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9/11 report slams ‘deep’ failings in government

Discussion in 'General' started by Bud Head, Jul 23, 2004.

  1. A long but very interesting read....

    9/11 report slams ‘deep' failings in government
    Worse attack ‘now possible and even probable,' chairman says

    Mannie Garcia / Reuters
    President Bush receives the Sept. 11 report Thursday from commission Chairman Thomas Kean, left, and Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton at the White House. free video!s5.31472_315529/HP.1001? report_slams intel_failings

    • Kean: U.S. not prepared
    July 22: The U.S. government was simply not prepared to stop al-Qaida's 9/11 plot, says 9/11 commission Chairman Thomas Kean.


    • Counterterror strategy
    July 22: 9/11 commission Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton gives details of the commission's recommendations for a counterterrorism strategy.

    NBC News

    • Iran-al-Qaida relationship
    July 22: 9/11 commissioners Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton say the relationship between Iran and al-Qaida needs to be further investigated but they believe al-Qaida acted alone.

    NBC News

    • Kerry: Congress shares blame
    July 22: John Kerry says Congress shares responsibility for the 9/11 failures and discusses his proposal for a national director of intelligence.

    • Survivor: 'It breaks my heart'
    July 22: 9/11 survivor Valecia “Chee Chee” Parker says seeing the surveillance tape of the hijackers going though airport security “breaks her heart,” in a interview with MSNBC's Laurie Jennings.


    • Americans react to 9/11 report
    NBC's Michelle Fanzen has reactions from Americans to the release of the 9/11 report.

    • Overseas reactions
    July 22: The release of the 9/11 report was the lead story on many European newscasts and it was also carried live by prominent network in the Arab world. NBC's Jeannie Ohm reports.

    • Homeland Security status
    July 22:'s Brock Meeks discusses the state of U.S. Homeland Security today, with MSNBC-TV's Sam Shane.


    • 9/11 report recommendations
    July 22: NBC's Bob Kur has details of the recommendations from the 9/11 report, plus video of a confrontation between a 9/11 commissioner and a protester.


    • 9/11 report details
    July 22: NBC's Pete Williams gives details about what is inside the 9/11 commission's report.


    • Bush receives 9/11 report
    July 22: President Bush receives the 9/11 commission's final report from Chairman Thomas Kean and Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton in the Rose Garden Thursday.

    Today show

    • Public snap-up 9/11 report
    July 22: The 9/11 commission report is selling briskly in books stores across the U.S., Borders Books' Mary Ann Brownlow tells MSNBC-TV's Sam Shane.


    NBC, MSNBC and news services
    Updated: 7:20 p.m. ET July 22, 2004WASHINGTON - The United States could not protect its citizens from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks because it failed to appreciate the threat posed by al-Qaida operatives, who exploited that failure to carry out the deadliest assault ever on U.S. soil, the independent commission investigating the attacks said Thursday.


    Calling for major changes in U.S. intelligence operations, the commission warned that “we are not safe” yet. “Every expert with whom we spoke told us an attack of even greater magnitude is now possible and even probable,” said the panel's chairman, Republican former Gov. Thomas Kean of New Jersey.

    While the report noted numerous government missteps, it did not cast blame on any official, and it stopped short of saying the hijackings could have been prevented. But Kean said the government's efforts to thwart the known threat from al-Qaida were so overshadowed by an old, Cold War-era mentality that they had not “disturbed or even delayed” Osama bin Laden's plot.

    At one point, the report suggests that it might not have taken much, saying the attacks might have been called off had bin Laden simply learned that Zacarias Moussaoui, whom he personally chose as one of the pilots, had been arrested.

    The report cited Ramzi Binalshibh, the coordinator of the attacks, as saying that had bin Laden and al-Qaida planner Khalid Shaikh Mohammed “learned prior to 9/11 that Moussaoui had been detained, they might have canceled the operation.” Bin Laden, however, did not learn of the arrest on Aug. 16, 2001, until after the attacks almost a month later, the report said.

    Moussaoui, a French citizen, is awaiting trial on conspiracy charges connected to the attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. He was arrested on immigration charges after he raised suspicions at a flight school in Minnesota.

    Related documents
    Download the report summary and full report

    ‘Deep institutional failings'
    The handling of Moussaoui's arrest was one of many failures cited in the report, all of which the commission said grew out of “deep institutional failings” on the part of a Congress with too many committees dealing with intelligence issues and of the Clinton and Bush administrations, which missed numerous opportunities to prevent the attacks.

    The commission identified nine “specific points of vulnerability” in the Sept. 11 plot that might have led to its disruption had the government been better organized and more watchful. Yet the report concluded that despite these opportunities, “we cannot know whether any single step or series of steps would have defeated” the 19 hijackers.

