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September 11

In: Historical Events

Submitted By choskins120206
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When a giant explosion ripped through Alfred P. Murrah federal building April 19,1995, killing 168 and wounding hundreds, the United States of America jumped to a conclusion we would all learn to regret. The initial response to the devastation was all focused of middle-eastern terrorists. “The West is under attack,”(Posner 89), reported the USA Today. Every news and television station had the latest expert on the middle east telling the nation that we were victims of jihad, holy war. It only took a few quick days to realize that we were wrong and the problem, the terrorist, was strictly domestic. But it was too late. The damage had been done.
Because America jumped to conclusions then, America was later blind to see the impending attack of 9/11. The responsibility, however, is not to be placed on the America people. The public couldn’t stand to hear any talk of terrorism, so in turn the White House irresponsibly took a similar attitude. They concentrated on high public opinion and issues that were relevant to Americans everyday. The government didn’t want to deal with another public blunder like the one in Oklahoma City. A former FBI analyst recalls, “when I went to headquarters (Washington, D.C.) later that year no one was interested in hearing anything about Arab money connections unless it had something to do with funding domestic groups. We stumbled so badly on pinpointing the Middle East right off the bat on the Murrah bombing. No one wanted to get caught like that again,”(Posner 90). All of these decisions, made at the hands of the faint-hearted, opened the doors wide open, and practically begged for a terrorist attack. So who’s fault is it? The public’s for being unaware, uninterested, and inadvertently the driving force behind American Democracy? No, of course not, that would be a completely ridiculous idea. In the events of September 11, 2001, the United States Government, by ignoring signs of a terrorist attack and continuous blunders in American intelligence, failed to accomplish one of their basic responsibilities as a governing body: keeping us safe. September 4, 2001, just a week before the attack on the World Trade Centers. A teletype regarding known facts about a suspected Islamic extremist, Zacarias Moussaoui, was sent to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Customs Service, the State Department, the Immigration and Naturalization Services, and the Secret Service. The teletype sent by the FBI summarized suspicious activities Moussaoui had been conducting since his arrival in America. It did not report the FBI’s case agent’s personal assessment that Moussaoui was planning to hijack an airplane. And although the Federal Bureau of Investigation had been conducting surveillance on Moussaoui for some of time now and had notified the intelligence community of the probable threat, no severe or immediate action was ever taken by anyone. Moussaoui had entered the United States in February of 2001, as a French National. He began learning how to fly an airplane at Airman Flight School in Norman, Oklahoma where he stood out to instructors because, “Moussaoui wanted to learn to fly a 747, paid for his training in cash, was interested to learn the doors do not open in flight and wanted to fly a simulator from London to New York,”(National Commission 275). After receiving very basic knowledge of controlling an aircraft Moussaoui stopped attending classes and moved to Eagan, Minnesota. There he enrolled in Pam Am’s International Flight Academy and opened a bank account with $32,000 and no plausible explanation as to where the money had come from. In addition, Moussaoui planned to receive martial arts training and purchase a Global Positioning System. Yet despite all of this information, his cited beliefs in Islamic Extremism and connections to extremist groups, the United States Government let Moussaoui slip through the cracks. The INS arrested him on an immigration violation, overstaying his visa, and he was set to be deported. No anti-terrorist action was ever taken against him by any agency, no search was ever warranted, no more intelligence ever gathered, no follow-up investigation ever initiated, he was simply sent home. Had the FBI, the CIA, or any government agency realized the need, or took the initiative to search Moussaoui’s laptop or personal belongings they might have discovered the elaborate attack plans and been able to take actions to stop it before it began(Hirsh 27). September 11, didn’t have to happen. Zacarias Moussaoui is just another example of an opportunity that was let slip through the hands of investigators and agencies who were already on full alert from all of the terror threats the summer of 2001 had yielded. This was definitely not the first sign of a specific terrorist attack that the United States Government failed to capitalize on. The FBI and CIA have a long history of miscommunication, and internal squabbles that have led to missed opportunities and failed lines of communication that could have, and should have been utilized in preventing 9/11. Over their turbulent history together their coexistence was punctuated with clashes, disagreements, and heavy competition that seemed to be at a all time high in the early 90’s. After the FBI had blown the cover of a CIA operation fifteen years in the making, in what the press dubbed “Iraq-Gate”, both agencies were at each others necks. The FBI and the CIA accused the other on similar charges of with holding information and acting independently. As Gerald Posner describes the situation, “By the beginning of the Clinton Administration, January 1993, there was deep-seated animosity between officials at both agencies. The timing for such disharmony could no have been worse,”(47). This malice between agencies has kept both from executing their jobs to the fullest extent. Some would say, that’s their problem, right? Wrong. Not when the result happens to be 3000 innocent American citizens dead and two towers that stood tall for freedom, collapsed into a heap of rubble(Cloud 15). But in order to find a solution to this problem and prevent future attacks of this nature, one must first understand and recognize the problem itself. The FBI is an agency of rules. Every operation, every surveillance, every execution, has to be first reviewed by a set of lawyers, a review group, and occasionally congress, to make sure everything is code and completely legal. This can be a long and tidious process. With all these different people analyzing classified plans, it kind of makes you wonder how secret operations could ever operate, well, secretly. A former agent recalls, “The Bureau was far too cautious,”(Posner 15). The CIA on the other hand is almost the polar opposite in style. Deemed a “rogue elephant” by the chair of the senate intelligence committee, agents are taught to act, improvise, and think on their feet. Plans and operations often go through with only a select few aware of what is going on. This group is for the creative people, and yes there are times when operations are planned or executed with one or more legal flaws. But does that make them more effective without the restraints of law, or a just a disorganized rouge agency? Presently, the jury is still out, there have been instances to support both claims. The point is that these two agencies operate completely different in nature and as seen, in working in such close proximity resentment begins to form with clashing ideals. Soon names are called, a rift is created, internal problems form, poorly shared information develops, and all at the detriment of the American people(Posner 14). The country they are supposed to be serving and protecting loses because they are too busy fighting amongst themselves. If agencies like the FBI and CIA could have cooperated to form one coherent functioning counter terrorism organization, the 9/11 terrorists could have been apprehended before the twin towers and the heart of a nation were destroyed.

