It was interesting to hear from the 9/11 Commission again on Tuesday. This self-perpetuating and privately funded group of lobbyists and lawyers has recently opined on hurricanes, nuclear weapons, the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel and even the New York subway system. Now it offers yet another "report card" on the progress of the FBI and CIA in the war against terrorism, along with its "back-seat" take and some further unsolicited narrative about how things ought to be on the "front lines."
Yet this is also a good time for the country to make some assessments of the 9/11 Commission itself. Recent revelations from the military intelligence operation code-named "Able Danger" have cast light on a missed opportunity that could have potentially prevented 9/11. Specifically, Able Danger concluded in February 2000 that military experts had identified Mohamed Atta by name (and maybe photograph) as an al Qaeda agent operating in the U.S. Subsequently, military officers assigned to Able Danger were prevented from sharing this critical information with FBI agents, even though appointments had been made to do so. Why?
[The Commission's] dismissive and apparently unsupported conclusion would have us believe that a key piece of evidence was summarily rejected in less than 10 days without serious investigation. The commission, at the very least, should have interviewed the 80 members of Able Danger, as the Pentagon did, five of whom say they saw "the chart." But this would have required admitting that the late-breaking news was inconveniently raised. So it was grossly neglected and branded as insignificant. Such a half-baked conclusion, drawn in only 10 days without any real investigation, simply ignores what looks like substantial direct evidence to the contrary coming from our own trained military intelligence officers.
No wonder the 9/11 families were outraged by these revelations and called for a "new" commission to investigate. "I'm angry that my son's death could have been prevented," seethed Diane Horning, whose son Matthew was killed at the World Trade Center. On Aug. 17, 2005, a coalition of family members known as the September 11 Advocates rightly blasted 9/11 Commission leaders Mr. Kean and Lee Hamilton for pooh-poohing Able Danger's findings as not "historically significant." Advocate Mindy Kleinberg aptly notes, "They [the 9/11 Commission] somehow made a determination that this was not important enough. To me, that says somebody there is not using good judgment. And if I'm questioning the judgment of this one case, what other things might they have missed?" This is a stinging indictment of the commission by the 9/11 families.
Former FBI Director Louis Freeh goes off on the 9/11 Commission:
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