9/11 Report to Cite 10 Missed Opportunities

WaPo – 9/11 Report to Cite 10 Missed Opportunities

The final report by the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks details as many as 10 missed opportunities by the Bush and Clinton administrations to detect or derail the deadly terrorist hijackings, but the panel stops short of saying the attacks should have been prevented, according to government officials and others familiar with the document. The report, to be released publicly tomorrow, includes a list of 10 “operational opportunities” that the government missed to potentially unravel the Sept. 11 plot, said a government official who has read the document. Six of the incidents listed came during the Bush administration and four were during the Clinton years, this official said. But the nearly 600-page report acknowledges that many of the opportunities were long shots and that others would have required a lucky sequence of events to alter the outcome, said sources who declined to be identified because the commission wants the document kept secret until its release.

Another government official who has been briefed on the report said the tally of missed opportunities includes the CIA’s failure to add two hijackers’ names to a terrorism watch list; the FBI’s handling of the August 2001 arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui, who has been accused of conspiring in the plot; and several failed attempts to kill or capture Osama bin Laden. The report also notes, however, the inherent difficulties that intelligence agencies have in assembling a clear picture of a terrorist threat, one official said.

The list of missed opportunities is the latest revelation to emerge in recent days about the final report of the panel, known formally as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. The report details broad government failures in connection with the Sept. 11 plot and recommends a wide-ranging restructuring that would include a Cabinet-level intelligence director to oversee the CIA, the FBI and other intelligence agencies.


Over 20 months, the 10-member bipartisan commission has tread carefully on the overarching question of whether the attacks could have been, or should have been, prevented. Kean and Hamilton have said at various times that the attacks could conceivably have been thwarted, but they have stopped short of saying prevention was likely or reasonable.

Not really surprising. Of course, this would be true retrospectively of any serious incident. Given the advantage of hindsight–knowing exactly what one is looking for–and plenty of time, all sorts of dots will emerge that could have been connected.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Attila Girl says:

    It was that way with the Titanic as well . . .