Fourteen years ago this coming weekend, I was standing on top of the World Trade Center. It had been a long summer at work. The Justice Department office I worked in at the time was operating at a heightened pace. A couple law school friends and I drove up to New York for Labor Day weekend 2001 on a whim, and one of our group had never seen the view. I said it was a once-in-a-lifetime must, and up we went.
Once in a lifetime, indeed.
I’ve never shared this story publicly, or even with many family and friends. It’s not really much of a story, anyway; more of a flashback. In my initial testimony before the Senate in October 2013 on national security surveillance reform, I described, in part, my experience days later at the Justice Department after the attacks and the Towers fell.
Tonight I’ll begin my sixth year teaching a seminar on Intelligence Reform at Georgetown Law. Last year, only a small handful of students had previously read the official 9/11 Commission Report. (It’s on the syllabus, now.) A law student who is 25 years old today, of course, was only 11, then. Personal recollections of the day are fading as a new generation enters the profession of national security law and related professional roles in advocacy organizations, academia, think tanks, and journalism. And yet for some of us, our personal and professional recollections of that era are a driving motivator to ensure that the nation addresses security threats directly, proactively and thoughtfully.
So here’s my plug for professionals engaged on the issues of surveillance reform, counterterrorism, cybersecurity and related issues, including new Members and staff in Congress, to pause and read the original 9/11 Commission Report. It will also be time well spent to review the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Tenth Anniversary Report Card: The Status of the 9/11 Commission Recommendations (2011), and also the Center’s follow-up, Today’s Rising Terrorist Threat and the Danger to the United States: Reflections on the Tenth Anniversary of the 9/11 Commission Report (2014).