The agony of the pieces not put together is on full display today as the 9-11 Commission released a review of the FBI’s counterterrorism efforts and interviewed several high ranking members of the FBI and the Justice Dept. Communication breakdowns, outdated technology, a shortage of funds and a lack of a focus on terrorism as a key issue (only six percent of the FBI were working on counterterrorism on the day of the attacks) were all identified as key problems that prevented the FBI from putting together the clues before it was too late.
Louis Freeh (who led the FBI until about 3 months before 9-11) explained: “All of these things being said, the point I guess I want to make to you this morning, and which I tried to make in my statement, is that we had a very effective program with respect to counterterrorism before September 11, given the resources, in my view, and given the authorities that we had.”
How far down the bureaucratic totem pole was counterterrorism? John Ashcroft rejected a request by the FBI for more counterterrorism funds on Sept 10, 2001.
From the staff of the 9-11 commission on the FBI: “In short, analysts didn’t know what they didn’t know.”
This looking back (while not necessarily breaking a lot of new ground) is important. Let’s hope the media puts as much of a spotlight on the process when it comes making the necessary changes in the FBI and elsewhere as we move forward.