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Thread: Praise For The 9/11 Report

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2005

    Praise For The 9/11 Report

    I'm trying to find quotes or articles praising the 9/11 Commission, and their report. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

    Newspaper Editorials Praise 9/11 Report

    By Charles Geraci
    Publication: Editor & Publisher
    Date: Friday, July 23 2004

    There were few surprises today in the editorial reaction to the report of the 9/11 commission in the nation's largest newspapers. Nearly all of them surveyed by E&P were supportive of the report and its findings.

    The Washington Post was typical in writing that the report offers "a useful analysis of the changes that have taken place since, as well as the changes that have not taken place, " and calling the commission's unanimity and comprehensiveness "impressive."

    The Plain Dealer of Cleveland had perhaps the catchiest opening: "Let us first dispense with perhaps the least relevant conclusion of the Sept. 11 commission: the final score of missed 'operational opportunities' that conceivably might have prevented the atrocities of the day stands at President Bill Clinton 4, President George W. Bush, 6."

    Other papers stressed the commission was wise to hold back from casting blame on either the Bush or Clinton administrations. The Chicago Sun-Times said the commission's "emphasis was on solutions, not blaming individuals when everyone misjudged the rising threat of Islamic terrorism."

    Several papers emphasized a need for Congress to act after the commission's report. The San Francisco Chronicle said, "Congress has no more urgent duty than to assess and act on the findings ..." The Sun-Times added, "At least we hope that having the serious shortcomings of our intelligence spelled out in black and white will galvanize Congress and the president into acting quickly to do what is necessary to upgrade the system."

    The Chicago Tribune insisted that "the repair job falls to Congress." The Philadelphia Inquirer said that "Congress and President Bush should adopt quickly many of the recommendations in the Kean commission's welcome report." The paper came out in support of a national counter-terrorism center headed by a single chief who reports to the president.

    The Kansas City (Mo.) Star found reason to criticize the government for "complacency" and for "not putting enough money into needed improvements, and some approved money has been frittered away."

    Most papers relied on the report to cast blame, rather than do so in their words, but the New York Daily News did not restrain itself. The paper said that "responsibility rests with two presidents, Congress, the CIA, FBI, Defense Department, FAA and a thicket of other agencies, which is to say the failures are spread far and wide."

    9/11 panel report elicits praise, political carping

    Updated: 2004-07-23 09:14

    Like patients analyzing a Rorschach test, readers of the final report by the September 11 Commission were able to find support for their individual views on the reasons and remedies for the 2001 terror attacks.

    U.S. President George W. Bush latched on to the panel's finding that US security lapses were "institutional" rather than a failure of his particular administration.

    The Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, exulted that the report appeared to exonerate his kingdom of complicity in the plot, even though the vast majority of the hijackers who commandeered the planes used in the attacks were of Saudi origin.

    And opposition Democrats in the Republican-controlled US Congress insisted that Thursday's report by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States underscored GOP-intransigence on matters of national security.

    "We know that our ports and our waterways and our borders are not adequately protected. We know that the plutonium and the uranium that exist out there in the world that makes us vulnerable, " said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

    "Why is this not a priority for the Republicans? Why is this not a priority for the President of the United States?"

    For their part, Republicans made it clear that they believed the security breakdowns which allowed the attacks to take place resulted from failed policies carried out during Democratic President Bill Clinton's tenure in the White House.

    "During the 1990s, America's intelligence capacity was crippled, and our international credibility was undermined by our refusal to take the terrorist threat seriously enough," House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said.

    "The question our nation now faces is whether we want to return to the '90s law enforcement approach to terror or whether we want to reaffirm our commitment to fight and win the war on terror," the Texas Republican said.

    Earlier, Democrats and Republicans had tempered their comments, praising the committee's Herculean achievements on compiling and analyzing a mountain of evidence over nearly two years, and lauding the evenhanded tone of the final document.

    But the sparring parties gave in over the course of the day to political wrangling, led by Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry who, taking a swipe at Bush, said the Republican president had not done nearly enough to combat terror since the al-Qaeda attacks.

    "This report carries a simple message for all of America, about the security of all Americans: We can do better," Kerry said. "We must do better and there is an urgency about us doing better."

    Bush's presidential campaign wasted no time in firing back.

    "The Commission's report makes the case for the policies that U.S. President Bush has been pursuing in the War on Terror and eliminates any doubt that the best defense against the threat of global terror is a strong offense," the campaign said in a statement.

    While President Bush welcomed the report and praised its conclusion that we are safer today but still have more work to do, our opponent attacked the administration's progress and leadership in the War on Terror, breaking his own pledge to focus on 'bipartisan solutions'," the campaign complained.

    The Republican president, who had initially opposed creating the commission, eagerly associated himself with some of the recommendations from the 10-member panel.

    "I agree with their conclusion that the terrorists were able to exploit deep institutional failings in our nation's defenses that developed over more than a decade," he said in a speech in Glenview, Illinois.

    Other comments on report ranged from high praise for the panel's exhaustive efforts, to outrage over perceived flaws and oversights in the document.

    "They have done an incredible job," said New York Senator Chuck Schumer, whose state, site of the World Trade Center twin towers, was hardest hit in the terror attacks nearly three years ago.

    His Senate colleague, Hillary Clinton, praised the commissioners, called the report "a great testimony to the their willingness to search hard for the truth, to get at the facts."

    The Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts said the report was as being spot-on in its finding that US intelligence officials failed to think outside the box in envisioning the kinds of attacks terrorists might devise.

    But critics were emphatic in debunking the report.

