COLD TERROR How Canada Nurtures and Exports Terrorism Around the World Stewart Bell Toronto: Wiley, 2004. xxviii, 244pp, $36.99 cloth (ISBN 0-470-83463-3)
THE 9/11 INVESTIGATIONS Staff Reports of the 9/11 Commission Excerpts from the House-Senate Joint Inquiry Report on 9/11 Edited by Steven Strasser New York: PublicAffairs, 2004. 580pp, $22.95 paper (ISBN 1-58648-279-3)
Anyone interested in the world of intelligence should read The 9/11 Investigations. It offers remarkable insight on the events of 11 September 2001, as well as the dynamics within the US intelligence community.
The book is a compilation of statements, testimonies, and excerpts from inquiries, edited by Steven Strasser and introduced by Craig Whitney of the New York Times. It also contains a glossary of terms, a select chronology of terrorist attacks, and reproductions of key government documents, including the now-infamous 6 August 2001 presidential daily briefing entitled "Bin Laden determined to strike the US." Those anxious about combing through the official 585-page 9/11 Commission Report will welcome this volume for its clarity. Those interested in historical context will appreciate Whitney's deft analysis of the commission and its findings compared to congressional inquiries on Pearl Harbor, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Cuba, and Vietnam. Everyone worried about terrorism will be engrossed by the look inside the machinations of national security.
Formally named the national commission on terrorist attacks upon the United States, the 9/11 commission was a bipartisan, independent panel created by congress and authorized by President Bush in November 2002. Between March 2003 and June 2004 it held 12 public hearings. It also heard testimony from top government officials, including the president and vice president. The 9/11 commission's final report was released in July 2004 in what was widely seen as a strong indictment of the US intelligence community.
As Whitney details, this was not the first inquiry into 9/11. The house-senate joint inquiry convened in February 2002 to investigate the performance of intelligence agencies. After nine public hearings, 13 closed sessions, and over 300 interviews, it revealed severe shortcomings-especially with respect to interagency cooperation. However, the joint inquiry's final report, released in December 2002, was heavily censored. Moreover, it failed to delineate clear responsibility for intelligence failures, leaving the public and key members of congress unsatisfied.
Whitney notes that the Bush administration opposed a more complete investigation. In October 2001, Republicans in the house defeated motions to create an independent inquiry with subpoena powers, citing national security concerns. By December, senators lieberman and McCain renewed the motion, but the Bush administration favoured the joint inquiry by congressional select subcommittees. However, by July 2002 considerable failures within the US intelligence community were already revealed, and under intense public pressure, Republicans agreed to support another, more open investigation. After several months of negotiations, in November 2002 the White House finally agreed. President Bush backed an independent and public inquiry provided that it finish within 18 months-before the 2004 elections. It did, and the 9/11 commission's final report painted a "picture of institutional dysfunction" within the intelligence community, concluding that the US government had no way of knowing what it actually knew.
Based on this contention, The 9/11 Investigations dissects and condenses the commission's findings into two parts. The first contains staff statements and testimony-12 sections in total-covering terrorist entry into the United States, identification and watch-listing, aviation security, and the four flights on 9/11. There are also staff statements with excerpts of testimony from 14 top Clinton and Bush administration officials on diplomacy, the military, intelligence policy, national policy coordination, law enforcement and counterterrorism, threats and responses, the performance of the intelligence community, and reforming intelligence collection. …