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As you arrive for work at the Commission, you will find an empty in-box - or no in-box at all. Your colleagues will slowly be arriving as they are appointed and disengage from their other jobs. Some will hold full TS security clearances; others only at the Secret level; still others may not yet have any security clearance at all. You'll be figuring out where you sit, how to get the office supplies you need, or how to perform basic tasks like getting your computer to work. This is the work environment of a start-up. It can be disorienting. So here are some suggestions to help you organize the work you should start doing on Day One, regardless of your clearance status. I. Take Care of Your Personal Paperwork
Be sure you have completed and retained copies of your relevant paperwork in three categories: Your federal employment status, salary, and benefits. You can get and track these with our GSA liaison, Melynda Clarke, or the Commission's administrative officer, Tracy Shycoff. Your security clearance. You can track these with John Ivicic. Your financial disclosure: a) If your salary is at or above $102,165, you are required to file the public financial disclosure forms issued by the Senate Ethics Committee. You must do this within 30 days of your formal start date at the Commission. The Commission also has responsibilities with respect to this information and will retain a copy of your forms. Stephanie Kaplan can help you locate the necessary forms and instructions. b) If your salary is below this threshold, you should nonetheless reflect carefully on all sources of nongovernment income you or your spouse have received during the last two calendar years, or assets you hold. Please prepare a confidential memo to me that describes any potential conflicts of interest that may arise with
your work for the Commission. In making these judgments, consider outside perception - ask yourself how it would look if this information was made public and you had not disclosed it. c) Whatever your salary, if you were employed by a private law or consulting firm before coming to the Commission, please disclose any notable clients of your former firm that, to the best of your knowledge, might be affected by the Commission's work. This would include, for example, airlines, parties in any 9/11-related litigation, officials who are objects of Commission examination, or any clients being represented in lobbying or litigation related to homeland security or counterterrorism. All information you provide will be handled in strict confidence. Disclosure does not necessarily create a bar from doing your work. If we have any concerns we will discuss them with you and consult with the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Commission. Full disclosure is your best protection against any potential concern. If you are in doubt about what you must do, let me know or, as they come on board, you can contact the Commission's counsel or his or her assistant counsel. II. Compile and Digest the Work Already Done on Your Subject, and Prepare to Share It with the Commissioners
Significant research and analysis has been published in open sources on every major topic being examined by the Commission. Our goal is to synthesize and build upon good work that has already been done. You must therefore be familiar with those foundations. For your team's subject, you must be conversant with all the more important work that has been done in at least the last five years - and on some topics much earlier, including major press stories, relevant executive branch reports, and congressional or GAO studies. You should download or acquire copies of these works as part of your team's working files and for reference. The Commission will reimburse any reasonable expenditures. Your background research should include official executive branch documents, such as speeches and published papers (like the National Homeland Security Strategy or the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism), and it should include copies of relevant congressional hearings. You can locate relevant hearings either by contacting the committee staffs or by using information services such as Thomas (Library of Congress) or the Lexis/Nexis-owned CIS/Index. As you proceed with this work, keep thinking about how to share what you have learned with the commissioners in the most effective way. Keep a rolling list of what written work you consider truly essential and also keep a select list of the best people - either because of their association with that essential work or other experience and qualifications. These should be people you would like to learn from. The purpose in this phase is orientation and background knowledge, digesting what we have already learned -
- not interviews with officials who are objects in our inquiry. (I'll discuss them in the next section.) Beginning in April, every team should be readying draft plans for review that envision the contents of a briefing book and a notional schedule for one or two days of private briefings or public hearings on that team's subject area. This will provide a way, early in our work, for all commissioners to have the opportunity to get up to speed with the essential background material on every team's subject area and interact directly with a strong set of experts. You should consider what might better be handled in private and what can just as well be done in public. Our initial hearings in New York City, for example, are likely to include public presentations and discussions with commissioners of some studies that have already been done on the structural performance of the WTC towers and the emergency response by the FDNY.
Prepare for Further Research and Analysis
As you do your background research, you should be identifying critical issues of fact and judgment, and particular records and people relevant to addressing those issues. To be specific, you should be preparing - at a minimum: Working chronologies for your topic. Lists of key questions or issues, expecting that you will regularly need to revise and prioritize them. Organizational charts for the agencies, or parts of agencies, which are especially relevant to your work. Many of the agencies or entities have been significantly reorganized in recent years. You should have charts showing their various configurations over at least the last five years. Notes identifying which individuals held each of the key positions in the relevant chains of command throughout this period. Running, prioritized lists of critical records and knowledgeable individuals (judged above all by their firsthand knowledge of relevant events). As you prioritize your lists, these judgments may be influenced by how much you think is already known. For that and other reasons, every time you attach a high priority to interviewing a particular individual, you should feel obliged to compile every relevant record of prior testimonies, talks, or writings that you can locate for that individual. These investments of effort will pay off later.
Those who are working Al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations should adopt the same approach, as if Al Qaeda was one of the organizations they are examining from the inside (which it is). Work to the limits of the available material - which for some weeks may remain largely unclassified. The list of "knowledgeable individuals" should again be compiled on the same criteria of firsthand knowledge, though you should also identify any experts who may later be able to help you find more direct evidence. Draft chronologies, lists, and charts should be shared at least among colleagues in teams, and perhaps with helpful colleagues on other teams, so that "team" versions of these draft documents are available for review by mid-April. We may revise these targets as circumstances warrant. In sum, there is plenty that you can do as soon as you come on board, whatever your security clearance status. And never, ever assume that classification levels are a reliable guide to the value of information. IV. General Guidelines
Regardless of formal classification, you are working with sensitive information on topics of great public interest. You should not discuss the Commission or its work with the press. Period. This is a bright line rule: Do not talk to the press at all. If you are contacted by a reporter, do not return the call. Forward the message to me or to Chris, or to our Deputy for Communications once he or she is in place. This is also a way that you can protect yourself, in the event that any leaks prompt further inquiries. Interactions with Commissioners can be helpful to you and to them. If you are contacted by a commissioner with questions, please contact Chris or me. Consulting with the Chair and Vice-Chair, we will be sure that the appropriate members of the Commission staff are responsive. Do not publicly disclose the street address of the Commission. If pressed you can mention "K Street" or some other general location. This information is not classified, but it is sensitive. If this information is published so that millions can find it, we may receive unwanted visitors. Our location is secure, but its security rests partly on its anonymity. We do not have setbacks, etc. We will soon have a PO Box as our mailing address, and a public website to help people learn about our efforts. We expect to have two principal office locations in the District of Columbia, and a very small office to support our work in New York City. Your own office assignment may be temporary, until full staff assignments are in place.
And - as you are catching your breath - Tom Kean, Lee Hamilton, Chris Kojm and I thank you, once again, for joining up for an intense, challenging, and rewarding period of public service. You are now part of a history-writing and history-making enterprise, working with some of the most talented people in America, and led by an outstanding group of commissioners. Welcome.
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