9/11 Commission Report: Plenty of Blame To Go Around - iconoNEWS 

The final report from the 9/11 Commission was released today and there is plenty of blame to go around, but ultimately the final blame is cast upon institutional shortcomings, not the Bush or Clinton administrations. The panel said that the “most important failure” that they found “was one of imagination. We do not believe leaders understood the gravity of the threat.” 

The 567-page report highlights nine “operational failures” by U.S. intelligence agencies and “specific points of vulnerability” in the 9/11 plot where it may have been thwarted if the government had taken action. However, the report points out that even if action had been taken in these 9 instances “we cannot know whether any single step or series of steps would have defeated” the terrorist that carried out the 9/11 attacks. 

The commission also points out that the FBI did not have a workable system in place to collect intelligence domestically and that intelligence agencies within the Federal government failed to share information with each other, which led to one agency have a piece of information that may have connected the dots had they had a piece of intelligence from another agency. 

Apart from the findings of missed opportunities the commission offered recommendations to help prevent or rather disrupt future terrorist plots.  The chief recommendation calls for the creation of a new intelligence center, headed by a national intelligence director.  In theory the new center would unify the intelligence gathering an analysis of the more than dozen separate agencies that currently collect and analyze intelligence domestically and abroad. 

The new director would be confirmed by the Senate and hold control over intelligence budgets, and management (power to hire or fire) of the deputies at the various intelligence agencies including the CIA, FBI, Defense Department and Department of Homeland Security.  "The National Intelligence Director should oversee national intelligence centers to provide all-source analysis and plan intelligence operations for the whole government on major problems," the report said. 

The report also recommends that the FBI Director Robert Mueller continue his efforts to create a  specialized intelligence service within that agency. 
United States diplomacy and PR was also addressed by the report, which says that the U.S. should highlight its advantages with diplomacy and public relations to counter terrorist recruiting messages.  “To Muslim parents, terrorists like bin Laden have nothing to offer their children but visions of violence and death,” the report said.  “America and its friends have the advantage — our vision can offer a better future”. 

The chairman of the 10-member panel presented President Bush with a copy of the final report this morning. President Bush spoke after meeting with the commission leaders in the White House saying that the commission had presented “some very constructive recommendations," and said that "where the government needs to act, we will."

Some partisans on both sides were anticipating the report and hoping for political ammunition, while that has already began to happen with comments from members of Congress. One part of the report backs up President Bush’s claim that there was link between Iraq and al-Qaida, something that has been a sticking point for the President in his march to war in Iraq.  However, the conclusion could be a mixed blessing for the administration because they do establish a link, but also state that the link did not lead to a “collaborative relationship”. 

The report provides new details on dealing between Iraq and the terrorist organization.  The report says that in July 1998 an Iraq delegation was sent to Afghanistan to meet with members of the Taliban government and Osama bin Laden.  The panel concluded that intelligence indicates that the Iraqi delegation may have offered the al-Qaida leader safe haven in Iraq, which he declined, deciding to stay in the Taliban ruled Afghanistan. 

The commission report also states that in the early 90s bin Laden looked at a possible alliance with the Iraqi regime. However, although the report concludes that there were contacts between bin Laden and Iraq, a working relationship was never established. 

The report has been made public. You can read the report for free online at www.9-11commission.gov, purchase a copy for $10 at a local bookstore or obtain a copy for $8.50 at the Government Printing Office in Washington. 

The one question that the report did not answer: "Who is John Galt?"