News Release

How the Government Could Have Prevented 9/11: Read the Documents


Rowley, a former FBI Special Agent and Division Counsel whose May 2002 memo described some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures, was named one of Time Magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002. She said today: “In the New York Times, Kurt Eichenwald characterizes the Bush administration’s ‘Deafness Before the Storm’ ignoring of pre-9/11 warnings as ‘negligent.’ But given all the truth that has dribbled out in the last 11 years, such ‘negligence’ borders on recklessness. At the very least, the public should demand to see for itself all of the pre-9/11 presidential briefings.

“In other examples of negligence bordering on recklessness, the prior Inspector General, Joint Intelligence Committee Inquiry and Senate Judiciary investigations identified at least two major instances of FBI officials using as their simple jaw-dropping excuse, ‘I didn’t read the document.’ While then-CIA Director George Tenet, who was apparently conversant with most of these intelligence warnings, and did apparently read most of the documentation, (including in mid-August, 2001, that a suspect had been arrested in Minnesota seeking to learn how to fly a jet airliner), he was unable to explain why he took no further action.

“More truth dribbled out last year when a memo entitled ‘Bin Laden/Ibn Khattab Threat Reporting,’ written in April 2001 to FBI Director Louis Freeh by an assistant director and copied to eight other high-level FBI leaders, was unearthed from the Moussaoui trove of court exhibits by Newsweek reporter Philip Shenon, author of the book, ‘The Commission.’ It shows the FBI itself circulated a warning about Khattab and Bin Laden five months beforehand, although after 9/11, key recipients denied having read the memo: ‘The U.S. Government has received information indicating that serious operational planning has been underway since late 2000, with an intended culmination in late Spring 2001. These plans are being undertaken by Sunni extremists with links to Ibn al Khattab, an extremist leader in Chechnya, and to Usama Bin Laden. There are several planning channels, some with connections to Afghanistan, all within a large shared mujahideen recruitment network. … All the players are heavily intertwined.'”

Increasing Governmental Secrecy = Decreasing Governmental Accountability

Rowley added: “Just looking at the reckless failures of the Bush administration (and FBI, CIA, NSA and other intelligence agencies), one might get the idea that the problem of failing to share and even read information would have been easy to fix. Instead of bankrupting ourselves and killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people by launching a ‘pre-emptive,’ worldwide ‘war on terror,’ instead of doing away with the Geneva Conventions and allowing U.S. covert agents to conduct extraordinary renditions, torture and assassinations, instead of U.S. citizens sacrificing many of their constitutional rights so that government is free to conduct warrantless monitoring and other massive data collections on U.S. citizens, why not simply mandate that government officials read the intelligence sent to them, especially when a decision or action is requested? We could avoid many of these claims of ignorance simply by requiring officials to sign off on documents.

“The reason why the simple solutions to so many of the pre-9/11 failures were not tried comes back to governmental secrecy. Cover-ups ensued immediately after the attacks. No one readily admitted his or her mistakes, especially those in the Bush-Cheney administration at the top of the debacle. The Bush administration fought tooth and nail against the creation and investigative actions (what few there were) of the 9/11 Commission at every juncture, to the point where the leaders of the Commission now admit ‘it was set up to fail.’

“Being ‘set up to fail’ continues to this day, 11 years later with the public still mostly kept in the dark; governmental secrecy on the rise and Obama having apparently forgotten his promise to protect government whistleblowers but instead launching prosecutions of them for telling the truth about corruption, wrongdoing and war crimes.”