On January 31, 2001, former Senators Warren Rudman and Gary Hart and their United States Commission on National Security issued a final report warning that “Americans will likely die on American soil, possibly in large numbers,” as a result of terrorist attacks. The commission recommended that the government create a National Homeland Security Agency to deal with the threat. That was more than seven months before terrorists flew jetliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing thousands.
The prescient report was virtually ignored by the news media. None of the TV network evening news programs reported on its conclusions, and not a line about the warning was carried by the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. A commission report that Rudman described as “the first comprehensive rethinking of national security since Harry Truman in 1947” did not register a blip on the media’s radar screen. Most Americans did not hear about it until after the September 11th attacks.
A panel of experts, including commission co-chair Warren Rudman, will examine the issue at this tenth in an ongoing series of discussions by the Brookings/Harvard Forum on the Role of the Press in the Anti-Terrorism Campaign.