    9/11 report identifies failures
    The final report of the Sept. 11 commission cited these operational failures as having prevented spotting “specific points of vulnerability” in al-Qaida's plot:

    • Not “watch listing” future hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, not trailing them after they traveled to Bangkok and not informing the FBI about one future hijacker's U.S. visa or his companion's travel to the United States.
    • Not sharing information linking individuals in the USS Coleattack to al-Mihdhar.
    • Not taking adequate steps in time to find al-Mihdhar or al-Hazmi in the United States.
    • Not linking the arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui, described as interested in flight training for the purpose of using an airplane in a terrorist act, to the heightened indications of attack.
    • Not discovering false statements on visa applications.
    • Not recognizing passports manipulated in a fraudulent manner.
    • Not expanding no-fly lists to include names from terrorist watch lists.
    • Not searching airline passengers identified by the computer-based CAPPS screening system.
    • Not hardening aircraft cockpit doors or taking other measures to prepare for the possibility of suicide hijackings.

    “What we can say with confidence,” the commissioners added, “is that none of the measures adopted by the U.S. government from 1998 to 2001 disturbed or even delayed the progress” of the plot by the al-Qaida network.

    The “most important failure,” the report concluded, “was one of imagination. We do not believe leaders understood the gravity of the threat.”

    While faulting governmental shortcomings, the report did not directly blame President Bush or former President Bill Clinton for mistakes contributing to the 2001 attack.

    Commission members joined Kean in stressing that the threat from al-Qaida remained.

    “We're approaching the third anniversary. We've not had a terrorist attack on American soil. Something is being done right,” the panel's vice chairman, Democratic former Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana, said in an interview Thursday with NBC News' Tom Brokaw. “But we also know that the intent to kill Americans is still there. The capability to kill Americans is still there. And so, we're not totally safe.”

    Bush, Kerry promise solid action
    Bush, who received a copy of the report Thursday morning, said the commission members made “very solid, sound recommendations about how to move forward,” adding, “I assured them that where the government needs to act, we will.”

    Bush's opponent in the fall presidential election, Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, said while campaigning Thursday in Detroit that disputes within the Bush administration were partly at fault. He pledged to convene an emergency security summit if he is elected and Bush has not acted on the commission's findings.

    “There are imperatives that we must move on rapidly,” Kerry said.

    • The darkest day
    • 9/11 timeline
    • Rebuilding the Pentagon

    Surviving victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and relatives of the dead vowed to chip away at the bureaucratic rigidity they said was really to blame.

    “If we can't find a way to come together and institute effective solutions, we're going to find ourselves back at square one, and square one is Ground Zero,” said Chris Burke, whose brother Tom died at the World Trade Center in New York.

    Charles Wolf, whose wife, Katherine, also died in the trade center, said: “If it stops here, let me tell you something: Our goose is cooked. I mean, that's the bottom line - why this is so important.”

    Cool reaction to intelligence czar
    Among its recommendations, many of which already had become public, the commission recommended creating an intelligence center and appointing a high-level intelligence director. The intelligence-gathering center would bring a unified command to the more than a dozen agencies that now collect and analyze intelligence.

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    Running the center would be a new national intelligence director, reporting directly to the president at just below full Cabinet rank, with control over intelligence budgets and the authority to hire and fire deputies, including the CIA director and top intelligence officials at the FBI, the Homeland Security Department and the Defense Department.

    So far, the Bush administration has reacted coolly toward the idea of an overall director, which had been suggested earlier. “I don't think you need a czar," Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said Wednesday.

    The commission also said the U.S. government must do more at home to guard against future attacks, including such things as setting national standards for issuing driver's licenses and other identification, improving “no-fly” and other terrorist watch lists and using more biometric identifiers to screen travelers at ports and borders.

    Related story
    Video shows hijackers clearing security

    Iraq, Afghan connections cited
    Kean and Hamilton personally presented Bush with a copy of the report Thursday at the White House. They and other commission members then held a news conference to summarize the findings.

    The 567-page report provided new details on contacts between Iraq and al-Qaida, noting that bin Laden began exploring a possible alliance in the early 1990s. In one new disclosure, the report says an Iraqi delegation traveled to Afghanistan in July 1998 to meet with the ruling Taliban and with bin Laden.


    • Public snaps up 9/11 report
    July 22: The Sept. 11 commission's report was selling briskly in bookstores across the country. Mary Ann Brownlow of Borders Books talks with MSNBC-TV's Sam Shane.

    Intelligence indicates that Iraq may have offered bin Laden safe haven but that he declined after apparently deciding that Afghanistan was a better location. The report says that although there were some “friendly contacts” between Iraq and al-Qaida and a common hatred of the United States, none of those contacts “ever developed into a collaborative relationship” and Iraq was not involved in the Sept. 11 attacks.

    That question has been the subject of intense political debate, as critics say Bush exaggerated the contacts between al-Qaida and Iraq to justify the war. Bush, and especially Vice President Dick Cheney, insist that those links were real and dangerous.

    The report adds some new details of the Sept. 11 plot, which it said began in in late 1998 or early 1999 after Mohammed moved to Afghanistan to work directly with bin Laden.

