The 9/11 Commission Report
Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States
Authorized Edition

The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist attacks upon the United States 2004, 592 pages, reviewed by .

Quoting from selected sections of the book's preface, "September 11, 2001, was a day of unprecedented shock and suffering in the history of the United States. The nation was unprepared. How did this happen, and how can we avoid such tragedy again?" (p.xv) "We learned about an enemy who is sophisticated, patient, disciplined, and lethal. An enemy which makes no distinction between military and civilian targets." (p.xvi) "We learned of pervasive problems of managing and sharing information across a large and unyielding government...built in a different era to confront different dangers." (p.xvi) "We hope our report will encourage our citizens to study, reflect and act."

I would recommend reading chapters 12 & 13 of the book first. "What to do? A Global Strategy" and "How to do it? A different way of organizing the government." From the perspective of the American people the book states — "Americans should not settle for incremental, ad hoc adjustments to a system designed generations ago for a world which no longer exists." "We recommend significant changes in the organization of the government, ... Good people can overcome bad structures. They should not have to." (p.399)

One of the greatest new challenges to reform, such as adding a new National Counterterrorism Center and a new National Intelligence Director, is congressional oversight. Unity of purpose and effort will be lost if fractured by divided congressional oversight. For example, leaders of the Department of Homeland Security appear before 88 committees and subcommittees of Congress. This needs to change. In the oversight process, priorities and budgets have to coincide. In the case of the FBI, its budget structure needs to align with the four new program needs:

  1. intelligence,
  2. counterterrorism and counter intelligence,
  3. criminal, and
  4. criminal justice services

Essentially Congress needs to do a better job of monitoring each department's information sharing principles and budgets to be sure they are implemented in practice. A little less talk and a lot more action, maybe for Congress?

The book details opportunities missed to stop the 9/11 plot. Information was not shared and analysis was not pooled. When information was handed off it was lost in the divide between foreign and domestic agencies of government. In the case of the National Security Agency, it does not consider its job to research identities of possible terrorists in the communications it receives. Rather it understands its task to support intelligence consumers, like the CIA. They respond quickly to requests but wait to be asked.

As a time of reflection continues, counterterrorism must be a key focus. America needs to consider what to do and how to do it. Threats may emerge quickly. Catastrophic threats at this time in history are more specific. Our strategy must be consistent, concrete and realistic.

Islamist terrorism draws on a long tradition of extreme intolerance within one minority stream of Islam. It endures, in part, by grievances felt throughout the Muslim world. These grievances focus on policies perceived as either anti-Arab or anti-Muslim. Americans must be converted or destroyed from the perspective of Islamist terrorists. The present danger is Islamist terrorism. The focus must be a broad political-military strategy resting on 3 policy topics:

  1. attack terrorists and their organization,
  2. prevent continued growth of Islamist terrorism, and
  3. protect against and prepare for terrorist attacks.

Thomas Jefferson discussed how governments from time to time must experience revolutions. It matters not how the revolution occurs, it is a way of reminding people problems and solutions are specific to a generation. What worked for a previous generation is no longer relevant because those people are no longer alive.

One of the challenges to national security is the need to monitor our immigration process. Yes, our laws need to be enforced but little discussion has occurred concerning how the immigration process may serve as one part of the intelligence gathering process. In terms of a government by the people and for the people, what seems to happen instead is a Congress giving up more and more of its oversight responsibilities to an increasingly imperial presidential office. Laws are legislated by executive decrees which last four to eight years until a new president is elected. The new executive decrees are produced. Both parties endure the imperial president of the opposite party waiting until their party gains control of the White House again. Thus it seems our government is controlled by 2 political parties, which care nothing about government by the people and for the people. Such a process reinforces a wait and see attitude within the government structure, rather than an a process which is proactive in its protection of our people. Ultimately, the people have the power to change our government! Consider using this power by asking your elected officials about how the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Report are currently being implemented. I would recommend the book.