The 9/11 Commission Report
Introduction | Commentary | News | Resources
Board Member Resigns Over White House Changes to Privacy Report. Lanny J. Davis, one of five members of the White House Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, resigned (pdf) yesterday in protest of the Bush administration's changes to the board's first annual report. The White House made more than 200 revisions to the report, including the deletion of a passage on anti-terrorism programs where intelligence officials said the programs had "potentially problematic" intrusions on civil liberties. Another change concerned the controversial Automated Targeting System. EPIC has published a detailed report (pdf) on the need to reform the Board. (May 15, 2007)
9/11 Commission Leaders Press President's Civil Liberties Board on Domestic Surveillance Program. Governor Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton, former Chair and Vice Chair of the 9/11 Commission, sent a letter (pdf) to the President's Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board in response to the first annual report from the Board. The Kean and Hamilton letter begins with the question "What civil liberties have been specifically protected or enhanced by your actions?" The letter also raises questions about the President's domestic surveillance program, the watch list problems, and the misuse of National Security Letter authority. EPIC testified (pdf) before the 9/11 Commission on the importance of effective oversight and has published a paper (pdf) on the need to reform the Board. (May 9, 2007)
9/11 Commission Releases Final Report. The National Commission on Terrorists Attacks has released its final report (pdf 7 MB) on the circumstances surrounding the 9/11 terrorist attacks and recommendations for guarding against attacks in the future. In his testimony (pdf) before the Commission in December, EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg emphasized the important history of privacy protection, the problems with new systems of surveillance, and the specific need to preserve Constitutional checks and balances. (Jul. 22, 2004)
9/11 Commission Report Expected This Week. The National Commission on Terrorists Attacks will release this week its final report on the circumstances surrounding the 9/11 terrorist attacks and recommendations for guarding against attacks in the future. In testimony before the Commission in December, EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg emphasized the important history of privacy protection, the problems with new systems of surveillance, and the specific need to preserve Constitutional checks and balances. (July 13, 2004)
9/11 Commission to Look at Antiterrorism Policy. This week the National Commission on Terrorists Attacks will hear from key administration officials at a public hearing on Counterterrorism Policy. The hearing follows recent accusations by former antiterrorism official Richard Clarke that President Bush botched antiterrorism efforts, as well as the Commission's frustration with the White House's reluctance to testify. In testimony before the Commission in December, EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg emphasized the important history of privacy protection, the problems with new systems of surveillance, and the specific need to preserve Constitutional checks and balances. (Mar. 23, 2004)
EPIC Testifies Before "9/11 Commission". EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg spoke today to the National Commission on Terrorists Attacks on "Security and Liberty." His statement (pdf) emphasized the important history of privacy protection, the problems with new systems of surveillance, and the specific need to preserve Constitutional checks and balances. The hearing will be broadcast live on C-SPAN 2. (Dec. 8, 2003)
The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also known as the 9/11 Commission), a bipartisan commission created by congressional legislation and the signature of President Bush in late 2002, is chartered to prepare a complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, including preparedness for and the immediate response to the attacks. The Commission is also mandated to provide recommendations designed to guard against future attacks.
The Commission, a panel of five Democrats and five Republicans, held twelve public hearings between March 2003 and June 2004. Preliminary coverage of the panel’s findings state that the report casts doubt on whether the Bush administration has justified its use of some expanded powers under the USA Patriot Act, which gave the FBI broader authority to conduct surveillance and searches in terrorism investigations following the Sept. 11 attacks. In addition, the unanimous final report is expected to sharply criticize Congress for failing in its role as overall watchdog over the nation's intelligence agencies and will call for wholesale changes in the way lawmakers oversee intelligence agencies and the Homeland Security Department.
In testimony before the Commission in December 2003, EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg emphasized the important history of privacy protection, the problems with new systems of surveillance, and the specific need to preserve Constitutional checks and balances. EPIC urged the Commission to consider the important role of public oversight in evaluating the federal government’s intelligence-gathering authority rather than focusing exclusively on Congressional oversight. EPIC also stressed the importance of protecting traditional civil liberties safeguards to ensure that new anti-terrorism legislation develops in accordance with U.S. law and American values concerning privacy and civil liberties.
EPIC Commentary on the Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Report
Airline Passenger Screening
9/11 Commission Recommendation: Improved use of "no-fly" and "automatic selectee" lists should not be delayed while the argument about a successor to CAPPS continues. This screening function should be performed by the TSA, and it should utilize the larger set of watchlists maintained by the federal government. Air carriers should be required to supply the information needed to test and implement this new system. (p. 393)
EPIC Comment: Significant errors have been found in both the no-fly watchlists and the automatic selectee system. This is a particularly serious problem for US persons who travel within the United States. There should be an independent evaluation of how best to operate these screening systems and still safeguard basic rights.
