[Paleopsych] 9/11 Report: Exectitve Summary

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Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the 
United States

[Note under "Financing" that the attacks cost $400-500,000 and that the 
annual budget of Al Qaeda is estimated to be about $30 million. I say that 
any undergraduate engineering class in the United States could have pulled 
it off. My biggest fear is a virus that could take large numbers of 
computers out of service for a long time. (The Internet itself was happily 
designed to be routed around.) But this would require a level of cognitive 
ability way ahead of what Moslem nations, with an average IQ of about 90, 
could accomplish. The higher IQ nations are far more interested in trading 
with the U.S. than in destroying it.

[Relax, folks. Life will go on, even if 100,000 Americans are killed 
during another attack. 6,000 Americans die every day.]

    Published: July 22, 2004

    We present the narrative of this report and the recommendations that
    flow from it to the President of the United States, the United States
    Congress, and the American people for their consideration. Ten
    Commissioners, five Republicans and five Democrats chosen by elected
    leaders from our nation's capital at a time of great partisan
    division, have come together to present this report without dissent.
    We have come together with a unity of purpose because our nation
    demands it. September 11, 2001, was a day of unprecedented shock and
    suffering in the history of the United States. The nation was


    At 8:46 on the morning of September 11, 2001, the United States became
    a nation transformed.

    An airliner traveling at hundreds of miles per hour and carrying some
    10,000 gallons of jet fuel plowed into the North Tower of the World
    Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. At 9:03, a second airliner hit the
    South Tower. Fire and smoke billowed upward. Steel, glass, ash and
    bodies fell below.The Twin Towers, where up to 50,000 people worked
    each day, both collapsed less than 90 minutes later.

    At 9:37 that same morning, a third airliner slammed into the western
    face of the Pentagon. At 10:03, a fourth airliner crashed in a field
    in southern Pennsylvania. It had been aimed at the United States
    Capitol or the White House, and was forced down by heroic passengers
    armed with the knowledge that America was under attack.

    More than 2,600 people died at the World Trade Center; 125 died at the
    Pentagon; 256 died on the four planes. The death toll surpassed that
    at Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

    This immeasurable pain was inflicted by 19 young Arabs acting at the
    behest of Islamist extremists headquartered in distant Afghanistan.
    Some had been in the United States for more than a year, mixing with
    the rest of the population. Though four had training as pilots, most
    were not well-educated. Most spoke English poorly, some hardly at all.
    In groups of four or five, carrying with them only small knives, box
    cutters, and cans of Mace or pepper spray, they had hijacked the four
    planes and turned them into deadly guided missiles.

    Why did they do this? How was the attack planned and conceived? How
    did the U.S. government fail to anticipate and prevent it? What can we
    do in the future to prevent similar acts of terrorism?


    The 9/11 attacks were a shock, but they should not have come as a
    surprise. Islamist extremists had given plenty of warning that they
    meant to kill Americans indiscriminately and in large numbers.
    Although Usama Bin Ladin himself would not emerge as a signal threat
    until the late 1990s, the threat of Islamist terrorism grew over the

    In February 1993, a group led by Ramzi Yousef tried to bring down the
    World Trade Center with a truck bomb.They killed six and wounded a
    thousand. Plans by Omar Abdel Rahman and others to blow up the Holland
    and Lincoln tunnels and other New York City landmarks were frustrated
    when the plotters were arrested. In October 1993, Somali tribesmen
    shot down U.S. helicopters, killing 18 and wounding 73 in an incident
    that came to be known as "Black Hawk down." Years later it would be
    learned that those Somali tribesmen had received help from al Qaeda.

    In early 1995, police in Manila uncovered a plot by Ramzi Yousef to
    blow up a dozen U.S. airliners while they were flying over the
    Pacific. In November 1995, a car bomb exploded outside the office of
    the U.S. program manager for the Saudi National Guard in Riyadh,
    killing five Americans and two others. In June 1996, a truck bomb
    demolished the Khobar Towers apartment complex in Dhahran, Saudi
    Arabia, killing 19 U.S. servicemen and wounding hundreds.The attack
    was carried out primarily by Saudi Hezbollah, an organization that had
    received help from the government of Iran.

    Until 1997, the U.S. intelligence community viewed Bin Ladin as a
    financier of terrorism, not as a terrorist leader. In February 1998,
    Usama Bin Ladin and four others issued a self-styled fatwa, publicly
    declaring that it was God's decree that every Muslim should try his
    utmost to kill any American, military or civilian, anywhere in the
    world, because of American "occupation" of Islam's holy places and
    aggression against Muslims.

    In August 1998, Bin Ladin's group, al Qaeda, carried out
    near-simultaneous truck bomb attacks on the U.S. embassies in Nairobi,
    Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The attacks killed 224 people,
    including 12 Americans, and wounded thousands more.

    In December 1999, Jordanian police foiled a plot to bomb hotels and
    other sites frequented by American tourists, and a U.S. Customs agent
    arrested Ahmed Ressam at the U.S. Canadian border as he was smuggling
    in explosives intended for an attack on Los Angeles International

    In October 2000, an al Qaeda team in Aden,Yemen, used a motorboat
    filled with explosives to blow a hole in the side of a destroyer, the
    USS Cole, almost sinking the vessel and killing 17 American sailors.

    The 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were far
    more elaborate, precise and destructive than any of these earlier
    assaults. But by September 2001, the executive branch of the U.S.
    government, the Congress, the news media and the American public had
    received clear warning that Islamist terrorists meant to kill
    Americans in high numbers.


    Who is this enemy that created an organization capable of inflicting
    such horrific damage on the United States? We now know that these
    attacks were carried out by various groups of Islamist extremists. The
    9/11 attack was driven by Usama Bin Ladin.

