Failure of U.S. agencies to predict terrorist attacks worthy of investigation

Posted: Monday, October 29, 2001

Congress is dithering over whether and how to investigate the failure of U.S. intelligence to predict and prevent the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

How to conduct an inquiry is worthy of debate. But whether to do it -- why is this even a question?

There were hints of what was coming before Sept. 11. We know, for example, that one of those teach-me-to-steer-but-not-to-land aviators was behind bars on immigration charges last summer. How different things would be today if somebody had picked up on his bizarre story and checked flight schools for others like him.

What else was overlooked, and by whom?

Congress has passed new laws giving the government far more investigative power and reducing individuals' civil liberties. What assurance do we have that government agencies given these new powers will use them appropriately? Before Sept. 11, neither the FBI nor the CIA was considered an exemplary agency. They were known not to share information sufficiently. The FBI was particularly discredited, fresh from the Wen Ho Lee debacle and the failure to detect master spy Robert Hanssen in its midst. ...

Sept. 11 changed so much -- but it did not magically empower dysfunctional organizations to suddenly become brilliant. Americans need to understand what failed before they can be confident that new tactics will work.

-- San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News

Oct. 23

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