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Unanimity essential for 9/11 commission

Without unanimity, the 9/11 commission's report can't achieve the goal it set out to accomplish.

Some of the 9/11 commissioners are now suggesting that parts of the commission’s final report may be divided into a majority and minority finding, and some of them seem to think that’s no big deal. Republican Commissioner Slade Gorton said that unanimity is a nice goal but it isn’t going to be a necessary goal.

Democrat Bob Kerrey said he thinks a divided report would not be a “failure.” Really? They all seem to be reassured by the fact that it likely would not be divided along party lines. They say that the dispute would be primarily on recommendations for changing the FBI and CIA, not necessarily the most controversial and political subject, which is the intelligence and policy failures. Nevertheless, a divided report could be a public relations disaster.

The partisans, who have already taken swipes at the panel, would have the necessary ammunition to argue that the report should be irrelevant. Even if the disputed issues were not the most political ones, it would back up the partisans’ claim that the commission itself was consumed by politics. The FBI and CIA could argue there was no clear mandate. Yes, it’s a congressional panel, and whatever they recommend will have an impact on Congress as it should, but it’s also a panel that was supposed to provide some definitive answers to the public about what happened and what we should do now.

A divided report will fall short of that mandate. When a jury tells a judge we’re hopelessly deadlocked, the judge instructs the jurors to go back and try to work it out. Here, the public should serve as the judge and demand that they go back and resolve their differences. Compromise on certain issues. Listen to one another, but make sure that when they’re done, the five Democrats and five Republicans have spoken with one voice. It’s the only way this report will have the necessary impact.