For busy people
to read the 428 pages of the Report (not
including appendices and notes) and then the Investigations on top of it sounds
like a great deal to ask, but there's no doubt in my mind that the
effort is well worth it. Published by Public Affairs, both books are
available at Amazon.com for $8 a piece. They are also available for
download at http://www.9-11commission.gov.
Two new, Additional Reports
As of August 21, 2004, the 9-11commission site has two new reports,
released just before it disbanded, both monographs covering two
important parts of the Commission's study. The titles are Monograph on Terrorist Financing
and Monograph on 9/11 and Terrorist
Travel. I haven't had time to read these documents. I
only know that they can be found at the same
Internet address as the Report
and the Investigations
Though I've always found reading books of such a substantial size from
the computer screen difficult, the download of the first report, the
report, does have the benefit of the search
function. Though the Investigations
has an index, the Report does
not -- a frustrating lack that the otherwise excellent editors should
not have let pass.
Excellent Writing and Editing
Investigative Staff's reports and the selected individual
testimonies in The
9/11 Investigations were
arranged and edited by Steven Strasser, Writer and Consulting Editor
for Newsweek. The undertaking would have had to be a monumental one,
for the results are impressively easy and compelling to read. In both
the Report's and the Investigations' introduction, full
credit is given by the writers to the 9/11 victims' families for their
unflagging efforts to get to the bottom of what happened on the morning
of September 11, 2001 and why. Encouraging is the announcement
that the 9/11 victim's families plan to keep up the pressure for
adopting the recommendations for change outlined by the 9/11 Commission.
Made abundantly clear in both main reports was the daunting task the
victims' families faced in their campaign for the Commission's birth,
since, regardless of a bipartisan effort to introduce legislation for
an independent commission with subpoena power to make the
investigation, the White House adamantly opposed it. Citing the
February 2002 by the House and Senate select committees on intelligence
to conduct a joint investigation of their own, the administration hoped
a stone wall would spell the end of it. (The key findings of
this House and Senate investigation are included in
The 9/11 Investigations.)
However, as Craig Whitney in the Investigations
puts it, "the White House did not reckon with
families of the victims of the attacks .... who were insistent that an
even broader inquiry was needed, one with the power and prestige to
explore all the reasons behind the attacks, and [they] mounted an
effective campaign to persuade individual lawmakers of their case."
The wider investigation finally made it through the opposition. The
Commission was formed with (eventually) acceptable directors. The
funding problems, after much wrangling, were finally resolved.
hard-won extension to the end of July was obtained to
finish its job. Now the battle is on to see that its recommendations
brought into effect. Especially important to the commission was the
appointment of a National Intelligence Director (NID). As
Commission member, Jamie Gorelick told the Associated Press, "Anyone
who would have to give up authority or turf is resisting." And the
department slated to give up the most turf is the Defense Department
which controls over 80% of intelligence funding.
The NID would have two main areas of responsibilty, according to the
Commission: "(1) to oversee national intelligence centers on specific
subjects of interest across the U.S. government and (2) to manage the
national intelligence program and oversee the agencies that contribute
to it."(p411R) The Commission was adamant that the NID have both hiring
and firing authority and budgetary control of the fifteen intelligence
Check the Appendices!
of caution before beginning to read the first, very confusing
chapter on the chaos of 9/11 -- put a marker on the first page of
Appendix A, "Common
Abbreviations." I discovered this indispensable aid many pages into
the first chapter
after shuffling back and forth time and again to
mention of, for instance, NMCC and NEADS, to see what the SamHill the
stood for, who was talking to whom. What a
relief! Also back there is Appendix B, "Table of Names," which
in keeping people straight, especially the hijackers, but
also officials and their functions at the time of the attacks.
A group of extremely helpful visuals were
maps of the hijacked airplanes' flight paths with times to the fraction
of a second of their takeoff, radio contacts, the transmissions between
the various airline controllers and managers, and the subsequent
These excellent, easy to understand maps are quite a feat of
considering the confusion
agencies, passengers and stewards using airplane and cell phones, and
civilians on the ground.
CENTER: ... as far as the tape,
Bobby seemed to think the guy said that "we have planes." Now, I don't
know if it
was because it was the accent, or if there's more than one, but
I'm gonna, I'm gonna reconfirm that for you, and I'll get back to you
real quick. Okay?
first chapter of the Report,
Have Some Planes," is every bit as gripping as the first chapter
Richard A. Clarke's Against All
Enemies, in which Clarke describes so well
the tense atmosphere in the basement of the White House
during the hijacking of the four planes on September 11, 2001.
But the scene portrayed in Clarke's Washington conference rooms was
as nothing compared to the utter chaos in the air-to-ground,
ground-to-ground conversations and commands during this totally
unexpected series of attacks.
Indeed, the most dismaying lines in the report's narrative are
variations on the statement, "The plane had already crashed by the time
they had learned it was hijacked." (United 93). Also dismaying was
the chasing by radar of the wrong plane, Delta 1989, and the continuing
search for American 11 long after it had hit the World Trade
Center's North Tower.
NEADS: Okay, So American
11 isn't the hijack at all then, right?
FAA: No, he is a hijack.
NEADS: He--American 11 is a hijack?
NEADS: And he's heading into Washington?
