20 April 2004

A Patriotic Day: 9/11 Commission Recognizes Importance of the Patriot Act

A Patriotic Day: 9/11 Commission Recognizes Importance of the Patriot Act:

by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., and Paul Rosenzweig
WebMemo #480

Nothing is more important than preventing another catastrophic terrorist attack on Americans. Nothing. That is why the 9/11 Commission’s work—a comprehensive, objective review of how our law enforcement and intelligence operations can be improved to prevent a recurrence—is so vital. Whenever a team loses the game, it always reviews the videotape to see how it can improve.

During a recent public hearing of the 9/11 Commission, present and former government officials and even the Commissioners themselves emphasized the importance of one new tool adopted after September 11: the USA Patriot Act. They all agreed that the Patriot Act is an essential weapon in the nation’s global war on terrorism. Congress should take note and, as President Bush called for in the State of the Union Address, act now to reauthorize provisions in the law due to expire next year.

Confronting the Wall

The Commission is supposed to act in a nonpartisan manner, and—despite controversial testimony by former National Security Council staffer Richard Clarke that has triggered a rancorous series of hearing—recent sessions have provided an important and appropriate discussion of the underlying challenges of structure and strategy that limited both the Clinton and Bush administrations in effectively going after Bin Laden’s murderous al Qaeda network.

One key discussion point, in particular, should not be lost. Officials from both administrations acknowledged that before September 11 a “wall” of legal and regulatory policies prevented effective sharing of information between the intelligence and law enforcement communities.
For example, as Attorney General John Ashcroft noted, in 1995 the Justice Department embraced legal reasoning that “effectively excluded” prosecutors from intelligence investigations. At times, for prudential reasons, Justice Department officials even raised the “wall” higher than was required by law, to avoid any appearance of “impermissibly” mixing law enforcement and intelligence activities.

We now know that the erection of this “wall” had tragic costs. The “wall” played a large role in our pre-September 11 inability to “connect the dots” of intelligence and law enforcement information. As one frustrated FBI investigator wrote at the time, “Whatever has happened to this—someday someone will die—and wall or not—the public will not understand why we were not more effective and throwing every resource we had at certain ‘problems.”

Programatic Data Privacy and Integrity is the real issue at stake here. Enterprise Security Governance will provide the mechanisms and controls necessary for the Patriot Act to operate with the highest degree of assurance. Our civil liberties are still in force and will be there to protect everyone who is an American. What we must not waiver on is the need to modernize, to re-equip and to create "Correlation Centers". The fact is, our intelligence analysts in enforcement are under attack every day by more savvy and increasingly powerful adversaries. The establishment of a more robust, pervasive and technologically superior force to defend our homeland is still in the forming stages. What is paramount in this stage of growth is the framework for Security Governance to be injected into each stakeholder. The policies, ethics and controls must be there to guide those who are protecting our privacy while simultaneously allowing us to accelerate our countermeasures to deter, defend and defeat those who will continue to attack us. The Patriot Act will remain a powerful asset to those who wake every morning to ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information in our country.

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