    In the 1980s, young Muslims from around the world went to Afghanistan
    to join as volunteers in a jihad (or holy struggle) against the Soviet
    Union. A wealthy Saudi, Usama Bin Ladin, was one of them. Following
    the defeat of the Soviets in the late 1980s, Bin Ladin and others
    formed al Qaeda to mobilize jihads elsewhere.

    The history, culture and body of beliefs from which Bin Ladin shapes
    and spreads his message are largely unknown to many Americans. Seizing
    on symbols of Islam's past greatness, he promises to restore pride to
    people who consider themselves the victims of successive foreign
    masters. He uses cultural and religious allusions to the holy Qur'an
    and some of its interpreters. He appeals to people disoriented by
    cyclonic change as they confront modernity and globalization. His
    rhetoric selectively draws from multiple sources -- Islam, history and
    the region's political and economic malaise.

    Bin Ladin also stresses grievances against the United States widely
    shared in the Muslim world. He inveighed against the presence of U.S.
    troops in Saudi Arabia, which is the home of Islam's holiest sites,
    and against other U.S. policies in the Middle East.

    Upon this political and ideological foundation, Bin Ladin built over
    the course of a decade a dynamic and lethal organization. He built an
    infrastructure and organization in Afghanistan that could attract,
    train and use recruits against ever more ambitious targets. He rallied
    new zealots and new money with each demonstration of al Qaeda's
    capability. He had forged a close alliance with the Taliban, a regime
    providing sanctuary for al Qaeda.

    By September 11, 2001, al Qaeda possessed leaders able to evaluate,
    approve and supervise the planning and direction of a major operation;
    a personnel system that could recruit candidates, indoctrinate them,
    vet them and give them the necessary training; communications
    sufficient to enable planning and direction of operatives and those
    who would be helping them; an intelligence effort to gather required
    information and form assessments of enemy strengths and weaknesses;
    the ability to move people great distances; and the ability to raise
    and move the money necessary to finance an attack.

    1998 TO SEPTEMBER 11, 2001

    The August 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania
    established al Qaeda as a potent adversary of the United States.

    After launching cruise missile strikes against al Qaeda targets in
    Afghanistan and Sudan in retaliation for the embassy bombings, the
    Clinton administration applied diplomatic pressure to try to persuade
    the Taliban regime in Afghanistan to expel Bin Ladin. The
    administration also devised covert operations to use CIA-paid foreign
    agents to capture or kill Bin Ladin and his chief lieutenants. These
    actions did not stop Bin Ladin or dislodge al Qaeda from its

    By late 1998 or early 1999, Bin Ladin and his advisers had agreed on
    an idea brought to them by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) called the
    "planes operation." It would eventually culminate in the 9/11 attacks.
    Bin Ladin and his chief of operations, Mohammed Atef, occupied
    undisputed leadership positions atop al Qaeda. Within al Qaeda, they
    relied heavily on the ideas and enterprise of strong-willed field
    commanders, such as KSM, to carry out worldwide terrorist operations.

    KSM claims that his original plot was even grander than those carried
    out on 9/11 -- 10 planes would attack targets on both the East and
    West coasts of the United States. This plan was modified by Bin Ladin,
    KSM said, owing to its scale and complexity. Bin Ladin provided KSM
    with four initial operatives for suicide plane attacks within the
    United States, and in the fall of 1999 training for the attacks began.
    New recruits included four from a cell of expatriate Muslim extremists
    who had clustered together in Hamburg, Germany. One became the
    tactical commander of the operation in the United States: Mohamed

    U.S. intelligence frequently picked up reports of attacks planned by
    al Qaeda. Working with foreign security services, the CIA broke up
    some al Qaeda cells. The core of Bin Ladin's organization nevertheless
    remained intact. In December 1999, news about the arrests of the
    terrorist cell in Jordan and the arrest of a terrorist at the
    U.S.-Canadian border became part of a "millennium alert." The
    government was galvanized, and the public was on alert for any
    possible attack.

    In January 2000, the intense intelligence effort glimpsed and then
    lost sight of two operatives destined for the "planes operation."
    Spotted in Kuala Lumpur, the pair were lost passing through Bangkok.
    On January 15, 2000, they arrived in Los Angeles.

    Because these two al Qaeda operatives had spent little time in the
    West and spoke little, if any, English, it is plausible that they or
    KSM would have tried to identify, in advance, a friendly contact in
    the United States. We explored suspicions about whether these two
    operatives had a support network of accomplices in the United States.
    The evidence is thin -- simply not there for some cases, more
    worrisome in others.

    We do know that soon after arriving in California, the two al Qaeda
    operatives sought out and found a group of ideologically like-minded
    Muslims with roots in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, individuals mainly
    associated with a young Yemeni and others who attended a mosque in San
    Diego. After a brief stay in Los Angeles about which we know little,
    the al Qaeda operatives lived openly in San Diego under their true
    names. They managed to avoid attracting much attention.

    By the summer of 2000, three of the four Hamburg cell members had
    arrived on the East Coast of the United States and had begun pilot
    training. In early 2001, a fourth future hijacker pilot, Hani Hanjour,
    journeyed to Arizona with another operative, Nawaf al Hazmi, and
    conducted his refresher pilot training there. A number of al Qaeda
    operatives had spent time in Arizona during the 1980s and early 1990s.

    During 2000, President Bill Clinton and his advisers renewed
    diplomatic efforts to get Bin Ladin expelled from Afghanistan. They
    also renewed secret efforts with some of the Taliban's opponents --
    the Northern Alliance -- to get enough intelligence to attack Bin
    Ladin directly. Diplomatic efforts centered on the new military
    government in Pakistan, and they did not succeed.The efforts with the
    Northern Alliance revived an inconclusive and secret debate about
    whether the United States should take sides in Afghanistan's civil war
    and support the Taliban's enemies. The CIA also produced a plan to
    improve intelligence collection on al Qaeda, including the use of a
    small, unmanned airplane with a video camera, known as the Predator.

