate in this country about how much should we spend on intelligence, here is how it has to go. According to Tom Clancy, we will spend $40 billion this year on intelligence. If Mr. Clancy is correct, I believe that's an insufficient amount. Or I'll have to say, according to Tom Clancy, we spend $6 billion on the National Reconnaissance Office and we spend less on the DCI than we do on the Environmental Protection Agency. And if Mr. Clancy is correct, I believe we spend too little.
We can't have a public debate because the American people aren't entitled by law to know how much money we're spending on all of these agencies. By law. And in the old world, it was because the Soviet Union knew, we didn't want them to know.
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