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9/11 Panel Says 'We Are Not Safe'
By TERENCE HUNT, AP

WASHINGTON (July 22) - America's leaders failed to grasp the gravity of terrorist threats before the devastating attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, taking actions so feeble they never even slowed the al-Qaida plotters, a national commission said in a blistering report Thursday.

The panel warned "we are not safe'' yet - and called for major intelligence changes. Its work is sure to reverberate across the presidential campaign.

In an exhaustive investigation of the deadliest attack in U.S. history, the commission noted numerous government missteps but did not cast blame on any official and stopped short of saying the hijackings could have been prevented.

It also did not blame President Bush and former President Clinton but did say they failed to make anti-terrorism a top priority.

"We do not believe they fully understood just how many people al-Qaida might kill and how soon it might do it,'' the 10-member, bipartisan panel said in its unanimous findings.

"We also believe that they did not take it as seriously as it should be taken. It was not their top priority,'' Thomas Kean, the Republican chairman, said at a news conference with members of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. "We do believe both presidents could have done more in this area.''

The final report, issued as a book, largely mirrored the preliminary reports released during the commission's 20 months of investigation.Still, coming less than four months before the election, the politically sensitive report could be trouble for Bush, who has made his handling of terrorism the centerpiece of his campaign and has insisted he fully understood the threat.

The report comes on the heels of House and Senate reports that documented U.S. intelligence failures and undermined the major claims cited by Bush to justify the war against Iraq. The commission report repeated its earlier preliminary findings that al-Qaida did not have a close relationship with Saddam Hussein's regime.

Bush welcomed the commission's recommendations as "very constructive'' although his administration has reacted coolly toward a key proposal to establish a Cabinet-level national intelligence director. He said that "where government needs to act, we will.''

Bush had opposed the creation of the commission, resisted the release of some documents and fought against letting national security adviser Condoleezza Rice testify publicly under oath.

Democrat John Kerry, campaigning for president in Detroit, said disputes within the Bush administration had delayed the commission's work and improvements to the nation's security.

Reactions to the Report

AFP/Getty

"[The commission has] done a really good job of learning about our country, learning what went wrong prior to Sept. 11 and making very solid, sound recommendations about how to move forward."
-- George Bush | Video: Bush Receives Report

AFP/Getty

"To get unanimity [the panel] didn't talk about a number of things... The controversial things, the controversial criticisms of the Clinton administration, as well as the Bush administration, just aren't there."
-- Richard Clarke, former counterterrorism chief

"Read this report. It shows that we are at war with an implacable and very dangerous enemy. It is an extremely important contribution to our understanding of what happened in the days leading up to the tragic attacks of Sept. 11, 2001." -- Rep. Dennis Hastert, speaker of the House

AFP/Getty

"I don't think you need [an intelligence] czar. We already had one level of bureaucracy that we don't need." -- Tom Ridge, homeland security chief, on the panel's recommendation for a national intelligence director

"I assured [the commission chairs] that where the government needs to act, we will." -- George Bush

Getty

"This report carries a simple message about our current state of security for every American who remembers that dark September day: We can do better. We must do better. And it's time to act -- now." -- John Kerry

Sources: AP, www.speaker.gov, www.johnkerry.com

"Nearly three years after terrorists have attacked our shores and murdered our loved ones, this report carries a very simple message for all of America about the security of all Americans - we can do better,'' Kerry said.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., expressed doubt that lawmakers would have time to consider sweeping reforms this year. But efforts began in both the House and Senate to build bipartisan coalitions of support for the recommendations. Relatives of Sept. 11 victims said they would lobby, too.

"The families know that this is an election year. We're going to hold these people's feet to the fire,'' said Debra Burlingame, whose brother Charles was the pilot of the hijacked plane that struck the Pentagon.

Twenty months in the making, the report portrayed the Sept. 11 terrorists as sure-footed and determined while the nation they were preparing to strike was unprepared, sluggish and uncomprehending of the imminent danger.

"Across the government, there were failures of imagination, policy, capabilities and management,'' the commission concluded in a 567-page indictment that documented a series of missed opportunities by the CIA and FBI to uncover the Sept. 11 plot. Nearly 3,000 people were killed when 19 Arab hijackers flew airliners into New York's Twin Towers, the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania countryside.

Three years later, Americans are safer because of improvements in homeland security and the war against terrorists, the report said. "But we are not safe.''

