Jewish World Review Oct. 28, 2004 / 13 Mar-Cheshvan 5765

Dan Abrams

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Why the battle over the 9/11 Commission's recommended changes represent politics at its worst | The 9/11 Commission, five prominent Democrats, five prominent Republicans, spent months interviewing all the relevant players from President Bush to President Clinton. The goal? To assess what happened on 9/11 and why and most importantly, recommend changes to prevent it from happening again. They battled over words where Republicans tried to defend the president and Democrats doing the same for former President Clinton.

But in the end, they came up with a 585-page unanimous report. I promised if they were unanimous, I would defend it. Now a bi-partisan Senate bill incorporated many of the commission's suggestions, including a new position of intelligence director who would control almost all the budgets for the institutions that report to him or her. That would include Defense Department intelligence gathering agencies. The House wants to keep the status quo alive with the defense secretary retaining budgetary control. The House has also slipped in controversial measures about immigration and law enforcement. It sure feels like the House leaders just don't want to make the necessary changes that the 9/11 commission sort of suggested.

They compromised. The Senate compromised. The White House, which initially did not want the commission at all, compromised. But now the partisans in the House are trying to wipe away all that hard work by slipping in controversial provisions that will kill the bill and weaken any proposed changes. Leaders of the commission are now warning that lawmakers should be held partially responsible if another terror attack occurs before Congress restructures our nation's intelligence gathering operation.

They're right. It's easy to say we need to make changes, but it's a lot harder to do it. The 9/11 Commission was able to deal with the partisan split on their commission. Now it's the House's turn to finally put politics aside and make the tough choices.

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JWR contributor Dan Abrams anchors “The Abrams Report,” Monday through Friday from 9-10 p.m. ET on MSNBC TV. He also covers legal stories for “NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw,” “Today” and “Dateline NBC.” To visit his website, click here. Comment by clicking here.



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