NEWSROOM
Commentary Articles
In The News
News Releases
Experts



Media Inquiries

Kim Cloidt
Director of Marketing & Communications
(510) 632-1366 x116
(202) 725-7722 (cell)
Send Email

Robert Ade
Communications Manager
(510) 632-1366 x114
Send Email


Subscribe



Commentary
Facebook Facebook Facebook Facebook

Contribute
Your participation will advance liberty. Join us as an Independent Institute member.



Contact Us
The Independent Institute
100 Swan Way
Oakland, CA 94621-1428

510-632-1366 Phone
510-568-6040 Fax
Send us email


Interested in working with us?  Click here for more information.

Commentary

9/11 Report Omits Key Player—Foreign Policy


     
 Print 

Although the 9/11 commission’s investigation has won praise in the media for being bipartisan, on balance it has not made us safer. The commission discovered new information to rewrite the history of the Sept. 11 attacks, uncovered government incompetence that should make Americans wonder if those attacks could have been prevented and made some useful recommendations. But the panel avoided the most important question surrounding the attacks—their cause.

The commission showed that the Bush administration, in the months prior to Sept. 11, had much more warning of an impending terrorist attack than previously known. The panel also correctly criticized the performance of U.S. intelligence, diplomacy, law enforcement, aviation security and the military prior to or on that horrible day. Finally, the commission made useful recommendations to safeguard American liberties—rejecting a dangerous new domestic spy agency and arguing for improved congressional oversight of intelligence and homeland security agencies.

But like many government and quasi-government bodies after Sept. 11, the 9/11 commission focused on dubious recommendations about what the authorities could do to improve their response to terrorism instead of the more important question of what the government could do to reduce the chances of an attack in the first place. For example, the commission recommended creating a new national counterterrorism center to coordinate foreign and domestic intelligence on terrorism and a new national intelligence director, who would control the myriad of intelligence agencies and their budgets. Like the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, however, both of these proposed reforms would add a layer of bureaucracy, exacerbating the governmental coordination problems discovered by the commission itself. To fight small, agile terrorism groups, the government should cut the excessive number of intelligence bureaucracies, not create more.

The director of central intelligence, in addition to being the president’s chief adviser on intelligence and the head of the CIA, is already supposed to be riding herd on the existing 15 intelligence agencies. Yet the director is not allowed to make the critical personnel and budgetary decisions concerning those agencies because they are parts of other organizations. The Department of Defense, for example, controls 85 percent of the U.S. intelligence budget. Instead of creating a new national intelligence chief, the director should just be given the powers required to do his current job.

To reduce the coordination and communication problems among intelligence agencies that occurred prior to Sept. 11, the excessive number of intelligence agencies should be streamlined and consolidated. Intelligence units in the Departments of Energy (which analyzes nuclear matters), State (which analyzes information related to U.S. foreign policy) and Treasury (which deals with information affecting U.S. fiscal and monetary policy) could be merged into the CIA. FBI counterespionage functions and Coast Guard Intelligence could be merged into the intelligence unit of the Department of Homeland Security. The intelligence arms of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps could be subsumed into the Defense Intelligence Agency, as could the National Reconnaissance Office (which builds satellites and coordinates collection of satellite and aerial intelligence), the National Security Agency (which collects signals intelligence from electronic transmissions) and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (which does satellite imagery and mapping).

The greatest flaw in the commission’s analysis and recommendations, however, was one of omission. The panel did not address the root causes of the Sept. 11 attacks. Dealing with them is the only way to reduce the chances of terrorist attacks in the first place.

In his statement upon release of the commission’s report, Thomas Kean, the commission’s chairman, incorrectly opined that the terrorists hate America and its policies. Even al Qaeda does not hate America per se. The group’s statements indicate that it hates U.S. foreign policy toward the Middle East, especially the U.S. government’s propping up of corrupt Arab regimes (such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt) for their perceived strategic significance. Furthermore, repeated polls in the Islamic world (including two polls in “friendly” Arab countries released last week by the University of Maryland and the Arab American Institute and Zogby International) indicate that the United States is hated not for its culture, technology or freedoms—as President Bush would have us believe—but for its foreign policy. The president has further inflamed that hatred with his illegitimate invasion of a sovereign Iraq—a nation that had no weapons of mass destruction and that the 9/11 Commission said had no “collaborative relationship” with al Qaeda.

It is from this sea of hatred that the blowback terrorism of a small minority of individuals emanates. Ending longstanding U.S. government meddling in the Middle East would do more than any of the commission’s recommendations to reduce terrorist attacks on innocent Americans.


Ivan Eland is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute. Dr. Eland is a graduate of Iowa State University and received an M.B.A. in applied economics and Ph.D. in national security policy from George Washington University. He has been Director of Defense Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, and he spent 15 years working for Congress on national security issues, including stints as an investigator for the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Principal Defense Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office. He is author of the books Partitioning for Peace: An Exit Strategy for Iraq, and Recarving Rushmore.

New from Ivan Eland!
NO WAR FOR OIL: U.S. Dependency and the Middle East

The grab for oil resources has been a major factor behind many conflicts and military deployments because of its perception as a strategic commodity. This book debunks the notion that oil is strategic and argues that war for oil is not necessary to secure the flow of petroleum. Learn More »»






Home | About Us | Blogs | Issues | Newsroom | Multimedia | Events | Publications | Centers | Students | Store | Donate

Product Catalog | RSS | Jobs | Course Adoption | Links | Privacy Policy | Site Map
Facebook Facebook Facebook Facebook
Copyright 2014 The Independent Institute