    Kyle Hence, co-founder of 9/11 Citizens Watch, called the document "a whitewash ... a farce, an out-and-out cover up, and a shameful, colossal spin job."

    He added that the group intended to issue its own analysis, detailing its view of how the 9/11 attacks were carried out.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  2. #2
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    Jan 2005
    The 9/11 Report: A Dissent

    Published: August 29, 2004

    And the execution was in one vital respect superb: the 9/11 commission report is an uncommonly lucid, even riveting, narrative of the attacks, their background and the response to them. (Norton has published the authorized edition; another edition, including reprinted news articles by reporters from The New York Times, has been published by St. Martin's, while PublicAffairs has published the staff reports and some of the testimony.)

    The prose is free from bureaucratese and, for a consensus statement, the report is remarkably forthright. Though there could not have been a single author, the style is uniform. The document is an improbable literary triumph.

    However, the commission's analysis and recommendations are unimpressive. The delay in the commission's getting up to speed was not its fault but that of the administration, which dragged its heels in turning over documents; yet with completion of its investigation deferred to the presidential election campaign season, the commission should have waited until after the election to release its report. That would have given it time to hone its analysis and advice.

    The enormous public relations effort that the commission orchestrated to win support for the report before it could be digested also invites criticism -- though it was effective: in a poll conducted just after publication, 61 percent of the respondents said the commission had done a good job, though probably none of them had read the report. The participation of the relatives of the terrorists' victims (described in the report as the commission's ''partners'') lends an unserious note to the project (as does the relentless self-promotion of several of the members). One can feel for the families' loss, but being a victim's relative doesn't qualify a person to advise on how the disaster might have been prevented.

    Much more troublesome are the inclusion in the report of recommendations (rather than just investigative findings) and the commissioners' misplaced, though successful, quest for unanimity. Combining an investigation of the attacks with proposals for preventing future attacks is the same mistake as combining intelligence with policy. The way a problem is described is bound to influence the choice of how to solve it. The commission's contention that our intelligence structure is unsound predisposed it to blame the structure for the failure to prevent the 9/11 attacks, whether it did or not. And pressure for unanimity encourages just the kind of herd thinking now being blamed for that other recent intelligence failure -- the belief that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

    At least the commission was consistent. It believes in centralizing intelligence, and people who prefer centralized, pyramidal governance structures to diversity and competition deprecate dissent. But insistence on unanimity, like central planning, deprives decision makers of a full range of alternatives. For all one knows, the price of unanimity was adopting recommendations that were the second choice of many of the commission's members or were consequences of horse trading. The premium placed on unanimity undermines the commission's conclusion that everybody in sight was to blame for the failure to prevent the 9/11 attacks. Given its political composition (and it is evident from the questioning of witnesses by the members that they had not forgotten which political party they belong to), the commission could not have achieved unanimity without apportioning equal blame to the Clinton and Bush administrations, whatever the members actually believe.

    The tale of how we were surprised by the 9/11 attacks is a product of hindsight; it could not be otherwise. And with the aid of hindsight it is easy to identify missed opportunities (though fewer than had been suspected) to have prevented the attacks, and tempting to leap from that observation to the conclusion that the failure to prevent them was the result not of bad luck, the enemy's skill and ingenuity or the difficulty of defending against suicide attacks or protecting an almost infinite array of potential targets, but of systemic failures in the nation's intelligence and security apparatus that can be corrected by changing the apparatus.

    That is the leap the commission makes, and it is not sustained by the report's narrative. The narrative points to something different, banal and deeply disturbing: that it is almost impossible to take effective action to prevent something that hasn't occurred previously. Once the 9/11 attacks did occur, measures were taken that have reduced the likelihood of a recurrence. But before the attacks, it was psychologically and politically impossible to take those measures. The government knew that Al Qaeda had attacked United States facilities and would do so again. But the idea that it would do so by infiltrating operatives into this country to learn to fly commercial aircraft and then crash such aircraft into buildings was so grotesque that anyone who had proposed that we take costly measures to prevent such an event would have been considered a candidate for commitment. No terrorist had hijacked an American commercial aircraft anywhere in the world since 1986. Just months before the 9/11 attacks the director of the Defense Department's Defense Threat Reduction Agency wrote: ''We have, in fact, solved a terrorist problem in the last 25 years. We have solved it so successfully that we have forgotten about it; and that is a treat. The problem was aircraft hijacking and bombing. We solved the problem. . . . The system is not perfect, but it is good enough. . . . We have pretty much nailed this thing.'' In such a climate of thought, efforts to beef up airline security not only would have seemed gratuitous but would have been greatly resented because of the cost and the increased airport congestion.

    The problem isn't just that people find it extraordinarily difficult to take novel risks seriously; it is also that there is no way the government can survey the entire range of possible disasters and act to prevent each and every one of them. As the commission observes, ''Historically, decisive security action took place only after a disaster had occurred or a specific plot had been discovered.'' It has always been thus, and probably always will be. For example, as the report explains, the 1993 truck bombing of the World Trade Center led to extensive safety improvements that markedly reduced the toll from the 9/11 attacks; in other words, only to the slight extent that the 9/11 attacks had a precedent were significant defensive steps taken in advance.

