There is no single event in the recent history of the United States that has generated many explanations, theories, and conspiracies as the 9/11 attacks. Within minutes, the attack inflicted more direct damages onto the United States than the Soviet Union’s destructions during the Cold War. Following the Islamist extremists’ warning about killing Americans indiscriminately, the attacks should not have come as a surprise to the United States. What came as a surprise to the entire world was the fact that the death toll surpassed even the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack. This paper seeks to find out whether the 9/11 was due to failures by the intelligence department, the executive wing leadership, or both.
The United States is among the highly ranked countries with the best intelligence units on the globe. It is difficult to assume that the Director of Intelligence Service did not have a clue of a possible execution of the 9/11 attack. However, there are reasons that point towards negligence of duty by the service. Failure of intelligence can occur at any period. It may take place during the information collection phase by failing to take advantage of available sources such as surveillance technologies or agents or by the lack of steady attempts or practical innovations that increase available sources. What remains unclear though is whether the negligence or failure was intentional or accidental. Initially, Clarke claimed that Bush and his White House administration had ignored all the intelligence warnings available to them. He asserted that the information held by George Tenet had been revealed to Congress, and the White House the attacks would have been averted.
Richard Clark, the person in charge of counter-terrorism, once accused George Tenet, the former CIA director, and two other CIA agents, Richard Blee and Coffer Black, of deliberately conspiring to compromise intelligence service regarding the attacks by withholding critical information. The intelligence information concerned two individuals among those who had allegedly hijacked American Airliner Flights 77, Al-mihdhar and Al-hazmi. The five hijackers went through the security check-ups using the Main security-screening checkpoint conducted by Argenbright Security. It was contracted by the United Airlines to perform the duty. The checkpoint included CCTV that took records of the passengers. Moqed and Mihdhar were checked by the security at 7:18 (“9/11 Commission Report”, n.d.)
The President’s administration was responsible for the intelligence failures contrary to cover up and treason claims. This becomes clear when there are initial statements and Clark’s more recent claims about the foreknowledge and the intelligence failures. Both of his statements concur with the Global war on Terrorism consensus. He was among the intelligence team that aided the Al-Qaeda operatives throughout the 1990s in the Balkans. The documentation of Madrasahs, Al-Qaeda and the training camps sponsored by the CIA in the Afghanistan were a creation of the Central Intelligence Agency. The Madrasahs ‘graduates’, the Taliban, formed the 1996 US-sponsored government. The statement that attempts to challenge the role of Central intelligence Agency sustains the Big Lie.
The official government statement remains intact. It states that the 9/11 attack was a sponsored mission on Americans by Al-Qaeda contrary to the “Architects and Engineer for 9/11 Truth” document that claims it was a controlled demolition. Clarke tends to blame the CIA that allegedly had foreknowledge about the US attack and the Bush administration for supposedly one of the following: sheer incompetence, intelligence failure, or dereliction of duty.
The important arm of the US intelligence was aware of the presence of one Mohammed Atta in the country. However, official information claimed that the service did not know of Mohammed Atta’s presence. Sources indicated that the man was in the United States before the 9/11 attacks about 18n months before the World Trading Center Tragedy. Able Danger informed that Atta had come to the USA around January to February 2000. Nevertheless, the government chose to ignore Able Danger’s evidence before the attacks. The commission formulated to investigate 9/11 attacks did not mention the evidence. The Inspector General to the Defense Department later covered it up. FBI former Director Louis Freeh claimed that the Commission’s evidence was historically insignificant, “astounding”.
The Bush administration laid accusations on people of having connections with the terror squad Al-Qaeda. The tactic employed by the government is homeland security doctrine. Both Baghdad accusers Richard Armitage and Collin Powel had a direct role at some points in their careers. Sources claim that despite accusing foreign governments of entertaining and harboring Al-Qaeda, they are not also clean as far as supporting terrorist organizations are concerned. For instance, during the Reagan administration, they were implicated in the Irangate Contra Scandal as working behind the scene. This scandal involved financing the Nicaraguan Contra Paramilitary Army where there was an illegal sale of weapons to Iran.
