The final word from the 9/11 commission


Geraldine Sealey
July 22, 2004 8:36PM (UTC)

After hindering the work of the 9/11 commission, the president today thanked the panel for its advice. The report is 567-pages long, and it'll take a little time to process it all, and feel its impact. The government failed on many different levels to prevent the attacks, the panel said, and the failures spanned both the Bush and Clinton administrations. Unless changes are made, co-commissioner Tom Kean said, an attack "of even greater magnitude is possible -- even probable. ...We do not have the luxury of time." The panel's recommendations include creating a new national intelligence director to take on some of the work of the CIA director, an idea Tom Ridge already signaled the administration would oppose. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, meanwhile, said Congress wasn't likely to consider any major changes this year.

On the Iraq/al-Qaida question, the AP says the "report provided new details on contacts between Iraq and al-Qaida, noting that Osama bin Laden began exploring a possible alliance in the early 1990s. In one new disclosure, the report says that an Iraqi delegation traveled to Afghanistan in July 1998 to meet with the ruling Taliban and with bin Laden."

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"Intelligence indicates that Iraq may have offered bin Laden safe haven, but he declined after apparently deciding that Afghanistan was a better location. The report says although there were some 'friendly contacts' between Iraq and al-Qaida and a common hatred of the United States, none of these contacts 'ever developed into a collaborative relationship' and that Iraq was not involved in the Sept. 11 attacks."

Richard Clarke, whose claims about the Bush administration's failure to recognize and deal with the terrorism threat were a focus of the commission's work earlier this year, said the report was typical Washington fare:

"To get unanimity they didn't talk about a number of things, like what effect is the war in Iraq having on our battle against terrorism. Did the president pay any attention to terrorism during the first nine months of his administration? The controversial things, the controversial criticisms of the Clinton administration as well as the Bush administration just aren't there. What they didn't do is say that the country is actually not safer now than it was then because of the rise in terrorism after our invasion in Iraq."

The entire 9/11 commission report can be found in .pdf form on the commission's Web site.


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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