Make Haste...But Be Careful
By Jay Ambrose
August 1, 2004 - If Congress or the administration dawdles over recommendations of the 9/11 commission, the worst could happen, some reportedly think. There could be a terrorist attack and it would look as if the dawdlers were responsible.
That possibility - plus public anxiety and urgings by the commission, families of victims in the terrorist attacks in 2001 and Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry -- seems to have prompted scurrying. The administration is conducting meetings to see what might be implemented immediately.
Congressional committees will be holding hearings through August. And it looks as if there could be pre-election action.
Fine and good - maybe.
But all involved should remember that it's not for nothing that someone invented the line that "haste makes waste." They should consider that:
While it was politically impartial and seemingly thorough, the 9/11 commission is not infallible. Even if the commission's recommendations are splendid, that is not something that can be known through faith, but only by careful examination that could require many months. Putting bad recommendations into effect could endanger American lives more than taking the time necessary to evaluate what the commission wants.
While we all have sympathy for them, the families of victims have no special claim on national security issues because of the tragedy in their lives, and no special insight into those issues for that reason, either.
The political advantages for Kerry in advocating that steps be taken now are considerable, and the political disadvantages for the administration in delaying action are considerable. It is these very facts that should make officials pause to make sure politics are not taking precedence over rationality.
Experts need to be heard at length on a central recommendation that an office be established with power over all the intelligence agencies in government. Some already say that this could be an extra layer of bureaucracy that could do more to hamper intelligence gathering than as to facilitate it, and it is not hard to imagine that this could be the case.
Perhaps through more intense study than usual - or because a lot of homework had already been done prior to the recommendations -- Congress and the administration can satisfy themselves that it is wise to put the recommendations into effect soon, but without such confidence, they should not do it. They should study more.
(Jay Ambrose is director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard Newspapers and can be reached at AmbroseJ@shns.com)
© Copyright 2004 by Capitol Hill Blue