Fri, Jul 23, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Report on Sept. 11 expected to target intelligence failings

CONCLUSION An official who has reviewed the commission's final report said it would confirm that there had been no collaboration between Iraq and al-Qaeda


A national panel investigating the September 11, 2001 attacks yesterday cast blame on both the Clinton and Bush administrations for a "failure of imagination" to anticipate the attack.

In its final report, the 10-member bipartisan panel said that "terrorism was not the overriding national security concern for the US government under either the Clinton or pre-9/11 Bush administration."

The panel named by Bush capped a nearly two-year inquiry with a scathing criticism of the government's intelligence agencies and air defenses and said neither the Democratic nor Republican White Houses took bold enough action.

"Officials in both the Clinton and Bush administrations regarded a full US invasion of Afghanistan (to root out Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda) as practically inconceivable before 9/11."

The commissioners also took the US Congress to task, saying it failed to provide adequate guidance to the executive on terrorism and did not perform sufficient oversight to identify and redress problems in security.

"The 9/11 attacks were a shock, but they should not have come as a surprise," the panel said in a 26-page executive summary accompanying the 567-page report. It said Islamic fundamentalists had made clear their intention of killing Americans.

While acknowledging it was impossible to say whether the attacks that left nearly 3,000 people dead were preventable, the panel said the 19 hijackers were a fragile group of sometimes unstable people.

"The enemy made mistakes. The US government was not able to capitalize on them," the report said.

The commission's conclusions appeared crafted to avoid fueling a major political polemic already raging ahead of November's presidential election pitting US President George W. Bush against Democratic Senator John Kerry.

With security looming as a major issue, the Democrats have slammed Bush for massive intelligence failures before the September 11 onslaught and laxity in beefing up security since.

A US official who had reviewed the commission's final report said it confirms there was no collaboration between Iraq and al-Qaeda, the group behind the attacks against the US, but list contacts between the two.

The commission also detailed al-Qaeda's contacts with Iran and Pakistan. People familiar with the report said it found more active al-Qaeda ties with Iran than with Iraq.

"Rather than finding that there was a failure at the presidential level, what they find ... is that there are failings, `deep institutional failings within our government,'" the official said, quoting from the report.

The Sept. 11 commission, made up of five Republicans and five Democrats, was determined to present a unanimous report on the attacks in 2001.

The commission also sharply criticized Congress for failing in its oversight role on terrorism and intelligence issues and will propose reorganizing the way committees are structured.

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