An examination of some of the 9/11 commission's recommendations - and the results

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RECOMMENDATION: "We recommend the establishment of a National Counterterrorism Center. ... The current position of Director of Central Intelligence should be replaced by a National Intelligence Director."

(Photo courtesy Elvert Barnes via Flickr)

RESULT: The government has turned its intelligence-sharing policies nearly upside down as it tries to make it easier to manage and share all the rushing streams of information that flow through 15 agencies. There's a new National Counterterrorism Center; its mission is to bring together intelligence and analysts from across the government. There's a new director of national intelligence, a distinct agency, to coordinate it all.

Overall, the intelligence budget has more than doubled since Sept. 11.
But Hamilton says "it's not clear that the DNI is the driving force for intelligence community integration that the commission envisioned."

The vision of a strong director supreme over all the intelligence agencies has yet to be fully realized in large part because of the way the job is structured, with lots of responsibility but not much authority. In a town where dollars equal clout, the intelligence director has no ability to redirect, cut off or increase spending at the different agencies.

The position, sometimes derided as the "convener-in-chief," is fast becoming one of the most thankless jobs in Washington. Three directors have come and gone since the job was created in 2005. Each was engaged in turf battles with the CIA and the National Security Council.

Retired Adm. Dennis Blair, who held the job from 2009 to 2010, complained in a recent address that the White House had undermined his authority.

"They sided enough with the CIA in ways that were public enough that it undercut my position," Blair said.

Asked with whom the president would side among current officials at the DNI, CIA and Pentagon, Blair said the White House would do the coordinating. He then added, "My experience is that the White House isn't a very good place to coordinate intelligence, much less to integrate it."

The current director, retired three-star Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper, is said to be well thought of by the White House, partly because he is openly deferential to the CIA.

After the 9/11 attacks, the government did work to combine its terrorist watchlists. Now even a beat cop in Seattle can check to see if the person pulled over for speeding is a known or suspected terrorist.

There are some worries that all this broad sharing of information has made it too easy for national secrets to leak. Think WikiLeaks.

RECOMMENDATION: Creation of a nationwide radio network to allow different public safety agencies to communicate with one another during disasters. "Congress should support pending legislation which provides for the expedited and increased assignment of radio spectrum for public safety purposes."

RESULT: Still no network, legislation still pending.

As fires raged at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, firefighters, police and other emergency personnel couldn't effectively communicate with one another because of their archaic and incompatible radios.

To fix the problem, the commission recommended creating a network that would allow different public safety agencies to talk to each other during disasters, from forest fires to terrorist attacks.

But lawmakers, public safety officials and telecommunications companies have spent years haggling over the best way to build the system, which would cost billions to construct and operate. Legislation backed by the Obama administration would devote high-quality radio spectrum to a nationwide wireless public safety network, and raise the money to pay for it by auctioning other airwaves to spectrum-hungry wireless companies.

Even if a law is enacted this year, setting up the network would take time.

"Congress must not approach this urgent matter at a leisurely pace, because quite literally lives are at stake," Hamilton and commission co-chairman Tom Kean said in a June letter to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

RECOMMENDATION: "There should be a board within the executive branch to oversee adherence to the guidelines we recommend and the commitment the government makes to defend our civil liberties."

RESULT: Within weeks of the attacks, President George W. Bush signed the Patriot Act, giving the government powers to search records and conduct roving wiretaps in pursuit of terrorists. That generated worries that personal and civil liberties would be overrun.

The five-person Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board was established and operated for a few years. But since 2008 it has been dormant. President Barack Obama nominated two people to serve, but they have not been confirmed by the Senate.

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