The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, also known as the 9/11 Commission, was set up on November 27, 2002, "to prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11 attacks", including preparedness for and the immediate response to the attacks.
The commission was also mandated to provide recommendations designed to guard against future attacks.
Chaired by former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean, the commission consisted of five Democrats and five Republicans. The commission was created by Congressional legislation, with the bill signed into law by President George W. Bush.
The commission's final report was lengthy and based on extensive interviews and testimony. Its primary conclusion was that the failures of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation permitted the terrorist attacks to occur and that had these agencies acted more wisely and more aggressively, the attacks could potentially have been prevented.
The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States was established on November 27, 2002, by President George W. Bush and the United States Congress, with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger initially appointed to head the commission. However, Kissinger resigned only weeks after being appointed, because he would have been obliged to disclose the clients of his private consulting business. Former U.S. Senator George Mitchell was originally appointed as the vice-chairman, but he stepped down on December 10, 2002, not wanting to sever ties to his law firm. On December 15, 2002, Bush appointed former New Jersey governor Tom Kean to head the commission.
By the spring of 2003, the commission was off to a slow start, needing additional funding to help it meet its target day for the final report, of May 27, 2004. In late March, the Bush administration agreed to provide an additional $9 million for the commission, though this was $2 million short of what the commission requested. The first hearings were held from March 31 to April 1, 2003, in New York City.
- Thomas Kean (Chairman) - Republican, former Governor of New Jersey
- Lee H. Hamilton (Vice Chairman) - Democrat, former U.S. Representative from the 9th District of Indiana
- Richard Ben-Veniste - Democrat, attorney, former chief of the Watergate Task Force of the Watergate Special Prosecutor's Office
- Max Cleland - Democrat, former U.S. Senator from Georgia. Resigned December 2003, stating that "the White House has played cover-up"
- Fred F. Fielding - Republican, attorney and former White House Counsel
- Jamie Gorelick - Democrat, former Deputy Attorney General in the Clinton Administration
- Slade Gorton - Republican, former U.S. Senator from Washington
- Bob Kerrey - Democrat, President of the New School University and former U.S. Senator from Nebraska. Replaced Max Cleland as a Democratic Commissioner, after Cleland's resignation.
- John F. Lehman - Republican, former Secretary of the Navy
- Timothy J. Roemer - Democrat, former U.S. Representative from the 3rd District of Indiana
- James R. Thompson - Republican, former Governor of Illinois
The members of the commission's staff included:
- Philip D. Zelikow, Executive Director/Chair
- Christopher Kojm, Deputy Executive Director
- Daniel Marcus, General Counsel
- John J. Farmer, Senior Counsel
- Janice Kephart, Counsel
- Alvin S. Felzenberg, Spokesman
Officials called to testify
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (September 2009)|
Then government officials who were called to testify before the commission included:
- George W. Bush - President; testimony not under oath. The session was not officially transcribed because the White House considered it a "private meeting" in which highly classified information would be discussed. Asked to limit the length of testimony to one hour (However, the meeting lasted for three hours and ten minutes). Testimony took place in the Oval Office. Initially, Bush insisted that he testify only to the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the commission, but later agreed to testify before the full panel.
- Dick Cheney - Vice President; testimony not under oath. The session was not officially transcribed because the White House considered it a "private meeting" in which highly classified information would be discussed. Testimony took place in the Oval Office.
- George John Tenet - Director of Central Intelligence Agency
- Colin Powell - Secretary of State
- Donald H. Rumsfeld - Secretary of Defense
- Condoleezza Rice - National Security Advisor
- Richard Armitage - Deputy Secretary of State
- Paul Wolfowitz - Deputy Secretary of Defense
- Tom Ridge - Secretary of Homeland Security and former Governor of Pennsylvania
- John Ashcroft - Attorney General
Past government officials who were called to testify before the commission included:
- Bill Clinton - former President; testified in private separately from Al Gore. Testimony was recorded and not limited in time.