    After the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole, evidence accumulated
    that it had been launched by al Qaeda operatives, but without
    confirmation that Bin Ladin had given the order. The Taliban had
    earlier been warned that it would be held responsible for another Bin
    Ladin attack on the United States. The CIA described its findings as a
    "preliminary judgment"; President Clinton and his chief advisers told
    us they were waiting for a conclusion before deciding whether to take
    military action.The military alternatives remained unappealing to

    The transition to the new Bush administration in late 2000 and early
    2001 took place with the Cole issue still pending. President George W.
    Bush and his chief advisers accepted that al Qaeda was responsible for
    the attack on the Cole, but did not like the options available for a

    Bin Ladin's inference may well have been that attacks, at least at the
    level of the Cole, were risk free. The Bush administration began
    developing a new strategy with the stated goal of eliminating the al
    Qaeda threat within three to five years.

    During the spring and summer of 2001, U.S. intelligence agencies
    received a stream of warnings that al Qaeda planned, as one report put
    it, "something very, very, very big." Director of Central Intelligence
    George Tenet told us, "The system was blinking red."

    Although Bin Ladin was determined to strike in the United States, as
    President Clinton had been told and President Bush was reminded in a
    Presidential Daily Brief article briefed to him in August 2001, the
    specific threat information pointed overseas. Numerous precautions
    were taken overseas. Domestic agencies were not effectively mobilized.
    The threat did not receive national media attention comparable to the
    millennium alert.

    While the United States continued disruption efforts around the world,
    its emerging strategy to eliminate the al Qaeda threat was to include
    an enlarged covert action program in Afghanistan, as well as
    diplomatic strategies for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The process
    culminated during the summer of 2001 in a draft presidential directive
    and arguments about the Predator aircraft, which was soon to be
    deployed with a missile of its own, so that it might be used to
    attempt to kill Bin Ladin or his chief lieutenants. At a September 4
    meeting, President Bush's chief advisers approved the draft directive
    of the strategy and endorsed the concept of arming the Predator. This
    directive on the al Qaeda strategy was awaiting President Bush's
    signature on September 11, 2001.

    Though the "planes operation" was progressing, the plotters had
    problems of their own in 2001. Several possible participants dropped
    out; others could not gain entry into the United States (including one
    denial at a port of entry and visa denials not related to terrorism).
    One of the eventual pilots may have considered abandoning the planes
    operation. Zacarias Moussaoui, who showed up at a flight training
    school in Minnesota, may have been a candidate to replace him.

    Some of the vulnerabilities of the plotters become clear in
    retrospect. Moussaoui aroused suspicion for seeking fast-track
    training on how to pilot large jet airliners. He was arrested on
    August 16, 2001, for violations of immigration regulations. In late
    August, officials in the intelligence community realized that the
    terrorists spotted in Southeast Asia in January 2000 had arrived in
    the United States.

    These cases did not prompt urgent action. No one working on these late
    leads in the summer of 2001 connected them to the high level of threat
    reporting. In the words of one official, no analytic work foresaw the
    lightning that could connect the thundercloud to the ground.

    As final preparations were under way during the summer of 2001,
    dissent emerged among al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan over whether to
    proceed. The Taliban's chief, Mullah Omar, opposed attacking the
    United States. Although facing opposition from many of his senior
    lieutenants, Bin Ladin effectively overruled their objections, and the
    attacks went forward.

    SEPTEMBER 11, 2001

    The day began with the 19 hijackers getting through a security
    checkpoint system that they had evidently analyzed and knew how to
    defeat. Their success rate in penetrating the system was 19 for
    19.They took over the four flights, taking advantage of air crews and
    cockpits that were not prepared for the contingency of a suicide

    On 9/11, the defense of U.S. air space depended on close interaction
    between two federal agencies: the Federal Aviation Administration
    (FAA) and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). Existing
    protocols on 9/11 were unsuited in every respect for an attack in
    which hijacked planes were used as weapons.

    What ensued was a hurried attempt to improvise a defense by civilians
    who had never handled a hijacked aircraft that attempted to disappear,
    and by a military unprepared for the transformation of commercial
    aircraft into weapons of mass destruction.

    A shootdown authorization was not communicated to the NORAD air
    defense sector until 28 minutes after United 93 had crashed in
    Pennsylvania. Planes were scrambled, but ineffectively, as they did
    not know where to go or what targets they were to intercept. And once
    the shootdown order was given, it was not communicated to the pilots.
    In short, while leaders in Washington believed that the fighters
    circling above them had been instructed to "take out" hostile
    aircraft, the only orders actually conveyed to the pilots were to "ID
    type and tail."

    Like the national defense, the emergency response on 9/11 was
    necessarily improvised.

    In New York City, the Fire Department of New York, the New York Police
    Department, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the
    building employees, and the occupants of the buildings did their best
    to cope with the effects of almost unimaginable events unfolding
    furiously over 102 minutes. Casualties were nearly 100 percent at and
    above the impact zones and were very high among first responders who
    stayed in danger as they tried to save lives. Despite weaknesses in
    preparations for disaster, failure to achieve unified incident
    command, and inadequate communications among responding agencies, all
    but approximately one hundred of the thousands of civilians who worked
    below the impact zone escaped, often with help from the emergency

    At the Pentagon, while there were also problems of command and
    control, the emergency response was generally effective. The Incident
    Command System, a formalized management structure for emergency
    response in place in the National Capital Region, overcame the
    inherent complications of a response across local, state, and federal


    We write with the benefit and handicap of hindsight. We are mindful of
    the danger of being unjust to men and women who made choices in
    conditions of uncertainty and in circumstances over which they often
    had little control.

