Will Pelosi deliver on 9/11 promises?

November 15, 2006|By Carie Lemack

For 9/11 family members, last Tuesday's election results hold promise. The probable new speaker of the House ran her campaign on a pledge to implement all of the 9/11 commission recommendations in the first 100 hours of her leadership.

To hear that a powerful congressional leader such as Rep. Nancy Pelosi wants to take on this issue should give me hope. Ever since my mom was murdered that terrible day more than five years ago, I have pushed for our government to step up and do the right thing by creating the 9/11 commission and then heeding the bipartisan recommendations. So why do I feel so skeptical?

Perhaps it is because other politicians have run on a 9/11 platform and underperformed. President Bush and Sen. John Kerry agreed in 2004 that weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists were the gravest threat facing the nation. But two years later, neither the president nor the Democrats have made preventing nuclear terrorism a top priority. The government's effort to lock down weapons of mass destruction received a D grade from the 9/11 commission in its report card last December. For an issue that these capable leaders believe to be so serious, I would expect more than the use of words and empty promises to prevent it.

There are some politicians, however, who do bring me hope, especially those who have reached across party lines to make the country safer. Rep. Christopher Shays, a Republican from Connecticut, and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, a Democrat from New York, teamed up this year to offer legislation to implement all 41 of the 9/11 commission recommendations. But their bill stalled in Congress as both political parties' leaders were unwilling to give credit to the other side for passing good legislation before the election. One of those leaders was Ms. Pelosi.

If Ms. Pelosi wants to implement the 9/11 commission recommendations, she needs to do it right. But it appears she may lack fidelity to the commission's proposals. She pledged to name a new chair to the House Intelligence Committee, removing Rep. Jane Harman, the current ranking member and most experienced Democrat on the committee. Ms. Harman's ouster goes against a key 9/11 commission recommendation that advocates for allowing long-term membership and leadership of a committee that requires expertise and experience to provide adequate oversight. Removing Ms. Harman at a time when we need strong intelligence supervision is a slap in the face to the 9/11 commission recommendations.

The recommendation to reorganize Congress to provide adequate oversight of intelligence and homeland security agencies requires several congressional committees to give up jurisdiction - which elected officials, especially the chairmen of those panels, are loath to do. Ms. Pelosi has shown that she is not afraid to take on powerful forces. We need her to demonstrate this strength now.

The good news for Ms. Pelosi is that some 9/11 commission recommendations are not that difficult to implement. These are the issues she can focus on and get immediate results. The creation of a senior adviser to the president to oversee the lockdown of nuclear weapons materials worldwide is an example. Making public the budget for our intelligence agencies and providing adequate broadcast spectrum for first responders (so they can communicate during emergencies) are two more.

Ms. Pelosi has made the right promises. Now she has to use her power to deliver promising results.

Carie Lemack is the co-founder of Families of September 11 and the founder and president of a national security consulting firm. Her e-mail is carie_lemack@yahoo.com.

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