The Crucial Question of 9/11: What Went Wrong?

 
We all remember where we were and what we were doing on the fateful Tuesday morning six years ago. The trauma was so great that it was impossible to ask the crucial questions about what went wrong. We were not ready to look at possible government failures and errors. The people who lost family members on 9/11 have a right to know the truth about what went wrong. More importantly, they need to be assured that the mistakes and errors made by our government will never happen again.

Yet, things did go wrong that enabled 9/11 to happen against all the odds. The 9/11 Commission focused on old issues about the byzantine relationships of the intelligence community while leaving other key questions unanswered. The blogs, more interested in debating whether 9/11 was an inside job, also served to provide a distraction from holding the government accountable. Now, six years later, it is time to take the hard look at what happened that day and begin the necessary investigations to answer the crucial questions about what went wrong.

Why did the President stay in a child’s chair after being told that the country was under attack? He asked no questions nor did he direct his staff to find out information. He did not ask his military people to begin developing options about how to defend our country nor did he get in touch with his National Security Advisor. He just sat there, seemingly paralyzed. That inaction was costly. At that moment, there was time to stop the last plane from reaching the Pentagon. We need to understand what went wrong so that we can help future Presidents swing into action during this type of crisis.

Why did the Secret Service fail to act to protect the President? We were under attack but they failed to immediately whisk the President away to a secure location. That is what they are supposed to do. It is not a choice left to the President. What went wrong? Did they not receive the order to intervene or did they choose not to act? While President Bush was not harmed on 9/11, the fact remains that we do not know what wrong and future Presidents are at risk until we figure it out.

Why didn't the F-16s go up in time? Standard operating procedures were ignored that September morning. Why? No plane should have ever been allowed to be off course and out of contact for more than 20 minutes. But four were. No plane should have reached a building. But three did. While there is a lot of speculation about what happened that day, there has been no definitive investigation nor has there been a rock solid recommendation to prohibit any actions that would ground most or all of the Air Combat Command. Our skies should never be unprotected.

We need to hear from the people in the control towers that day as well as people from the FAA, NORAD and the Air Force to determine why there were communication failures. Why was National Security Advisor Rice not informed in a timely manner? Why were fighters sent from Langley to NYC after the planes had crashed into the World Trade Center? Why were no fighters deployed from Andrews Air Force base, a mere 12 miles outside of D.C. to intercept the plane that ultimately hit the Pentagon? What went wrong?

Why was there no criminal investigation of 9/11? Who made the decision to not treat it as a crime and why? We may never recover the evidence lost by not conducting a full-scale criminal investigation but we need to know how this failure happened.

Related to this is the collapse of the Twin Towers and Building 7. This is too serious an issue to be left to the 9/11 truthers and Popular Mechanics. We need an unflinching investigation by engineering and demolition experts. If it turns out that explosives were used, we need to determine how that occurred in order to prevent it from happening again.

Within hours after the attack, the Administration quickly posted pictures of the alleged hijackers and pointed to Osama bin Ladin and Al Qaeda. Their guilt was assumed. However, no one has been indicted. This is truly puzzling because the standards of evidence for issuing indictments are much lower than for convictions. If the Administration had sufficient information as to their guilt, why were there no indictments? What went wrong? If they did not have sufficient evidence, why did the Administration jump so quickly to an unsupported accusation? Finally, does this mean that the real culprit is still unknown, at large and able to strike again?

The last question focuses on why the Administration’s first response was to say they had no idea that there was a terrorist threat and that they could not imagine that anyone would fly a plane into a building. The evidence offered since then suggests that they did in fact know it was possible and that they had received warnings. However, no one has investigated to determine exactly what they knew and when they knew it. This investigation will clearly require subpoenas and testimony under oath but this information is vital in order to discover whether warnings were ignored, and if so, why. What were the missed red flags?

It is important to keep in mind that even if the Administration knew that there might be an attack involving planes, it does not mean that they deliberately allowed it to happen. 9/11 might be the domestic security equivalent of Katrina. But you can’t fix what you don’t know and denial is much too dangerous for us now.

I believe that we are ready to know what went wrong. At the same time, we understand that people, and therefore governments, are imperfect. We can forgive mistakes, even ones with tragic consequences. What we can’t forgive is a cover-up that keeps us from learning the truth that could protect us in the future. We need the courage to begin that serious investigation.

The people who lost family members on 9/11 have a right to know the truth about what went wrong. More importantly, they need to be assured that the mistakes and errors made by our government will never happen again.


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