Unfinished business

June 13, 2005

FORMER MEMBERS of the 9/11 commission have reason to doubt U.S. compliance with their recommendations to safeguard the country against another attack. For example, the commission's insistence that radio frequencies be unified to allow emergency personnel across the country to communicate has not been acted on. Among the most devastating discoveries in the aftermath of the twin towers attack was the inability of police and fire officers to communicate with each other as the tragedy unfolded. The impact of that basic failing multiplied nationwide can't be underestimated.

But the commission's recommendation on radio frequencies remains simply that, one recommendation in a voluminous study. There are others languishing: the proposed appointment of a federal civil liberties panel to cast a light on abuses by law enforcement and intelligence agents, and the overhaul of Congress' intelligence oversight authority.

If there ever were a report that needed follow up, it's the one by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. A year since the commission's work ended, former members have joined together in a private organization and asked the Bush administration's cooperation in providing essential information to assess agency compliance with the report. Intelligence matters are at the top of their list, which means they want to focus first on the FBI and the CIA. The administration should join the effort.

Commission members proved their mettle in putting the national interest first by asking tough questions and seeking the truth in their deliberations. Now, united in the name of the 9/11 Public Discourse Project, the former commissioners plan to hold hearings on substantive issues that remain outstanding. The administration shouldn't fight their request for documents from the CIA, FBI, Pentagon and others.

The 9/11 report provided a guide for correcting intelligence failures and other lapses that threaten the nation's security. It has become a national best-seller, a nightstand reference and checklist for the public in the event of another catastrophic attack.

Does the Bush administration really want to be defending itself as it had to after 9/11? The more appropriate response would be to assist the commission members so they can faithfully report that the administration did all it could to protect America.

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