Who’s in Charge?

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(Host) The top news story this week so far is the Democratic convention, but commentator Bill Seamans says that could change.

(Seamans) The Democratic National Convention continues with the expectable no surprises. The most intense back room discussions apparently have been among the throng of newspersons who have been asking: Why are We Here? The network anchormen, Jennings, Brokaw and Rather lamented their loss of gavel-to-gavel coverage at a Harvard forum and to the New York Times.

Jennings offered the opinion that they were frustrated . Rather said if Ralph Nader threw his support to Kerry it would surely make news – but, said Rather, you’re more likely to see a rhinoceros in the anchor booth. Brokaw said something I really didn’t understand – that he wanted more air time to report what he called a pretty homogenized process which sounded to me like pure network corporate-speak.

Meanwhile, a real story was overshadowed by the tightly scripted faux convention in Boston – how soon will President Bush act on the 9/11 commission’s report calling for an immediate restructuring of our intelligence apparatus to meet the global terrorism crisis which is now walking right down Main Street, U.S.A.

A comment about our faulty intelligence system by Lee Hamilton, the vice chairman of the panel, caught my special attention when he said A critical theme that emerged throughout our inquiry was the difficulty of answering the question: who is in charge? Who oversees the massive integration and unity necessary to keep America safe? Too often, said Lee Hamilton, the answer is no one!

Now how many times have we heard that lament regarding the culture of non-accountability in Washington? It’s a product of committee-think, turf battles and just plain CYA, the colloquial expression for the buck doesn’t stop here. A recent example, the Abu Ghraib prison inquiry which is fading into the fog of non-accountability.

It’s been suggested that President Bush could this week issue an executive order from his vacation hiatus in Texas to start implementing at least some of the report’s urgent recommendations. The most dramatic buzz centers on the suggestion that a new cabinet post be created for a so-called Intelligence Czar who would have the power to oversee and coordinate the information gathered by our fifteen spy agencies.

Speculation breaking through the noise in Boston is that the Republican Commission Chairman Thomas Kean, and Democrat vice chairman Lee Hamilton, developed what was called an extraordinary relationship while shepherding the very controversial investigation – and that together they would make an excellent bi-partisan intelligence Czar team.

If Bush acted this week he would surely seize the news focus from Boston and the Democrats could only respond by supporting immediate anti-terrorism action by the White House in the name of National Security.

This is Bill Seamans.

Award-winning journalist Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and burean chief for ABC News in the Middle East. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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