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Friday, July 23, 2004

9/11 Commission Excerpts

Courtesy of the WSJ Opinion Journal, here are a few excerpts of their excerpts of the 9/11 Commission's report:
So the doctrine of pre-emption has its uses, after all. In a world of conflicting intelligence, uncertain consequences and potential foreign opposition, it is still sometimes necessary for America to attack an adversary before it attacks us.

That, reduced to its essence, is the main conclusion of yesterday's 567-page report from the 9/11 Commission. The September 11 attacks may have been a shock, it says, but they never should have come as a surprise. Our government--and the entire political class--knew enough to act against al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, but it did not because of "failures of imagination, policy, capability, and management." Though the bipartisan report can't quite bring itself to use the words, it would seem that the Bush anti-terror doctrine lives. [...]

Beginning in 1997, the U.S. tried diplomacy to get the Taliban to drop al Qaeda and Pakistan to drop the Taliban, but the efforts failed. We now know that only an ultimatum turned Pakistan, and only military force toppled Mullah Omar.

The report discloses that the CIA failed to infiltrate the terrorist Islamic network with even a single spy. The FBI failed to share crucial information about terrorist suspects. In other words, our security bureaucracies became hidebound and self-protective over the years, and their cultures need a thorough shaking up. [...]

Notably, the Commission performs a service by defining the threat we now face in refreshing fashion. "The enemy is not just 'terrorism,' " it says. "It is the threat posed specifically by Islamic terrorism." Bush Administration officials say the same thing privately, but they have been reluctant to state this publicly lest they offend the broader body of peaceable Islam. But it is hard to defeat an enemy without defining who it is. And the fact that Islam has a problem with its radical factions is something that Muslims themselves have to face up to.

This failure to speak candidly has ramifications at home, too, specifically in the Transportation Department's continued failure to endorse racial profiling in airport security checks. The policy reduces the government's credibility among ordinary Americans who understand that the policy defies common sense. Commissioner John Lehman noted at one hearing that any airline that set aside more than two Middle Eastern-looking passengers for secondary security clearing at any one time still faces large anti-discrimination fines. [...]

As for Iraq, the final report retreats from its interim judgment that there was no "collaborative relationship." The Commission now says it found no "collaborative operational relationship" to attack the U.S., but it does record extensive and troubling contacts. This includes the news that Richard Clarke, the former NSC aide, himself believed that Iraq had ties to the chemical plant in Sudan that was linked to al Qaeda and bombed by Bill Clinton. The report quotes Mr. Clarke as speculating to a superior about an "Iraq-al Qida [sic] agreement" on the chemical plant. Our readers may recall that Mr. Clarke more recently said there was not a shred of evidence of such ties. [...]

The details, however, should not obscure the Commission's larger message about the dangers of not acting against a looming threat. After a year of recriminations against a President who chose to act against another threat, in Iraq, the report may even do some good.
I hope to read the whole thing eventually, but at 600+ pages, it will be awhile.

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