9/11 Commission Recommendation: The TSA and the Congress must give priority attention to improving the ability of screening checkpoints to detect explosives on passengers. As a start, each individual selected for special screening should be screened for explosives. Further, the TSA should conduct a human factors study,a method often used in the private sector, to understand problems in screener performance and set attainable objectives for individual screeners and for the checkpoints where screening takes place. (p. 393)
EPIC Comment: We support recommendations, such as this one, to target individuals who may be carrying weapons or materials that threaten the safety of air travel. This is a more effective security technique than profiling or data mining.
9/11 Commission Recommendation: Congressional oversight for intelligence - and counterterrorism - is now dysfunctional. Congress should address this problem. We have considered various alternatives: A joint committee on the old model of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy is one. A single committee in each house of Congress, combining authorizing and appropriating authorities, is another. (p. 420)
EPIC Comment: Streamlining the oversight of the intelligence agencies is sensible, but the Congressional intelligence communities have a tradition of secrecy and extensive classification that may frustrate public oversight and press reporting on matters of national interest.
9/11 Commission Recommendation: Secure identification should begin in the United States. The federal government should set standards for the issuance of birth certificates and sources of identification, such as drivers licenses. Fraud in identification documents is no longer just a problem of theft. At many entry points to vulnerable facilities,including gates for boarding aircraft, sources of identification are the last opportunity to ensure that people are who they say they are and to check whether they are terrorists. (p. 390)
EPIC Comment: Some steps should be taken to reduce the risk of fraud and identity theft. Identification documents should be made more secure. However, the integration of secure identity cards with interconnected databases raises substantial privacy risks that will require new legislation and new forms of oversight. Privacy enhancing techniques that minimize the collection and use of personally identifiable information should also be considered.
9/11 Commission: Americans should not be exempt from carrying biometric passports or otherwise enabling their identities to be securely verified when they enter the United States; nor should Canadians or Mexicans. Currently U.S. persons are exempt from carrying passports when returning from Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. (p. 388)
EPIC Comment: There are significant privacy and civil liberties concerns regarding the use of such devices that must be resolved before the widespread deployment of biometric passports for U.S. citizens. In particular, a system properly designed to ensure the security of the borders should not provide the basis for routine identification within the United States.
Renewal of PATRIOT Act
9/11 Commission Recommendation: The burden of proof for retaining a particular governmental power should be on the executive, to explain (a) that the power actually materially enhances security and (b) that there is adequate supervision of the executive's use of the powers to ensure protection of civil liberties. If the power is granted, there must be adequate guidelines and oversight to properly confine its use. (pp. 394-95)
EPIC Comment: The 9/11 Commission Report correctly places responsibility on the executive to justify the continued use of the PATRIOT Act authorities.
Protection of Civil Liberties
9/11 Commission Recommendation: As the President determines the guidelines for information sharing among government agencies and by those agencies with the private sector, he should safeguard the privacy of individuals about whom information is shared. (p. 394)
EPIC Comment: It should not be left to the President alone to establish privacy safeguards for information sharing. Congress has a critical oversight role. Routine public reporting should also be established to ensure that the public is able to evaluate the costs and benefits of information sharing within the federal government.
9/11 Commission Recommendation: At this time of increased and consolidated government authority, 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. (p. 395)
EPIC Comment: The United States should establish a privacy agency, but the organization should be independent of the executive branch. The correct model would be an independent agency, similar to the Federal Trade Commission or the Federal Communications Commission.
- W. Branigin, Panel: U.S. Underestimated Pre-9/11 Threat, Washington Post, July 22, 2004.
- D. Stout, Urging Swift Action, Panel Warns Deadlier Attacks Are Likely, N.Y. Times, July 22, 2004
- 911 Panel Report: 'We Must Act', CNN.com, July 22, 2004.
- Report Slams 'Deep' Failings in Government, MSNBC.com, July 22, 2004.
- D. Eggen and D. Linzer, 9/11 Commission Offers Critiques On Many Fronts Report to Be Released Today, Washington Post, July 22, 2004.
- C. Hulse and P. Shenon, 9/11 Panel is Said to Sharply Fault Role of Congress, N.Y. Times, July 22, 2004.
- D. Eggen and M. Allen, 9/11 Report to Cite 10 Missed Opportunities, Washington Post, July 21, 2004.
EPIC Privacy Page | EPIC Home Page
Last Updated: May 15, 2007
Page URL: http://www.epic.org/privacy/terrorism/911comm.html