What the 911 Commission hearings revealed was that the September 11, 2001 attacks was nothing less than a result of the worst case of gross,even criminal negligence,ineptitude and incompetence by a president and his national security advisor regarding national security in the history of the United States.
But unless you watched every minute of the 9/11 commission hearings or read the report you'd never know it. You also wouldn't know that the September 11 attacks which changed the course of history could have easily been prevented. You wouldn't know it because to this day neither the mainstream news media nor our politicians have the courage or integrity to admit it and say so,each for their own reasons.
Instead they created the journalistic legacy that exists to this day of burying the truth along with their heads,turning their backs, looking the other way and promoting lies and propaganda to avoid conflict with people in power and some in the public unless they think it's safe to do otherwise. And so with 911 they constantly repeated as if it were fact the White House myth and cover story that it was an intelligence failure on the part of the intelligence agencies that resulted in 911 and that there was nothing Bush or Rice could've done.
The intelligence failure took place in the Oval Office not with the intelligence agencies who could not have done more or better. The lie that it was a failure of the intelligence agencies that resulted in the 911 attacks was also used by the NSA and its defenders in congress as an excuse to justify the illegal collecting of information exposed by Snowden claiming that if they had those capabilities in 2001 it would've prevented the attacks. It was a lie.
George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice had so much actionable intelligence given to them which would have prevented 911 there was not a cabdriver in New York City who, with the same intelligence could not have stopped the 911 attack in its tracks. It wasn't just preventable. It was easily preventable.And Bush and Rice had all the intelligence information they needed. They just ignored it.
For eight months leading up to the attack George W Bush and Condoleezza Rice were told repeatedly by Richard Clarke the White House anti-terrorism czar for four presidents and CIA director George Tenant that intercepts of Al-Qaeda chatter indicated the United States was going to be hit with a "spectacular" terrorist attack within the United States. And in July and August of 2001 were told that the intercepts indicated the attack was "imminent".Bush,Rice and others in his administration as per Bush administration policy,ignored it.
Many months before as president elect George W. Bush, at his intelligence briefings at Blair house before taking office was told by the FBI and CIA that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda were the single biggest threats to US national security in the world. In private meetings during the transition with both Bill Clinton and his national security adviser Sandy Berger, Bush and Rice were told again that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda were the biggest threat to US national security in the world. And to make the point even further Berger told Bush and Rice that the threat of Al Qaeda was so great he predicted the Bush administration would be dealing with Al Qaeda and terrorism more than any other issue throughout his entire presidency.
Bush and Rice dismissed the warnings. They were convinced they were overblown. Al Qaeda specifically and terrorism in general were dismissed as a major threat.
Instead Bush made the number one national security priority getting out of the ABM treaty with Russia and considered the biggest threat to national security to be China. Terrorism was a minor issue. As a result Richard Clarke who had been the anti-terrorism chief for four presidents and held a cabinet level position in the Clinton administration was demoted by Bush to a subcabinet level position with no direct access to the president.
Bush also did away with the Meeting of the Principals, a meeting that took place daily during the Clinton administration in which Clark chaired a meeting with the heads of every government agency that had anything to do with terrorism including the Attorney General,CIA director,FBI Director, head of ATF, Immigration and any other government agency related to terrorism. The purpose of the meeting was for the head of each agency to share any intelligence related to terrorism they had recieved within the previous 24 hours with the other agencies. One of the major failings of the Bush administration according to the 911 Commission was the lack of sharing of terrorist information between agencies.
Unfortunately as the commission uncovered, even if there had been intelligence sharing it wouldn't have mattered. Because that failure was nothing compared to what was going to happen in the summer of 2001 right up to one month before the 911 attacks.
In July 2001 CIA intercepts of Al-Queda chatter were so alarming that George Tenant felt he had to have an emergency meeting with Condoleezza Rice and showed up at the White House virtually unannounced such was the urgency Tenant felt. The purpose of his visit was to discuss a possible imminent terrorist attack against the United States. Rice refused to see him. She not only refused to see him but took the threat of terrorism so lightly that she testified to the 911 Commission that she didn't even remember Tenant requesting a meeting. The White House logs prove otherwise.