    Nonetheless, there were specific points of vulnerability in the plot
    and opportunities to disrupt it. Operational failures, opportunities
    that were not or could not be exploited by the organizations and
    systems of that time, included: not watchlisting future hijackers
    Hazmi and 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 Cole attack to Mihdhar; not taking adequate
    steps in time to find Mihdhar or 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 watchlists; not searching airline passengers identified
    by the computer-based CAPPS screening system; and not hardening
    aircraft cockpit doors or taking other measures to prepare for the
    possibility of suicide hijackings.


    Since the plotters were flexible and resourceful, we cannot know
    whether any single step or series of steps would have defeated them.
    What we can say with confidence is that none of the measures adopted
    by the U.S. government from 1998 to 2001 disturbed or even delayed the
    progress of the al Qaeda plot. Across the government, there were
    failures of imagination, policy, capabilities, and management.


    The most important failure was one of imagination. We do not believe
    leaders understood the gravity of the threat. The terrorist danger
    from Bin Ladin and al Qaeda was not a major topic for policy debate
    among the public, the media, or in the Congress. Indeed, it barely
    came up during the 2000 presidential campaign.

    Al Qaeda's new brand of terrorism presented challenges to U.S.
    governmental institutions that they were not well-designed to meet.
    Though top officials all told us that they understood the danger, we
    believe there was uncertainty among them as to whether this was just a
    new and especially venomous version of the ordinary terrorist threat
    the United States had lived with for decades, or it was indeed
    radically new, posing a threat beyond any yet experienced.

    As late as September 4, 2001, Richard Clarke, the White House staffer
    long responsible for counterterrorism policy coordination, asserted
    that the government had not yet made up its mind how to answer the
    question: "Is al Qaeda a big deal?"

    A week later came the answer.


    Terrorism was not the overriding national security concern for the
    U.S. government under either the Clinton or the pre-9/11 Bush

    The policy challenges were linked to this failure of imagination.
    Officials in both the Clinton and Bush administrations regarded a full
    U.S. invasion of Afghanistan as practically inconceivable before 9/11.


    Before 9/11, the United States tried to solve the al Qaeda problem
    with the capabilities it had used in the last stages of the Cold War
    and its immediate aftermath. These capabilities were insufficient.
    Little was done to expand or reform them.

    The CIA had minimal capacity to conduct paramilitary operations with
    its own personnel, and it did not seek a large-scale expansion of
    these capabilities before 9/11. The CIA also needed to improve its
    capability to collect intelligence from human agents.

    At no point before 9/11 was the Department of Defense fully engaged in
    the mission of countering al Qaeda, even though this was perhaps the
    most dangerous foreign enemy threatening the United States.

    America's homeland defenders faced outward. NORAD itself was barely
    able to retain any alert bases at all. Its planning scenarios
    occasionally considered the danger of hijacked aircraft being guided
    to American targets, but only aircraft that were coming from overseas.

    The most serious weaknesses in agency capabilities were in the
    domestic arena. The FBI did not have the capability to link the
    collective knowledge of agents in the field to national priorities.
    Other domestic agencies deferred to the FBI.

    FAA capabilities were weak. Any serious examination of the possibility
    of a suicide hijacking could have suggested changes to fix glaring
    vulnerabilities expanding no-fly lists, searching passengers
    identified by the CAPPS screening system, deploying federal air
    marshals domestically, hardening cockpit doors, alerting air crews to
    a different kind of hijacking possibility than they had been trained
    to expect. Yet the FAA did not adjust either its own training or
    training with NORAD to take account of threats other than those
    experienced in the past.


    The missed opportunities to thwart the 9/11 plot were also symptoms of
    a broader inability to adapt the way government manages problems to
    the new challenges of the twenty-first century. Action officers should
    have been able to draw on all available knowledge about al Qaeda in
    the government. Management should have ensured that information was
    shared and duties were clearly assigned across agencies, and across
    the foreign-domestic divide.

    There were also broader management issues with respect to how top
    leaders set priorities and allocated resources. For instance, on
    December 4, 1998, DCI Tenet issued a directive to several CIA
    officials and the DDCI for Community Management, stating: "We are at
    war. I want no resources or people spared in this effort, either
    inside CIA or the Community." The memorandum had little overall effect
    on mobilizing the CIA or the intelligence community. This episode
    indicates the limitations of the DCI's authority over the direction of
    the intelligence community, including agencies within the Department
    of Defense.

    The U.S. government did not find a way of pooling intelligence and
    using it to guide the planning and assignment of responsibilities for
    joint operations involving entities as disparate as the CIA, the FBI,
    the State Department, the military, and the agencies involved in
    homeland security.



    Beginning in February 1997, and through September 11, 2001, the U.S.
    government tried to use diplomatic pressure to persuade the Taliban
    regime in Afghanistan to stop being a sanctuary for al Qaeda, and to
    expel Bin Ladin to a country where he could face justice. These
    efforts included warnings and sanctions, but they all failed.

    The U.S. government also pressed two successive Pakistani governments
    to demand that the Taliban cease providing a sanctuary for Bin Ladin
    and his organization and, failing that, to cut off their support for
    the Taliban. Before 9/11, the United States could not find a mix of
    incentives and pressure that would persuade Pakistan to reconsider its
    fundamental relationship with the Taliban.

    From 1999 through early 2001, the United States pressed the United
    Arab Emirates, one of the Taliban's only travel and financial outlets
    to the outside world, to break off ties and enforce sanctions,
    especially those related to air travel to Afghanistan. These efforts
    achieved little before 9/11.

    Saudi Arabia has been a problematic ally in combating Islamic
    extremism. Before 9/11, the Saudi and U.S. governments did not fully
    share intelligence information or develop an adequate joint effort to
    track and disrupt the finances of the al Qaeda organization. On the
    other hand, government officials of Saudi Arabia at the highest levels
    worked closely with top U.S. officials in major initiatives to solve
    the Bin Ladin problem with diplomacy.


