There’s no smoking gun, according to a recently released report on a congressional investigation of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The 10-month investigation turned up no single piece of evidence, but rather a wide array of intelligence breakdowns and missed opportunities leading up to the attacks that killed more than 3,000 Americans.
Those hoping the investigation would somehow finger the Bush or even the Clinton administration with responsibility will no doubt be disappointed. While part of the report is classified, the American people were given a glimpse of the probe through an 800-page report released yesterday.
The report claims that:
— Proper attention was not given to a May 2001 intelligence report stating that terrorist mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was seeking recruits to carry out terrorist attacks in the U.S.
— A Saudi student living in San Diego had unlimited funds from Saudi Arabia while consorting with two of the would-be hijackers. Information sharing between FBI offices and the State Department kept these men off a terrorist “watch list” (until it was too late), even though the intelligence community had tracked them to a January 2000 terrorist meeting in Singapore.
— The Pentagon and FBI under both the Clinton and Bush administrations gave a low priority to al-Qaeda and terrorism issues. The Associated Press reported that Richard Clarke, a counter terrorism expert with both presidents, had toured FBI field offices asking about al-Qaeda in 2000, only to receive blank stares in return.
At this point, the U.S. can do little in placing blame on individuals or agencies that let the country down. The important thing is that we come to grips with what went wrong and find ways to insure that it doesn’t happen again.
Investigations aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on unless lessons are learned and corrective actions are taken.