A few days back, The Connection, a public radio program out of WBUR in Boston, had a good discussion on preventing terrorism and the many actual and potential investigations going on post-9/11. It’s available in streaming RealAudio from their website.
There was the obligatory idiot or two calling in to explain calmly that everything would be Just Fine if Americans would stop being such nasty hegemonic bastards, enlightening us with such gems as “typical American behavior is rabidly anti-anybody who’s not American.” But if you can tune out those interludes host Dick Gordon and guests Elaine Shannon (Washington correspondent for Time Magazine) and Juliette Kayyem (Executive Director of the Executive Session on Domestic Preparedness at Harvard JFK School of Government) provide some interesting background and info on the Congressional investigations going on into 9/11 and the overall problem of preventing future attacks.
Kayyem, who served on the National Commission on Terrorism in 2000, in particular had a few interesting things to say, notably regarding the reaction that commmission’s report (also known as the Bremer report) met with when it was released in June 2000:
It was worse than being ignored, what happened to us. We recommended in that commission — bypartisan, independent, ten member — we recommended a lot of the structural fixes you’re hearing about now. We recommended more focus by the CIA on human intelligence, more analysis by the FBI, other things.
To say we got reamed in the press would be an understatement. We were villified in that summer when the report came out as being paranoid… all these cold warriors (which a lot of the guys on the commission were) trying to get money from the cold war focused, now, to the Defense Department for terrorism. So I think that there was just a basic unwillingness to accept the reality that most people within counterterrorism knew… which was the terrorists were getting smarter, better, and bigger. And I think we all are to blame for that in some way — the media, the government, everything.”
Is Kayyem exaggerating the reaction to the commission’s report? My (brief) research turned up one example that suggests not: This piece by Salon’s Bruce Shapiro, circa June 2000, which has the wince-inducing subhead of “Why a new report on the threat of international terrorist attacks on U.S. soil is a con job.”
Was the Bremer commission prophetic? Don’t know yet, as I haven’t been able to find a copy of the report (if it is publicly available). But I can point you to this transcript of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing on the matter from June 15, 2000. (I was annoyingly unable to find this on an official .gov site; so strangely, it’s from “indiatogether.org”. Hopefully it’s accurate).
More to come on this later, after I actually slog through the transcript…
Incidentally, The Connection is generally a good spot to get general roundups on the issues of the day, if you are, like me, addicted to streaming audio programs over the ‘net. (I find I can’t clean the house without them anymore, particularly now that I’ve got my little wireless speaker that I can bring all around with me). Other favorites of mine are Forum, from KQED in San Francisco, To The Point, from KCRW in Southern California, and of course national programs like Talk of the Nation. (And yes, Fresh Air with Terry Gross can be fascinating as well, depending on the guest & topic).
All of these programs have RealAudio streaming setup via the web, which works beautifully if you’ve got DSL / Cable, and even was listenable for me back when I was at 56K. Give them a whirl.