Reports claim that the Pentagon attack was not a surprise as it was anticipated in most of the quarters before the occurrence of the explosions. The pre-911 exercise by the military that involved flying planes into the Pentagon indicated that the attack had been expected. In addition, the security issued a warning to the Pentagon members and other officials against flying on September 11, 2001. Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, predicted an attack on the Pentagon. He was on record saying that it was not over yet as he watched the news in his office. Rumsfeld claimed that a possible attack was going to take place and that time round, it was going to happen on Americans.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation arrived within minutes of attack to remove the security camera videotapes from the locations that overlooked the hit areas around the Pentagon. The FBI conducted the activity at a time when the traffic experienced extreme congestion. It appeared that the intelligence information was available with the right departments; however, there was a failure in execution of meaningful plans to counter the terror attack. The National Broadcasting Company’s Pentagon Correspondent, Jim Miklaszewski, received some warning from the United States Military Intelligence to stay out of the E Ring, the Pentagon outer ring where the NBC office was located. It appeared the government had failed to act on the intelligence information that circulated even to some junior government officials. The WTC and the Pentagon attack were the USA’s second event of Pearl Harbor magnitude. The attacks shock was a wake-up call for the USA to realize that the peaceful environment it had enjoyed since the Cold War was over (Betts, 2007). Betts (2007) believes that the warning from the intelligence community was not enough; further, it provided too much information.
There are reasons to believe that 9/11 and 9/9 attacks are not unrelated and isolated cases. A Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence, Osama bin Laden, and the Taliban appeared to know about the killing of Ahmed Shah Masood in the wake of 9/11. This killing was never mentioned anywhere. The Bush administration received information through the official communiqué regarding the Pakistani’s Inter-Services Intelligence implication in Masood’s death.
The Bush administration failed to take action with regard to 9/11 as it appears that some officials knew something about the fateful event. According to the official reports and statements, the September 11, 2001 attack, financing, and Masood assassination implicated both the ISI and the men in the Bush administration. Perhaps, this led to the failure to take prior intelligence report about the attacks seriously. Inter-Services Intelligence was in Washington DC on an official government visit to meet the Bush administration on the same day Shah was killed. Some of the substantive issues escaped the attention of many, including the media, although the media recognized the part played by the Pakistani’s Inter-Service in the assassination. Dahl (2013) asserts that warnings are effective and influential to only those who can pay attention to them.
The Bush administration officials lied while taking an oath regarding the occurrence on September 9, 2001. The critical question that begged for a response was related to the importance of the warning about the impending terrorist attack from the CIA intelligence apparatus if no one was ready to act on the information and there was confusion regarding the whole matter since some officials had appeared implicated. Dahl (2013) questions the wisdom and the basis of intelligence failure, which tends to hint that attacks are normally successful because important and critical warnings disappear or because the intelligence community does not have the ability to collaborate or have clear imagination to generate ideas from the available information. Looking at the cases of both intelligence success and failure, he suggests that better acquisition, availability of decision-makers who can listen and act together with strategic level intelligence would lead to success with regard to restoration of security as opposed to the belief of better analysis or imagination.
There still exist rumors and unconfirmed claims about the CIA engagement with Osama bin Laden. Whether the agency had failed Americans on September 11, 2001 remains unclear; however, most people believe that the CIA has very strong ties with the ISI and it is a major sponsor of terrorist attacks. The terrorist organizations, particularly the Asian ones, have strong relationship and links with military intelligence, although the links remain unspecified. However, the issue of foreknowledge rubs the claims of Bush administration, successive administration, and Al-Qaeda relationship.
