"We are not safe." That was part of the message handed down yesterday by the 9/11 commission in its 557 page report on US failures before Sept. 11.
While the commission did not say whether the attacks could have been prevented it identified 10 "operational opportunities" that were missed in detecting the plot.
In a series of recommendations, the commission called for:
The chairmen of the report attempted not to place blame either on the Bush or Clinton administrations but the entire federal government.
The bipartisan commission concluded "terrorism was not the overriding national security concern for the U.S. government under either the Clinton or the pre-9/11 Bush administration."
But the report revealed in new detail how the Bush administration set its eyes on Iraq within hours of the 9/11 attacks and commission raised questions about how successful Bush’s so-called war on terrorism has been.
By 2:40 P.M. on Sept. 11 — just six hours after the first tower was hit — Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard B. Myers that his instinct was to hit Saddam Hussein at the same time as Osama bin Laden.
However the commission found Iraq and Al Qaeda had no "collaborative operational relationship."
The report doesn’t outright criticize the Bush administration for attacking Iraq last year but it warned that Iraq could now become a "breeding grounds for attacks against Americans at home."
On the war on terror, the committee questioned whether Bush should have ever declared a war on terrorism and warned that the battle can not be fought just militarily.
The commissioners writes "long-term success demands the use of all elements of national power: diplomacy, intelligence, covert action, law enforcement, economic policy, foreign aid, public diplomacy, and homeland defense. If we favor one tool while neglecting others, we leave ourselves vulnerable and weaken our national effort."
The 9/11 report was not the only major report issued in Washington yesterday. At a hastily arranged meeting of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, the Army released a 300-page report detailing prison abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan that attempted to absolve the military of most wrongdoing in Iraqi and Afghan prisons.
The report cited 94 cases of confirmed or possible detainee abuse or torture — include 20 incidents that led to the prisoner’s death.
But the report concluded the cases of abuse at Abu Ghraib and other prisons were "aberrations" and not "systemic" problems.
Critics of the report noted that many of the report’s findings directly contradicted early reports by the International Committee of the Red Cross as well Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba.
The Army also failed to investigation several key findings of Taguba’s including reports that "ghost detainees" were shuttled from prison to prison in Iraq to avoid oversight by the Red Cross and that interrogators used dogs.
Several Senators openly questioned the Army’s Inspector General about how he could fail to examine the ghost detainees or the use of unmuzzled dogs in the jails.
Senator John McCain asked, "What else didn’t you investigate? If we didn’t investigate a gross and egregious violation such as that... I’m curious what else you didn’t investigate."
The Army’s report was issued during a poorly attended hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee that was announced only the night before and was held while most Senators were receiving a briefing on the 9/11 Commission’s findings.
Palestinian diplomats have announced they plan to press the United Nations Security Council to force Israel to tear down the 450-mile wall it is constructing in the West Bank. This comes just days after the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly against Israel. The vote was 150 to 6. The only countries voting with Israel were the U.S., Australia and tiny Pacific island states of Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands.
The House yesterday approved a bill that would bar federal courts from overturning parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The 1996 law says states do not have to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. If enacted, the bill approved yesterday would represent the first time Congress has ever barred a federal court, including the Supreme Court from considering the constitutionality of federal legislation. The House vote comes a week after the Senate rejected an amendment to the Constitution that would define marriage as solely between a man and a woman.
In campaign news, Latino voters are supporting John Kerry over George Bush by a two to one margin. This according to a poll by the Pew Hispanic Center and the Kaiser Family Foundation. 59% of those surveyed said they supported Kerry and 54% said president Bush deliberately misled Americans while making the case for war in Iraq.
On the campaign trail Congressman Dennis Kucinich officially endorsed John Kerry for president yesterday and called on backers of Ralph Nader to vote for Kerry. Kucinich said '’If there's room for me in the party and the Kerry-Edwards campaign, there’s certainly room for Ralph and his supporters."
And this news from Boston, the site of the Democratic National Convention: the state-appointed arbitrator yesterday awarded Boston’s police union a raise of 14.5 percent over four years. The raise is a compromise between the amount union leaders were demanding and the best offer from Mayor Thomas Menino. Members of the patrolmen’s association still plan to picket outside parties Menino is holding on Sunday night for delegates to the Democratic Convention and at other convention events. Union president Thomas Nee says the protests are justified given that the union was "railroaded" into arbitration because of the convention.
And a federal judge in Boston yesterday upheld a so-called "free speech zone" that will be fenced off for protesters near the Fleet Center where the Democratic National Convention will be held next week. The site covers fewer than 30,000 square feet and is located under abandoned elevated train tracks. US District Judge Douglas Woodlock ruled that the zone could not be expanded or relocated because of security concerns and limited space. In response to concerns from Woodlock about whether the area met city codes, officials said police would allow only 1,000 protesters in the area at a time instead of the originally announced 4,000. Judge Woodlock also ordered the city to allow protesters to march directly past the FleetCenter on Causeway Street on Sunday at 2:00pm. The city was planning to divert the marchers when they got within a block of the center.