PAW asked 11 alumni and faculty members with different perspectives on the events of 9/11 to respond briefly to the question: With the passage of a decade, what is the most important lesson to be learned from Sept. 11 and its aftermath?
By Christopher A. Kojm *79
Chris Kojm *79 is chairman of the National Intelligence Council, which provides intelligence analysis to the president and senior policymakers on national-security issues. He was deputy director of the 9/11 Commission and president of the 9/11 Public Discourse Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to education about the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations.
From the standpoint of the intelligence community, the most important lesson from 9/11 to this very day is the importance of information sharing. The 9/11 Commission identified 10 key instances in which the sharing of intelligence between agencies could have made a critically important difference in disrupting the 9/11 plot. Its recommendations were aimed at improving unity of effort across the intelligence community and across the U.S. government, particularly the sharing of all terrorist-related information.
Since that time, the culture of the intelligence community has changed in significant and positive ways. Promotion to senior assignments now depends on joint duty — working in a position outside one’s home agency, and learning how to make the whole equal more than the sum of its parts. As the director of national intelligence has said, no one had to order agencies to work together in the effort leading up to the May 1 raid in Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden. The mission required close collaboration among many partners, and it happened seamlessly.
While information sharing has improved dramatically since 9/11, important information in many cases still is not shared in a manner so that all who work in a pertinent community of interest can collaborate in addressing common problems. The WikiLeaks episode further complicates the challenge of information sharing: How do we share effectively, and yet minimize the risk of massive and damaging unauthorized disclosures?The sense of mission and purpose in the intelligence community is clear. The unfinished work of information sharing, however, still remains before us.