NCTA

"The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States"

(Reviewed by Jana L. Perskie SEP 16, 2004)

The 9/11 Commission Report

Thanks to the persistence and perseverance of the families of the September 11 victims, the 9/11 Commission was created. The Commission was given a sweeping mandate: To investigate the "facts and circumstances relating to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001." Over 2.5 million pages of documents were reviewed by the bipartisan committee and their staff, and more than 1,200 individuals were interviewed in ten countries. The Committee's work, their report and recommendations, is unique in our country's history and is probably one of the most important documents of our times. Because of almost unprecedented access to classified documents, the report provides an in-depth look into decision making at the highest levels of government.

Striving to be impartial, independent, thorough and nonpartisan, this group of dedicated men and women conducted, over a 20-month period, an exhaustive and transparent investigation to find the truth - which they shared with the American people in open hearings. This 567-page final report concludes that the US government "failed to protect the American people" from terrorist attacks mainly because it did not understand the "gravity of the threat."

The report is extremely critical of the lack of action on the part of the FBI and CIA, especially given the clear warnings prior to 9/11 that "Islamist terrorists meant to kill Americans in high numbers." The Commission finds that both services suffered from having too many priorities, flat budgets, outmoded structures and bureaucratic rivalries. A top recommendation is the creation of a National Counter-Terrorism Center, (NCTC,) to be overseen by a National Intelligence Director, who would be able to influence the budget and leadership of the CIA, FBI, Homeland Security Department and Defense Department.

The report cites nine operational failures within the US: Not putting two hijackers on a "watch list;" not sharing information linking individuals on the USS Cole attack in Aden, Yemen, which killed 17 American sailors in 2000, to one of the highjackers; not taking adequate steps to find two highjackers who were already in the U.S.; not linking the arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui to heightened indications of an attack; not uncovering false statements on visa applications; not recognizing false passports; not expanding no-fly lists to include names from terrorist watch lists; not searching airline passengers identified as possible threats through a computer screening system.

The report reads like a novel, especially the 1st part - "We Have Some Planes." The historic foundation and evolution of the new terrorism are thoroughly explored in a highly readable fashion, as are the US responses to terrorist attacks prior to 9/11. The September 11th attack on our homeland is analyzed in depth from inception to its final disastrous completion. And the threat we now face is clearly defined, at last. Clear and concise recommendations are provided at the report's conclusion. It is my fervent hope that these recommendations will be carefully examined and acted on as soon as possible.

I am a Manhattanite. I was ten blocks away from the World Trade Center when the first plane, American Airlines Flight 11, hit the North Tower. I didn't see the plane, but I did hear its roar as it flew overhead - so close. I saw the second plane hit the South Tower. I cannot begin to recount the horrors of that day, or the aftermath. I am still effected. I lost many friends and colleagues on September 11, and I still grieve for them, deeply. I cannot express what it feels like to hold this completed volume in my hands. Something concrete, finally, has been done - something tangible that I can understand - something that makes sense out of the chaos. I now am able to feel some sense of closure. I truly thank all the committee members from the bottom of my heart.

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About the Author:

In November 2002 the United States Congress and President George W. Bush established by law the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, also known as the 9/11 Commission. This independent, bipartisan panel was directed to examine the facts and circumstances surrounding the September 11 attacks, identify lessons learned, and provide recommendations to safeguard against future acts of terrorism.
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