How the 9/11 Commission wrote a unanimous report from more than 2 mil pages of notes and 1,000 interviews
My notes from the book: “Without Precedent: the inside story of the 9/11 commission” by Thomas H Kean and Lee H Hamilton, cochairs of the 9/11 commission
Copyright 2006 by Thomas H Kean and Lee H Hamilton with Benjamin Rhodes, Published by Alfred A. Knopf
Page 58: August 1998 Al Qaeda bombing of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; Bill Clinton's responsive launch and cruise missile attacks on Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan in a factory in Sudan; the 1993 incident Blackhawk down when 17 Americans were killed in Somalia; the 1983 attack by the terrorist group Hizbollah on Marine barracks in Lebanon killing 242 Americans.
Page 112: 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals as is Osama bin Laden; it was well documented that money from wealthy individuals and charities in Saudi Arabia flowed to Al Qaeda before 9/11 at rumors circulated about the possibility that Al Qaeda had been funded by the Saudi royal family. The 28 redacted pages in the congressional joint inquiry report into 9/11 widely reported to link Saudi Arabia to the attacks.
Prince Bandar, the long-time and highly influential Saudi ambassador to the United States, made some phone calls to help facilitate our staff’s trip and his intervention and cooperation between the State Department and the Saudi government opened many doors.
Page 150:" I also welcome to hearings because it is finally a forum where I can apologize to the loved ones of the victims of 9/11; to them who are here in the room, to those who are watching on television, your government failed you. Those entrusted with protecting you failed you. And I failed you. We tried hard, but that doesn't matter because we failed.
And for that failure, I would ask, once all the facts are out, for your understanding and for your forgiveness."– –Richard Clarke, Former national coordinator for counterterrorism, testifying before the 9/11 commission, March 24, 2004.
Page 154: Clarke was highly critical of the Bush administration. His basic charge was that President Bush and his top advisers had not taken terrorism seriously before 9/11. He also said urgent warnings about potential Al Qaeda attacks over the summer of 2001 were not acted upon with urgency.
Page 156: Clarke said President Bush pushed him to tie Iraq to the attacks. “The president dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door, and said, "I want you to find whether Iraq did this." Now he never said,”Make it up." But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this.”
Page 171 – 2: Condoleezza Rice countered Clark's charges saying the Bush administration crafted a comprehensive new strategy to eliminate the Al Qaeda network from the very start.
Page 187: The commission asked why Clinton did not respond to the bombing of the USS Cole in October 2000. Pres. Clinton said that if he had had a finding from the CIA and FBI saying that Al Qaeda was responsible he would've acted.
Page 240: the Commission reported," We have no credible evidence that Iraq and Al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States."
Page 254: “It is also a great disrespect to the men and women who died on the airplane, as well as the US military, to suggest that a US missile hit the Pentagon."
Page 255: another issue that drew widespread attention was the reports of Saudi citizens including members of the bin Laden family have been allowed to fly out of the united states in the days after 9/11 when airspace was still close. Indeed we received many more questions about this issue particularly from members of Congress than any other topic within our mandate. What we found does not match up to the more nefarious charges. The Saudi Embassy contacted the FBI about possibly evacuating some Saudi nationals fearing reprisal attacks; The FBI prescreened the Saudi nationals including the members of the bin Laden family before permitting them to leave and many were interviewed; Richard Clarke approved the departure of the planes only after he had been told that the FBI had reviewed the passengers to its satisfaction; And none of the planes departed the United States before September 14, 2001, when US airspace was reopened.
Page 257 – 259: the FAA and NORAD delayed document release and slowed down the commission’s work. There were discrepancies in the agency records and facts obtained from interviews.
