Sunday, 02 January, 2005

9/11 Commission Report

I spent a lot of time reading and studying the 9/11 Commission Report that I picked up at Borders back in November (see November 25).  At 450 printed pages, plus over 100 pages of notes, it's a huge amount of information.

The Report consists of 13 chapters.  The first chapter starts on the morning of September 11, 2001, and describes what we know of the hijackers' actions, the actions of the flight crews, FAA controllers, passengers, and government officials throughout the day.  Chapters 2 through 8 trace the creation and evolution of "The New Terrorism" in general and al Qaeda in particular, and outline what investigators have been able to put together regarding how and when the attacks were planned.  Chapter 9 describes events at the World Trade Center buildings after the crashes, focusing primarily on the problems that first responders had communicating with their own units and among different units.  Chapters 10 and 11 discuss the aftermath and lessons learned.  Chapters 12 and 13 explore options and make recommendations about what to do to prevent future such attacks and how to restructure government in order to effect those changes.

I was surprised by the thoroughness of the Report.  I was less surprised by what appears to be a completely non-partisan feel to the writing, although I was somewhat annoyed in a few places where the authors were a little heavy handed with their political correctness.  All things considered, though, the Report is quite a good read and appears to present the information fairly.  I'll post my thoughts on the Report here over the course of the next week or so.

I thought that "permanentize" was bad.  The authors of the 9/11 Commission Report managed to include not one, but two that are worse.  In the same sentence!  In Chapter 11, when discussing the failure of imagination that prevented us from envisioning anything remotely resembling the attacks that occurred, the authors write:  "It is therefore crucial to find a way of routinizing, even bureaucratizing, the exercise of imagination."  Routinizing?  Bureaucratizing?  What's wrong with "It is therefore crucial to find a way to make the exercise of imagination by bureaucrats a routine occurrence."  Of course, when you can understand what they're saying, you can see that what they're asking is impossible.

Such is the nature of government reports.  Still, it's a good read if you're interested in that kind of thing and don't mind a fair amount of bureaucrat-ese.  Cautiously recommended.