Could 9/11 have been prevented?


Fact Box

  • 9/11” is known as the infamous September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks carried out by al-Qaeda, an Islamist extremist group, on US grounds. Nineteen terrorists hijacked four commercial airplanes, crashing two of the planes into the World Trade Center complex and a third plane into the Pentagon in Virginia. Passengers on the remaining hijacked plane, Flight 93, fought back, and the plane was crashed into an empty field in Pennsylvania. 
  • The terrorist attacks killed 2,977 people from 93 nations: 2,753 people were killed in New York; 184 people were killed at the Pentagon; and 40 people were killed on Flight 93.
  • Only 1,645 of 2,753 WTC victims' remains have been positively identified as of October 2019. 
  • The Department of Homeland Security was created after 9/11. Twenty-two governmental agencies merged into one, including the Customs Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the US Coast Guard and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
  • Since 1988, there were various warning signs linked to 9/11, some including, the US Intelligence community indicating Osama bin Laden wanting to attack the US (1998), a study warning al Qaeda as the “most serious threat to the US” (1999), and a memo to President George W. Bush named “Bin Ladin determined to strike in US” (2001).

Andrew (Yes)

Since the September 11 attack, many sensible airport updates to make security more robust and thorough have been enacted to again prevent terrorists from bringing weapons onto planes. In the months leading up to the hijackings, the FAA was warned five times about security checkpoint failures at Boston Logan airport. Addressing these specific concerns would have had a direct impact on the hijackers' chances. The proof of these measures' effectiveness is calculable in the fact that more than fifty major terrorist plots have been thwarted since 9/11. Had these measures been in place prior to 2001, the 9/11 attacks very likely could have been prevented.

The 9/11 terror attacks could have been prevented if the CIA and FBI had taken the threat of terrorism from the Middle East more seriously. At the time of the attacks, the American intelligence agencies employed less than 10 Arabic speakers out of thousands of agents, a fact that demonstrates the lack of priority given to the situation. Further, the agencies did not coordinate information. America and her allies should have launched a campaign to eliminate Osama Bin Laden and the Al Qaida network in the years leading up to the attack. Had the Bush and Clinton administrations given the proper attention to these networks as they developed, they could have been stopped before they developed their lethal capacities. 

While the 9/11 terror attacks were unprecedented, they were also sadly preventable. Simple physical security measures like the increased screenings at airports combined with intelligence sharing and firm foreign policy could have prevented this tragedy.

Tyler (No)

September 11 could not have been prevented, simply because the CIA was unequipped to spot the threat presented by Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda. The CIA exhibited blatant ignorance when senior official Richard Holbrook referred to Bin Laden as a 'caveman' who couldn't possibly out-communicate the U.S government. It was quite clear Bin Laden was using the CIA's disrespect of his strategies to his advantage by down-playing his resources, including the technology he had available to him. 

After the Soviets stepped out of Afghanistan in the late '80s, the United States slowed its monitoring of middle-eastern terrorism. Former president Bill Clinton expelled all of the United States intelligence in Afghanistan. According to FBI agent Jack Cloonan, the country viewed any attack from the middle-east as 'individualist threats' rather than acknowledging the menacing ordeal posed by radical Islam as a whole group. The United States government had its back turned to the dangers being waved in front of its face. 

Senior CIA official Paul Pillar stated that the problems presented by Al-Qaeda 'did not represent terrorism that the United States is likely to face.' During a time in which our country was not actively at war, the looming danger presented felt minimal. Cynthia Storer, who worked with the CIA's Counterterrorism branch, stated that the 'higher-ups' were not concerned with any hazards that did not appear to have an immediate effect on politics or the economy. 9/11 couldn't have been prevented because those in power were simply blind to the possibility of harm coming from a group that they felt was not as advanced as them.

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