- Al Gore - former Vice President; testified in private separately from Bill Clinton. Testimony was recorded and not limited in time.
- Madeleine Albright - former Secretary of State
- William Cohen - former Secretary of Defense
- Sandy Berger - former National Security Advisor
- Richard A. Clarke - former chief counter-terrorism adviser on the National Security Council in the George W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations
- Janet Reno - former Attorney General
- Sibel Edmonds - former FBI translator
President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, former President Bill Clinton, and former Vice President Al Gore all gave private testimony. President Bush and Vice President Cheney insisted on testifying together and not under oath, while Clinton and Gore met with the panel separately. As National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice claimed that she was not required to testify under oath because the position of NSA is an advisory role, independent of authority over a bureaucracy and does not require confirmation by the Senate. Legal scholars disagree on the legitimacy of her claim. Eventually, Condoleezza Rice testified publicly and under oath.
The commission issued its final report on July 22, 2004. After releasing the report, Commission Chair Thomas Kean declared that both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were "not well served" by the FBI and CIA. The commission interviewed over 1,200 people in 10 countries and reviewed over two and a half million pages of documents, including some closely guarded classified national security documents. Before it was released by the commission, the final public report was screened for any potentially classified information and edited as necessary.
Additionally, the commission has released several supplemental reports on the terrorists' financing, travel, and other matters.
The commission was criticized for alleged conflicts of interest on the part of commissioners and staff (e.g., Philip D. Zelikow, 9/11 Commission Executive Director/Chair in 1995 co-authored a book with Condoleezza Rice). Further, the commission's report has been the subject of criticism by both commissioners themselves and by others.
Parenthetic numbers refer to page numbers in the Commission Report
- The U.S. government must identify and prioritize actual or potential terrorist sanctuaries. For each, it should have a realistic strategy to keep possible terrorists insecure and on the run, using all elements of national power. (367)
- United States should support Pakistan’s government in its struggle against extremists with a comprehensive effort that extends from military aid to support for better education, so long as Pakistan’s leaders remain willing to make difficult choices of their own. (369)
- United States and the international community should make a long-term commitment to a secure and stable Afghanistan, in order to give the government a reasonable opportunity to improve the life of the Afghan people. Afghanistan must not again become a sanctuary for international crime and terrorism. The United States and the international community should help the Afghan government extend its authority over the country, with a strategy and nation-by-nation commitments to achieve their objectives. (370)
- The problems in the U.S.-Saudi relationship must be confronted, openly. The United States and Saudi Arabia must determine if they can build a relationship that political leaders on both sides are prepared to publicly defend—a relationship about more than oil. It should include a shared commitment to political and economic reform, as Saudis make common cause with the outside world. It should include a shared interest in greater tolerance and cultural respect, translating into a commitment to fight the violent extremists who foment hatred. (374)
- The U.S. government must define what the message is, what it stands for. We should offer an example of moral leadership in the world, committed to treat people humanely, abide by the rule of law, and be generous and caring to our neighbors. America and Muslim friends can agree on respect for human dignity and opportunity. (376)
- Where Muslim governments, even those who are friends, do not respect these principles, the United States must stand for a better future. One of the lessons of the long Cold War was that short-term gains in cooperating with the most repressive and brutal governments were too often outweighed by long-term setbacks for America’s stature and interests. (376)
- We need to defend our ideals abroad vigorously. America does stand up for its values. The United States defended, and still defends, Muslims against tyrants and criminals in Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
- Recognizing that Arab and Muslim audiences rely on satellite television and radio, the government has begun some promising initiatives in television and radio broadcasting to the Arab world, Iran, and Afghanistan. These efforts are beginning to reach large audiences. The Broadcasting Board of Governors has asked for much larger resources. It should get them.
