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After reviewing the 9/11 Commission Report, identify three factors that contributed to the success of this terrorist attack. Take these same three factors and identify how the Department of Homeland Security prevents these same three factors from reoccurring.
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THE 9/11
COMMISSION
REPORT
Final Report of the
National Commission on Terrorist
Attacks Upon the United States
executive summary
COMMISSION
MEMBERS
Thomas H. Kean
Lee H. Hamilton
chair
vice chair
Richard Ben-Veniste
Bob Kerrey
Fred F. Fielding
John F. Lehman
Jamie S. Gorelick
Timothy J. Roemer
Slade Gorton
James R.Thompson
COMMISSION
STAFF
Philip Zelikow, Executive Director
Christopher A. Kojm, Deputy Executive Director
Daniel Marcus, General Counsel
Joanne M. Accolla
Samuel M.W. Caspersen
Staff Assistant
Counsel
Alexis Albion
Melissa A. Coffey
Professional Staff Member
Staff Assistant
Scott H. Allan, Jr.
Lance Cole
Counsel
Consultant
John A. Azzarello
Marquittia L. Coleman
Counsel
Staff Assistant
Caroline Barnes
Marco A. Cordero
Professional Staff Member
Professional Staff Member
Warren Bass
Rajesh De
Professional Staff Member
Counsel
Ann M. Bennett
George W. Delgrosso
Information Control Officer
Investigator
Mark S. Bittinger
Gerald L. Dillingham
Professional Staff Member
Professional Staff Member
Madeleine Blot
Thomas E. Dowling
Counsel
Professional Staff Member
Antwion M. Blount
Steven M. Dunne
Systems Engineer
Deputy General Counsel
Sam Brinkley
Thomas R. Eldridge
Professional Staff Member
Counsel
Geoffrey Scott Brown
Alice Falk
Research Assistant
Editor
Daniel Byman
John J. Farmer, Jr.
Professional Staff Member
Senior Counsel & Team Leader
Dianna Campagna
Alvin S. Felzenberg
Manager of Operations
Deputy for Communications
COMMISSION STAFF
Lorry M. Fenner
Daniel J. Leopold
Professional Staff Member
Staff Assistant
Susan Ginsburg
Sarah Webb Linden
Senior Counsel & Team Leader
Professional Staff Member
T. Graham Giusti
Douglas J. MacEachin
Security Officer
Professional Staff Member & Team Leader
Nicole Marie Grandrimo
Ernest R. May
Professional Staff Member
Senior Adviser
Douglas N. Greenburg
Joseph McBride
Counsel
Intern
Barbara A. Grewe
James Miller
Senior Counsel, Special Projects
Professional Staff Member
Elinore Flynn Hartz
Kelly Moore
Family Liaison
Professional Staff Member
Leonard R. Hawley
Charles M. Pereira
Professional Staff Member
Professional Staff Member
L. Christine Healey
John Raidt
Senior Counsel & Team Leader
Professional Staff Member
Karen Heitkotter
John Roth
Executive Secretary
Senior Counsel & Team Leader
Walter T. Hempel II
Peter Rundlet
Professional Staff Member
Counsel
C. Michael Hurley
Lloyd D. Salvetti
Senior Counsel & Team Leader
Professional Staff Member
Dana J. Hyde
Kevin J. Scheid
Counsel
Professional Staff Member & Team Leader
John W. Ivicic
Kevin Shaeffer
Security Officer
Professional Staff Member
Michael N. Jacobson
Tracy J. Shycoff
Counsel
Deputy for Administration & Finance
Hunter W. Jamerson
Dietrich L. Snell
Intern
Senior Counsel & Team Leader
Bonnie D. Jenkins
Jonathan DeWees Stull
Counsel
Communications Assistant
Reginald F. Johnson
Lisa Marie Sullivan
Staff Assistant
Staff Assistant
R.William Johnstone
Quinn John Tamm, Jr.
Professional Staff Member
Professional Staff Member
Stephanie L. Kaplan
Catharine S.Taylor
Special Assistant & Managing Editor
Staff Assistant
Miles L. Kara, Sr.
Yoel Tobin
Professional Staff Member
Counsel
Janice L. Kephart
Emily Landis Walker
Counsel
Professional Staff Member & Family Liaison
Hyon Kim
Garth Wermter
Counsel
Senior IT Consultant
Katarzyna Kozaczuk
Serena B.Wille
Financial Assistant
Counsel
Gordon Nathaniel Lederman
Peter Yerkes
Counsel
Public Affairs Assistant
THE 9/11
COMMISSION
REPORT
executive summary
EXECUTIVE
SUMMARY
We pre se nt 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 unprepared.
A NATION TRANSFORMED
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
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THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT
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?
A Shock, Not a Surprise
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 decade.
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 “occupa-
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
3
tion” 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 Airport.
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 the Enemy?
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.
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THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT
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 sanctuary.
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—ten 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
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
5
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 Atta.
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 sup-
6
THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT
port 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 them.
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 response.
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
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
7
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 …
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