Today is one of sadness for me, thinking about the poor innocents who died on that infamous day, but it is also one of admiration for the brave emergency teams who surged into the burning buildings only to die in the collapse and for those brave few who fought and died to divert the fourth plane. I have anger for the misguided miscreants who caused the disaster. And I have disappointment for the leaders of our country who apparently failed miserably to protect us against such a tragedy and whose floundering inaction in those precious minutes after the crash of the first two planes may have hurt the country even more. Fifty-one minutes were to pass between the first crash into the north tower and the one that hit the Pentagon. It occurred thirty-four minutes after the crash into the South tower. FDNY command response to the hit on the North Tower was about 14 minutes [page 289], about the same for the PDNY [page 291]. Command response for the emergency teams at the Pentagon was said to be 4 minutes. [page 314] The first crash could have been an accident; the second signaled something more. In my opinion, 34 minutes should have been more than enough time to scramble our air-force to protect Washington DC and save the Pentagon.
Everyone should read the nonpartisan 9/11 National Commission Report about the incident. I haven't read all of it, but each year I read a bit more. Must read sections are 198-214, 254-277, and 278-323. The text details a new administration that ignored the warnings of President Clinton and members of his staff on the immediate and real danger of extremist terrorism, giving it a secondary role in favor of other priorities which "included China, missile defense, the collapse of the Middle East peace process, and the Persian Gulf."
Here are some excerpts. If you think I'm 'cherry-picking,' I probably am. I encourage you to read the sections for yourself.
"The procedures of the Bush administration were to be at once more formal and less formal than its predecessor’s. President Clinton, a voracious reader, received his daily intelligence briefings in writing. He often scrawled questions and comments in the margins, eliciting written responses.The new president, by contrast, reinstated the practice of face-to-face briefings from the DCI [Director of Central Intelligence]. President Bush and Tenet met in the Oval Office at 8:00 A.M., with Vice President Cheney, Rice, and Card usually also present.The President and the DCI both told us that these daily sessions provided a useful opportunity for exchanges on intelligence issues." [page 200]
"Within the first few days after Bush’s inauguration, Clarke approached Rice in an effort to get her—and the new President—to give terrorism very high priority and to act on the agenda that he had pushed during the last few months of the previous administration. After Rice requested that all senior staff identify desirable major policy reviews or initiatives, Clarke submitted an elaborate memorandum on January 25, 2001. He attached to it his 1998 Delenda Plan and the December 2000 strategy paper.“We urgently need . . . a Principals level review on the al Qida network,” Clarke wrote" [page 201]
"The national security advisor [Rice] did not respond directly to Clarke’s memorandum. No Principals Committee meeting on al Qaeda was held until September 4, 2001 (although the Principals Committee met frequently on other subjects, such as the Middle East peace process, Russia, and the Persian Gulf )" [page 201]
"In the spring , reporting on terrorism surged dramatically. In chapter 8, we will explore this reporting and the ways agencies responded.These increasingly alarming reports, briefed to the President and top officials, became part of the context in which the new administration weighed its options for policy on al Qaeda." [page 204]
"In May, President Bush announced that Vice President Cheney would himself lead an effort looking at preparations for managing a possible attack by weapons of mass destruction and at more general problems of national preparedness.The next few months were mainly spent organizing the effort and bringing an admiral from the Sixth Fleet back to Washington to manage it.The Vice President’s task force was just getting under way when the 9/11 attack occurred." [page 204]
"September 2001 The Principals Committee had its first meeting on al Qaeda on September 4. On the day of the meeting, Clarke sent Rice an impassioned personal note. He criticized U.S. counterterrorism efforts past and present. The “real question”before the principals, he wrote, was “are we serious about dealing with the al Qida threat? . . . Is al Qida a big deal? . . . Decision makers should imagine themselves on a future day when the CSG has not succeeded in stopping al Qida attacks and hundreds of Americans lay dead in several countries, including the US,” Clarke wrote. “What would those decision makers wish that they had done earlier? That future day could happen at any time.”[page 212]
"A June 12 CIA report passing along biographical background information on several terrorists mentioned, in commenting on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, that he was recruiting people to travel to the United States to meet with colleagues already there so that they might conduct terrorist attacks on Bin Ladin’s behalf. On June 22, the CIA notified all its station chiefs about intelligence suggesting a possible al Qaeda suicide attack on a U.S. target over the next few days. DCI Tenet asked that all U.S. ambassadors be briefed." [Page 256]
"On June 25, Clarke warned Rice and Hadley that six separate intelligence reports showed al Qaeda personnel warning of a pending attack.An Arabic television station reported Bin Ladin’s pleasure with al Qaeda leaders who were saying that the next weeks “will witness important surprises” and that U.S. and Israeli interests will be targeted." [page 257]
"... an article in the August 6 Presidential Daily Brief titled “Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US.” It was the 36th PDB item briefed so far that year that related to Bin Ladin or al Qaeda, and the first devoted to the possibility of an attack in the United States." [page 260]
"In July 2001, an FBI agent in the Phoenix field office sent a memo to FBI headquarters and to two agents on international terrorism squads in the New York Field Of fice, advising of the “possibility of a coordinated effort by Usama Bin Ladin”to send students to the United States to attend civil aviation schools.The agent based his theory on the “inordinate number of individuals of investigative interest” attending such schools in Arizona." [page 272]
"At 8:46:40, the hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 flew into the upper portion of the North Tower, cutting through floors 93 to 99. Evidence suggests that all three of the building’s stairwells became impassable from the 92nd floor up. Hundreds of civilians were killed instantly by the impact. Hundreds more remained alive but trapped." [page 285]
"At 9:03:11, the hijacked United Airlines Flight 175 hit 2 WTC (the South Tower) from the south, crashing through the 77th to 85th floors.What had been the largest and most complicated rescue operation in city history instantly doubled in magnitude.The plane banked as it hit the building, leaving portions of the building undamaged on impact floors. As a consequence—and in contrast to the situation in the North Tower—one of the stairwells (A) initially remained passable from at least the 91st floor down, and likely from top to bottom" [page 293]
"At 9:37, the west wall of the Pentagon was hit by hijacked American Air lines Flight 77, a Boeing 757. The crash caused immediate and catastrophic damage. All 64 people aboard the airliner were killed, as were 125 people inside the Pentagon (70 civilians and 55 military service members). One hundred six people were seriously injured and transported to area hospitals." [page 314]
"While the plan at the elementary school had been to return to Washington, by the time Air Force One was airborne at 9:55 A.M. the Secret Service, the President’s advisers, and Vice President Cheney were strongly advising against it. President Bush reluctantly acceded to this advice and, at about 10:10, Air Force One changed course and began heading due west.The immediate objective was to find a safe location." [page 325]