    In response to the request of policymakers, the military prepared an
    array of limited strike options for attacking Bin Ladin and his
    organization from May 1998 onward. When they briefed policymakers, the
    military presented both the pros and cons of those strike options and
    the associated risks. Policymakers expressed frustration with the
    range of options presented.

    Following the August 20, 1998, missile strikes on al Qaeda targets in
    Afghanistan and Sudan, both senior military officials and policymakers
    placed great emphasis on actionable intelligence as the key factor in
    recommending or deciding to launch military action against Bin Ladin
    and his organization. They did not want to risk significant collateral
    damage, and they did not want to miss Bin Ladin and thus make the
    United States look weak while making Bin Ladin look strong. On three
    specific occasions in 1998-1999, intelligence was deemed credible
    enough to warrant planning for possible strikes to kill Bin Ladin. But
    in each case the strikes did not go forward, because senior
    policymakers did not regard the intelligence as sufficiently
    actionable to offset their assessment of the risks.

    The Director of Central Intelligence, policymakers, and military
    officials expressed frustration with the lack of actionable
    intelligence. Some officials inside the Pentagon, including those in
    the special forces and the counterterrorism policy office, also
    expressed frustration with the lack of military action. The Bush
    administration began to develop new policies toward al Qaeda in 2001,
    but military plans did not change until after 9/11.


    The intelligence community struggled throughout the 1990s and up to
    9/11 to collect intelligence on and analyze the phenomenon of
    transnational terrorism. The combination of an overwhelming number of
    priorities, flat budgets, an outmoded structure, and bureaucratic
    rivalries resulted in an insufficient response to this new challenge.

    Many dedicated officers worked day and night for years to piece
    together the growing body of evidence on al Qaeda and to understand
    the threats. Yet, while there were many reports on Bin Laden and his
    growing al Qaeda organization, there was no comprehensive review of
    what the intelligence community knew and what it did not know, and
    what that meant. There was no National Intelligence Estimate on
    terrorism between 1995 and 9/11.

    Before 9/11, no agency did more to attack al Qaeda than the CIA. But
    there were limits to what the CIA was able to achieve by disrupting
    terrorist activities abroad and by using proxies to try to capture Bin
    Ladin and his lieutenants in Afghanistan. CIA officers were aware of
    those limitations.

    To put it simply, covert action was not a silver bullet. It was
    important to engage proxies in Afghanistan and to build various
    capabilities so that if an opportunity presented itself, the CIA could
    act on it. But for more than three years, through both the late
    Clinton and early Bush administrations, the CIA relied on proxy
    forces, and there was growing frustration within the CIA's
    Counterterrorist Center and in the National Security Council staff
    with the lack of results. The development of the Predator and the push
    to aid the Northern Alliance were products of this frustration.


    From the time of the first World Trade Center attack in 1993, FBI and
    Department of Justice leadership in Washington and New York became
    increasingly concerned about the terrorist threat from Islamist
    extremists to U.S. interests, both at home and abroad. Throughout the
    1990s, the FBI's counterterrorism efforts against international
    terrorist organizations included both intelligence and criminal
    investigations. The FBI's approach to investigations was
    case-specific, decentralized and geared toward prosecution.
    Significant FBI resources were devoted to after-the-fact
    investigations of major terrorist attacks, resulting in several

    The FBI attempted several reform efforts aimed at strengthening its
    ability to prevent such attacks, but these reform efforts failed to
    implement organization-wide institutional change. On September 11,
    2001, the FBI was limited in several areas critical to an effective
    preventive counterterrorism strategy.Those working counterterrorism
    matters did so despite limited intelligence collection and strategic
    analysis capabilities, a limited capacity to share information both
    internally and externally, insufficient training, perceived legal
    barriers to sharing information, and inadequate resources.


    There were opportunities for intelligence and law enforcement to
    exploit al Qaeda's travel vulnerabilities. Considered collectively,
    the 9/11 hijackers included known al Qaeda operatives who could have
    been watchlisted; presented passports manipulated in a fraudulent
    manner; presented passports with suspicious indicators of extremism;
    made detectable false statements on visa applications; made false
    statements to border officials to gain entry into the United States;
    and violated immigration laws while in the United States.

    Neither the State Department's consular officers nor the Immigration
    and Naturalization Service's inspectors and agents were ever
    considered full partners in a national counterterrorism effort.
    Protecting borders was not a national security issue before 9/11.


    Hijackers studied publicly available materials on the aviation
    security system and used items that had less metal content than a
    handgun and were most likely permissible. Though two of the hijackers
    were on the U.S. TIPOFF terrorist watchlist, the FAA did not use
    TIPOFF data.The hijackers had to beat only one layer of securitythe
    security checkpoint process. Even though several hijackers were
    selected for extra screening by the CAPPS system, this led only to
    greater scrutiny of their checked baggage. Once on board, the
    hijackers were faced with aircraft personnel who were trained to be
    nonconfrontational in the event of a hijacking.


    The 9/11 attacks cost somewhere between $400,000 and $500,000 to
    execute. The operatives spent more than $270,000 in the United States.
    Additional expenses included travel to obtain passports and visas,
    travel to the United States, expenses incurred by the plot leader and
    facilitators outside the United States, and expenses incurred by the
    people selected to be hijackers who ultimately did not participate.

    The conspiracy made extensive use of banks in the United States. The
    hijackers opened accounts in their own names, using passports and
    other identification documents. Their transactions were unremarkable
    and essentially invisible amid the billions of dollars flowing around
    the world every day.

    To date, we have not been able to determine the origin of the money
    used for the 9/11 attacks.Al Qaeda had many sources of funding and a
    pre- 9/11 annual budget estimated at $30 million. If a particular
    source of funds had dried up, al Qaeda could easily have found enough
    money elsewhere to fund the attack.


    The civilian and military defenders of the nation's airspace, FAA and
    NORAD, were unprepared for the attacks launched against them. Given
    that lack of preparedness, they attempted and failed to improvise an
    effective homeland defense against an unprecedented challenge.

