In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the Commission was formed to provide a full accounting of the circumstances surrounding the terrorist attacks and to provide preparedness against future attacks. Better known as the 9/11 Commission, it was composed of 10 independent and bi-partisan members, chartered in late 2002 by Congress and President George W. Bush.
The attacks took place on the morning of September 11, 2001 when a commercial passenger plane crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City at 8:46 am local time. Less than 20 minutes later, a second airliner struck the south tower. Both towers collapsed. At 9:37 am, a third passenger plane slammed into the west side of the Pentagon, just outside of Washington, DC. About 30 minutes later, passengers forced down a fourth plane that was heading for either the U.S. Capitol or the White House. It crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
The Commission found that the terrorist attacks, while a shock to the nation, should not have come as a surprise. The report outlined several attacks prior to 9/11, including a prior attempt to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993.
The report found that airline flight crews were not prepared for a suicide hijacking, and that the 19 hijackers had successfully analyzed and defeated U.S. security systems. It also indicated the U.S. government failed in four areas: imagination, policy, capabilities and management. According to the Commission, the government failed to imagine the possibility of such a grave threat to the United States. Because such an attack was deemed inconceivable, there were few policies in place and no system for pooling information across all agencies into a shared response plan.
The Commission made several recommendations, including dismantling the terrorist organizations responsible, as well as protecting against and preparing for future possible terrorist attacks. It also called for better traveler screening, sharing information across multiple agencies, and more funding for emergency preparedness.
The report was most critical of the FBI, which it said lagged “behind marked advances in law enforcement capabilities.” It said the FBI needed to improve its ability to collect and analyze information in order to meet increasingly complex national security threats. As a result, the FBI made significant changes and underwent a transformation. The FBI transitioned from a law enforcement agency into an intelligence agency with better training and education for its agents, stronger foreign language translation capabilities and better use of technology.
Category: History's Blotter