Hamilton, Lee H. 1931- (Lee Herbert Hamilton)

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Hamilton, Lee H. 1931- (Lee Herbert Hamilton)


Born April 20, 1931, in Daytona Beach, FL; father a Methodist minister; married Nancy Ann Nelson (a painter); children: Tracy Lynn, Deborah, Douglas Nelson. Education: DePauw University, B.A. (with honors), 1952; attended Goethe University, 1952-53; Indiana University, J.D., 1956.


Office—Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, 1 Woodrow Wilson Plaza, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20004-3027. E-mail—[email protected]


Practicing attorney in Chicago, IL, and Columbus, IN, 1956-64; U.S. Congressman representing Ninth District, IN, 1965-99; Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, Washington, DC, president, 1999—, director of Center on Congress. Cochair, Iraq Study Group; board member, 9/11 Public Discourse Project; vice chair, National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, 2004; member, Homeland Security Advisory Council, 2004; member, President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board; member, FBI Director's Advisory Board.


Inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, 1982; Knight of the French Legion of Honor, 1984; Grand Cross of the Order of Merit (Federal Republic of Germany), 1985; Defense Intelligence Agency Medallion, 1987; Central Intelligence Agency Medallion, 1988; Advanced Study Distinguished Citizen fellowship, Indiana University, 1994; President's Medal for Excellence, Indiana University, 1996; Outstanding Legislator Award, American Political Science Association; Edmund S. Muskie Distinguished Public Service Award, Center for National Policy, 1997; Medal for Distinguished Public Service, U.S. Department of Defense, 1998; Civitas Award, Center for Civic Education, 1998; CEELI Award, American Bar Association, 1998; Hubert H. Humphrey Award, American Political Science Association, 1998; Paul H. Nitze Award, 1999, for distinguished authority on national security affairs; Knight Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit (Federal Republic of Germany), 1999; Four Freedoms Medal, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, 2005. Honorary degrees from numerous universities, including DePauw University, University of Southern Indiana, Union College, Indiana University, Wabash College, Marian College, Ball State University, American University, Suffolk University, Indiana State University, Anderson University, Hanover College, Detroit College of Law, Franklin College, and Shenandoah University.


The Role of Intelligence in the Foreign Policy Process, Keck Center for International Strategic Studies (Claremont, CA), 1987.

U.S. Foreign Policy in the Post-Cold War Era: Report and Recommendations, U.S. G.P.O. (Washington, DC), 1993.

(With Jordan Tama) A Creative Tension: The Foreign Policy Roles of the President and Congress, Woodrow Wilson Center Press (Washington, DC), 2002.

How Congress Works and Why You Should Care, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 2004.

(With Thomas H. Kean and Benjamin Rhodes) Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission, Knopf (New York, NY), 2006.

Also author, with others, of The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, 2004. Contributor to State of the Struggle: Report on the Battle against Global Terrorism, edited by Justine A. Rosenthal, Council on Global Terrorism, 2007. Author of foreword, with Thomas H. Kean, The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation, by Sid Jacobsen and Ernie Colón, Hill & Wang (New York, NY), 2006. Hamilton's papers are maintained at the Lilly Library, Indiana University at Bloomington.


After a distinguished, thirty-four-year career as a U.S. Congressman representing the state of Indiana, Lee H. Hamilton was named president of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, DC, in 1999. A respected authority on foreign policy, Hamilton was content to leave Congress to head one of the world's most prestigious public-policy think tanks. In 2004, however, he was named vice chair of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States—also known as the 9/11 Commission—and brought back into the public spotlight. The Commission, which was headed by Drew University president and former New Jersey governor, Thomas H. Kean, released The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, which surprisingly became a best-selling book among the general reading public. Hamilton and Kean then collaborated on Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission, which details the challenges they faced investigating the causes of the 2001 terrorist attacks and makes recommendations for improving U.S. security.

