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Old Commissions Don't Die, They Just Watch Away
The federal commission that investigated the 9/11 terrorist attacks formally disbanded last August. However, in Washington, where no government project is ever really completed, the Commission has been reborn as the 9/11 Public Discourse Project, a watchdog organization that intends to monitor the government's implementation of the Commission's recommendations.

As a senior official of the Project explained, "We wanted to avoid the fate of so many commissions that do good work and create a brief ripple and then find their report and their recommendations slipping beneath the waves." The official also stated that there was unanimous concern by the Commission's members regarding the purported refusal of Congress to reform its oversight of national intelligence efforts.

Although the Project lacks the Commission's subpoena powers, they have scheduled a set of "hearings" they call "The Unfinished Agenda." The goal is to draw public attention to what the members perceive as a failure by the federal government to fully implement their recommendations. Additional meetings are planned on a range of topics including foreign policy and civil liberties.

It should be noted that the Project meeting, which looked at reform efforts at the FBI and CIA, "took place in front of a large reproduction of the cover the commission's 567-page report, which became a national bestseller."

It's too early to tell whether the 9/11 Public Discourse Project will be a vigilant and useful national security watchdog or another instance of former Washington insiders who can't believe that their time in the spotlight is over.

Although the Commission worked hard and provided significant information about the 9/11 tragedy, they and their successor organization hardly have a monopoly on insights into how best to fight terrorism. The Project has the potential to be a valuable counter-terrorism watchdog. If, however, the Project's members are primarily concerned with protecting their legacy or opining on topics on which they have limited expertise, they may find themselves becoming as stagnant and ineffective as the bureaucracies they criticized.

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