After the attacks, the FBI was handed the surveillance pictures that were under the CIA custody since January 2000. The pictures contained evidence of an alleged meeting in Khallad, Kuala Lumpur where the 9/11 attackers planned their attack. For some unknown reasons, the information was not shared with the relevant authorities. The intelligence that Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar, the two possible hijackers, had metKhallad was neither shared. Records show that after their meeting, the two traveled to Los Angeles. The US intelligence negligence cost the nation, as it appeared that the attacks had a relationship with the presence of al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar in the country.
The US intelligence community failed to inform the government about al Mihdhar intention to travel to journey to the USA. Intelligence operation found his US visa in Saudi passport. According to the CIA information, Hazmi took a United Air Lines. Chances that Mihdhar was with him on the same plane were high, although the flight manifest was not verified. The State Department, Bureau and the Immigration and Naturalization Service received none of the information despite the fact that the law required such intelligence information to be shared.
In January 2000, Mihdhar traveled to Yemen from California and made an application for a new visa that he received. He returned to the United States on July 4, 2001 and entered the country freely without hurdles from the security departments. It was the final opportunity to arrest him but he was lucky since the State Department, Bureau and the Immigration and Naturalization had not been informed. In August 2001, the FBI was finally informed of his presence in the United States. However, it was too late, and the attack execution plans had already been hatched. The attackers and the plane hijackers had strategized on the best ways to escape the attention of the security details during September 11, 2011. It seems the attack had found all the anti-terror units off guard, which was explained by the event that the first plane hit the World Trade center and minutes later, another one hit another tower. One plane was forced down by passengers who had felt that Pentagon was targeted. All happened within a time span of less than one hour. It marked the epitome of massive failure, the government, the intelligence community, and the anti-terror units.
Mihdhar was the weak link in the operational planning of Al-Qaeda. The KSM acknowledged that it could jeopardize the entire plan, but the intelligence had failed to capitalize on that fact. The CIA conducted an investigation and recommended accountability. The findings indicated that there was a system communication breakdown that resulted in the lack of information sharing. That mistake denied the authority opportunities to apprehend Mihdhar and thwart the possible attacks.
The consequences of the failures and negligence of the Central Intelligence agency to conduct a proper operational follow-through and share information were significant. In July 2001, the government could stop Mihdhar from reentering into the United States; however, both government operatives had failed. Mihdhar received the visa and continued with his plans. The department of immigration did not perform its duties in a professional manner. Informing the FBI and a thorough follow-through by the Central Intelligence Agency could have resulted in more surveillance. Surveillance had capabilities to generate information about financing and flight training, and it could have led to those who were complicit in the attacks.
The 9/11 tragedy was stoppable had the government employed a joint military, law enforcement, and intelligence approach. However, the bigger downside that had played a major part in the failure was the lack of information. Therefore, the rumors that the failure was due to the treatment of terrorists like criminals or because the law enforcement took a center stage.
The Bush administration had failed to execute wide institutional change to ensure efficient preventive counterterrorism strategies. The departments charged with the responsibilities to facilitate counterterrorism matters worked with limited intelligence information, a malfunction strategic competence, limited training, and inadequate resources.
According to the 9/11 commission report, Al-Qaeda was the financer of the attacks on Americans in September 2001. The Bush administration further failed to exploit Al-Qaeda’s traveling vulnerabilities that could result in thwarting the attacks. For instance, the hijackers included common individuals known to the government that they could easily watchlist. They fraudulently presented manipulated passports that the immigration department could detect with some vigilance. The false statement the planners of 9/11 had made to the immigration about their visa application was easily detectable. Flawed systems at the departments gave the killers easy entrance and exit. The false statement that went unnoticed to most security and immigration officials began at the borders where the terrorist gained entry into the United States. These events suggested a very porous and permeable border devoid of immigration controls.
Before the attacks, protection of the US borders was not a function of the national security. Neither the Naturalization and Inspectors Services nor the State Departments Consular Officers were full partners in the counterterrorism efforts. It was time for the implementation of new structures in the security department. The attack revealed ramified weaknesses across departments with various responsibilities to ensure the United States was secure. Just like the executive branch, Congress responded to the rising transnational terrorism.