SharksWithLasers -- Seth Cooper

A CUTTING-EDGE BLOG FOR THE WORLD OF THE 21st CENTURY, Currently operated by Seth L. Cooper, a 27 year-old attorney in Seattle (sethlcooper at comcast dot net)

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

MY TAKE ON THE 9/11 REPORT. Below is the review I originally submitted to Amazon.

By The National Taskforce on Terrorist Attacks
Norton (2004)

Important Reading for an Informed Citizenry! (4 Stars)

The 9/11 Report is an important document that every citizen who is particularly concerned about our national security should read.

To be sure, the Report does not make for pleasant reading: it focuses upon a horrific attack upon our nation, provides a brief dossier of our terrorist enemies, and discusses the shortcomings of our federal government’s intelligence, law enforcement and national security apparatus. It provides a narrative of the events of that morning and later chronicles the actions undertaken by emergency response crews in New York immediately following the attacks. Nonetheless, save for the Islamic/Arabic names that are often difficult to pronounce and distinguish, the text of the narrative and background information is easy to follow. The Report is rather lengthy and lengthier still if one examines the corresponding footnotes (as this reviewer has), but provides a wealth of information about the 9/11 plot, the plotters themselves, the ideology of Islamicist terrorists, a brief history of that movement, as well as the origins of al Qaeda. The end of the book contains the recommendations of the Commission.

It must be borne in mind that we are dealing with a hindsight evaluation. The Commission takes note of this and appears intent to place blame upon any one individual, group, agency, branch of government, or administration. That being said, the narrative presentation of the facts actually presented appears neutral and even-handed. The Commission stated that it submitted the Report “…as a foundation for a better understanding of a landmark in the history of our nation.” In that modest sense, it surely succeeds.

This reviewer is an attorney, and thus paid particularly close attention to those portions of the Report touching upon the pre-9/11 response to terrorism posed by the legal and law enforcement communities. One thing is certain: terrorism cannot be treated as a mere law enforcement matter. Terrorism is an act of war and must be dealt with as such. The Report does point to the shortcomings of treating terrorism as something the courts can deal with effectively.

Unfortunately, terrorism WAS treated like a mere law enforcement issue by our government before 9/11. For instance, pg. 113 discusses former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger’s worry about not having enough evidence to convict Usama Bin Laden in a court. Excuse me? A court? That man should be put before a military tribunal. He had ALREADY declared war against the U.S. This reviewer is NOT trying to pin all the blame on Berger, by any means, but his concern is paradigmatic of the views of many in our government, as the Report demonstrated. (Reading the report and the involvement of Zacharias Moussoui with al Qaeda also brought home how out of place that man is in federal court. He was attempting to perpetrate acts of war against the United States.)

Unfortunately, in keeping the Report’s page length to what it is, many details had to be omitted. Information about the legal issues surrounding the use of the Predator drones (as mentioned on pg. 189), for instance, would have been helpful. Another example: the Report makes an off-hand remark about mistreatment of detainees on pg. 328, but offers no cite to check on that.

The Report does side-step many issues. Perhaps this was necessary in order to generate a consensus document, with many of the Commission’s members undoubtedly disagreeing on key issues. In the end, little mention is made about “the wall” that prevented the sharing of crucial information between government agencies. The Commission seems to indicate that the barriers had more to do with a cultural feeling in the intelligence community rather than prohibitions in the law, but they do not clearly state what the law is or should be or how the Patriot Act remedies those concerns. I would also have liked to have heard more about their views on the utility of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and its continued utility.

This reviewer is not especially qualified, at this time, to comment on the merits of the various recommendations given at the end of the Report. The recommendations include the creation of a National Intelligence Directorate. The Report does state that those are their recommendations and that they welcome the public debate that their recommendations will generate. Thus, our nation’s leaders should carefully consider and analyze their recommendations, but they and the rest of the citizenry should not be prepared to take them as gospel.

Americans who care about our nation’s security should read this report.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS. This is not the version of my review that Amazon ultimately posted. Curiously, upon sending it to them and following up, I received an e-mail that contained the following:

Your review of "The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the
National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States" was
removed because your comments in large part focused on your personal
opinions of the subject matter, rather than reviewing the title

While we appreciate your opinions on the subject, the intent of
customer reviews is to assist our customers in making an informed
purchase decision. We provide our customer reviews section for you
to comment on the merits of the book and the author's writing style.
We ask that you not use it as a place for discourse on the subject

Now, I re-read my review once I received the e-mail. I thought (and still think) their rejection was rather silly. It is pretty hard to review a book on a subject without giving some hint as to one's views. In any case, everything I dealt with was related to the Report and I really did focus upon the Report itself.

I would not have made much of a deal about this, except that I had a similar experience with my review of David Bernstein's You Can't Say That! I received the same boilerplate e-mail in regard to that review and did not get my review posted until I made some edits. Curious indeed.

Also, a related recommended reading is a speech delivered by 9/11 Commission member, Sen. Slade Gorton. I had the pleasure of hearing his insightful remarks, which can be found HERE.

(Downtown Seattle, WA)


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