    The commission's contention that ''the terrorists exploited deep institutional failings within our government'' is overblown. By the mid-1990's the government knew that Osama bin Laden was a dangerous enemy of the United States. President Clinton and his national security adviser, Samuel Berger, were so concerned that Clinton, though ''warned in the strongest terms'' by the Secret Service and the C.I.A. that ''visiting Pakistan would risk the president's life,'' did visit that country (flying in on an unmarked plane, using decoys and remaining only six hours) and tried unsuccessfully to enlist its cooperation against bin Laden. Clinton authorized the assassination of bin Laden, and a variety of means were considered for achieving this goal, but none seemed feasible. Invading Afghanistan to pre-empt future attacks by Al Qaeda was considered but rejected for diplomatic reasons, which President Bush accepted when he took office and which look even more compelling after the trouble we've gotten into with our pre-emptive invasion of Iraq. The complaint that Clinton was merely ''swatting at flies,'' and the claim that Bush from the start was determined to destroy Al Qaeda root and branch, are belied by the commission's report. The Clinton administration envisaged a campaign of attrition that would last three to five years, the Bush administration a similar campaign that would last three years. With an invasion of Afghanistan impracticable, nothing better was on offer. Almost four years after Bush took office and almost three years after we wrested control of Afghanistan from the Taliban, Al Qaeda still has not been destroyed.

    It seems that by the time Bush took office, ''bin Laden fatigue'' had set in; no one had practical suggestions for eliminating or even substantially weakening Al Qaeda. The commission's statement that Clinton and Bush had been offered only a ''narrow and unimaginative menu of options for action'' is hindsight wisdom at its most fatuous. The options considered were varied and imaginative; they included enlisting the Afghan Northern Alliance or other potential tribal allies of the United States to help kill or capture bin Laden, an attack by our Special Operations forces on his compound, assassinating him by means of a Predator drone aircraft or coercing or bribing the Taliban to extradite him. But for political or operational reasons, none was feasible.

    It thus is not surprising, perhaps not even a fair criticism, that the new administration treaded water until the 9/11 attacks. But that's what it did. Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, ''demoted'' Richard Clarke, the government's leading bin Laden hawk and foremost expert on Al Qaeda. It wasn't technically a demotion, but merely a decision to exclude him from meetings of the cabinet-level ''principals committee'' of the National Security Council; he took it hard, however, and requested a transfer from the bin Laden beat to cyberterrorism. The committee did not discuss Al Qaeda until a week before the 9/11 attacks. The new administration showed little interest in exploring military options for dealing with Al Qaeda, and Donald Rumsfeld had not even gotten around to appointing a successor to the Defense Department's chief counterterrorism official (who had left the government in January) when the 9/11 attacks occurred.

    I suspect that one reason, not mentioned by the commission, for the Bush administration's initially tepid response to the threat posed by Al Qaeda is that a new administration is predisposed to reject the priorities set by the one it's succeeding. No doubt the same would have been true had Clinton been succeeding Bush as president rather than vice versa.

    Before the commission's report was published, the impression was widespread that the failure to prevent the attacks had been due to a failure to collate bits of information possessed by different people in our security services, mainly the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. And, indeed, had all these bits been collated, there would have been a chance of preventing the attacks, though only a slight one; the best bits were not obtained until late in August 2001, and it is unrealistic to suppose they could have been integrated and understood in time to detect the plot.

    The narrative portion of the report ends at Page 338 and is followed by 90 pages of analysis and recommendations. I paused at Page 338 and asked myself what improvements in our defenses against terrorist groups like Al Qaeda are implied by the commission's investigative findings (as distinct from recommendations that the commission goes on to make in the last part of the report). The list is short:

    (1) Major buildings should have detailed evacuation plans and the plans should be communicated to the occupants.

    (2) Customs officers should be alert for altered travel documents of Muslims entering the United States; some of the 9/11 hijackers might have been excluded by more careful inspections of their papers. Biometric screening (such as fingerprinting) should be instituted to facilitate the creation of a comprehensive database of suspicious characters. In short, our borders should be made less porous.

    (3) Airline passengers and baggage should be screened carefully, cockpit doors secured and override mechanisms installed in airliners to enable a hijacked plane to be controlled from the ground.

    (4) Any legal barriers to sharing information between the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. should be eliminated.

    (5) More Americans should be trained in Arabic, Farsi and other languages in widespread use in the Muslim world. The commission remarks that in 2002, only six students received undergraduate degrees in Arabic from colleges in the United States.

    (6) The thousands of federal agents assigned to the ''war on drugs,'' a war that is not only unwinnable but probably not worth winning, should be reassigned to the war on international terrorism.

    (7) The F.B.I. appears from the report to be incompetent to combat terrorism; this is the one area in which a structural reform seems indicated (though not recommended by the commission). The bureau, in excessive reaction to J. Edgar Hoover's freewheeling ways, has become afflicted with a legalistic mind-set that hinders its officials from thinking in preventive rather than prosecutorial terms and predisposes them to devote greater resources to drug and other conventional criminal investigations than to antiterrorist activities. The bureau is habituated to the leisurely time scale of criminal investigations and prosecutions. Information sharing within the F.B.I., let alone with other agencies, is sluggish, in part because the bureau's field offices have excessive autonomy and in part because the agency is mysteriously unable to adopt a modern communications system. The F.B.I. is an excellent police department, but that is all it is. Of all the agencies involved in intelligence and counterterrorism, the F.B.I. comes out worst in the commission's report.

    Progress has been made on a number of items on my list. There have been significant improvements in border control and aircraft safety. The information ''wall'' was removed by the USA Patriot Act, passed shortly after 9/11, although legislation may not have been necessary, since, as the commission points out, before 9/11 the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. exaggerated the degree to which they were forbidden to share information. This was a managerial failure, not an institutional one. Efforts are under way on (5) and (6), though powerful political forces limit progress on (6). Oddly, the simplest reform -- better building-evacuation planning -- has lagged.

