Emory Report
August 23, 2004
Volume 57, Number 1


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August 23, 2004
9/11 commissioner discusses findings

By eric rangus

At a public meeting in the Carter Center, Tuesday, Aug. 10, a member of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States detailed the manner in which the commission did its work and discussed several of its recommendations.

“We felt the eyes of history on our backs, the claws of al-Qaeda on our shoulders and the grief of America in our hearts,” said Timothy Roemer, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana and one of 10 members of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission, as it came to be known. “We had a mandate to produce a report on a truthful and factual basis. We would not let this opportunity pass. There was not a day in the last two years that I didn’t think about our obligation.”

The 9/11 Commission issued its report on July 22 following a 20-month investigation. It found “across the government, there were failures of imagination, policy, capabilities and management.” The commission report is now a best-selling book; copies were available following the event.

Roemer’s address at the Carter Center, attended by around 100 people, is part of a grassroots effort by all the commissioners to tour the country and speak directly to citizens about its work and how individuals can help combat terrorism.

Bipartisanship and teamwork were two of Roemer’s themes. “The commission has reached a unanimous report, we have endorsed every page, and there is no minority opinion,” said Roemer, who, like his nine fellow commissioners, is a co-author of the report. “All of the commissioners stand by every word, every paragraph, of this book. I think that sends a message to the American people that commissions like this can accomplish things.”

During the second half of Roemer’s 30-minute address, he discussed several of the commission’s 41 recommendations including the creation of a national intelligence director and of a national counterterrorism center.

He spoke of creating an education fund to help counter any anti-American teachings in madrasas (Islamic religious schools). “The relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia must be broadened and deepened beyond oil,” Roemer said. “We need to see political and economic reforms take place that would begin to move that country toward an open society.”

Other recommendations include a military focus on Special Operations rather than outdated Cold War weapons, changes in the FBI and in Congress, including the makeup of the intelligence committee, which limits members’ terms to six years.

“We can’t do it this way,” said Roemer, who sat on that committee while in the House. “It’s one of the most complicated committees you can sit on.”

Roemer also stressed the importance of better communication with the Muslim world and its people. “We have to understand where this hatred is coming from,” he said. “The United States has to do a better job of communicating our freedoms and liberties.”

From 1991–2003, Roemer served in the U.S. House of Representatives, sitting on several committees including the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He was the key author of the House legislation to establish the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States.

He currently serves as president of the Center for National Policy and is a distinguished scholar at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, a nonprofit research and educational institution dedicated to improving public policy outcomes.

Roemer was introduced by Jay Hakes, director of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, which sponsored the event. Like Roemer, Hakes focused on the theme of bipartisanship as a means of moving forward.

“When Timothy Roemer was in Congress he became known as someone whose votes and speeches were based more on thorough knowledge of the subject than on partisanship or ideological spin,” Hakes said.