One example of the discrepancies between the official accounts and reality involved United Flight 93. In its September 18, 2001, press release, NORAD said that the timing of the FAA’s notification to NORAD on the United 93 hijacking was not available. In public testimony before the commission in May 2003, NORAD said notification took place at 9:16 AM, 47 minutes before the plane crash in Pennsylvania. In reality, though, United 93 had not yet been hijacked at 9:16 TAM–– the last transmission for the pilot of United 93 did not occur until 9:28 AM. In their investigation, our staff found the notification took place at 10:06 AM – – three minutes after the flight had already crashed.
Another example is the FAA notification to NORAD about the hijacking of American Airlines Flight 77. In its September 18, 2001 press release and in testimony before the commission in May 2003, NORAD said the notification took place at 9:24 AM, almost 14 minutes before American 77 crashed into the Pentagon. Yet our staff determined that there was no notification that American 77 was a hijacking before the crash time at 9:37; Instead at 9:34, there was notification that American 77 was lost and that its location could not be determined.
The military gave confusing, inaccurate or puzzling accounts about when and where fighter jets were scrambled, giving ammunition to conspiracy theorists. But these gaps were among the biggest questions and concerns of the families of the victims.
They wanted to know why the government had not saved more lives on 9/11 — perhaps by shooting down United Airlines Flight 175 before it crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center or American 77 before it crashed into the Pentagon.
Pg. 260: “Indeed, many of the families’ most detailed and most frequently asked questions dealt with the FAA and NORAD. As it became apparent that FAA and NORAD officials had been inaccurate — if not untruthful — in making public statements, including in testimony before Congress and the 9/11 Commission, the families became more upset. The notion that they were not being told the truth fed their mistrust of the government, and nearly aligned some of them with the conspiracy theorists.”
“For our staff, it became a methodical process of rebuilding the record from scratch. When they took their corrected record to NORAD, however, they found resistance. Even with the evidence, there was pushback from NORAD officials, who insisted that their original timelines had been correct.”
One claim that was hardest to document was whether Vice President Dick Cheney ordered fighter pilots to shoot down the hijacked planes. Cheney said he discussed his order with President Bush by phone shortly after Cheney entered the bunker under the White House at 9:58 a.m.
“Based on transcripts of conference calls, logs of phone calls, and interviews, our staff found that the shoot-down order did not reach the NORAD pilots until after all of the hijacked planes had crashed — well after the vice president thought that it had reached the pilots — and that the order was for the pilots to identify the types and tail numbers of the planes, not to shoot them down.” (Pg. 260)
“Our staff was exceedingly frustrated by their problems with the FAA and NORAD. Fog of war could explain why some people were confused on the day of 9/11, but it could not explain why all of the after-action reports, accident investigations, and public testimony by FAA and NORAD officials advanced an account of 9/11 that was untrue.” (Pg. 261)
Pg. 267: “The only air defense that the American people received on the morning of September 11, 2001, was the heroism of the passengers on United 93. Amazingly, the phone calls placed to and from passengers of United 93 and their loved ones were more effective in foiling an attack that the communication between the FAA and NORAD, or among the senior-most officials in the U.S. Government.” (President Bush told the commission that he was frustrated that the phones on Air Force One kept cutting out and he was unable to stay in constant contact.)
Patty Casazza, one member of the Family Steering Committee, complained: “The Commission failed in its duty to learn all the lessons of 9/11 and squandered the opportunity to protect our country, our children, from terrorist harm.”
Another, Mindy Kleinberg, said: “The hearings in New York were such a disappointment. No real questions were addressed.” Referring to the June 16-17 hearings in Washington, Kleinberg said: “People won’t travel four hours to be frustrated and disappointed again.” (Pg. 267.)
Who wrote the 9/11 Commission report? Keane and Hamilton, the co-chairs, write a whole chapter about this called “Many Voices.” (Pg. 269-289)
Here are highlights of the chapter:
The Commission had funding and sought bids to publish the report and reach the public as broadly as possible. W.W. Norton & Company agreed to print and distribute the book in only six days, to run 200,000 copies, priced no higher than $10 per copy. Norton also pledged to distribute complimentary copies to a representative of each 9/11 family and to make a donation with a portion of the profits.