    The only interesting item on my list is (7). The F.B.I.'s counterterrorism performance before 9/11 was dismal indeed. Urged by one of its field offices to seek a warrant to search the laptop of Zacarias Moussaoui (a candidate hijacker-pilot), F.B.I. headquarters refused because it thought the special court that authorizes foreign intelligence surveillance would decline to issue a warrant -- a poor reason for not requesting one. A prescient report from the Arizona field office on flight training by Muslims was ignored by headquarters. There were only two analysts on the bin Laden beat in the entire bureau. A notice by the director, Louis J. Freeh, that the bureau focus its efforts on counterterrorism was ignored.

    So what to do? One possibility would be to appoint as director a hard-nosed, thick-skinned manager with a clear mandate for change -- someone of Donald Rumsfeld's caliber. (His judgment on Iraq has been questioned, but no one questions his capacity to reform a hidebound government bureaucracy.) Another would be to acknowledge the F.B.I.'s deep-rooted incapacity to deal effectively with terrorism, and create a separate domestic intelligence agency on the model of Britain's Security Service (M.I.5). The Security Service has no power of arrest. That power is lodged in the Special Branch of Scotland Yard, and if we had our own domestic intelligence service, modeled on M.I.5, the power of arrest would be lodged in a branch of the F.B.I. As far as I know, M.I.5 and M.I.6 (Britain's counterpart to the C.I.A.) work well together. They have a common culture, as the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. do not. They are intelligence agencies, operating by surveillance rather than by prosecution. Critics who say that an American equivalent of M.I.5 would be a Gestapo understand neither M.I.5 nor the Gestapo.

    Which brings me to another failing of the 9/11 commission: American provinciality. Just as we are handicapped in dealing with Islamist terrorism by our ignorance of the languages, cultures and history of the Muslim world, so we are handicapped in devising effective antiterrorist methods by our reluctance to consider foreign models. We shouldn't be embarrassed to borrow good ideas from nations with a longer experience of terrorism than our own. The blows we have struck against Al Qaeda's centralized organization may deflect Islamist terrorists from spectacular attacks like 9/11 to retail forms like car and truck bombings, assassinations and sabotage. If so, Islamist terrorism may come to resemble the kinds of terrorism practiced by the Irish Republican Army and Hamas, with which foreign nations like Britain and Israel have extensive experience. The United States remains readily penetrable by Islamist terrorists who don't even look or sound Middle Eastern, and there are Qaeda sleeper cells in this country. All this underscores the need for a domestic intelligence agency that, unlike the F.B.I., is effective.

    Were all the steps that I have listed fully implemented, the probability of another terrorist attack on the scale of 9/11 would be reduced -- slightly. The measures adopted already, combined with our operation in Afghanistan, have undoubtedly reduced that probability, and the room for further reduction probably is small. We and other nations have been victims of surprise attacks before; we will be again.

    They follow a pattern. Think of Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the Tet offensive in Vietnam in 1968. It was known that the Japanese might attack us. But that they would send their carrier fleet thousands of miles to Hawaii, rather than just attack the nearby Philippines or the British and Dutch possessions in Southeast Asia, was too novel and audacious a prospect to be taken seriously. In 1968 the Vietnamese Communists were known to be capable of attacking South Vietnam's cities. Indeed, such an assault was anticipated, though not during Tet (the Communists had previously observed a truce during the Tet festivities) and not on the scale it attained. In both cases the strength and determination of the enemy were underestimated, along with the direction of his main effort. In 2001 an attack by Al Qaeda was anticipated, but it was anticipated to occur overseas, and the capability and audacity of the enemy were underestimated. (Note in all three cases a tendency to underestimate non-Western foes -- another aspect of provinciality.)

    Anyone who thinks this pattern can be changed should read those 90 pages of analysis and recommendations that conclude the commission's report; they come to very little. Even the prose sags, as the reader is treated to a barrage of bromides: ''the American people are entitled to expect their government to do its very best,'' or ''we should reach out, listen to and work with other countries that can help'' and ''be generous and caring to our neighbors,'' or we should supply the Middle East with ''programs to bridge the digital divide and increase Internet access'' -- the last an ironic suggestion, given that encrypted e-mail is an effective medium of clandestine communication. The ''hearts and minds'' campaign urged by the commission is no more likely to succeed in the vast Muslim world today than its prototype was in South Vietnam in the 1960's.

    The commission wants criteria to be developed for picking out which American cities are at greatest risk of terrorist attack, and defensive resources allocated accordingly -- this to prevent every city from claiming a proportional share of those resources when it is apparent that New York and Washington are most at risk. Not only do we lack the information needed to establish such criteria, but to make Washington and New York impregnable so that terrorists can blow up Los Angeles or, for that matter, Kalamazoo with impunity wouldn't do us any good.

    The report states that the focus of our antiterrorist strategy should not be ''just 'terrorism,' some generic evil. This vagueness blurs the strategy. The catastrophic threat at this moment in history is more specific. It is the threat posed by Islamist terrorism.'' Is it? Who knows? The menace of bin Laden was not widely recognized until just a few years before the 9/11 attacks. For all anyone knows, a terrorist threat unrelated to Islam is brewing somewhere (maybe right here at home -- remember the Oklahoma City bombers and the Unabomber and the anthrax attack of October 2001) that, given the breathtakingly rapid advances in the technology of destruction, will a few years hence pose a greater danger than Islamic extremism. But if we listen to the 9/11 commission, we won't be looking out for it because we've been told that Islamist terrorism is the thing to concentrate on.