In August 2001 CIA intercepts grew more frequent and more alarming. One of the CIA intercepts of an Al Qaeda message translated to "the match has been lit". Other intercepts indicated that the United States was about to be hit with a massive terrorist attack in the United States that in the words of the CIA translator was going to be "spectacular".
Richard Clark testified that in August of 2001 he and George Tenant were "running around the White House like men with their hair on fire" trying to get Rice to do something. George W. Bush had gone on vacation to Crawford and refused to see them. Rice refused to intercede or do anything on her own.
This was the result of official Bush administration policy that terrorism was not a major threat overblown and exaggerated by the Clinton administration. This dismissal was so complete that the assistant director of the FBI testified to the 911 Commission that when he went to see attorney general John Ashcroft in July to inform him about intelligence regarding a terrorist attack within the United States Ashcroft told him "don't ever come into my office with anything related to terrorism again".
In the summer of 2001 the suspicious owner of an Arizona flying school called the FBI office in Phoenix. He was suspicious because two Middle Eastern men had shown up at the school wanting to learn how to fly jumbo jets. What made the owner suspicious was that neither one of them wanted to learn how to take off or land. Only to fly. The owner called the Phoenix office of the FBI who forwarded a report to FBI headquarters. Louis Freeh then director of the FBI did nothing. In keeping with Bush administration policy that relegated terrorism to a low priority the information provided by the flight school owner in Arizona was relegated to "routine".One of those men at the Phoenix flying school was Mohammed Atta.
Some months before Minneapolis FBI agent Colleen Rowley had arrested Zaccariah Moussai who would come to be known as the 12th hijacker. Except he never got on a plane because he had been arrested by Rowley and her agents.
Like Phoenix, Rowley had been alerted by the owner of a Minneapolis flight school who called the FBI when Moussaui showed up wanting to learn how to fly jumbo jets but didn't want to learn how to take off or land. Rowley acted on her own, arrested Moussaui and confiscated his computer.
It was information gleaned from Moussaui's computer that was included in the now infamous August 6, 2001 presidential daily briefing given to both president Bush and Condoleezza Rice.
That intelligence briefing had enough information to have stopped 9/11 in its tracks had Bush acted . It told him not only was bin Laden determined to attack within the United States,which re-enforced what Bush and Rice had already been told by Tenant and Clarke, it also told them Al-Qaeda cells were already in the U.S., and that they had been seen putting buildings in New York City under surveillance. But the most stunning revelation was that Bush and Rice were told on Aug 6 2001 that the means of the terrorist attack was going to involve the hijacking of US airliners.
Bush and Rice did nothing.Nothing.
The hijackers who showed up at each airport were all Middle Eastern men in their 20s and 30s, all bought one way tickets to the West Coast, none had reservations so had to pay top dollar for a first class ticket which was $2500, all paid cash and none had any luggage. What do you think would've happened had Bush did nothing more than order the FAA to put out a top priority security bulletin to all US airlines and airports warning of the possibility of hijacking by Middle Eastern men and to report any suspicious activity? None of those hijackers would've ever gotten on those planes. They would've been reported by the ticket agents alone. Middle eastern men buying one way tickets to LA and San Francisco? No one with reservations? All buying first class tickets that cost $2500 each? All paying in cash? No one with any luggage? The attack would have been stopped right then and there.
Agent Rowley's scathing 13 page post 911 letter to then new FBI Director Robert Mueller is one of the most devastating indictments of the Bush administration and its policies of lackadaisical disinterest and gross negligence and incompetence regarding terrorism and their gross failures of policy which affected FBI investigations ever written. Agent Rowley also accused Mueller of covering up for Bush for "political reasons" in supporting Bush's false assertions that nothing could have stopped the attack.
