Gary Hart

In Salon today, an interview of Gary Hart who, in 2000, co-chaired the little-publicized U.S. Commission on National Security:

Hart was co-chair (with former Sen. Warren Rudman, R-N.H.) of the U.S. Commission on National Security, a bipartisan panel that conducted the most thorough investigation of U.S. security challenges since World War II. After completing the report, which warned that a devastating terrorist attack on America was imminent and called for the immediate creation of a Cabinet-level national security agency, and delivering it to President Bush on January 31, 2001, Hart and Rudman personally briefed Rice, Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell. But, according to Hart, the Bush administration never followed up on the commission’s urgent recommendations, even after he repeated them in a private White House meeting with Rice just days before 9/11.

The whole interview is facscinating; here’s a telling exchange:

HART: … And then as Congress started to move on this, and the heat was turned up, George Bush — and this is often overlooked — held a press conference or made a public statement on May 5, 2001, calling on Congress not to act and saying he was turning over the whole matter to Dick Cheney.

So this wasn’t just neglect, it was an active position by the administration. He said, “I don’t want Congress to do anything until the vice president advises me.” We now know from Dick Clarke that Cheney never held a meeting on terrorism, there was never any kind of discussion on the department of homeland security that we had proposed. There was no vice presidential action on this matter.

In other words, a bipartisan commission of seven Democrats and seven Republicans who had spent two and a half years studying the problem, a group of Americans with a cumulative 300 years in national security affairs, recommended to the president of the United States on a reasonably urgent basis the creation of a Cabinet-level agency to protect our country — and the president did nothing!

By the way, when our final report came out in 2001, it did not receive word one in the New York Times. Zero. The Washington Post put it on Page 3 or 4, below the fold.

So there was absolutely no follow-up on your commission’s recommendations once Bush referred the matter to Cheney?