In general, the Commission found national security lacking in its ability to prevent the terrorist attacks. One reason was that the many U.S. intelligence agencies, such as the CIA and the FBI, did not share information well, and there was no one person in charge of their combined efforts. The members of the Commission also championed better airport and seaport security, more understanding among Americans—aggravated by a lack of trained speakers in Arabic—of Middle Eastern cultures, better security agency training to remove incompetence, and redistribution of manpower away from the war and drugs and toward terrorism prevention. In a rebuttal of the report, University of Chicago Law School lecturer and U.S. Court of Appeals judge Richard A. Posner wrote in the New York Times that such recommendations are easy to make in hindsight. While praising the "uncommonly lucid" writing in the report, Posner found the results "unimpressive." Posner maintained that the assertion that the attacks could have been prevented simply through better security measures is a "leap" in logic, and added that it is impossible for any government to foresee all possible types of attack on U.S. territory. "The commission's contention that ‘the terrorists exploited deep institutional failings within our government’ is overblown," Posner concluded.

Comparing Hamilton and Kean's Without Precedent to the Commission's initial report, New York Times writer James Bamford remarked that it "offers little new information on the actual attacks, but provides a keyhole view of the commission's bureaucratic war with a White House obsessed with secrecy and control." Bamford observed that neither the book nor the report "shed … additional light on the event" because national security issues result in "an overabundance of self-censorship by the authors." Despite this criticism, others who reviewed the book found much to admire and considered it a worthy comment on the 9/11 tragedy. "Rich in detail and well written, this book provides excellent insight into the operation of a high-profile governmental commission investigating a national tragedy," declared Stephen L. Hupp in Library Journal. A Publishers Weekly reviewer admitted that some will not appreciate how the authors and the Commission gave in to the White House's efforts to conceal documents by declaring executive privilege, but appreciated how Hamilton and Kean "cogently defend the compromises they made and swat conspiracy theories about coverups." A Kirkus Reviews contributor concluded that Without Precedent is a "valuable resource for those needing proof that the government machine could use a good overhaul."

Also the author of several books on foreign policy, Hamilton published How Congress Works and Why You Should Care in 2004. In keeping with his belief that average Americans should understand the workings of their own government better, Hamilton, who also founded the Center on Congress to educate the public about government, created this work to explain the history and practices of the U.S. Congress. The author views Congress as a tool that serves to safeguard the country against autocratic rule. While Hamilton also argues that there should be more civility during debates in Congress, a Publishers Weekly writer questioned why the author does not better address the causes behind problems in Congress, nor why citizens do not participate more in politics. "Still …," the critic concluded, "it's encouraging to see a true, reasonable believer call for recognizing Congress as a necessary pillar of American democracy." Thomas J. Baldino, writing for Library Journal, complimented the "lively, accessible language" Hamilton uses, recommending How Congress Works and Why You Should Care be carried in all public libraries.



Booklist, June 1, 2006, Gilbert Taylor, review of Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission, p. 4.

For a Change, December, 1999-January, 2000, "Reaching In, Reaching Out: Lee H. Hamilton, Head of the Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington, DC, Has Won International Acclaim for His Work in Foreign Affairs," pp. 12-13.

Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2006, review of Without Precedent, p. 558.

Library Journal, April 1, 2004, Thomas J. Baldino, review of How Congress Works and Why You Should Care, p. 109; July 1, 2006, Stephen L. Hupp, review of Without Precedent, p. 95.

New York Times, August 29, 2004, Richard A. Posner, "The 9/11 Report: A Dissent," December 6, 2006, Philip Shenon, "A Compromiser Who Operates above the Partisan Fray: Lee Herbert Hamilton," p. A19.

New York Times Book Review, August 20, 2006, James Bamford, "Intelligence Test," p. 15.

Publishers Weekly, February 9, 2004, review of How Congress Works and Why You Should Care, p. 71; June 26, 2006, review of Without Precedent, p. 46.

Washington Post, July 15, 2006, Bravetta Hassell, "The Bold Outlines of a Plot: Adapted as a Comic Book, the 9/11 Commission Report Hits Home Anew."


9-11 Commission Web site,http://www.9-11commission.gov/ (January 17, 2007), profile of Lee H. Hamilton.

PopMatters,http://www.popmatters.com/ (January 17, 2007), Sid Jacobson, "The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation."

Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars Web site,http://www.wilsoncenter.org/ (January 5, 2007), biography of Lee H. Hamilton.

[Sketch reviewed by associate, Ben Rhodes.]

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Hamilton, Lee H. 1931- (Lee Herbert Hamilton)

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