    Illustrating the psychological and political difficulty of taking novel threats seriously, the commission's recommendations are implicitly concerned with preventing a more or less exact replay of 9/11. Apart from a few sentences on the possibility of nuclear terrorism, and of threats to other modes of transportation besides airplanes, the broader range of potential threats, notably those of bioterrorism and cyberterrorism, is ignored.

    Many of the commission's specific recommendations are sensible, such as that American citizens should be required to carry biometric passports. But most are in the nature of more of the same -- more of the same measures that were implemented in the wake of 9/11 and that are being refined, albeit at the usual bureaucratic snail's pace. If the report can put spurs to these efforts, all power to it. One excellent recommendation is reducing the number of Congressional committees, at present in the dozens, that have oversight responsibilities with regard to intelligence. The stated reason for the recommendation is that the reduction will improve oversight. A better reason is that with so many committees exercising oversight, our senior intelligence and national security officials spend too much of their time testifying.

    The report's main proposal -- the one that has received the most emphasis from the commissioners and has already been endorsed in some version by both presidential candidates -- is for the appointment of a national intelligence director who would knock heads together in an effort to overcome the reluctance of the various intelligence agencies to share information. Yet the report itself undermines this proposal, in a section titled ''The Millennium Exception.'' ''In the period between December 1999 and early January 2000,'' we read, ''information about terrorism flowed widely and abundantly.'' Why? Mainly ''because everyone was already on edge with the millennium and possible computer programming glitches ('Y2K').'' Well, everyone is now on edge because of 9/11. Indeed, the report suggests no current impediments to the flow of information within and among intelligence agencies concerning Islamist terrorism. So sharing is not such a problem after all. And since the tendency of a national intelligence director would be to focus on the intelligence problem du jour, in this case Islamist terrorism, centralization of the intelligence function could well lead to overconcentration on a single risk.

    The commission thinks the reason the bits of information that might have been assembled into a mosaic spelling 9/11 never came together in one place is that no one person was in charge of intelligence. That is not the reason. The reason or, rather, the reasons are, first, that the volume of information is so vast that even with the continued rapid advances in data processing it cannot be collected, stored, retrieved and analyzed in a single database or even network of linked databases. Second, legitimate security concerns limit the degree to which confidential information can safely be shared, especially given the ever-present threat of moles like the infamous Aldrich Ames. And third, the different intelligence services and the subunits of each service tend, because information is power, to hoard it. Efforts to centralize the intelligence function are likely to lengthen the time it takes for intelligence analyses to reach the president, reduce diversity and competition in the gathering and analysis of intelligence data, limit the number of threats given serious consideration and deprive the president of a range of alternative interpretations of ambiguous and incomplete data -- and intelligence data will usually be ambiguous and incomplete.

    The proposal begins to seem almost absurd when one considers the variety of our intelligence services. One of them is concerned with designing and launching spy satellites; another is the domestic intelligence branch of the F.B.I.; others collect military intelligence for use in our conflicts with state actors like North Korea. There are 15 in all. The national intelligence director would be in continuous conflict with the attorney general, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the secretary of homeland security and the president's national security adviser. He would have no time to supervise the organizational reforms that the commission deems urgent.

    The report bolsters its proposal with the claim that our intelligence apparatus was designed for fighting the cold war and so can't be expected to be adequate to fighting Islamist terrorism. The cold war is depicted as a conventional military face-off between the United States and the Soviet Union and hence a 20th-century relic (the 21st century is to be different, as if the calendar drove history). That is not an accurate description. The Soviet Union operated against the United States and our allies mainly through subversion and sponsored insurgency, and it is not obvious why the apparatus developed to deal with that conduct should be thought maladapted for dealing with our new enemy.

    The report notes the success of efforts to centralize command of the armed forces, and to reduce the lethal rivalries among the military services. But there is no suggestion that the national intelligence director is to have command authority.

    The central-planning bent of the commission is nowhere better illustrated than by its proposal to shift the C.I.A.'s paramilitary operations, despite their striking success in the Afghanistan campaign, to the Defense Department. The report points out that ''the C.I.A. has a reputation for agility in operations,'' whereas the reputation of the military

    is ''for being methodical and cumbersome.'' Rather than conclude that we are lucky to have both types of fighting capacity, the report disparages ''redundant, overlapping capabilities'' and urges that ''the C.I.A.'s experts should be integrated into the military's training, exercises and planning.'' The effect of such integration is likely to be the loss of the ''agility in operations'' that is the C.I.A.'s hallmark. The claim that we ''cannot afford to build two separate capabilities for carrying out secret military operations'' makes no sense. It is not a question of building; we already have multiple such capabilities -- Delta Force, Marine reconnaissance teams, Navy Seals, Army Rangers, the C.I.A.'s Special Activities Division. Diversity of methods, personnel and organizational culture is a strength in a system of national security; it reduces risk and enhances flexibility.

    What is true is that 15 agencies engaged in intelligence activities require coordination, notably in budgetary allocations, to make sure that all bases are covered. Since the Defense Department accounts for more than 80 percent of the nation's overall intelligence budget, the C.I.A., with its relatively small budget (12 percent of the total), cannot be expected to control the entire national intelligence budget. But to layer another official on top of the director of central intelligence, one who would be in a constant turf war with the secretary of defense, is not an appealing solution. Since all executive power emanates from the White House, the national security adviser and his or her staff should be able to do the necessary coordinating of the intelligence agencies. That is the traditional pattern, and it is unlikely to be bettered by a radically new table of organization.