"Every expert with whom we spoke told us an attack of even greater magnitude is now possible and even probable,'' Kean said. "We do not have the luxury of time.''

The commission's report said that as the Sept. 11 plot advanced, the U.S. government was bogged down in an outdated Cold War mentality, lacking imagination to deal with new threats or recognize the looming danger.

Slipping Through Security
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-Qaida plot,'' the report said.

Commission co-chairman Lee Hamilton, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana, said a key finding was that no one in government was in charge of insuring that intelligence agencies pool resources, avoid duplication and plan jointly to keep America safe. To unify efforts, the commission recommended creating a national counterterrorism center.

It also recommended a Cabinet-level national intelligence director to centralize efforts now spread over 15 agencies in six Cabinet departments plus the CIA.

The report said Congress, like the executive branch, responded slowly to the rise of global terrorism.

But the panel found that the "most important failure'' leading to the Sept. 11 attacks "was one of imagination. We do not believe leaders understood the gravity of the threat.''

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. Despite these opportunities, "we cannot know whether any single step or series of steps would have defeated'' the hijackers, the report concluded.

Some members have speculated the attacks could have been stopped. "We do not know,'' Kean said. "We think it's possible. But we have not drawn that absolute conclusion because we don't believe that absolute conclusion is justified by the facts.''

The report detailed contacts between Iraq and al-Qaida, noting that Osama bin Laden began exploring a possible alliance in the early 1990s. The report said that an Iraqi delegation traveled to Afghanistan in July 1998 to meet with the ruling Taliban and with bin Laden.

While there were "friendly contacts'' between Iraq and al-Qaida and a common hatred of the United States, none of these contacts "ever developed into a collaborative relationship'' and Iraq was not involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, the report said.

That question has been the subject of intense political debate, as critics accuse Bush of exaggerating the contacts between al-Qaida and Iraq to justify the war.

The panel said it did not find evidence that Iran, Iraq's neighbor, had advance knowledge of bin Laden's plans, or that Saudi Arabia's government had a role in the terror conspiracy, which involved 15 Saudi hijackers.

07/22/04 17:37 EDT

So what do you think about the report and our current readyness? WHat should we do to help our security but maintain freedom?
 

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The report would have been written differently and responded to differently if this was 2005. The panel, made up of an equal number of Republicans/Democrats was impotent, and anything but bipartisan. How much did we waste for soundbites for pundits.....

Here it is, for FREE - SRRerg's 911 report (Bipartisan edition):

Prior to September 11th, 2001, The U.S. had suffered one major domestic and one major international incident on it's shores. Because most of our attacks happened overseas, the entire country - both government and citizenry, was complacent, ignorant, and completely unprepared to face a determined, patient foe. Years of bureaucatic and political fighting had left our borders wide open and our various intelligence agencies insulated and unaware what each other was following. Using limited technology and horrific imagination, terrorists used innocent civilians to kill other innocent civilians.

The U.S. citizenry responded heroically. Scores gave their lives trying to save others, and others enlisted in the service to take the fight to the enemy. Throughout all of this, especially in the days immediately after 9/11, Americans acted with restraint and compassion and with the exception of one hate crime (against a Sikh), there were no attacks against Americans of Arab descent, or visitors. People have attempted to reach out to various communities in an attempt to increase understanding between different cultures.

Our government has acted less well. The war against terorism, especially against Islamic extremists is the most dangerous threat the free world has faced. Opponents of the current administration have chosen to be ignorant, hoping to negotiate with said terrorists, or would rather let other countries and "world" bodies such as the UN "fight" for us. The current administration is not without fault, as its intransigence leaves it wide open to legitimate criticism when things do not go as planned. Voices who know more than those approved by the cabinet have been ignored. More importantly, its failure to strengthen, or even enforce current immigration policies leaves the country open not only to another attack, but continues to cost the taxpayers of this country billions of dollars in social services.

My plan to stop another attack is simple: Create one intelligence agency, Shut down the borders, deport illegal aliens, support countries that support us, and HUNT DOWN ALL TERRORISTS (not just al-qaida) REGARDLESS OF WHERE THEY ARE.

This took me ten minutes, and one cup of coffee. Stay safe out there, and support our troops!! Semper Fi.
 

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The Bipartisan edition is more believable :thumbup:
 
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