The writers had more than two million pages of documents, interviews with more than 1,000 witnesses and a staff with a wealth of information and expertise.
All of the staff started by putting all accounts in chronological order.
All summaries were written in journalistic style. The 11 chapters were outlined by Zelikow and May. They circulated the outline and assigned sections to specific individual staff members, including those with the strongest writing skills. (Pg. 272-3).
Some of the teams — focused on terrorist financing and border security for example — wrote book-long drafts and summaries of their findings.
John Farmer wrote what happened on the four flights with key help from two staffers who were aviation security experts.
“For the chapters an al Qaeda, Doug MacEachin took the lead on producing first-draft material on the history of the organization, and Dietrich Snell took the lead on the two chapters outlining the 9/11 plot, which succeeded in placing the readers in the shoes of the enemy.” (Pg. 273)
Mike Hurley drafted the chapters on how the Clinton and Bush administrations handled terrorism including the accounts of Condoleezza Rice and Richard Clarke.
Zelikow had an overall view of how the book should flow.
Kojm was the gifted editor.
Marcus and Dunne focused on accuracy and eliminating errors.
Final staff edits were done by Zelikow, Kojm and Marcus.
Each member of the commission wrote memos, notes for edits, on all drafts.
Pg. 274-5: “By late June and early July, we were having eight-hour commissioner editing sessions in our conference room, occasionally meeting until after midnight. Sometimes we spent 30 minutes on a single sentence, trying to get wording acceptable to all of the commissioners. Time and again, our mantra was to go to the facts. The two of us were wary of shutting down debate while any commissioner was unhappy — everyone had to feel invested in the language of the report to achieve a consensus result. In both our experiences, the only way to build a consensus was talk, talk and then talk some more.”
When there was disagreement on the facts, the expert staff member was brought in to go into detail about the documentation, testimony or interviews with the commissioners.
Here is an example of how all of these writers and commissioners fought for facts, accuracy and non-partisanship, especially on the most divisive argument of whether Bush was prepared or not before 9/11, speaking specifically of a directive about the administration’s strategy against terrorists. (Pg. 275)
“Rice viewed this draft directive as the embodiment of a comprehensive new strategy employing all instruments of national power to eliminate the al Qaeda threat. Clarke, however, regarded the new draft as essentially similar to the proposal he had developed in December 2000 and put forward to the new administration in January 2001. In May or June, Clarke asked to be moved from his counterterrorism portfolio to a new set of responsibilities for cyber-security. He told us that he was frustrated with his role and with an administration that he considered ‘not serious about al Qadea.’ If Clarke was frustrated, he never expressed it to her, Rice told us.” (Pg. 275)
The facts of Clarke’s proposal and Rice’s directive are included in the report for readers and the public to make their own conclusions, Kean and Hamilton wrote.
The report blamed two administrations and many bureaucracies for a systemic failure to prevent the terrorist attacks or to anticipate threats posed by al Qaeda, Kean and Hamilton wrote. (Pg. 276-7)
Among the failures:
Not sharing information about hijackers Hazmi and Midhar, who were known to the CIA and living under their own names in San Diego;
The FBI’s failure to link the arrest of Moussaoui — described as interested in flight training for the purposes of carrying out a terrorist attack — to the increased warning of an attack in the summer of 2001.
Failure to detect false information or fake passports on hijackers’ visas.
Failure to act on aviation security, such as hardening of cockpit doors, as the threats increased.
Page 290: commissioners split down partisan lines regarding the public disputes between Rice and Clark, but they worked line by line and paragraph by paragraph, resulting in a unanimous report.
Page 302: staff team leaders work with all the questions submitted by the families and tried to answer those questions as best they could.
