About those reports on 9/11: Save your time and read Gertz's book

By Christopher W. Holton
Special to World
Sunday, August 17, 2003

To learn all about the intelligence failures that led to the September 11th terrorist attacks, you can download the Congressional report entitled "Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities before and after the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001." It's nearly 900 pages long and it was released last month.

But I have a better suggestion: go buy a copy of Breakdown, a book published in 2002 which is only a little over 200 pages long and pulls no punches, while arriving at some of the same conclusions that Congress's staff of thousands spent millions of taxpayer dollars trying to surgarcoat and conceal!

The Congressional report should be better known for what it doesn't say than for what it says.

It falls in with the intelligence bureaucracy's party line that no specific evidence was released that could have possibly prevented 9-11. As Bill Gertz says in Breakdown, the intelligence agencies may not be right, but they're never wrong.

The Congressional report makes no mention of the long-term damage done to U.S. intelligence by people like Otis Pike, Frank Church, Jimmy Carter, Stansfield Turner, John Deutch, Louis Freeh and George Tenent. Make no mistake: the failures of 9-11 were many and they can be traced back to the 1970s. The Congressional report won't tell you a thing about that. Bill Gertz's Breakdown will.

The Congressional report seems to go to great pains to avoid blaming anyone for the failure to head off 9-11. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush escape blame. And, predictably, so does Congress, which is a shame because many of the problems associated with our intelligence failures can be traced directly back to that institution in one way or another, from funding cuts and misguided policies and laws to the appointment as CIA director a man whose only apparent qualification is that he was a staffer for a Congressional intelligence committee for a long time.

The Congressional report also fails to properly lay blame on Bill Clinton for drastic cuts to the most successful of the US intelligence agencies: the National Security Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office. While threats to our security were multiplying, these highly successful agencies were struggling to make ends meet and keep up with the pace of technology. Frankly, we're nothing but lucky that these misguided policies didn't result in multiple 9-11s or worse. Bill Gertz provides all these details in his book.

The Congressional report does not point out that Republican Senator Orin Hatch spilled the beans on how we were tracking Osama Bin Laden and compromised an important technical intelligence asset forever. You can read all about it in Breakdown.

The Congressional report leaves out the fact that the cops and robbers "bring 'em to justice" approach adopted after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing resulted in an intelligence fiasco that made it virtually a foregone conclusion that the bombing would not be tied to any particular terrorist group or any foreign government or intelligence agency. Bill Gertz explains the flaws in that approach. This is war, not a crime caper.

The Congressional report does not take anyone to task for a CIA director who was so clueless about security that he would e-mail top secret files to himself from his CIA office to his AOL account and then leave them unsecured on his Mac in his home office! This might just be the biggest moron ever to head an intelligence agency since Inspector Clouseau. You can read all about it in Breakdown.

The Congressional report does not criticize a former FBI director who had such a phobia of technology that he ordered the computer removed from his office the day he moved in and never bothered to break the "secret code" on how to send and receive e-mail messages! Too often it has been amateur hour at the top of our intelligence community.

The Congressional report says nothing about the inadequacies of our current FBI director in dealing with our national security leadership even after 9-11. Gertz tells it all.

Most significantly, whereas the portion of the Congressional report that links Saudi Arabia and other nations to al Qaeda was suppressed by the administration, Gertz reveals anecdotal evidence of terrorist links to Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Qatar. Perhaps more ominously, Gertz quotes a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst who uncovered evidence of strong links between al Qaeda and Iran.

Finally, beyond recommending that a new Director of National Intelligence (an intelligence czar if you will) be established, the Congressional report makes vague recommendations on improving our intelligence institutions that don't go much beyond saying, "We need to get better." It seems that the Republican Congress has once again decided that the best way to battle terrorists is with bureaucrats. There are no recommendations for fundamental changes in our intelligence community. This is not a surprise since the authors of the report spent an awful lot of time and devoted a great deal of space to spreading the blame around so much so as to make sure nobody was to blame—and then even foreign conspirators were protected through suppression. This is a shame.

In Breakdown, Bill Gertz pulls no punches and makes educated recommendations for fundamental changes to our intelligence institutions—changes that are needed because of the decay in that community that has eaten away at it for nearly 30 years. There can be no band aid approaches here. The patient is critical and needs reconstructive surgery, which is exactly what Mr. Gertz recommends.

If you have nothing better to do with your life, go ahead and read the 900 page Congressional report on 9-11. But if you want the truth, read Breakdown by Bill Gertz. I for one sure wish some folks in Congress would.

Christopher Holton is the Publisher of and serves on the World Tribune Board of Advisers.

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