- The United States should rebuild the scholarship, exchange, and library programs that reach out to young people and offer them knowledge and hope. Where such assistance is provided, it should be identified as coming from the citizens of the United States. (377)
- The U.S. government should offer to join with other nations in generously supporting a new International Youth Opportunity Fund. Funds will be spent directly for building and operating primary and secondary schools in those Muslim states that commit to sensibly investing their own money in public education. (378)
- A comprehensive U.S. strategy to counter terror-ism should include economic policies that encourage development, more open societies, and opportunities for people to improve the lives of their families and to enhance prospects for their children’s future. (379)
- The United States should engage other nations in developing a comprehensive coalition strategy against Islamist terror-ism. (379)
- The United States should engage its friends to develop a common coalition approach toward the detention and humane treatment of captured terrorists. (380)
- Pre-venting the proliferation of [weapons of mass destruction] warrants a maximum effort—by strengthening counterproliferation efforts, expanding the Proliferation Security Initiative, and supporting the Cooperative Threat Reduction program. (381)
- Vigorous efforts to track terrorist financing must remain front and center in U.S. counterterrorism efforts. The government has recognized that information about terrorist money helps us to understand their networks, search them out, and disrupt their operations. Intelligence and law enforcement have targeted the relatively small number of financial facilitators—individuals al Qaeda relied on for their ability to raise and deliver money—at the core of al Qaeda’s revenue stream. (382)
- The United States should combine terrorist travel intelligence, operations, and law enforcement in a strategy to intercept terrorists, find terrorist travel facilitators, and constrain terrorist mobility. (385)
- The U.S. border security system should be integrated into a larger network of screening points that includes our transportation system and access to vital facilities, such as nuclear reactors. The President should direct the Department of Homeland Security to lead the effort to design a comprehensive screening system, addressing common problems and setting common standards with systemwide goals in mind. (387)
- The Department of Homeland Security, properly supported by the Congress, should complete, as quickly as possible, a biometric entry-exit screening system, including a single system for speeding qualified travelers. It should be integrated with the system that provides benefits to foreigners seeking to stay in the United States. (389)
- We should do more to exchange terrorist information with trusted allies, and raise U.S. and global border security standards for travel and border crossing over the medium and long term through extensive inter-national cooperation. (390)
- Secure identification should begin in the United States. The federal government should set standards for the issuance of birth certificates and sources of identification, such as drivers licenses. (390)
- The U.S. government should identify and evaluate the transportation assets that need to be protected, set risk-based priorities for defending them, select the most practical and cost-effective ways of doing so, and then develop a plan, budget, and funding to implement the effort. The plan should assign roles and missions to the relevant authorities (federal, state, regional, and local) and to private stakeholders. In measuring effectiveness, perfection is unattainable. But terrorists should perceive that potential targets are defended. They may be deterred by a significant chance of failure. (391)
- Improved use of “no-fly” and “automatic selectee” lists should not be delayed while the argument about a successor to CAPPS continues. (393)
- The TSA and the Congress must give priority attention to improving the ability of screening checkpoints to detect explosives on passengers. (393)
- As the President determines the guidelines for information sharing among government agencies and by those agencies with the private sector, he should safeguard the privacy of individuals about whom information is shared. (394)
- The burden of proof for retaining a particular governmental power should be on the executive, to explain (a) that the power actually materially enhances security and (b) that there is adequate supervision of the executive’s use of the powers to ensure protection of civil liberties. If the power is granted, there must be adequate guidelines and oversight to properly confine its use. (394-5)
- There should be a board within the executive branch to oversee adherence to the guidelines we recommend and the commitment the government makes to defend our civil liberties. (395)
- Homeland security assistance should be based strictly on an assessment of risks and vulnerabilities. Now, in 2004, Washington, D.C., and New York City are certainly at the top of any such list. We understand the contention that every state and city needs to have some minimum infrastructure for emergency response. But federal homeland security assistance should not remain a program for general revenue sharing. It should supplement state and local resources based on the risks or vulnerabilities that merit additional support. Congress should not use this money as a pork barrel. (396)
- Emergency response agencies nationwide should adopt the Incident Command System (ICS). When multiple agencies or multiple jurisdictions are involved, they should adopt a unified command. (397)
