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Inside Politics

9/11 panel report: 'We must act'

'We do not have the luxury of time,' says commission chairman


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What went wrong, according to the 9/11 report.

What now? The 9/11 commissioners' recommendations.

Thomas Kean, 9/11 commission chairman, summarizes report: U.S. didn't grasp terror threat.

Report details the final moments aboard the doomed flights.
RELATED
Chapter by chapter:  The 9/11 commission report

• Gallery: Reaction
• Gallery: Key testimony
• Gallery: Commission members
KEY FINDINGS
  • U.S. leaders did not understand the "gravity of the threat."
  • The United States wasn't prepared to meet al Qaeda's challenges.
  • Terrorism wasn't the chief security concern of the Bush or Clinton administrations.
  • Failures to thwart 9/11 highlight agencies' inability to adapt to new problems.
  • CIA effectiveness was limited by use of intermediaries to pursue Osama bin Laden.
  • Information and analysis wasn't shared across agencies.
  • KEY RECOMMENDATIONS
  • Establish a Cabinet-level intelligence director
  • Establish a single counterterrorism center
  • Create a single, joint congressional committee to oversee homeland security
  • MISSED OPPORTUNITIES
  • Two hijackers weren't put on watch lists before arriving in the United States.
  • Hijackers weren't trailed once here.
  • Information linking known terrorists to a hijacker wasn't shared.
  • Zacarias Moussaoui's arrest wasn't linked to a heightened threat.
  • False statements on visa applications weren't discovered.
  • Manipulated passports weren't recognized.
  • No-fly lists weren't updated with names from terrorist watch lists.
  • Airline passengers weren't thoroughly screened.
  • Planes weren't prepared for the possibility of suicide hijackings.
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    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The chairman of the panel investigating the attacks of September 11, 2001, said his commission found that the "United States government was simply not active enough in combating the terrorist threat before 9/11."

    Thomas Kean and his fellow panelists cited a "failure of imagination" that they said kept U.S. officials from understanding the al Qaeda threat before the attacks on New York and Washington that killed nearly 3,000.

    The independent National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States released its findings on Thursday in a 570-page report.

    Congress established the bipartisan panel to investigate events before, during and immediately after the attacks.

    "Every expert with whom we spoke told us an attack of even greater magnitude is now possible and even probable. We do not have the luxury of time," said Kean, a former Republican governor of New Jersey.

    "We must prepare and we must act. The al Qaeda network and its affiliates are sophisticated, patient, disciplined and lethal."

    Commission member James Thompson said the proposed reforms were urgent and said Congress and the president have a duty to act quickly.

    "If these reforms are not the best that can be done for the American people, then the Congress and the president need to tell us what's better," said the former Republican governor of Illinois.

    Some Republican lawmakers have said Congress is unlikely to take any action on the report until next year. But Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut urged their colleagues to take action quickly.

    "This is a straight-talking, tough, bold, nonpartisan report," said Lieberman, who supported the creation of the panel along with McCain over initial White House objections.

    "But we all know this report is only the end of the beginning," Lieberman said.

    Bob Hughes, who lost his 30-year-old son, Kris, in the collapse of the twin towers at the World Trade Center in New York, said the report showed how "we just have to change the way we do business."

    "Congress has to step up the pace. The FBI, the CIA -- they can't just be thinking about, 'Well this is my job and that's your job.' We have to work together nonpartisan. Everybody has to come together to do the job if we're going to keep the country safe."

    Cheryl McGuinness, whose husband, Thomas, was the copilot of American Airlines Flight 11 that struck the north tower of the World Trade Center, said, "This is the time to be bold and courageous and to step up and to say what we need to do and to implement some changes."

    Beverley Eckert, whose husband, Sean, died in the World Trade Center, said she had hoped the report would hold individuals accountable.

    "My concern is that there are people who are not competent and irresponsible who may still be in positions of authority," she said.

    "I'm not angry. It's not that I wanted heads to roll," she added. "But I worked in a large corporation. ... Sometimes I think you need to identify the people in an organization who are not functioning the way they should." (More reaction from families)

    Acting CIA Director John McLaughlin said he appreciated the report and "some of its criticisms."

    He said the agency had already been transformed since the attacks but that officials looked forward to examining the findings of the report.

    Earlier, Kean and Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton, a former Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, briefed President Bush on the report Thursday morning and presented a copy to him in the White House Rose Garden.

    Bush told reporters the report contained "some very constructive recommendations" and that he looked "forward to working with responsible parties within my administration to move forward on those recommendations."

    As expected, the report calls for a national intelligence chief and a counterterrorism center modeled on the military's unified commands.

    It also proposes the creation of a joint congressional committee to oversee homeland security.

    The report concluded that the emergence of al Qaeda in the late 1990s "presented challenges to U.S. governmental institutions that they were not well-designed to meet."

    Among the failures:

  • Neither Bush nor his predecessor Bill Clinton understood the gravity of the threats posed by terrorists because the leaders could not imagine such attacks.
  • The CIA was limited in its effort to try to capture al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants in Afghanistan by the agency's use of proxies.
  • Terrorism was not the top national security concern and missed opportunities to thwart the attack indicate the government's inability to adapt to new challenges.
  • The failure of the CIA and FBI to communicate with each other -- sometimes because of "legal misunderstandings" -- led to missed "operational opportunities" to hinder or break the terror plot.
  • The CIA did not put 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar on a "watch list" or notify the FBI when he had a U.S. visa in January 2000 or when he met with a key figure in the USS Cole bombing. And the CIA failed to develop plans to track Almihdhar, or hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi when he obtained a U.S. visa and flew to Los Angeles. Both men were on American Airlines Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon.
  • The FBI failed to recognize the significance of Almihdhar and Alhazmi's arrival in the United States or the significance of al Qaeda member Zacarias Moussaoui's training and beliefs after his arrest in Minnesota in August 2001.
  • The report will be on sale in bookstores for $10. It will also be available online and through the Government Printing Office.

    CNN's John King and Elaine Quijano contributed to this report.


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