Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States
by National Commission on Terrorist Attacks
Amazon.com Review: The result of months of intensive investigations and inquiries by a specially appointed bipartisan panel, The 9/11 Commission Report is one of the most important historical documents of the modern era. And while that fact alone makes it worth owning, it is also a chilling and valuable piece of nonfiction: a comprehensive and alarming look at one of the biggest intelligence failures in history and the events that led up to it. The commission traces the roots of al-Qaeda’s strategies along with the emergence of the 19 hijackers and how they entered the United States and boarded airplanes. It details the missed opportunities of law enforcement officials to avert disaster. Using transcripts of cockpit voice recordings, the report describes events on board the planes along with the chaotic reaction on the ground from nearly every level of government. Going forward, the commission calls for a comprehensive overhaul of what it sees as a deeply flawed and disjointed intelligence-gathering operation. The creation of a post for a single National Security Director is recommended, along with the creation of a National Counterterrorism Center. The report finds fault with the approaches of both the Clinton and Bush administrations but, because they were a bipartisan panel and the problems described are so systemic and far-reaching, they stop short of assigning blame to any particular person or group. Credit must be given to how readable the report is. At more than 500 pages, the writing is clear and forceful and the information is made more accessible since it is fre from election politics and rancor. While the commission notes that future attacks are probably inevitable, a coordinated preventive effort along with a clear plan to respond with efficiency can offer Americans some hope in a post-9/11 world. —John Moe
From Publishers Weekly: With a grave resolve that perfectly balances the enormous stakes with the necessity of delving into minutiae, this historic book describes the mechanics of the horrific attacks on the United States and recommends measures for preventing further strikes. Without trivializing any of the events or diminishing the people involved, it reads like a Shakespearean drama. The authors, with grim but charged dispassion, unspool paragraph after paragraph dramatizing the arrival of “muscle hijackers” (as opposed to pilots), the thinking of CIA director George Tenet (regularly referred to, along with most other players here, simply by last name) and plot co-coordinator Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (“KSM”) among thousands of others, and the other ways and means by which a “foreign” incursion caused catastrophic domestic damage. Distilling an enormous amount of information in plain language, with unerring pitch and a perfect feel for when to gloss (“Dubai, a modern city with easy access to a major airport…”), the book’s implied narrator sticks as close as possible to how real people made real decisions, and, when stymied in considering a factor or set of factors, is willing to say so. In so doing, this multi-author document produces an absolutely compelling narrative intelligence, one with clarity, a sense of shared mission and an overriding desire to do something about the situation. At the same time, with quotational chapter headings like “ ‘We Have Some Planes’ ” and “ ‘The System Was Blinking Red,’ ” the authors never forget that they are communicating in a medium that has a lot of stylistic resources for holding one’s attention; they draw liberally on the most tried and true. Given what hangs in the balance, it is not a stretch to compare this document to The Federalist Papers, in the sense that the book is designed to foster the debate by which the country will reimagine itself through its bureaucracy.
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