Some would say we have been in a continuous time of war since 9/11. Let’s have a debate as to whether and to what the Churchillian dictum applies today.
• What should be done if it is determined that a governmental agency has deceived the American people and then withheld the evidence of its incompetence or perfidy by the shield of classification? We need a public conversation as to whether it would be salutary to insert provisions in the Freedom of Information Act or elsewhere to sanction an agency which has engaged in this practice.
• Why have the Saudis been treated in a distinctively different manner than other nationalities? This stark difference was highlighted after the Boston marathon bombing in April.
Within hours of the massacre, the FBI was aggressively investigating whether the two Muslim Russian Chechen bombers had acted with the connivance of Muslims from Russia’s volatile North Caucasus region. Yet, more than 10 years after 9/11 it appears everything possible is being done to conceal Saudi assistance to the 19 hijackers — 15 of whom were Saudi nationals.
• Should the FBI continue to be the domestic intelligence agency for the United States? MI 5 in the United Kingdom and Shin Bet in Israel are stand alone, non-law enforcement related domestic intelligence agencies. One rationale for this separation is difference of mission. Law enforcement agencies are primarily directed to gather sufficient evidence after a crime has been committed to convict the perpetrator beyond a reasonable doubt. Domestic intelligence is structured to gather information to detect a peril and avoid it.
• Has the performance of the FBI been such as to convince Americans we are best protected by an agency that combines these goals?
Mr. President, those are some of the questions that concern Americans. We recall President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s call to duty in his 1961 farewell address:
“Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.” Today the situation is different. But, the challenge to properly mesh security concerns with the protection of our liberties continues.
Let the debate begin.
Bob Graham served for 18 years in the U.S. Senate and eight years as governor of Florida. He was chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee (2001-2003) and co-chair of the congressional joint inquiry into the role of the intelligence community in 9/11. He is the author of the novel “Keys to the Kingdom.”