    The details could not be worked out at that point, it said, and Mohammed sent an al-Qaida operative to the United States to scout potential economic and “Jewish” targets in New York.

    The original plan was to use as many as 26 hijackers, but many of the candidates backed out or had trouble getting visas, the report found. It listed 10 of them by name: nine Saudis and a Tunisian.

    Mohammed told U.S. interrogators that Moussaoui was to have been in a second wave of attacks after the initial strike on Sept. 11, 2001, but Mohammed, who was captured by coalition forces after the United States invaded Afghanistan, said he was too busy to continue planning. Only three potential pilots, one of them Moussaoui, were ever recruited for further attacks, and the two others backed out.

    Perhaps most chilling, the report suggests that the attacks could have been much worse. As early as 1997, al-Qaida had a military committee that was planning operations against U.S. interests and was “actively trying to obtain nuclear material,” it said.

    But the report also debunks what commissioners called “myths” that have built up around the terrorist strikes that killed nearly 3,000 people. Those include these findings:

    The Saudi government did not fund the 19 hijackers.
    Relatives of bin Laden were not allowed to fly out of the country until after air traffic was allowed to move freely after it was grounded following the attacks. Moreover, those family members had no connection to the terrorist plot.
    Bush did not know about the specific threat beforehand.
    QUICK TAKES What they said

    Reaction to the final report of the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks:

    “They've done a really good job of learning about our country, learning about what went wrong prior to September 11th, and making very solid, sound recommendations about how to move forward. I assured them that where government needs to act, we will.” - President Bush

    “If you look back, all of us had signals. We recite those signals at great length in the report. And we simply did not put them together to understand that terrorism was the predominant national security threat to the United States.” - Lee Hamilton, commission vice chairman

    The report “makes the case for policies this president has pursued after September 11th.” - White House press secretary Scott McClellan

    “There are imperatives that we must move on rapidly.” - Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry

    “There are bad consequences to being in the middle of a political season and there are also good ones, because everyone who is running for office can be asked, ‘Do you support these recommendations?'” - commissioner member Jamie Gorelick

    “We will look at their recommendations carefully. I will ask our committee chairmen to hold hearings on these recommendations over the next several months, so we can act on them as quickly as possible.” - House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

    “This isn't the end of this process. This is Day One.” - William Doyle, whose son Joseph died at the World Trade Center

    “I think the changes they are recommending are everything I could have wished for.” - Martha Sanders, of Darien, Conn., who lost her daughter Stacey at the World Trade Center


    Sources: Associated Press and • Print this

    White House welcomes report as vindication
    Speaking to law enforcement officers at the Northeastern Illinois Public Safety Training Academy in Glenview, Ill., Bush said he agreed with the report's conclusion that the Sept. 11 plotters were able to exploit weaknesses in U.S. intelligence operations and expectations.

    He endorsed the report's call for better coordination among intelligence agencies, and he specifically called for more and better human intelligence. “The commission's recommendations are consistent with the strategy my administration is following to address these failings and to win the war on terror,” he said.

    White House press secretary Scott McClellan said that despite the commission's criticism of the Bush administration and its repudiation of Bush's claim of a link between Iraq and al-Qaida, the report “makes the case for policies this president has pursued after September 11th.”

    Asked whether Bush believed his administration could have done anything differently in the months leading up to the attacks, McClellan said the report spread the responsibility over several presidencies. “The threat was emerging and building for over a decade,” he said.

    Questioned about whether Bush had fully grasped the terrorist threat before the attacks, McClellan told a reporter: “You're sitting here trying to play a blame-casting game. That's not the purpose of the report. The report points out that the blame lies squarely, lies squarely with al-Qaida.”

    McClellan also would not say how Bush viewed specific recommendations in the report or how long he would take to study them.

    “The president will carefully and seriously consider the additional recommendations by the commission that build upon the action we have already taken to better protect the American people since Sept. 11,” McClellan said.

    Congress gets its share of blame
    In addition to the FBI and the CIA, which it blamed for failing to share information and for inaccurately analyzing intelligence, the commission faulted Congress for poor oversight of intelligence gathering.

    Blaming institutional failures dating to the 1970s, the panel recommended creating a single joint House-Senate committee responsible for overseeing the intelligence community or at least limiting oversight to one committee each in the House and the Senate. It called for a similar structure to oversee the Department of Homeland Security.

    “I think we're going to have to break some of the old rules and break from the old institutions. They were good. But this is a new, stateless enemy,” Kean said in the NBC interview. “They're attacking us in a whole new manner. It's going to go beyond us and to our children's generation.”

    House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said, however, that any legislative action on the panel's recommendations probably would not occur until after the next president was inaugurated in January, given the limited time Congress has left this year.

    “We've implemented a lot of these things, even before this commission report has come out,” he said Thursday. “Anything that we're going to do is going to be deliberate and not rushed.”

    NBC's Pete Williams, David Gregory, Tammy Kupperman and Tom Capra, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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