When Condoleezza Rice testified before the 9/11 commission and was asked by commission council incredulously how she and Bush could have possibly ignored intelligence reports of an imminent terrorist attack that would specifically involve the hijacking of US airliners and still do nothing her answer was so incredulous that it was in itself an indictment of her, the entire Bush administration,it's gross failures and the cowardice of the news media and politicians,both Democrat and Republican in not demanding the resignations of both Bush and Rice. Or at the very least holding them accountable for the attack.
Rice's explanation for why they didn't act was, "we had no idea they were going to use the planes as missiles".
Meaning that hijacking US airliners and holding possibly 1000 or more American passengers hostage would've been OK?
Ironically the only news organization that was stunned by the revelation and considered it the bombshell and smoking gun that it was and gave it the significance it deserved was the Rupert Murdoch owned,Republican and conservative leaning NY Post that blasted it on their front page with white type against a black background.
Rice's bizarre,damning and incriminating testimony ended with her most memorable and what should have been her most damning and incriminating statement: when asked by an even more incredulous commission council how it was possible that with all of the actionable intelligence she and President Bush had been given which would have prevented the 9/11 attacks they didn't act, Rice replied: "we couldn't connect the dots".
No statement could have been more revealing of the gross incompetence and negligence of both Rice and Bush. Which might explain why the news media and politicians adopted it as their own phrase of choice using it to this day but still not comprehending it's meaning
Rice is an extremely intelligent woman, an ivory tower academic from Stanford with a sophisticated vocabulary. She could have chosen any number of words or ways to answer the question. The words she chose were illustrative, true, telling and definitive. Connecting the dots is a child's game. There are a number of dots on a page each numbered consecutively and all you have to do is draw line from one to the other in consecutive order and you get to see the whole picture. Rice admitted neither she nor Bush were able to do what a child could do.Because they never cared enough or took it seriously.
It is still fitting that one of the most revealing and definitive statements defining ineptitude and incompetence was adopted by journalists and politicians as their own and phrase of choice becoming a media and political cliché to excuse or justify almost any kind of failure without understanding what it really meant: inexcusable negligence and incompetence.
Which is why Bush and Rice to this day have never been held accountable for their gross failures that allowed the 9/11 attack happen. They were never held accountable because of the sheer cowardice of the news media and Democrats who were afraid of Republican attacks on their patriotism for attacking a sitting president in time of war, and Republicans themselves who wanted to duck responsibility for what happened because of a Republican administration and what the consequences could be in the voting booth. They were prepared to attack Democrats for "politicizing" the attacks to defend themselves as if Bush's monumental failure and its consequences wasn't a legitimate target. Had it been a Democratic president there is little doubt that with the same set of facts Republicans would've been screaming "impeachment". At the very least holding Bush accountable would've been used to defeat the president in 2004.
But this isn't just about assigning blame where it belongs or finger pointing. It's about pointing out that the gross failures of the news media and politicians to tell the truth has serious consequences. One of those consequences post 911 was Iraq.
Had Bush and Rice and the Bush administration been held accountable for their massive failures of judgment and negligence with regards to 9/11 instead of blaming it on the intelligence agencies as the facts and Rowley's letter revealed, Bush never would've had the political capitol to invade Iraq. And even if Bush had not been forced to resign in 2002 he surely would have lost the 2004 election instead of the incredulous political incompetence of John Kerry and the Democrats in being afraid to even bring up the failures of Bush and Rice which had been by exposed by then.
Telling the truth would have changed history. But as the axiom goes the first casualty of war is truth and that was just as true for the war on terrorism.
The legacy of that day is not just the war on terror or remembering those who lost their lives. It's also a legacy of cowardice and lack of integrity by journalists and politicians afraid to tell the truth whatever the truth is instead of the journalistic desire to curry favor with those in power and their fear of backlash in standing up to it or fear of public opinion.Or deciding what people should or should not know.That legacy includes aiding politicians who duck or make excuses rather than be honest depending on what journalists feel safe doing. And as we have seen this election year, and in all previous years since 9/11, like terrorism, that still exists.