Over the past four years I’ve had the distinct honor to serve as a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Out of the 435 members of the House, only 20 are afforded the opportunity to serve on this committee.
After September 11, 2001, this committee has taken on a completely different role, and its stature on Capitol Hill has been heightened significantly as the nation’s focus has shifted to combating terrorism and the capabilities of our intelligence community to assist in that mission. In its duty to oversee and examine our intelligence operations, the House and Senate intelligence committees held joint hearings over the past year to look into the terrorist attacks.
In early December, a report was issued based on months of testimony and investigation. The report identified several problems with our intelligence agencies that need to be rectified in our attempt to deal with the threat terrorism poses to our nation. Among these problems is the need for our intelligence agencies to share information and to work collaboratively.
Even while Congress was fulfilling its role to investigate the terrorist attacks, some members alleged it wasn’t enough. They believed a so-called “blue ribbon” commission should investigate the September 11 tragedy. This is something I’ve strenuously objected to from the very first day it was proposed because it’s a terrible idea, but unfortunately, its creation was included in a bill that passed Congress in the lame-duck session.
The citizens elect Congress to, among other things, investigate things such as this. That’s exactly what the intelligence committees have done. This commission is flawed from the start because people with little or no experience in the field of intelligence will be charged with finding someone to blame for this horrible tragedy. This commission is a bad idea because, as we’ve seen with the appointments to this commission, it’s basically something for former elected officials to do in their retirement.
As part of the legislation that enabled this commission, there’s a provision to pay the members of the commission, which I believe is preposterous. Why do we have to pay people to serve on a blue ribbon commission? I think the idea that people will profit from serving on a commission that looks into our nation’s greatest tragedy is nonsense. It degrades the commission and it degrades the victims and their families.
One last objection I have to this panel is the fact that its report will become public just weeks before the next election, which I believe is an attempt to lay blame at the foot of an administration. I have no idea what the report will say, but I know there are people who want to find blame and who will use this report to assign blame.
I believe people’s hopes have been falsely raised in an effort to establish this commission, and in the end it will come nowhere near to reaching those expectations. I’ve spoken with people who think this commission is going to provide a lot of answers and provide a lot of opportunity to assuage the feelings of the family members of the victims. Believing this commission will provide a sense of closure to this event is holding out a false hope for the family members to clutch.
To appoint 10 people who don’t have expertise in intelligence, who will investigate and issue a report in a short time and in such a politically charged atmosphere, doesn’t do justice to the victims nor to our intelligence community. It doesn’t make sense. IBI