- Congress should support pending legislation which provides for the expedited and increased assignment of radio spectrum for public safety purposes. (397)
- We endorse the American National Standards Institute’s recommended standard for private preparedness…. We also encourage the insurance and credit-rating industries to look closely at a company’s compliance with the ANSI standard in assessing its insurability and creditworthiness. We believe that compliance with the standard should define the standard of care owed by a company to its employees and the public for legal purposes. (398)
- We recommend the establishment of a National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), built on the foundation of the existing Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC). Breaking the older mold of national government organization, this NCTC should be a center for joint operational planning and joint intelligence, staffed by personnel from the various agencies. (403)
- The current position of Director of Central Intelligence should be replaced by a National Intelligence Director with two main areas of responsibility: (1) to oversee national intelligence centers on specific subjects of interest across the U.S. government and (2) to manage the national intelligence program and oversee the agencies that contribute to it. (411)
- The CIA Director should emphasize (a) rebuilding the CIA’s analytic capabilities; (b) transforming the clandestine service by building its human intelligence capabilities; (c) developing a stronger language program, with high standards and sufficient financial incentives; (d) renewing emphasis on recruiting diversity among operations officers so they can blend more easily in foreign cities;(e) ensuring a seamless relationship between human source collection and signals collection at the operational level; and (f) stressing a better balance between unilateral and liaison operations. (415)
- Lead responsibility for directing and executing paramilitary operations, whether clandestine or covert, should shift to the Defense Department. There it should be consolidated with the capabilities for training, direction, and execution of such operations already being developed in the Special Operations Command. (415)
- Overall amounts of money being appropriated for national intelligence and to its component agencies should no longer be kept secret. Congress should pass a separate appropriations act for intelligence, defending the broad allocation of how these tens of billions of dollars have been assigned among the varieties of intelligence work. (416)
- Information procedures should provide incentives for sharing, to restore a better balance between security and shared knowledge. (417)
- The president should lead the government-wide effort to bring the major national security institutions into the information revolution. (418)
- Congress should address [the dysfunction system of intelligence oversight].We have considered various alternatives: A joint committee on the old model of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy is one. A single committee in each house of Congress. (420)
- Congress should create a single, principal point of oversight and review for homeland security. Congressional leaders are best able to judge what committee should have jurisdiction over this department and its duties. But we believe that Congress does have the obligation to choose one in the House and one in the Senate, and that this committee should be a permanent standing committee with a nonpartisan staff. (421)
- We should minimize as much as possible the disruption of national security policymaking during the change of administrations by accelerating the process for national security appointments. (422)
- A specialized and integrated national security workforce should be established at the FBI consisting of agents, analysts, linguists, and surveillance specialists who are recruited, trained, rewarded, and retained to ensure the development of an institutional culture imbued with a deep expertise in intelligence and national security. (425-6)
- The Department of Defense and its oversight committees should regularly assess the adequacy of Northern Command’s strategies and planning to defend the United States against military threats to the homeland. (428)
- The Department of Homeland Security and its oversight committees should regularly assess the types of threats the country faces to determine (a) the adequacy of the government’s plans—and the progress against those plans—to protect America’s critical infrastructure and (b) the readiness of the government to respond to the threats that the United States might face. (428)
Work of commissioners after the commission ceased its functions
Months after the commission had officially issued its report and ceased its functions, Chairman Kean and other commissioners toured the country to draw attention to the recommendations of the commission for reducing the terror risk, claiming that some of their recommendations were being ignored. Co-chairs Kean and Hamilton wrote a book about the constraints they faced as commissioners titled Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission.
The book was released on August 15, 2006 and chronicles the work of Kean (Commission Chairman) and Hamilton (Commission Vice-Chairman) of the 9/11 Commission. In the book, Kean and Hamilton charge that the 9/11 Commission was "set up to fail," and write that the commission was so frustrated with repeated misstatements by officials from The Pentagon and the Federal Aviation Administration during the investigation that it considered a separate investigation into possible obstruction of justice by Pentagon and FAA officials.
