Panel focuses on need to improve intelligence

Dalia Naamani-Goldman

U.S. Congress is expected to pass a bill implementing several9/11 Commission Report recommendations and President Bush will signit in the next week, former Illinois governor James Thompson saidWednesday at a panel on Northwestern’s Chicago Campus.

“We’re not the fount of wisdom on the 9/11 Commission,” saidThompson, who sits on the National Commission on Terrorist AttacksUpon the United States. “But if no better ideas are out there, thenCongress and the president should enact these ideas. The Americanpublic will not be forgiving a second time. We deliberately wrotethis report so people would grasp it and understand it.”

The panel, co-sponsored by Newsweek magazine and NU, broughttogether Thompson, Michael Isikoff, an investigative correspondentfor Newsweek; Gregory Treverton, a senior policy analyst for theRAND Corporation; and Alexander Weiss, director of NU’s Center forPublic Safety. Newsweek Washington Bureau Chief Dan Klaidmanmoderated the panel discussion entitled, “Perspectives on NationalSecurity: The 9/11 Commission Report and Its Impact on Our Nation.”Young students, faculty and media composed the standing room onlycrowd.

Panelists discussed many aspects of the report, focusingspecifically on the future of intelligence in the United States.All of the men agreed the new conflicts in the world are forcingintelligence agencies such as the FBI to reevaluate their policiesand systems.

“Since 9/11, most public safety agencies are doing better,”Weiss said. “No scenario is rejected and no one ever will sayanymore, ‘That can’t happen.'”

The FBI is cooperating better with its counterparts on thefederal level and also is working more closely with local agencies,according to Weiss. Many local enforcement agencies are betterprepared than they ever have been with detailed plans, he said.Police departments in general are trying to break away from theconcept of being solely reactive departments, he added.

Treverton also said human intelligence must have more patienceand flexibility.

Intelligence agencies must learn how to cooperate with otherservices and countries and take advantage of ethnic diversity inorder to produce the best and most effective results, he said.

“Who knows if we’ll ever be able to make it or not … (but)we’re not going to do better the way we do it now,” Trevertonsaid.

According to Thompson, translation is a further problem today.Because of increased variety in dialects of language and largerterritorial boundaries, intelligence agencies often do not have thephysical or financial resources they need.

“We need more time, attention and resources to translators,” hesaid. “We face different kinds of enemies today.”

Isikoff praised the report and encouraged all Americans tocarefully read the footnotes in particular.

But he said he is concerned that much of the American public isnot publicly addressing many of the issues raised in theCommission’s report.

“There’s something of a disconnect between the body of the textand real issues the country faces,” Isikoff said. “The real issuesare not how the boxes are drawn, but specific policy issues.”

He mentioned the direction in which America should go in termsof combatting terrorism on both a macro and micro level.

Isikoff also said he is concerned with the issue of protectingand preserving civil liberties and balancing the amount and contentof information disseminated to the public.

“There’s almost no discussion about it in Congress,” Isikoffsaid. “How much do you risk?”

Reach Dalia Naamani-Goldman [email protected]