Pg. 318-9: “We learned that the United States Congress needs help. Too often, Congress cannot deal with the toughest questions facing the nation. Because of the diviseness in the country, the dizzying 24-hour news cycle, the constant need to raise funds and travel back and forth to a home district, the complexity of some bills, and the pressure on members to be partisan team players, it is harder for Congress to take time to work through issues and build consensus.”
Pg. 319: Kean was impressed by the public’s hunger for facts and answers. The commission report was an instant best seller. Kean said the U.S. Government needs more openness and transparency and accountability. “Someone needs to guard the guardians. Government would do well to heed people’s desire for accountability. Often the appearance of a cover-up is far more damaging to public perception than the consequences of full revelation of the truth.”
Pg. 323: “…the dramatic actions of the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93, who saved the U.S. Capitol or White House from destruction; watching a fire department chief who took command in the lobby of the World Trade Center on that day view a tape of his brother climbing the steps of the burning tower to rescue civilians, never to come back down.”
My notes from the book by NBC reporter Richard Engel
“And Then All Hell Broke Loose: Two Decades in the Middle East”
Simon & Shuster
Copyright 2016 by Engel Productions Inc.
Borders of modern Middle East were drawn by Europeans after World War I.
Lines that separate Jordan, Syria, and Iraq were decided by France and England.
The first thousand years after the birth of Islam, the Middle East was divided by the Christian West and Muslim East. Religious hostilities divided for centuries with the West mostly caring only about the Holy Land and where Jesus lived and not much about the surrounding areas.
Early Christians regarded Mohammed as a false prophet and some medieval Christians considered him some sort of pope or fallen angel.
Early Muslims thought little of Christians as too stubborn or stupid to understand the Allah of Mohammed and the Koran.
The Ottoman Empire sealed its decline when it chose the losing side in World War I, the Germans.
England and France did all the carving and map-making after the war ended.
Lebanon was special to France because of all the pilgrims and travelers who went to the Holy Land through the Lebanese cities of Tyre and Sidon. Syria also went to France.
England took Jordan and Egypt. Saudi Arabia was taken with British arms by Sunni Muslim Wahhabi fanatics who aligned with warrior chief Ibn Saud.
Iraq was a jigsaw puzzle forced to combine in three incompatible sections of Kurds in the north, Sunni Arabs in the center, and Shiites in the south. The British were busy suppressing revolts from the start in their messed-up map that was Iraq.
The Gulf States of Kuwait, Bahrain, Quatar and the United Arab Emirates were seen as important only as convenient ports for the British to get to India. These little kingdoms were left to local emirates who would become the wealthiest men in the world when oil was discovered.
The biggest problem for England was Palestine, an area promised to the Jews without telling the Palestinians that their farms and homes were part of the deal.
France and England had no money and no desire to continue battling in the Middle East after World War II and the new world power, the United States, became the new godfather.
The Eisenhower Doctrine of 1957 promised the Middle East money and military help in times of crisis.
Jimmy Carter specifically vowed to protect the Persian Gulf.
All of this became part of the U.S. battle for power against Russia in the Cold War, including the fight for oil and protection of Israel.
Arab states lost 1948 and 1967 battles against Israel. Only the worst despots survived and they were corrupt and brutal against their own people.
Islam has never accepted a division between church and state. Islam is perfect so why wouldn’t government follow this model is the teaching of fundamentalists.
Obama encouraged rebels and did not support Mubarek in Egypt; he used force to help rebels in Libya; and then he did nothing to support the rebels in Syria.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s logo in Egypt was two crossed swords with a Koran floating between the blades.
The Wahhabi movement began in Saudi Arabia as a reaction to the Ottoman Empire. For one thing, the Ottomans were diverse and not Arab. Ottomans also weren’t strict about Islam, drinking, smoking, even writing music and loving art.
Ottomans traveled to Mecca and Medina, often in great displays of wealth, which annoyed the Wahhabis.
The Wahhabis embraced Mohammed’s simple, nomadic life and especially that he was an Arab who spoke Arabic.
