Were the 9-11 Terrorist Attacks Preventable?
After the 9/11 attacks in the US, the United States government embarked on several new measures that would act as counterterrorism tactics, some of which met public outcries for their controversies. These measures included ‘enhanced’ interrogation, wide use of secret surveillance without the application of warrant, preventive detention, religious/ethnic profiling and prosecution of terror suspects in military tribunals. The development of these measures to alleviate the possibilities of a similar attack brought an important question. Could the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US have been prevented? Indeed, the 9/11 terrorist attack on the United States of America could have been prevented if the Bush administration could have done certain things differently before the attack.
The Bush administration was aware of the imminent attack on the United States that was planned by the then Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. However, the Bush administration took a “too-good-to-be-true” position on the potential attack and did nothing to prevent it. As Kurt Eichenwald (2012) points out, the then President George W. Bush was presented with a classified review of the threats that Osama Bin Laden and his terrorist group posed to the United States of America. However, the Bush administration took this information too light in respect to the threat it posed. Several weeks later, the 9/11 attacks happened. This clearly shows that, if the Bush administration had taken this information into consideration with the urgency and seriousness it deserved, then the attack could have been prevented (Eichenwald, 2012).
In April 2004, the White House under Bush administration declassified that document because it had been pressured by the commission analyzing the 9/11 attack. Surprisingly, the officials in the Bush Administration denied the importance of the document stating that it was only an assessment of the history of Al Qaeda, despite the fact that the administration revealed the document only after being pressured. This shows that if the Bush administration had not neglected the information in the document and instead reacted on it increasing the effectiveness of security agents and measures within the country, the attack could have been prevented (National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, 2010).
In addition, there were direct warnings that were sent to Mr. Bush even before August 2001. For instance, in May 2001, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) informed the White House that a group of people who lived in the US was planning a terrorist operation against the US. The CIA again reported in June the same year that Al Qaeda strike could be coming, but the specific time was not indicated. The Bush administration again ignored this information despite the CIA’s pleading not to do so. Looking at this information, it would be erroneous to state that the 9/11 attacks would not have been prevented if the Bush Administration had paid attention to the warnings and reports about the potential strike. The White House failed to take significant action with respect to providing the citizens of the United States of America adequate security.
Ryan (2007) states that the chief of the US spy operations admitted to lawmakers that the 9/11 attacks would have been prevented if the Bush administration would have been serious on connecting the available information on the potential threats and the actual improvements of the security apparatus in the US. Clearly, President Bush and his administration had directed its focus to foreign threats and neglected the potential domestic threat (Ryan, 2007). The intelligence community had been made to focus on issues of foreign threat with the belief that this would safeguard the country from terrorist attacks. As such, the Bush administration gave little importance to the domestic threats, which was costly to the country. The 9/11 attacks would have been prevented if the Bush administration could have considered domestic threat with the same importance that it gave to foreign threat. It is evident that both the FBI and the CIA were aware that Al Qaeda was interested in flight training. Al Qaeda 9/11 hijackers were further sent to the US to acquire that knowledge, yet the US did not recognize this because the Bush administration concentrated on foreign issues and failed to link domestic issues and foreign threats to prevent the attacks. If this linkage had been drawn, then the US could have prevented the Attack (Ryan, 2007).
It is very important to consider the issues about the negligence while searching for those who are responsible for the failure to prevent the 9/11 attacks. For instance, the commission investigating on the 9/11 attack revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) had the ability to intercept and analyze communications between the Middle East and the US. However, the NSA assumed that this was the role of the FBI and never sought court warrants for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that would enable it collect crucial information between the Al Qaeda members in the Middle East and the US that contributed to the success of the 9/11 attack. If the security agencies had fulfilled their duties without disregarding issues of responsibilities, the 9/ 11 attacks would have been prevented. From this, it is also obvious that the security agencies in US were confused on issues of mandate in handling certain responsibilities (Borger, 2004).
It is clear that the Bush Administration had a strategy to eliminate Al Qaeda. However, this strategy had been taken up from the Clinton administration without further amendments that would make it more effective. Former counterterrorism adviser in the Bush administration, Richard Clarke says, that he asked a meeting to review the strategy, but the then national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, refused to do that. In addition to this, the Bush administration was concentrated on the Iraq war to the extent that it didn’t tolerate anything that turned the administration’s focus from that war. As such, the Al Qaeda was not given the seriousness that the administration ought to have, and this gave the terrorist group a fertile ground to plan and execute the attack. If the Bush administration had engaged in the issue of the terrorist threat with a much critical look, instead of focusing more on one external issues, the 9/ 11 attacks would have been prevented because the signs of the attack had been clearly seen (Borger, 2004).
Mr. Clarke states clearly that the then President, George W. Bush has understood the seriousness of the Al Qaeda threat. Mr. Clarke also notes that the plan of the US on Al Qaeda and other terrorist Gangs, such as the Taliban, has relied on military attack to force the groups to surrender the leadership. However, the Bush administration has not been strategic with this plan because even though 11,000 troops have been initially sent to Afghanistan, the troops have been held back because President Bush has been more interested in Iraq (Clarke, 2004). Here, it is clearly seen that poor strategy and timing on the part of Bush administration greatly contributed to the success of the 9/11 attacks. Much planning was dedicated to issues touching the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. As such, this became costly to the US. Therefore, if Bush had given Al Qaeda the importance he gave to Iraq and used the forces timely and with a different strategy, the 9/11 attacks would have been prevented because the plans Al Qaeda had would have been destroyed (Clarke, 2004).
After the 9/11 attacks, the United States of America under the Bush administration embarked on activities that would ensure the safety of the citizens of America. The security agencies started conducting enhanced interrogation, established preventive detention, expanded the secret surveillance that was done without warrants and engaged in the collection of domestic security data. The decision to engage in these activities by the US security agencies clearly shows that the 9/11 attacks could have been prevented. The Bush administration has been advised by the security agencies and warned about an imminent attack from Al Qaeda, but the administration has remained adamant. The above activities show that the US has not lack resources and tactics to prevent the 9/11 attack. On the other hand, it shows that the Bush administration has failed to use the available resources and intelligence to prevent the attack and protect the lives of the citizens of America. The Bush administration has realized the seriousness of the Al Qaeda threat only after the 9/11 attack and has started doing what it could have done previously. If these activities had been undertaken when the Bush administration was warned about the security threat, it could have prevented the attack (Adams, Nordhaus, & Shellenberger, 2011).
In conclusion, the information that came from the security agencies in the US advising the Bush administration to take action on the Al Qaeda threats clearly shows that the 9/11 attack could have been prevented. The reports that have come after the attack from the government officials who were in the Bush administration reveal that the 9/11 attack has not been prevented because of issues of negligence and the lack of use of the available information and resources, both by the Bush administration and the security agencies such as the NSA.