Monday, August 08, 2005

❄ 9.11 Commission [I]: Adventures

The 9.11 Commission—formally the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States—was created by the US Congress and President via Public Law 107-306, 27 November 2002. The commission members deserve to be remembered: Thomas Kean, Lee Hamilton, Richard Ben-Veniste, Bob Kerrey, Fred F. Fielding, John Lehman, Jamie Gorelick, Timothy Roemer, Slade Gorton and James R. Thompson. With a staff, led by Philip Zelikow, their inquiries led to The 9/11 Commission Report and its recommendations for action.

When the commission’s mandate came to an end in August 2004 the members took an unusual decision: to remain focused on how their recommendations would fare. They created the 9/11 Public Discourse Project, which plans to issue a ‘report card’ in September 2005. To that end they have asked several executive agencies, including the White House and CIA, for information, but only Homeland Security said it planned to respond. From the rest: stonewall.

The Question

What has become of the 9.11 Commission?


Focus first on the smart decision to stay in business , even if as a private group, no longer possessed of subpoena powers. Their decision illustrates design at work. It strives for accountability. Did the bipartisan Commission doubt that Congress would itself be accountable, and hold the Executive to answer?

Second, note the probem which Philip Shenon describes in the New York Times, 7 August. Officials whom the Public Discourse Project has asked to speak with it—including Rumsfeld, Rice, Goss, Mueller, and Card—have simply failed to respond. Most requests for information have been ignored.

This White House cloaks itself in secrecy, and the Republican Congress has done little to prompt disclosure.

The Political Design Problem

So here’s the design problem: how can citizens hold government to account for itself—even on a subject everyone agrees is of paramount importance—when neither Congress nor the Executive judge it in their interest to be subject to rational assessment?


[1] Philip Shenon, “9/11 Group Says White House Has Not Provided Files,” The New York Times, 7 August 2005.

[2] 9/11 Public Discourse Project:

[3] The 9/11 Commission.

[4] Report of the 9/11 Commission.

[Political Design 2005.08.08. Post 2.]


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