This is a very densely written report, with absolutely heaps of intricate details. Not all of it is a fascinating read for an Australian. For example, the sections on how improvements to US intelligence agencies could be made I skipped. The rest of the book is really interesting.
The title of the book would make you think that we've been through all of this before. What more could there be to say? Well, a lot. There are sections in the book where you felt like you were travelling through the bowels and intestines of the US government.
What most people don't know is that the US government had been at war with Al Qaida and Osama bin Laden for years previous to September 11. Most notably, President Clinton had been trying to have him murdered. His training camps in Afghanistan had been under close surveillance for years, US intelligence was mere waiting for a propitious moment to strike, always trying to balance out the risks.
Here is a quote from Bill Clinton in the book, on this very subject:
'You know, it would scare the shit out of al-Qaeda if suddenly a bunch of black ninjas rappelled out of helicopters into the middle of their camps.'
When you are reading through all of this alarming material, knowing that all of this is happening before September 11, you wonder why the hell the whole country was not in a flap, that everyone, everyday, was not discussing Osama bin Ladin and what to do about him. Why all the secrecy? To what end?
Also of note in the book is the admission that the US government gave - albeit limited - financial backing to Osama bin Ladin when he and his co-religionists were fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.
'The international environment for Bin Ladin's efforts was ideal. Saudi Arabia and the United States supplied billions of dollars worth of secret assistance to rebel groups in Afghanistan fighting the Soviet occupation. This assistance was funneled through Pakistan: the Pakistani military intelligence service (ISID), helped train the rebels and distribute the arms. But Bin Ladin and his comrades had their own sources of support and training, and they received little or no assistance from the United States.'
Of course we know what became of those fighters, recruited from all over the world with billions of US dollars.
When I was reading about the weighing up of whether to actively support the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan against the Taliban, before September 11,, I thought, here we go again, supporting one lot of baddies against another lot, without a thought for the consequences.
The book also knocks on the head any idea that Iraq was at all involved in the September 11 attacks.
'�.to date we have seen no evidence that these or the earlier contacts developed in a collaborative operational relationship. Nor have we seen evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States.'
Yet despite this, 42% of Americans think Saddam Hussein directly responsible for September 11.