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This is a transcript from AM. The program is broadcast around Australia at 08:00 on ABC Local Radio.
9/11 Commission finds 'deep institutional failings'PRINT FRIENDLY EMAIL STORY
AM - Friday, 23 July , 2004 08:00:30
Reporter: John ShovelanTONY EASTLEY: In its final report, the 9/11 Commission has found the Bush and Clinton administrations failed to comprehend the threat posed by al-Qaeda, and cited shortcomings right across American government, including Congress.
The commission, consisting of five Democrats and five Republicans found failures in "imagination" and the inability of the US intelligence community to share information.
From Washington, John Shovelan reports the unanimous conclusions pointed to "deep institutional failings".
JOHN SHOVELAN: Describing the September 11 plotters as "flexible and resourceful", the 10-member commission said it didn't know whether any single step or series of steps would have defeated them.
But what the commission says with confidence is "that none of the measures adopted from 1998 to 2001 disturbed or even delayed the progress of the al-Qaeda plot.
Chairman Thomas Kean says the failures were right across government.
THOMAS KEAN: This was a failure of policy, management, capability, and above all, a failure of imagination.
JOHN SHOVELAN: The commission identified nine "specific points of vulnerability" in the plot that might have led to its disruption had the government been better organized and more watchful.
Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton says the lack of imagination was the most important failing.
LEE HAMILTON: We just didn't get it in this country. As a whole, the government didn't grasp the potential scenario that occurred. We were often advised during the course of the hearings to read very imaginative writers like Tom Clancy, and encouraged to think outside the box, and I think that's an important part of the counter-terrorism effort.
Have we gotten beyond the lack of imagination? I'm not sure I can answer that today.
JOHN SHOVELAN: While the commission was critical of both the Bush and Clinton administrations, it was most critical of the intelligence agencies.
THOMAS KEAN: They were not served properly by the intelligence agencies of this country. Having read every single presidential daily briefing having anything to do with this subject, under two administrations, I can tell you that the two presidents of the United States were not well served by those agencies, and they did not, in my opinion, have the information they needed to make the decisions they had to make.
JOHN SHOVELAN: The report cited a December the 4th, 1998 memo from the then Director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet.
It read: "We are at war � I want no resources or people spared in this effort, either inside the CIA or the community."
The commission said the memo had little overall effect in mobilising the CIA, and that this episode highlighted the limitations of the director's authority over the direction of the intelligence community.
LEE HAMILTON: The United States Government has access to vast amounts of information, but it has a weak process, a weak system of processing and using that information. Need to share must replace need to know.
JOHN SHOVELAN: The commission recommended a new National Counter-Terrorism Centre, and a new National Intelligence Director, that would address the need for a much stronger head of the intelligence community.
The report provided new details on contacts between Iraq and al-Qaeda, noting that Osama bin Laden began exploring a possible alliance in the early '90s. The report says that an Iraqi delegation travelled to Afghanistan in July 1998. It says although there were some friendly contacts, none of these ever developed into a collaborative relationship. And on ties between Iran and al-Qaeda, the commission found some of the highjackers had travelled freely through Iran to get to Afghanistan.
THOMAS KEAN: We do know that these relationships were serious, and over a period of time. We do know that when people wanted to get through Iran to Afghanistan to meet with Osama bin Laden, including a number of the highjackers were able to do so, without marks in their passports that would indicate they'd been through Iran. We know that kind of collaboration.
JOHN SHOVELAN: Earlier this week the Iranian Government scoffed at the suggestion, describing it as ridiculous, coming from a country that had itself issued official visas, residency permits, and given pilot training to the terrorists.
Commission member, Tim Roemer, called on the Congress to act urgently on the recommendations.
TIM ROEMER: Claws of al-Qaeda are on our shoulders, and the grief of 9/11 is still in so many Americans' hearts. I think those indicators and reasons are all going to come together, and compel members of Congress and others to pass what's in this report.
TONY EASTLEY: Commission member Tim Romer, ending that report from John Shovelan in Washington. PRINT FRIENDLY EMAIL STORY