Ignoring the Warning: The National Media, like the Federal Government, Didn't Pay Much Attention to a High-Level Commission's Dissection of the Nation's Security Weaknesses in the Face of Terrorist Threats
Paterno, Susan, American Journalism Review
Warren Rudman was riding in a taxi September 11 listening to public radio when he heard that terrorists had destroyed the World Trade Center. The former Republican senator from New Hampshire was anguished. Not long before, he had presided over a congressionally mandated study on national security that had first among its conclusions: "Americans will likely die on American soil, possibly in large numbers" within the next two decades.
The attack left Rudman and his commission co-chair Gary Hart wondering why so few in the media had taken the report seriously. The Hart-Rudman commission, a blue-chip, bipartisan panel, included high-ranking military officers, prominent intellectuals, former Cabinet secretaries and members of Congress; among its members were former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, former Defense Secretary and CIA Director James Schlesinger and Leslie Gelb, one-time New York Times national security correspondent and now president of the Council on Foreign Relations. Working without compensation, the 14 commissioners spent more than two years and $10 million analyzing the nation's security system and proposing ways to strengthen it.
Released on January 31, the final report declared the nation unprepared to deal with terrorism and called for a fundamental change in national security. If enacted, the recommendations would have meant the most significant policy overhaul since a similar commission in 1947 led to the creation of the National Security Council, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Air Force and the Defense Department.
The report earned at most a few news stories in the nation's leading newspapers--the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and USA Today--played somewhere in the middle of the front sections or, in the case of the Wall Street Journal, buried in a roundup of Washington briefs, according to a Lexis-Nexis search. Of the three leading networks, only CBS aired a segment on the report, says Andrew Tyndall, who monitors network nightly news offerings, adding, "That's what you got for your 10 million bucks."
Until September 11, it appeared as though the findings of the United States Commission on National Security/21st Century were destined to live among the millions of pages of federally funded reports lining the shelves of an obscure federal document repository. But the terrorist attack illuminated national security problems so serious that previous attempts to solve them now seem akin to putting a …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Ignoring the Warning: The National Media, like the Federal Government, Didn't Pay Much Attention to a High-Level Commission's Dissection of the Nation's Security Weaknesses in the Face of Terrorist Threats. Contributors: Paterno, Susan - Author. Magazine title: American Journalism Review. Volume: 23. Issue: 9 Publication date: November 2001. Page number: 25+. © 2009 University of Maryland. COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.