20/20 Hindsight

It appears as though there were
vague intelligence threats about hijackings of US airliners
well prior to September 11. Congress is naturally wondering why a broader alert wasn’t issued, and why the terrible tragedy of September 11 wasn’t prevented if we know something was going to happen.

What President Bush needs to remind everyone is that hindsight is 20/20, and he’s already taken steps to prevent this kind of fumbling from happening again. That’s why we have a Department of Homeland Security right now. The INS was following leads on flight schools and shady Islamic characters along with the FBI. The CIA had information that al-Qaeda was planning another attack. The FAA was trying to prevent hijackings, but none of these agencies were sharing intelligence. If someone had been able to put two and two together they might have been able to issue more specific warnings, but as any detective will tell you, the clues don’t always fit together until the crime’s been committed.

This also disproves the notion that big government is the solution to our security problems. If anything, it was the plethora of different agencies with overlapping missions that made it harder to diagnose potential threats. Because of the typical government turf wars, the data that everyone had wasn’t getting pooled like it should. Government agencies often don’t like to share, even when it’s in their best interests to do so.

Passing around blame for September 11 isn’t going to get anyone anywhere. Instead, ensuring that the mistakes of the past are corrected is the only way to ensure that the risk of another attack is minimized. Could September 11 have been prevented? Perhaps – but we’ll never know. The challenge now is making sure that al-Qaeda and other terrorist networks are destablized or destroyed, and continuing to ensure that our national security is the top priority of those who are charged to maintain it.