In the first years of the 1800s, the Wahhabis led uprisings against the Ottoman Empire, attacking Shiites, destroying their shrines, and eradicated antiquities.
The Wahhabis rose to power in the 1900s under Ibn Saud (son of Saud), the modern founder of Saudi Arabia. The Wahhabis took control of Medina and Mecca, dominating the physical center of the faith.
Then in the 20th century, Saudi Arabia struck it rich with oil, proof of Allah and Mohammed’s blessings.
The Wahhabis don’t like to be called by that name. They consider themselves Muslims, pure practicers of Islam.
Muslims insist that Christians, Jews and they all worship the same God. In essence, Muslims are saying Jews had an old version, updated by Jesus and the Christians who threw off their old ways, and perfected by Mohammad and the Koran as the full and complete religion of Allah.
Under the Arab caliphate and Ottoman Empire, Jews and Christians were tolerated as second-class citizens who had to pay higher taxes and tributes and were forbidden from high-level jobs.
Muslims in medieval Europe were treated far worse, as heathens and infidels, enemies and deniers of Christ.
In just three months after 9/11, at a cost of $1 billion and one American life, U.S. airstrikes, 110 CIA operatives, and 300 special op forces had scored a decisive victory in Afghanistan. The Taliban was toppled and al-Qaeda, which only had several hundred fighters, had retreated.
Bin-Laden most likely would have been captured immediately after the battle in Tora Bora in December 2001, but the Defense Department rejected the request for 800 additional soldiers to chase the retreating al-Qaeda.
Catching bin-Laden would have most likely ended the war and the retaliation for 9/11.
Military leaders wanted action, pressured for the Iraq invasion, and generals became well-known and moved into well-paying defense contractor jobs, became high-paid consultants are more, Engel wrote.
Two million American troops were rotated through the war zones, seven thousand were killed, 52,000 wounded, 1 million veterans filed disability claims, 200,000 Muslims were killed, and American taxpayers paid a few trillion dollars.
In the early years, journalists covering the Middle East were needed, even if considered a necessary evil, to get the message out to the world of rebels or others.
By 2006, social media and the internet allowed rebels and terrorists to share their unfiltered videos, beheadings and propaganda without any need for pesky reporters.
The hazards, kidnappings and death toll for reporters skyrocketed.
Journalists were worthless as megaphones, but valuable when stolen, bought, sold or transferred for political prisoners, Engel wrote.
Daniel Pearl 'refused to be sedated before his throat was cut'
He was fully aware of what was happening when the Arab extremists who took control during his final days cut his throat, according to information gleaned from Pakistani militants now in police custody.
The revelations have fuelled anger among police investigators that at least a dozen leading suspects in the kidnap and murder of the 38-year-old journalist have been arrested, but have not been charged or tried in connection with his death.
Some have been accused of unrelated - and mostly lesser - offences. The three most recently captured suspects have not yet been charged, and their arrests have never been officially announced.
The only cases brought so far in connection with Pearl's death have been those against Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the British-born al-Qaeda terrorist, who was convicted of kidnap and conspiracy to murder the American journalist, and three others who played relatively minor roles in the kidnapping.
All were given life sentences for conspiracy to kidnap, but are now appealing against their convictions in the country's high court. Pakistani authorities are said to be reluctant to put the new suspects on trial lest their evidence helps the first four win their appeals.
A legal official said: "No matter what Sheikh is guilty of, if the police were forced to change their account of what happened because of newfound evidence, he might be given the benefit of the doubt on everything else, and be set free immediately."
Omar Sheikh, the mastermind of the kidnapping, set the trap which lured Pearl to his captors. He put the reporter in touch with a man who, he pretended, would introduce him to an extremist Muslim leader whom Pearl wished to interview.
Contrary to evidence given during Omar Sheikh's trial, police now believe he may not have been present when Pearl met Sajid Jabbar, the go-between, at a Karachi restaurant. It was after the meeting that Pearl disappeared.