    So the report ends on a flat note. But one can sympathize with the commission's problem. To conclude after a protracted, expensive and much ballyhooed investigation that there is really rather little that can be done to reduce the likelihood of future terrorist attacks beyond what is being done already, at least if the focus is on the sort of terrorist attacks that have occurred in the past rather than on the newer threats of bioterrorism and cyberterrorism, would be a real downer -- even a tad un-American. Americans are not fatalists. When a person dies at the age of 95, his family is apt to ascribe his death to a medical failure. When the nation experiences a surprise attack, our instinctive reaction is not that we were surprised by a clever adversary but that we had the wrong strategies or structure and let's change them and then we'll be safe. Actually, the strategies and structure weren't so bad; they've been improved; further improvements are likely to have only a marginal effect; and greater dangers may be gathering of which we are unaware and haven't a clue as to how to prevent.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  3. #3
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    Jan 2005
    President Receives 911 Report
    Remarks by the President on the 9/11 Commission Report - The Rose Garden


    THE PRESIDENT: It's been my honor to welcome Chairman Kean, Vice Chairman Hamilton to the Oval Office. We just had a good discussion about the 9/11 Commission Report. I want to thank these two gentlemen for serving their country so well and so admirably. They've done a really good job of learning about our country, learning about what went wrong prior to September the 11th and making very solid, sound recommendations about how to move forward. I assured them that where government needs to act, we will.

    I want to thank the Commission members, as well. These people worked really hard, long hours. They took time out of their private lives to serve America, and have left their mark in a very constructive and positive way.

    These two men bring a common-sense approach to how to move forward. They recognize what I recognize, and America recognizes, that there's still a threat, and that we in government have an obligation to do everything in our power to safeguard the American people. And the report that they are about to present to me puts out some very constructive recommendations. And I look forward to studying their recommendations, and look forward to working with responsible parties within my administration to move forward on those recommendations.

    As well, we look forward to working with the Congress on the implementation of ways to do our duty. And the most important duty we have is the security of our fellow countrymen.

    So, thank you, men, for your service. I'm proud you're here. You did a wonderful job.

    MR. KEAN: Mr. President, we'd like to present you a copy of our report. I thank you very much for giving me the honor of serving. I thank you also on behalf of the Commission for unprecedented access to documents, and cooperation from your administration. We were able to see things that no commission or no member of Congress had ever seen in doing our work. And we thank you for allowing us to do that.

    THE PRESIDENT: Thank you -- good job. I appreciate it. Thank you all.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  4. #4
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    Jan 2005

    The 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States-Authorized Edition (W.W. Norton & Company)
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Report is a rare picture of 'government laid bare'

    by David Von Drehle, Washington Post
    Jul 23, 2004

    WASHINGTON -- After al-Qaida set out in 1999 to deliver a devastating attack on America using hijacked airplanes, only one thing worked right in the nation's defense.

    According to the final report of the Sept. 11 commission, it wasn't the FBI, CIA, FAA or Air Force. Not the National Security Council or the Department of Defense. Not the State Department or Border Patrol. Not Congress or any president.

    "The institutions charged with protecting our borders, civil aviation, and national security did not understand how grave this threat could be, and did not adjust their policies, plans and practices to deter or defeat it," the bipartisan commission unanimously declared.

    Only a small band of civilians, strangers to one another -- without benefit of staff meetings, bylaws, uniforms or task forces -- communicating by cell phone with loved ones who happened to be watching TV -- managed to figure out what was going on in time to thwart a guided missile attack on Washington.

    The final report is a document of historic sweep and almost unprecedented detail, offering the sort of examination of a highly classified subject that customarily would not be possible for decades after the fact. From the findings of spy agencies to the tactics of fighter pilots, from the conversations of heads of state to the verbatim texts of secret presidential briefings, this is the government laid bare.

    It is not a pretty picture.

    Many of the specifics have been revealed in interim reports released by the commission in recent months. Here, they come together in by far the most comprehensive account of the catastrophe available.

    It begins with a view of the enemy larger than just Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida operation. "The problem is that al Qaeda represents an ideological movement, not a finite group of people. It initiates and inspires, even if it no longer directs," the commissioners found. "Killing or capturing (bin Laden), while extremely important, would not end terror."

    Unforeseen -- yet lethal -- this new challenge to American security rose quickly from the ruins of the Cold War. U.S. agencies, configured to fight the Soviets, were caught flat-footed.

    Even after bin Laden called on Muslims everywhere to kill Americans wherever they found them, the U.S. response was feckless, due to bureaucratic squabbling, poor communications and "failures of imagination."

    The signs were there. Radical Islamists associated with Sept. 11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed hit the World Trade Center with a truck bomb in 1993 and two years later were discovered plotting mass hijackings of U.S. airliners. Nevertheless, bin Laden and Mohammed had no trouble, between 1999 and 2001, communicating, meeting and planning the destruction of the Trade Center towers using hijacked planes. Indeed, the summer of 2001 was "a drumbeat" of alarming, if unspecific, reports that -- as President Bush was told in August of that year -- "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US."

    "The 9/11 attacks were a shock," the panel concluded, "but they should not have come as a surprise."

    CIA Director George Tenet wanted to declare war on al-Qaida in 1999, but he had no covert agents to fight it. The Pentagon had all the resources to fight a war, but no obvious desire: "At no point before (the attacks) was the Department of Defense fully engaged in the mission of countering al Qaeda." Diplomacy was tried, but President Clinton and his State Department failed to persuade Pakistan to use its influence to push bin Laden out of Afghanistan. All the while, Congress showed scant interest in determining whether yesterday's national security mechanisms were ready for tomorrow's problems.

