Missing the Obvious? Some Comments on the 9/11 Commission Report

In the past 17 years the U.S. Government has conducted one task force on terrorism


So, why didn't the 9/11 Commission grasp the significance of the underlying failure of the CAPPS follow-on security measures? One possible explanation is that to deal with the basic underlying cause for this failure the 9/11 Commission would have had to indict the U.S. political funding system. This would have struck a blow at the very heart of the Commission, the Congress, the Administration, and local, state and municipal political funding systems. The old adage of "follow the money" to the source of the problem applies here in spades!

If the Commission, or the Commission staff, did have knowledge of the underlying cause of the CAPPS follow-on security measures, why didn't they tackle this problem? If they didn't know the underlying cause, then the bigger dilemma is "why not"?

FAA - A Weak Regulator and Enforcer

The Commission reports that "The FAA's capabilities to take aggressive, anticipatory security measures were especially weak."48 This finding, coupled with its statement that "each layer relevant to hijacking ? intelligence, passenger prescreening, checkpoint screening, and onboard security ? was seriously flawed prior to 9/11."49 Ironically, President George H. W. Bush's Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism (August 4, 1989) found "the U.S. civil aviation security systems is seriously flawed and has failed to provide the proper level of protection for the traveling public. This system needs major reform."50

Congress, the Administration and the Airline Industry

An earlier reference was made to the amount of money that permeates the political system from the aviation industry, e.g. $62.8 million in lobbying from 1997 through 2000. The influence of this major infusion of monies into the U.S. political system cannot be underestimated. The airline industry is fully justified in seeking to protect its interests but it has no counter-balancing organization that has equal amounts of money for lobbying purposes. Consumer advocates usually have few funds in which to garner influence on subjects of interests and are completely overwhelmed in any contest with the U.S. airlines.

Ms. E. Marla Felcher outlined the money flowing into the political system in a unique manner in her report U.S. Aviation Security Before and After The September 11 Terrorist Attacks, The Century Foundation, 2004. In her report whenever she mentions a member of Congress, she includes the amount of money that politician accepted from the air transport industry within a defined period. It is instructive to read her report for this reason alone ? it is also a good report on the happenings before and after 9/11. Public Citizen's Delay, Dilute and Discard: How the Airline Industry and the FAA have stymied Aviation Security Recommendations ? October 2001 is also very revealing in both the amount of monies spent in lobbying in the aviation industry as well as the problems in securing good security practices.

Accountability vis-?-vis Responsibility

The 9/11 Commission studiously avoids what the media frequently refers to as "The Washington Blame Game." The media makes this out as a distasteful and disdainful process ? and indeed it may be. But we have seen the lack of accountability exercised repeatedly by the U.S. Government over several years. As an example: there was no accountability for the Marine Barracks in Lebanon in 1983 - everyone in the chain of command all the way to the President was "responsible" but no one was "accountable": we have the vulnerability of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in 1983 where the Ambassador was "responsible" to prevent the bombing but not held "accountable"; Everyone was "responsible but no one was "accountable" for the Somalia debacle in 1993; and everyone was responsible for the vulnerability of the USS Destroyer Cole but no one has been held "accountable", etcetera, etcetera. Now we have the 9/11 Commission that deals with the" responsibilities" for protecting U.S. citizens on 9/11 but no one is "accountable".

As distasteful as it may be we must hold persons in positions of responsibility accountable if we are to have an effective government. We continue to run away from grappling with this issue and we will continue to suffer the humiliating and horrendous failures mentioned above until we "bite the bullet" and hold persons in positions of responsibility accountable for their actions, or lack of actions.

Conclusions

Based on the 9/11 Commission Report we had as many as 10 opportunities51 to detect the 9/11 terrorists carrying edged weapons either on their persons or in their carry-on articles.