    The events of that morning do not reflect discredit on operational
    personnel. NORAD's Northeast Air Defense Sector personnel reached out
    for information and made the best judgments they could based on the
    information they received. Individual FAA controllers, facility
    managers, and command center managers were creative and agile in
    recommending a nationwide alert, groundstopping local traffic,
    ordering all aircraft nationwide to land, and executing that
    unprecedented order flawlessly.

    At more senior levels, communication was poor. Senior military and FAA
    leaders had no effective communication with each other. The chain of
    command did not function well. The President could not reach some
    senior officials. The Secretary of Defense did not enter the chain of
    command until the morning's key events were over. Air National Guard
    units with different rules of engagement were scrambled without the
    knowledge of the President, NORAD, or the National Military Command


    The civilians, firefighters, police officers, emergency medical
    technicians, and emergency management professionals exhibited steady
    determination and resolve under horrifying, overwhelming conditions on
    9/11. Their actions saved lives and inspired a nation.

    Effective decisionmaking in New York was hampered by problems in
    command and control and in internal communications. Within the Fire
    Department of New York, this was true for several reasons: the
    magnitude of the incident was unforeseen; commanders had difficulty
    communicating with their units; more units were actually dispatched
    than were ordered by the chiefs; some units self-dispatched; and once
    units arrived at the World Trade Center, they were neither
    comprehensively accounted for nor coordinated. The Port Authority's
    response was hampered by the lack both of standard operating
    procedures and of radios capable of enabling multiple commands to
    respond to an incident in unified fashion.The New York Police
    Department, because of its history of mobilizing thousands of officers
    for major events requiring crowd control, had a technical radio
    capability and protocols more easily adapted to an incident of the
    magnitude of 9/11.


    The Congress, like the executive branch, responded slowly to the rise
    of transnational terrorism as a threat to national security. The
    legislative branch adjusted little and did not restructure itself to
    address changing threats. Its attention to terrorism was episodic and
    splintered across several committees. The Congress gave little
    guidance to executive branch agencies on terrorism, did not reform
    them in any significant way to meet the threat, and did not
    systematically perform robust oversight to identify, address, and
    attempt to resolve the many problems in national security and domestic
    agencies that became apparent in the aftermath of 9/11.

    So long as oversight is undermined by current congressional rules and
    resolutions, we believe the American people will not get the security
    they want and need. The United States needs a strong, stable, and
    capable congressional committee structure to give America's national
    intelligence agencies oversight, support, and leadership.


    Since 9/11, the United States and its allies have killed or captured a
    majority of al Qaeda's leadership; toppled the Taliban, which gave al
    Qaeda sanctuary in Afghanistan; and severely damaged the organization.
    Yet terrorist attacks continue. Even as we have thwarted attacks,
    nearly everyone expects they will come. How can this be?

    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. In this way it has transformed itself into a
    decentralized force. Bin Ladin may be limited in his ability to
    organize major attacks from his hideouts. Yet killing or capturing
    him, while extremely important, would not end terror. His message of
    inspiration to a new generation of terrorists would continue.

    Because of offensive actions against al Qaeda since 9/11, and
    defensive actions to improve homeland security, we believe we are
    safer today. But we are not safe. We therefore make the following
    recommendations that we believe can make America safer and more


    Three years after 9/11, the national debate continues about how to
    protect our nation in this new era. We divide our recommendations into
    two basic parts: What to do, and how to do it.


    The enemy is not just "terrorism." It is the threat posed specifically
    by Islamist terrorism, by Bin Ladin and others who draw on a long
    tradition of extreme intolerance within a minority strain of Islam
    that does not distinguish politics from religion, and distorts both.

    The enemy is not Islam, the great world faith, but a perversion of
    Islam. The enemy goes beyond al Qaeda to include the radical
    ideological movement, inspired in part by al Qaeda, that has spawned
    other terrorist groups and violence. Thus our strategy must match our
    means to two ends: dismantling the al Qaeda network and, in the long
    term, prevailing over the ideology that contributes to Islamist

    The first phase of our post-9/11 efforts rightly included military
    action to topple the Taliban and pursue al Qaeda. This work continues.
    But long-term success demands the use of all elements of national
    power: diplomacy, intelligence, covert action, law enforcement,
    economic policy, foreign aid, public diplomacy, and homeland defense.
    If we favor one tool while neglecting others, we leave ourselves
    vulnerable and weaken our national effort.

    What should Americans expect from their government? The goal seems
    unlimited: Defeat terrorism anywhere in the world. But Americans have
    also been told to expect the worst: An attack is probably coming; it
    may be more devastating still.

    Vague goals match an amorphous picture of the enemy. Al Qaeda and
    other groups are popularly described as being all over the world,
    adaptable, resilient, needing little higher-level organization, and
    capable of anything. It is an image of an omnipotent hydra of
    destruction. That image lowers expectations of government

    It lowers them too far. Our report shows a determined and capable
    group of plotters. Yet the group was fragile and occasionally left
    vulnerable by the marginal, unstable people often attracted to such
    causes. The enemy made mistakes. The U.S. government was not able to
    capitalize on them.

    No president can promise that a catastrophic attack like that of 9/11
    will not happen again. But the American people are entitled to expect
    that officials will have realistic objectives, clear guidance, and
    effective organization. They are entitled to see standards for
    performance so they can judge, with the help of their elected
    representatives, whether the objectives are being met.

    We propose a strategy with three dimensions: (1) attack terrorists and
    their organizations, (2) prevent the continued growth of Islamist
    terrorism, and (3) protect against and prepare for terrorist attacks.