John Farmer, Jr., senior counsel to the Commission stated that the Commission "discovered that...what government and military officials had told Congress, the Commission, the media, and the public about who knew what when — was almost entirely, and inexplicably, untrue." Farmer continues: "At some level of the government, at some point in time … there was a decision not to tell the truth about what happened...The (NORAD) tapes told a radically different story from what had been told to us and the public." Thomas Kean, the head of the 9/11 Commission, concurred: "We to this day don’t know why NORAD told us what they told us, it was just so far from the truth."
- "National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States". 9-11commission.gov. September 20, 2004. Archived from the original on February 11, 2010. Retrieved February 17, 2010.
- "Investigating Sept. 11". NewsHour (PBS). November 27, 2002. Archived from the original on February 20, 2009. Retrieved January 21, 2009.
- Cable News Network (December 13, 2002). "Kissinger resigns as head of 9/11 commission". CNN Inside Politics (Time Warner). Retrieved August 7, 2006.
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- ""The White House Has Played Cover-Up"–Former 9/11 Commission Member Max Cleland Blasts Bush". Democracy Now!. March 23, 2004. Archived from the original on July 16, 2009. Retrieved July 7, 2009.
- Jehl, Douglas (August 9, 2005). "Four in 9/11 Plot Are Called Tied to Qaeda in '00". New York Times (Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr.). Retrieved January 19, 2015.
- "9/11 commission finishes Bush, Cheney session". April 29, 2004. Retrieved November 24, 2010.
- Kill the Messenger. SBS Australia, 2007. Documentary.
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- Zelikow, Philip D.; Condoleezza Rice (1995). "Germany Unified and Europe Transformed: A Study in Statecraft". Harvard University Press. http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog/ZELGER.html?show=reviews.
- Associated Press, Feb. 3, 2008, "Ties between White House, Sept 11 Chief", http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/S/SEPT_11_COMMISSION?SITE=CAVEN&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT, archived at: http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/02/04/6826/
- "9/11: Truth, Lies and Conspiracy Interview: Lee Hamilton". CBC News, Canada. August 21, 2006. Archived from the original on June 23, 2008. Retrieved October 16, 2010.
- Eggen, Dan (August 2, 2006). "9/11 Panel Suspected Deception by Pentagon". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 31, 2009.
- Yen, Hope (August 4, 2006). "Book: Sept. 11 Panel Doubted Officials". Associated Press (Washington Post). Retrieved October 16, 2010.
- Levins, Harry (September 6, 2009). "The Ground Truth". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved September 12, 2009.
- Farmer, John (2009). The Ground Truth: The Untold Story of America Under Attack on 9/11. Riverhead Books. ISBN 1-59448-894-0.
- Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission, by Thomas H Kean and Lee H. Hamilton (Random House, August 2006) ISBN 0-307-26377-0
- The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation, by Philip Shenon (the Twelve - Jan. 2008), ISBN 978-0-446-58075-5
- The Next Ten Years of Post-9/11 Security Efforts, Q&A with 9/11 Commissioner Slade Gorton (July 2011)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to 9/11 Commission.|
- Official website
- The Complete 9/11 Commission Report (7 MB PDF)
- Kindle-formatted version of the Complete 9/11 Commission Report
- 9/11 Commission staff biographies
- 9/11 Public Discourse Project (Set up by Commission members following completion of report)
- The 9-11 Commission: An Audio Chronicle - NPR
- Congressional Research Service, 9/11 Commission Recommendations: Implementation Status, Dec. 2006
- Stonewalled by the C.I.A. Op-Ed piece written by Thomas Kean and Lee H. Hamilton in the January 2, 2008 edition of the New York Times
- 9/11 Chair: Attack Was Preventable - from CBS
- The Shea Memorandum to the 9-11 Commission
- Photos of 9/11 Commission Public Hearings 7 to 12