The U.S. government was unprepared on Sept. 11, 2001, to protect the American people from al Qaeda terrorists, who outwitted and outmaneuvered a bureaucracy that had never seriously addressed them as a threat and had never fathomed the possibility of such a calamitous assault on U.S. soil, according to an account of failures and missteps released by the commission investigating the attacks.
The final report of the commission chronicles the sporadic and failed attempts of the CIA, the FBI and other intelligence agencies to track some of the Sept. 11 plotters and their associates. Although it stops short of blaming President Bush or former president Bill Clinton for the attacks, the document concludes that both administrations were lackluster in their efforts to combat Islamic terrorism and derides congressional oversight of the issue as "dysfunctional."
"The 9/11 Commission Report" proposes a series of controversial reforms that would amount to perhaps the most dramatic restructuring of the U.S. government in half a century. The 10-member bipartisan panel recommends forming a new Cabinet-level office of national intelligence and creating a terrorism center that would not only analyze intelligence but also run its own counterterrorism operations at home and abroad. The commission wants Congress to completely change the way it oversees the intelligence community, as well.
The report advocates encoding U.S. passports with personal information -- as is now required for some foreigners entering the United States -- and recommends standardized driver's licenses nationwide. Chairman Thomas H. Kean and other commissioners vowed to lobby for the changes in the coming months. The panel plans to assemble a "report card" in six to 12 months on the government's progress.
-- Dan Eggen