    U.S. government should identify and prioritize actual or potential
    terrorist sanctuaries and have realistic country or regional
    strategies for each, utilizing every element of national power and
    reaching out to countries that can help us.
    --Strengthen long-term U.S. and international commitments to the
    future of Pakistan and Afghanistan. --Confront problems with Saudi
    Arabia in the open and build a relationship beyond oil, a relationship
    that both sides can defend to their citizens and includes a shared
    commitment to reform. ------


    In October 2003, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asked if enough
    was being done "to fashion a broad integrated plan to stop the next
    generation of terrorists." As part of such a plan, the U.S. government
    --Define the message and stand as an example of moral leadership in
    the world. To Muslim parents, terrorists like Bin Ladin have nothing
    to offer their children but visions of violence and death. America and
    its friends have the advantage -- our vision can offer a better
    future. --Where Muslim governments, even those who are friends, do not
    offer opportunity, respect the rule of law, or tolerate differences,
    then the United States needs to stand for a better future.
    --Communicate and defend American ideals in the Islamic world, through
    much stronger public diplomacy to reach more people, including
    students and leaders outside of government. Our efforts here should be
    as strong as they were in combating closed societies during the Cold
    War. --Offer an agenda of opportunity that includes support for public
    education and economic openness. --Develop a comprehensive coalition
    strategy against Islamist terrorism, using a flexible contact group of
    leading coalition governments and fashioning a common coalition
    approach on issues like the treatment of captured terrorists. --Devote
    a maximum effort to the parallel task of countering the proliferation
    of weapons of mass destruction. --Expect less from trying to dry up
    terrorist money and more from following the money for intelligence, as
    a tool to hunt terrorists, understand their networks, and disrupt
    their operations.

    travel, an intelligence and security strategy that the 9/11 story
    showed could be at least as powerful as the effort devoted to
    terrorist finance. Address problems of screening people with biometric
    identifiers across agencies and governments, including our border and
    transportation systems, by designing a comprehensive screening system
    that addresses common problems and sets common standards. As standards
    spread, this necessary and ambitious effort could dramatically
    strengthen the world's ability to intercept individuals who could pose
    catastrophic threats.
    --Quickly complete a biometric entry-exit screening system, one that
    also speeds qualified travelers. --Set standards for the issuance of
    birth certificates and sources of identification, such as driver's
    licenses. --Develop strategies for neglected parts of our
    transportation security system. Since 9/11, about 90 percent of the
    nation's $5 billion annual investment in transportation security has
    gone to aviation, to fight the last war. --In aviation, prevent
    arguments about a new computerized profiling system from delaying
    vital improvements in the "no-fly" and "automatic selectee" lists.
    Also, give priority to the improvement of checkpoint screening.
    --Determine, with leadership from the President, guidelines for
    gathering and sharing information in the new security systems that are
    needed, guidelines that integrate safeguards for privacy and other
    essential liberties. --Underscore that as government power necessarily
    expands in certain ways, the burden of retaining such powers remains
    on the executive to demonstrate the value of such powers and ensure
    adequate supervision of how they are used, including a new board to
    oversee the implementation of the guidelines needed for gathering and
    sharing information in these new security systems. --Base federal
    funding for emergency preparedness solely on risks and
    vulnerabilities, putting New York City and Washington, D.C., at the
    top of the current list. Such assistance should not remain a program
    for general revenue sharing or pork-barrel spending. --Make homeland
    security funding contingent on the adoption of an incident command
    system to strengthen teamwork in a crisis, including a regional
    approach. Allocate more radio spectrum and improve connectivity for
    public safety communications, and encourage widespread adoption of
    newly developed standards for private-sector emergency preparedness
    since the private sector controls 85 percent of the nation's critical
    infrastructure. ------


    The strategy we have recommended is elaborate, even as presented here
    very briefly. To implement it will require a government better
    organized than the one that exists today, with its national security
    institutions designed half a century ago to win the Cold War.
    Americans should not settle for incremental, ad hoc adjustments to a
    system created a generation ago for a world that no longer exists.

    Our detailed recommendations are designed to fit together. Their
    purpose is clear: to build unity of effort across the U.S. government.
    As one official now serving on the front lines overseas put it to us:
    "One fight, one team."

    We call for unity of effort in five areas, beginning with unity of
    effort on the challenge of counterterrorism itself:
    --Unifying strategic intelligence and operational planning against
    Islamist terrorists across the foreign-domestic divide with a National
    Counterterrorism Center; unifying the intelligence community with a
    new National Intelligence Director; --Unifying the many participants
    in the counterterrorism effort and their knowledge in a network-based
    information sharing system that transcends traditional governmental
    boundaries; --Unifying and strengthening congressional oversight to
    improve quality and accountability; --Strengthening the FBI and
    homeland defenders. ------


    The 9/11 story teaches the value of integrating strategic intelligence
    from all sources into joint operational planning with both dimensions
    spanning the foreign-domestic divide.
    --In some ways, since 9/11, joint work has gotten better. The effort
    of fighting terrorism has flooded over many of the usual agency
    boundaries because of its sheer quantity and energy. Attitudes have
    changed. But the problems of coordination have multiplied. The Defense
    Department alone has three unified commands (SOCOM, CENTCOM, and
    NORTHCOM) that deal with terrorism as one of their principal concerns.
    --Much of the public commentary about the 9/11 attacks has focused on
    "lost opportunities." Though characterized as problems of
    "watchlisting," "information sharing," or "connecting the dots," each
    of these labels is too narrow. They describe the symptoms, not the
    disease. --Breaking the older mold of organization stovepiped purely
    in executive agencies, we propose a National Counterterrorism Center
    (NCTC) that would borrow the joint, unified command concept adopted in
    the 1980s by the American military in a civilian agency, combining the
    joint intelligence function alongside the operations work. --The NCTC
    would build on the existing Terrorist Threat Integration Center and
    would replace it and other terrorism "fusion centers" within the
    government. --The NCTC would become the authoritative knowledge bank,
    bringing information to bear on common plans. It should task
    collection requirements both inside and outside the United States. The
    NCTC should perform joint operational planning, assigning lead
    responsibilities to existing agencies and letting them direct the
    actual execution of the plans. --Placed in the Executive Office of the
    President, headed by a Senate-confirmed official (with rank equal to
    the deputy head of a cabinet department) who reports to the National
    Intelligence Director, the NCTC would track implementation of plans.
    It would be able to influence the leadership and the budgets of the
    counterterrorism operating arms of the CIA, the FBI, and the
    departments of Defense and Homeland Security. --The NCTC should not be
    a policymaking body. Its operations and planning should follow the
    policy direction of the president and the National Security Council.


