A carefully nonpartisan examination of the events surrounding 9/11 and the government’s response—or lack of response—to them.
“The opportunity of the 9/11 Commission was to respond to a brutal attack on our democratic society with a demonstration of the value of democracy itself.” So write onetime New Jersey governor Kean and Indiana congressman Hamilton, both of whom know the workings of high-level committee investigations and were appointed by President Bush after original heads Henry Kissinger and George Mitchell could not meet Senate ethics committee requirements. “We were set up to fail,” Kean and Hamilton candidly remark; the 9/11 committee was given far too broad a mandate, too tight a deadline and too small a budget to do the job. It was also hampered by partisan politics from the start; the Republicans wanted the committee to disband well before the 2004 presidential election, and in all events, the committee was constituted in such a way to prevent subpoenas from reaching inside the White House. Still, built-in flaws and all, the committee set about doing its work as best it could, and it was surprised to discover the depth of detail that 9/11 families commanded (“Why was the CIPRIS system not used to track foreign students after it was recommended by the National Commission on Terrorism in 1998 and was so effective in trials?” one asked, referring to an interagency intelligence protocol). As is now well known, after examining a mountain of evidence, the committee found the intelligence community and government wanting. As readers will discover, the White House was unhappy with that result, constantly invoking executive privilege to evade still closer examination. Furthermore, Bush failed to act on most of the committee’s carefully considered recommendations for averting another 9/11—which, Kean and Hamilton write in closing, is surely in the making.
A valuable resource for those needing proof that the government machine could use a good overhaul.