17 Years of Inquiries
In the past 17 years the U.S. Government has conducted one task force on terrorism and two Presidential-appointed Commissions.1 The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (frequently referred to as the 9/11 Commission) recently issued its report. This makes the third Presidential-appointed commission dealing with aviation security in 14 years.
Vice President George H. W. Bush's 1986 study and the three Presidential appointed commissions were driven in-part or whole by attacks, or supposed attacks, against civil aviation. Just as promptly as these past studies and commissions reports were completed, parts of the government and the airline industry began their proclamations of support or opposition to many of the recommendations.
A number of the recommendations from the past studies and commissions were never implemented, some were partially implemented and a few actually became law, regulations or standard practices within the aviation community. However, after reading each of the 9/11 Commission's conclusions and recommendations one is left in wonderment with the repetition of the recommendations from each of the succeeding Commissions - haven't we done anything to improve aviation security in the past decade and a half?
One of the first questions raised with the recent release of the 9/11 Commission Report is obvious: Was the release of the report rushed for political purposes? Was it released at this time for the convenience of both major U.S. political parties?
The Bush Administration is now publicly proclaiming their intent to convene meetings to address the issues raised by the Commission. Senate hearings have already begun and the House of Representatives is making noises about addressing the Report's recommendations. Both sides of the aisle in Congress can now make their proclamations about convening to address the issues.
Aspiring White House Democrats can, and probably will, make a number of convoluted claims against the sitting Bush Administration while at the same time trying to avoid "incoming missiles" about the failure of the previous Clinton Administration to satisfactorily address the terrorist threat. All quite convenient in a presidential election year!
So, how much political dirty laundry is there in the 9/11 activities? Do we truly have a functioning bi-partisan 9/11 Commission that is focused on identifying and recommending solutions to problems that resulted in the 9/11 tragedy?
Two political side-stage dramas are also intriguing when reviewing the 9/11 Report. One involves Commissioner Jamie S. Gorelick, who served as the Deputy Attorney General in the Clinton Justice Department and was a "player" in allegedly strengthening the compartmentalization of the FBI into the criminal versus the intelligence sections, and then "graduated" to sitting on the Commission in "judgment" of her former actions.2 Does the Commission have any integrity given this fact and the partisan displays of several of the Commissioners during public hearings?
The second issue is the current dilemma that former Clinton National Security Advisor Samuel "Sandy" Berger finds himself. If indeed he did knowingly and willingly violate the rules of access to former Clinton Administration classified materials in the U.S. Archives, one is left in puzzlement as to "why"? The only ready and reasonable explanation is that he appears to have been trying to cover up some very embarrassing data, as it is beyond the pale to accept the explanation that he was just careless with classified materials. Particularly so, given his reported actions in "inadvertently" taking the highly classified materials from the Archives and then "inadvertently" misplacing or destroying some of the documents.