Along with lack of agency cooperation the biggest problem with American defense pre 9/11 was that we were supremely unprepared. Dealing with the summer of 2001 terrorist threats posed great fear for those who realized our vulnerability. Although much of this scramble could be attributed to the doormat state which middle eastern counter terrorism efforts slipped into after the Oklahoma City false alarm, there were still no excuses. Reports of meetings were said lack focus and a feasible agenda, “lack of direction was evident in the July 5th meeting with representatives from the domestic agencies. The briefing focused on over seas threats. The domestic agencies were not questioned on how they planned to address the threat and were not told what to expect of them,”(Posner 169). Few steps were ever taken to beef up domestic security and the result was devastation. Not even the public was alerted or warned. For most of us September 11, 2001, was a complete surprise, something that occurred out of the blue. We were completely oblivious to anything related to terror. The government and television censored it all because we just didn’t want to see it. Without an informed public and more efficient, more prepared counter terrorist America was a sitting duck, a prime target for attack. To look more in-depth at agency problems, however, one would realize that not everything was the agencies’ fault or directly under their control. To their credit they were also victims of under funding, and under manning(Gerecht 38). These two deficiencies led to some difficult choices, like deciding which suspicious looking man to trail and which one to just let go. The CIA and FBI did not have the man power or money to pursue every possible lead they received. And without examining every single possible suspicious person or activities it made room for the terrorists to operate. In addition, morale at the agencies was reaching an all time low. Retired CIA agent Woosley explains the situation, “It’s difficult when your job is gathering all the information so political leaders can make an informed decision,’ says Woosley, ‘and you suddenly realize they don’t care what you gather,”(Posner 66). Some people say the warnings of 9/11 fell on deaf ears, and others say agency heads and managers just couldn’t afford to listen with government budget cuts mandating specific goals. So it’s possible to not the counter-terrorist effort completely accountable, they were simply fighting a battle they couldn’t win. But responsibility can still be related to cuts in budget and man power the US government felt necessary. After events such as the Timothy Mcviegh in Oklahoma, the American public just didn’t have any interest in Middle-Eastern terrorism. Apparently, according to the White House, that automatically means neither should the government, so funds were cut. This is the wrong attitude of a government, our safety should be their number one priority. The attention of a nation was elsewhere when terrorism should have been the main focus. While America and news channels were all getting a good laugh from the 2000 election Florida recount, terrorists like Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi, were learning how to fly jetliners(Posner 149). Why didn’t this ever raise an eyebrow to government officials? Never was any agency concentrated on the events and where-abouts of these two men, who were illegally in the United States, until it was too late(Posner 150). How can we stop something like this from happening again? Does America have to see another tragedy before we get the message? The US government was so comfortable with our own lifestyle and problems, that we failed to recognize any other issues that existed outside of our realm. And perhaps more importantly, we failed to recognize the possibility of an attack ever occurring inside. This mistake proved highly fatal. Today actions are being taken to mend to the rift between competing agencies such as the CIA and the FBI, but progress is slow. The intelligence gap between agencies has been drastically reduced and terrorism in the Middle East is on the run. But we as Americans have the obligation to ourselves and those who died in the September 11 attacks, to not rest until terror itself is eradicated from our nation and eventually the world. In this war, peace, love, and education, together with proper defense, solid leadership, and an unrelenting will are the best weapons to combat the enemy. Although the US government was supremely unfocused and unprepared to deal with the threat of foreign terrorists striking domestically, homeland security is now a major priority. Americans should feel safe in America. Terrorism threaten this sanctity.

Work Cited

Cloud, David S. “Caught Off-Guard by Terror, the CIA Fights to Catch Up.” The Wall Street Journal, April 15, 2002.

Gerecht, Reuel. “The Counterterrorist Myth.” Atlantic Monthly, July/August, 2001.

Hirsh, Michael, and Michael Isikoff. “What Went Wrong.” Newsweek, May 27, 2002.

Miller, Judith, Jeff Gerth, and Don Van Natta, Jr. “Planning for Terror but Failing to Act.” The New York Times, December 30, 2001.

National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. The 9/11 Commission Report. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Posner, Gerald. Why America Slept. New York: Random House, 2003.

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