    "Blame, if there's blame, has to be spread all across the board," commissioner James Thompson, former Republican governor of Illinois, said Thursday. Even the public could be said to have failed, "because the American people never demanded more or better."

    Even the government's successes quickly turned to failure: Various FBI agents came across important clues to the unfolding plot, but couldn't get that information through the walls separating agencies. The CIA tracked some of the terrorists, but failed to keep them out of the country. Once they were in the country, no one added their names to the no-fly list.

    Even on the morning of the attacks, several hijackers were identified by an airport screening program for special review. But the review was designed to keep bombs out of baggage, while the bombs were those winged tubes parked at the gates

    The enemy had evolved. U.S. defenses had not.

    Time will no doubt surface a few more intriguing papers, and perhaps an important witness or two will yet be located -- perhaps in a mountain cave on the Afghan-Pakistani frontier.

    Yet, the Sept. 11 commission report had the meaty feeling of a history that will endure, thanks to the political pressure, and the subpoena power, that opened up more than 2.5 million pages of information and the testimony of 1,200 interviews. Though quick, the historical judgment seems conclusive: That American leadership failed across the board.

    The panel's recommendations also felt historic. Arguing that Sept. 11 was but an early battle in a global struggle, the commissioners proposed major changes at the Pentagon, the CIA, the FBI, the State Department, the White House, Congress, the private sector -- and more.

    Not since the outbreak of the Cold War more than 50 years ago has such an enormous rethinking of American government been seriously contemplated. No sooner was the document released than commissioner Bob Kerrey, former Democratic senator from Nebraska, pronounced himself "not optimistic" that so many entrenched interests and hidebound bureaucracies could be compelled to surrender prerogatives and recalibrate power.

    "This is the challenge of our generation," said the commission chairman, Thomas Kean, former Republican governor of New Jersey, and it demands not just exhoratations and appropriations -- those Washington stocks-in-trade -- but a whole new way of doing business.

    And fast.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Halting the Next 9/11,00.html

    Sunday, Jul. 25, 2004

    On Sept. 11, declared the commission investigating the 9/11 attacks in its 567-page report, the "United States became a nation transformed." From the shipyards of Seattle to the conventioneer-stuffed ballrooms of Boston, the scramble to prepare for the possibility of another attack offered a panorama last week of the country's metamorphosis. Police divers in the Port of Seattle combed the hulls of cruise ships for explosive devices. The Secret Service ordered that all food deliveries to Boston's Fleet Center, site of the Democratic National Convention, be tested for radioactive material. In Hennepin County, Minn., 2,500 government employees did a simulated evacuation of their 24-story office building. (They got out in 43 min.) "Complacency is a commodity we can't have," says Al Bataglia, Minnesota's homeland-security chief. "We need to train like we would fight in the real event."

    The authors of The 9/11 Commission Report hope they have sounded a call to battle. In official Washington, the arrival of the tome was greeted with a grim solemnity that reflected the panel's decision to apportion blame across dozens of agencies spanning two presidencies. Meticulous in its reconstruction of the attacks and unflinching in its conclusions about why the government failed to stop them, the report singles out the U.S.'s sprawling intelligence apparatus for an overhaul, hammering the nation's spooks for their inability to piece together Osama bin Laden's plot — and raising new doubts about whether they are better positioned to detect the next one. Timed for release just before the start of the election season, the report landed amid galloping anxieties among U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement agencies about the imminence of another terrorist attack. U.S. officials say reports from agents and "code talk" picked up from extremists' e-mail point to a possible al-Qaeda attack before the Nov. 2 election. A counterterrorism official tells TIME that a recent analysis of al-Qaeda's 2001 timeline shows that the hijackers started to gather in the U.S. 20 weeks before Sept. 11 and the entire strike team had infiltrated the country no later than 7 1/2 weeks before, leading some intelligence analysts to conclude that members of the operational cell must already be here. Says a CIA official: "We have some fairly specific information that al-Qaeda wants to come after us." The chairman of the 9/11 panel, Tom Kean, reiterated the sense of foreboding. "An attack of even greater magnitude is possible and even probable," he said. "We don't have the luxury of time."

    The politicians appear to be listening. The White House, which had opposed the creation of the commission out of fear of a politically damaging verdict on its pre-9/11 performance, gingerly welcomed the panel's proposals, then quickly seized the opportunity to champion reform. Bush has asked chief of staff Andrew Card to head a working group to look at how to best assess and carry out the recommendations. The Administration has been cool to the panel's proposal, long debated in intel circles, that a National Intelligence Director (NID) oversee all 15 intelligence agencies, including the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency. But after John Kerry declared that "when I'm President, it's going to happen," Bush aides hinted that Bush too may back the idea of a new intelligence czar. "Nothing's off the table," says a senior White House official. "And it's definitely not off the table before the election."

    Between now and then, much of the pressure to take action will come from the 10 commissioners, who plan to flood congressional hearings and stump for their reforms in the heartland. Kean told TIME that the panel hopes to release at least four additional staff-written reports, on such topics as aviation and border security and terrorist financing. Since some contain classified documents interested parties may have to first sue the government to see them. But the gentility with which lawmakers treated the commission since the release of its report seems to be evaporating. The panel's call for streamlining the number of congressional intelligence committees and eliminating limits on their members' length of service — in the name of developing a pool of specialists in Congress who can challenge the analyses of the intelligence community — has already provoked grumbling from House Republican leaders. The push to create a new intelligence czar, meanwhile, may run aground at the Pentagon, which has made clear it doesn't like the prospect of surrendering its considerable authority over how intelligence resources are allocated. In March, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned the commission that consolidating authority over the myriad intelligence agencies "would be doing the country a disservice." The bottom line, says Jeffrey Smith, who served as the CIA's top lawyer for part of the Clinton years, is that "major reform is needed, but my sense is nothing will happen this year."

