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Ex.-Rep. Hamilton Continues Push for 9/11 Recommendations

Eight months after the 9/11 commission disbanded, former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.), the commission’s vice chairman, is still a man on a mission — pursuing the commission’s agenda as it tries to get its recommendations enacted.

In a speech to the U.S. Capital Area Political Science Association’s spring meeting on Thursday, Hamilton outlined what he sees as the key aspects of a counterterrorism policy.

Although he spoke about a variety of policy options, Hamilton specifically cited Congress as a hindrance to reform. Calling Congress “our biggest disappointment” in the implementation of the 9/11 commission’s reforms, the 17-term former Representative chastised the lack of oversight of the intelligence community.

“What the Congress did not do is deal effectively with the question of the robust oversight of intelligence community,” Hamilton said.

“I interviewed every single member of the authorizing committees in the House and the Senate, except one member who would not talk to me. Every single one of them said our oversight function is not working. And some used the word dysfunctional — which we used in the report,” Hamilton said. “The key factor here is that the intelligence community doesn’t pay that much attention to the authorizing committees because they don’t have to. They get their money from the appropriating committees.”

The intelligence budget is “just a blip” for the Appropriations subcommittee on Defense, Hamilton said, adding that one group of Senators told him they spent 10 minutes on the budget in their committee.

The executive branch will not pay attention to a committee that does not hold budget power, he said.

Hamilton, now president and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said the members of the disbanded commission continue to work together, thanks to a nonprofit corporation they created with about $2 million they raised. The members plan to “stay in business until the end of the year,” and after that involvement will be up to the individual commissioners.

During his speech, Hamilton broke down what he sees as the necessary steps in counterterrorism policy into five “I’s”: identification of the enemy, integration of government resources, international cooperation, intelligence and implementation.

Of the five, he said identifying the enemy is among the most difficult.

“Are we fighting an enemy that poses an ongoing and lethal enemy to the United States, or are we, as the BBC broadcast just about two weeks ago, a phantom enemy — a vastly overrated extremist group who we nearly wiped out when we intervened in Afghanistan?” Hamilton asked. “Are we fighting an enemy that hates us because of our values and because of our support for freedom? Or are we fighting an enemy that hates our policies in the Middle East, or Israel, or Iraq or Egypt?”

He said the United States must agree on who the enemy is in order to truly combat terrorism.

Integration poses another difficulty to counterterrorism because the diffused set-up of the American government does not encourage information sharing.

Hamilton also cited reaching out to the international community as a crucial step in counterterrorism, citing a political metaphor.

He likened the situation with the Middle East to that certain constituent every politician has — the one who repeatedly asks him or her to do the impossible.

“I don’t know a single successful politician that says to those people, ‘I cannot help you.’ What do you say? In the words of another American politician you say, ‘I feel your pain,’ or, to put it another phrase, ‘I’m on your side,’” Hamilton said, specifically citing funding secular schools in Pakistan as a symbolic start.

Hamilton called for continued reforms in the intelligence community and, saying that “no law is self-executed,” he added that he hopes government officials will be able to carry out the laws.

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