FAA: Yes. This could be a third aircraft
("The New York Center controller
unaware that American 11 had already crashed.")
frightening was NORAD, Langley, and other commands sending aloft
separate sets of fighters to intercept the hijacked planes, some
fighters with no clear
instructions as to where the planes or dangers were
located and with conflicting orders of engagement if they were
found. For instance, we learn that "[t]he Pentagon had been
struck by American 77 at 9:37:46. The Langley fighters were about 150
miles away." Actually, these fighters were out over the
Atlantic Ocean, assuming, as per the prevailing emphasis on ballistic
missiles, that any danger would be coming over the water from the east.
fact, the Langley fighters were never
briefed about the threat, as the lead pilot explained,
reverted to the Russian threat.... I'm thinking cruise missile threat
from the sea. You look down and you see the Pentagon burning and I
thought, the bastards snuck one by us.... [Y]ou couldn't see any
airplanes, and nobody told us anything.
Moreover, snarls and contradictions reigned about a shootdown
order for the interceptor pilots if the hijacked plane
refused to divert. The order was to come from the president, but the
president was somewhere aloft on Air Force One. Vice President Cheney
gave the shootdown
order in his stead and then gave it again. The order made it
down through NORAD eventually, though it still isn't clear how the
was communicated. It is known only that at 10:31, General Larry Arnold
sent the shootdown order over a NORAD instant
LEADERSHIP: You need to read this....The Region Commander has declared
that we can shoot down aircraft that do not respond to our direction.
Who Was To Blame?
CONTROLLERS: Copy that, sir.
FLOOR LEADERSHIP: So if you're trying to divert somebody and he won't
CONTROLLERS: DO [Director of Operations] is saying no.
FLOOR LEADERSHIP: No? It came over the chat....You got a conflict
on that direction?
CONTROLLERS: Right now no, but--
FLOOR LEADERSHIP: Okay? Okay, you read that from the Vice
President, right? Vice President has cleared. Vice President has
cleared us to intercept traffic and shoot them down if they do not
respond per [General Arnold].
(At this point there were no hijacked planes left in the air to shoot
report declines to place blame on the individual agencies. The
procedure was indeed chaotic but, as the report points out it
was "improvised by civilians who had never handled a hijacked aircraft
that attempted to disappear (by turning off its transponders), and by a
military unprepared for the
transformation of commercial aircraft into weapons of mass
destruction." What it did blame was the lack of a clear
chain of command in a sprawling nationwide network of agencies that
together for the nation's defence.
The New Terrorism
was a relief to turn from the draining reenactment of the
9/11 attacks to the Report's
the foundations of the new terrorism. This excellent short history,
to the 1970s and
covering the reasons behind the rise of militant Islam, the steady
escalation of terrorist attacks, and the rise in importance of bin
Laden and his lieutenants, is an important addition to the public's
knowledge of terrorism and the difficult choices involved in the United
States' and the World's defenses against it.
Augmenting the historical overview of terrorism and its evolution in
the Report is the section in
the Investigations on the
rise of global terrorism drawn from the House-Senate Joint Inquiry
Report on 9/11, and the staff statement on the entry of the 9/11
hijackers into the United States.
Aside from the appalling lack of communication among intelligence
agencies in tracking known terrorists, the most disquieting to me in
these sections was the ease of obtaining counterfeit passports and
monographs mentioned above on both terrorist financing and terrorist
travel may well cover these two problems in more depth. Certainly much
be done to both streamline and secure passport protocol, and it appears
that progress on that front is being made.
News.com, for instance, reported in an August 18, 2004 dispatch
that a number of countries are working on passports and visas
incorporating biometric information about the document holder, such as
a digital facial images. Belgium
is mentioned as the most likely country to act first, conducting an
e-passport trial later this year.
This information, while encouraging, suggests a tremendous global
challenge, since countries differ among themselves in many respects on
their passport and visa information storage. Proponents are hoping for
the new protocol to be in place by the end of 2005, but a quick
changeover appears problematic at best.
Did the 9/11 Report go far enough?
have been many complaints voiced about The 9/11 Commission Report. The
9/11 victims' families say it does not go far enough, or high enough in
either describing shortcomings or placing blame. More than one
commentator felt that when no one in
particular is blamed, as occurs in the Report, everyone is blamed.
Bartcop's resigned comment goes further, "Bush got the verdict he paid
for -- nobody was responsible (Bartcop.com 8/11/04)
complain of things left out; for instance, domestic terrorism, such
as the Oklahoma bombing, and any admonishment by the Commission for the
misleading statements made by the Bush administration underpinning its
rush into the Iraq war -- especially egregious on this score being the
president's constant juxtaposition of Iraq and 9/11 in his speeches,
implying a terrorist connection between the four hijacked airplanes and
Iraq without coming right out and claiming one.
Indeed, this juxtaposition has made enough of an impression that there
a sizable percentage of citizens in the United States believing to this
day that Iraq and Saddam were behind the attacks of 2001. The only
mention of the Iraq-9/11 made-for-the-polls imbroglio was the short
statement on page 66 of the Report which assigned no blame,
Nor have we seen
evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or
carrying out any attacks against the United States.
In the coming months there will be increasing discussions going on in
Congress and elsewhere concerning the recommendations offered by the
9/11 Commission, and public input will be needed more than ever. A
reading of one or more of these reports or, at the very least, The Executive Summary, is necessary
to understand the dialog and offer an opinion as necessary.
Do take advantage of the inexpensive paperback editions or the
downloadable versions, and read as much as you can. For yourselves.
Don't be dependent on what you read about it in the corporate media,
especially on what you hear as sound bites on television. As Eric
this morning (in the online blog, Altercations),
One of the many
reasons American politics is too idiotic for words is the refusal of
journalists to think, even for a second, about the absurdity of the
crap they are asked to pass along to their readers. This is the modus
operandi of even the most elite of the mainstream media.
9/11 Commission Report
to buy--The 9/11 Investigations
Click for the Downloadable Versions of The 9/11
Commission Report and The 9/11
Investigations, The Monographs, and The Executive Summary.
Click to buy Against All
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