    Since long before 9/11 and continuing to this day the intelligence
    community is not organized well for joint intelligence work. It does
    not employ common standards and practices in reporting intelligence or
    in training experts overseas and at home. The expensive national
    capabilities for collecting intelligence have divided management. The
    structures are too complex and too secret.
    --The community's head -- the Director of Central Intelligence -- has
    at least three jobs: running the CIA, coordinating a 15-agency
    confederation, and being the intelligence analyst-in-chief to the
    president. No one person can do all these things. --A new National
    Intelligence Director should be established with two main jobs: (1) to
    oversee national intelligence centers that combine experts from all
    the collection disciplines against common targets like
    counterterrorism or nuclear proliferation; and (2) to oversee the
    agencies that contribute to the national intelligence program, a task
    that includes setting common standards for personnel and information
    technology. --The national intelligence centers would be the unified
    commands of the intelligence world -- a long-overdue reform for
    intelligence comparable to the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols law that
    reformed the organization of national defense. The home services --
    such as the CIA, DIA, NSA, and FBI -- would organize, train, and equip
    the best intelligence professionals in the world, and would handle the
    execution of intelligence operations in the field. --This National
    Intelligence Director (NID) should be located in the Executive Office
    of the President and report directly to the president, yet be
    confirmed by the Senate. In addition to overseeing the National
    Counterterrorism Center described above (which will include both the
    national intelligence center for terrorism and the joint operations
    planning effort), the NID should have three deputies: --For foreign
    intelligence (a deputy who also would be the head of the CIA) --For
    defense intelligence (also the under secretary of defense for
    intelligence) --For homeland intelligence (also the executive
    assistant director for intelligence at the FBI or the under secretary
    of homeland security for information analysis and infrastructure
    protection) --The NID should receive a public appropriation for
    national intelligence, should have authority to hire and fire his or
    her intelligence deputies, and should be able to set common personnel
    and information technology policies across the intelligence community.
    --The CIA should concentrate on strengthening the collection
    capabilities of its clandestine service and the talents of its
    analysts, building pride in its core expertise. --Secrecy stifles
    oversight, accountability, and information sharing. Unfortunately, all
    the current organizational incentives encourage overclassification.
    This balance should change; and as a start, open information should be
    provided about the overall size of agency intelligence budgets. ------


    The U.S. government has access to a vast amount of information. But it
    has a weak system for processing and using what it has. The system of
    "need to know" should be replaced by a system of "need to share."
    --The President should lead a government-wide effort to bring the
    major national security institutions into the information revolution,
    turning a mainframe system into a decentralized network. The obstacles
    are not technological. Official after official has urged us to call
    attention to problems with the unglamorous "back office" side of
    government operations. --But no agency can solve the problems on its
    own. To build the network requires an effort that transcends old
    divides, solving common legal and policy issues in ways that can help
    officials know what they can and cannot do. Again, in tackling
    information issues, America needs unity of effort. ------


    Congress took too little action to adjust itself or to restructure the
    executive branch to address the emerging terrorist threat.
    Congressional oversight for intelligence and counterterrorism is
    dysfunctional. Both Congress and the executive need to do more to
    minimize national security risks during transitions between
    --For intelligence oversight, we propose two options: either a joint
    committee on the old model of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy or
    a single committee in each house combining authorizing and
    appropriating committees. Our central message is the same: The
    intelligence committees cannot carry out their oversight function
    unless they are made stronger, and thereby have both clear
    responsibility and accountability for that oversight. --Congress
    should create a single, principal point of oversight and review for
    homeland security. There should be one permanent standing committee
    for homeland security in each chamber. --We propose reforms to speed
    up the nomination, financial reporting, security clearance, and
    confirmation process for national security officials at the start of
    an administration, and suggest steps to make sure that incoming
    administrations have the information they need. ------


    We have considered several proposals relating to the future of the
    domestic intelligence and counterterrorism mission. Adding a new
    domestic intelligence agency will not solve America's problems in
    collecting and analyzing intelligence within the United States. We do
    not recommend creating one.
    --We propose the establishment of a specialized and integrated
    national security workforce at the FBI, consisting of agents,
    analysts, linguists, and surveillance specialists who are recruited,
    trained, rewarded, and retained to ensure the development of an
    institutional culture imbued with a deep expertise in intelligence and
    national security.

    At several points we asked: Who has the responsibility for defending
    us at home? Responsibility for America's national defense is shared by
    the Department of Defense, with its new Northern Command, and by the
    Department of Homeland Security. They must have a clear delineation of
    roles, missions, and authority.

    The Department of Defense and its oversight committees should
    regularly assess the adequacy of Northern Command's strategies and
    planning to defend against military threats to the homeland.

    The Department of Homeland Security and its oversight committees
    should regularly assess the types of threats the country faces, in
    order to determine the adequacy of the government's plans and the
    readiness of the government to respond to those threats.

    We call on the American people to remember how we all felt on 9/11, to
    remember not only the unspeakable horror but how we came together as a
    nation -- one nation. Unity of purpose and unity of effort are the way
    we will defeat this enemy and make America safer for our children and

    We look forward to a national debate on the merits of what we have
    recommended, and we will participate vigorously in that debate.

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