    Even if the panel's recommendations are acted upon, would it make a difference? Could such changes actually enable the intelligence community to uncover and prevent the next 9/11? Backers of the panel's call for a single NID say the move would reduce the bureaucratic logjams that have contributed to the intelligence community's string of failures, from its inability to track the hijackers before 9/11 to the fruitless hunt for bin Laden to the missing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq. "You need someone who can give orders," says Lawrence Korb, a former Assistant Defense Secretary, "telling the NSA to focus its wiretap on a specific target, the CIA to focus its human intelligence there and the [National Reconnaissance Office] to focus [its] satellites there. That's not happening now."

    But while the advent of an NID would recast the intelligence community's pecking order, it could also make things worse. "There's too little competition for ideas already in this business," says John Hamre, Deputy Secretary of Defense in the Clinton Administration. "That's what happened with WMD. If you have one guy for whom everybody works, then you're going to start getting a homogeneous view." And despite its calls for sweeping organizational change, the 9/11 panel offers few specific suggestions for how the U.S. and its allies can improve in the most critical area of all: getting actionable human intelligence on al-Qaeda and its attack plans by infiltrating terrorist networks. Says Hamre: "All these reorganizing efforts are kind of rearranging the boxes of the people that supply intelligence, when we really need to be talking about how we demand better-quality intelligence across the board."

    Since Sept. 11, say intelligence and counterterrorism experts, the U.S. and its allies have made significant strides in keeping al-Qaeda off balance. Better coordination among intelligence services around the world has led to several major busts, including the liquidation of the terrorist cell suspected of carrying out March's train bombings in Madrid. Western agencies that once ignored websites, chat rooms and other communications channels used by extremists are now tapping them effectively to pick up chatter. "They've gotten good at not only picking up possible messages between plotters but analyzing information more quickly to determine what is just radical railing and what has substantial hidden meaning," says French terrorism expert Roland Jacquard. Despite the continued debate over the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, CIA and FBI officials insist that some high-level detainees have proved valuable in decoding talk among operatives. The war in Afghanistan and the global dragnet have taken out of circulation about half of bin Laden's senior lieutenants. "The kinds of people who are coming in simply can't match their predecessors and their ability to run the organization," says a CIA official. But he adds that "as we kill a group, we are facing a movement." Al-Qaeda and like-minded extremist outfits are thought to be operating in as many as 60 countries and may have as many as 20,000 trained militants on their rolls. Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and a consultant to several governments, estimates that even if this Administration or the next one gets serious about intelligence reform, "it will take five to 10 years for U.S. intelligence to have adequate resources" on the ground for countering the full range of forces fueling extremist terrorism.

    Even then, better intelligence wouldn't be enough. In another set of proposals, the commission recommends that the U.S. expand its efforts to reach out to the Islamic world through more active public diplomacy and small-bore programs such as scholarships and cultural and educational exchanges. The trouble is that even as the U.S. tries to defuse the appeal of fanatics like bin Laden, its policies in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East since Sept. 11 have inflamed some Muslims and almost surely driven some fence sitters into the camps of the extremists. "Right or wrong, it is simply a fact that American policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and American actions in Iraq are dominant staples of popular commentary across the Arab and Muslim world," the panel writes. "Those choices must be integrated with America's message of opportunity to the Arab and Muslim world."

    In the long run, making America and its allies safe again will require far broader changes than even the 9/11 panel was empowered to propose. In the meantime, the U.S. has little choice but to brace itself for the possibility of another strike. "We do not believe," the commissioners write in the report's conclusion, "that it is possible to defeat all terrorist attacks against Americans, every time and everywhere." In that sense, the 9/11 commission's legacy may ultimately be determined by how long the U.S. can deter the inevitable.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    "Thank you for creating a report that may be one of the most important publications of our age."

    Rep. Katherine Harris - 9/11: Press For Truth
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    One of the most basic contradictions is that we got a fantastic investigation from the 9/11 Commission.

    Was the 9/11 Report "a useful analysis of the changes that have taken place since, as well as the changes that have not taken place?" Was it "uncommonly lucid, even riveting," and "an improbable literary triumph?" Thomas Kean thanked Bush for "unprecedented access to documents, and cooperation from your administration." Is that true? Did the 9/11 Report deserve to be one of the finalists for this award? Is it true that the "final report is a document of historic sweep and almost unprecedented detail, offering the sort of examination of a highly classified subject that customarily would not be possible for decades after the fact. From the findings of spy agencies to the tactics of fighter pilots, from the conversations of heads of state to the verbatim texts of secret presidential briefings, this is the government laid bare?" Was the 9/11 Report "meticulous in its reconstruction of the attacks and unflinching in its conclusions about why the government failed to stop them?" Do you agree with Katherine Harris that the 9/11 Report is "one of the most important publications of our age?"
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  9. #9
    simuvac Guest
    This is a valuable thread, Jon. Obviously, most people were cowed into praising the report because of the fear of the moment and the fear of appearing unpatriotic. Still, some of the praise is ridiculous.

    The most laughable comment:

    "Blame, if there's blame, has to be spread all across the board," commissioner James Thompson, former Republican governor of Illinois, said Thursday. Even the public could be said to have failed, "because the American people never demanded more or better."

    Really? The American people never demanded that a multi-trillion dollar defense apparatus could stop 19 guys with box cutters?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

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