by Dayna Ging
Contributing Writer, Western Herald Online
November 22, 2004
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Sen. Slade Gorton, who helped research and release the 567-page report on surrounding events of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, is traveling around the nation as part of the 9/11 Public Discourse Project.
He stopped at Western Michigan University on Thursday to educate the community and give people the chance to ask their unanswered questions.
Launched in 2004, the 9/11 Public Discourse Project opened an avenue for the government to directly educate people on the happenings of Sept. 11 and promote national thought and conversation on issues that remain critical to the past, present and future of the United States.
Gorton, only three months into the year-long campaign, spoke about the findings of the 9/11 Commission.
"The first failure that we of the 9/11 Commission attribute to our defenders was a failure of imagination," he said. "No one inside our government imagined an attack of this immensity or daring, so no one prepared for it."
He recognized the failures of federal agencies and added, "at the heart of that failure was the most systematic failure by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)."
At the time of Sept. 11, the Senator contested, the FAA only had the names of 16 individuals who were not allowed to fly on U. S. aircraft, as opposed to the 3,000-5,000 names the U.S. Department of State had on its "tip-off list" that named terrorists or suspected terrorists.
Gorton also said that before Sept. 11, the FAA followed a 1970 hijacking protocol that "directed pilots to cooperate with the hijackers and to take them wherever that they wanted to go."
On Sept. 11 2001, there were a series of failing events that led to the final outcome, Sen. Gorton said, including the involvement of the FAA, CIA, and FBI.
* Airports were notified of the first hijacked plane nine minutes prior to its crashing into the first World Trade Center tower.
* The second hijacked plane crashed into the second World Trade Center tower before the airports knew that it had been hijacked.
* The airports received knowledge about the third hijacked plane at the same moment that it hit the Pentagon.
* The FAA informed airports about the fourth hijacked plane four minutes after it had already gone down in Pennsylvania.
* The CIA did not have a specific plan to order absolute action against Al Qaeda threats or attacks.
* It did not give any president enough information, assurance, or critical intelligence in order to promptly and accurately respond to Al Qaeda attacks.
* The FBI had little to offer the White House on counter-terrorism intelligence.
* The agency thought of terrorism as a law enforcement matter.
* Contact with the White House was filtered and carried out through daily briefs by the CIA, never permitting the FBI to personally address the president.
* It was conducting nearly 70 investigations of potential terrorists in the United States with almost half concerned with money laundering; four cases were involved with those already in jail and one who was already dead.
Out of this tragedy came many new agencies, acts and committees, including the Joint Committee of Investigation, the Patriot Act, Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the 9/11 Commission.
Gorton frequently stressed the role bipartisanship played throughout the 9/11 Commission, with it being made up of five Republicans and five Democrats.
It was discussed among the ten members that all political ideologies would be set aside for the factual progress and goal of the commission.
In response to the lack of communication of the morning of Sept. 11 and the new bodies that formed as a result of it, Gorton commented, "Consolidation is urgently needed so that both budget and operations report to the same people and so that the agencies themselves can concentrate on their vital work."
Gorton also gave a brief overview of the contents of the final report surrounding two main themes. In the first part, the committee discussed the history of the events leading up to the attacks and the events that followed. They also included key people involved in each event.
The second part revolved around recommendations from the committee based on its research and factual findings. Gorton and his nine peers included in their recommendations a step-by-step process of what to do and how to do it.
After the Senator concluded his speech, there was an open question and answer forum. Many WMU students and staff stepped forward and expressed their gratitude for Gorton and his nine counterparts for reaching out to communities around the nation in order to educate and answer citizens' questions.
The final, detailed report of the 9/11 Commission can be found both online and in bookstores nationwide.