Investigators say that senior officials in the Sindh police - the force responsible for Karachi - are "petrified" that if militants arrested in the past year were tried for their part in Pearl's murder, their earlier case against Omar Sheikh might unravel in the courts.
One official close to the investigation said: "Even if these men have admitted their roles in the kidnapping and killing of Daniel Pearl, we simply cannot charge them because of its impact on that earlier case."
Police have pieced together new details of how Pearl was held in captivity for two weeks, and eventually killed, from those involved - including two who witnessed his final hours.
Many of the details were unknown even to Mariane Pearl, the reporter's widow, who wrote a moving memoir about his death, A Mighty Heart.
Goodreads link to her book: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/132770.A_Mighty_Heart
And Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Mighty-Heart-Brave-Death-Husband/dp/1416551247
They now believe that Pearl was not forcibly abducted from the restaurant, but at first went willingly with Sajid in his car, while four other militants followed. He was driven to the house on the outskirts of Karachi where he was to be held and killed.
There, four others who would guard Pearl dragged him inside at gun-point, tying his hands and blindfolding him. "Even at this point, Pearl didn't realise that he was already in trouble, and kept asking why they were behaving like this," one of those in custody told police.
He was held for two weeks before he was killed but made at least one escape attempt - according to the arrested men, just three days before he was murdered.
"He tried to scale the wall but couldn't do it because both his hands were tied," one told police. His captors said that Pearl had difficulty sleeping.
They brought him English-language newspapers and magazines to help him pass the time and let him exercise inside the room.
His efforts to converse with his captors were limited since they could speak only broken English. However, one said: "He made clear that he was a Jew and his wife a Buddhist. He used to imitate the way she prayed, and sing hymns and songs whenever he thought about her."
Eventually, Saud Memon, who is believed to be al-Qaeda's chief financier in Pakistan and owned the house where Pearl was held, contacted a group of Arab extremists who took over custody and decided he would be killed.
Armed with a video camera, three Arabs arrived, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, third-in-command of al-Qaeda - since handed over to the Americans.
For the first time, police have now identified the others as Abdul Rahman and Nasrullah - both Kuwaiti nationals fluent in Arabic, Balochi and Persian. Authorities are still searching for them.
On the day Pearl died, two of his Pakistani guards were present: Ali Khan, arrested just two weeks ago, and Fazal Karim, an employee of Saud Memon. One recently told interrogators how the Arabs tried to sedate Pearl, first by injection, then by doctoring his tea.
"I think he understood that he was going to be killed and refused to accept tea or to gulp pills. He even did not allow himself to be injected."
Before he was murdered, they forced him to relate his Jewish background and express sympathy with detainees in Guantanamo Bay before putting the knife to his throat once - and then again, a second time, owing to the faulty camera.
One of those present told police: "When they were slaughtering him in front of me I thought it was a bad dream. I had seen the cutting of a goat or chicken many times, but had never seen a human being slaughtered in front me."
Karim is among those who have been arrested and jailed for other crimes: narcotics smuggling, in his case. Investigators fear that Khan will also escape prosecution for his part in Pearl's capture and death.
Five others who took part in Pearl's capture or guarded him are behind bars for their part in unrelated sectarian killings, and Pakistani authorities have no plans to press charges related to Pearl. Authorities have yet to reveal publicly that they are holding three of the suspects: Khan, Naeem Bokhari and Faisal Bhatti.
Last night members of Pearl's family said they wanted all those involved in the journalist's death brought to book, and urged Pakistani authorities to hasten the hearing of Omar Sheikh's appeal.
In a statement to The Sunday Telegraph, Mariane Pearl and her parents-in-law, Ruth and Judea Pearl, said: "We are eager to see justice served and the truth come out. We are especially waiting to see a just conclusion of Omar Saeed Sheikh's conviction and the apprehension of all those involved."
In a way, this page is my third book, a virtual and public account of the next chapter of my life. My story is not over.