Issue #5:
Was there a risk assessment failure by the President?

It is the job of the President, assisted by his principal aides and National Security staff, to assess risks posed by various threats and take appropriate counter-measures. After Arab Jihadists simultaneously bombed two US Embassies in August 1998, attempted unsuccessfully to blow up the Los Angeles International Airport in January 2000 and blew a forty foot hole in the USS Cole in October 2000, there could be no minimizing the risk of subsequent bombing attacks on American targets. Between May and August 2001, the FBI issued no fewer than three sets of warnings.

One possibility recognized by various agencies of the US Government was that a civilian aircraft might be crashed into a building. For example in July 2001, President Bush's security planners considered the possibility of such an aerial attack against President Bush and other heads of state meeting at the G-7 summit in Genoa.

Such threat planning was not just limited to overseas targets. Prior to 9-11-2001 the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) planned scrambling interceptors to respond to the simulated highjackings of two airliners ( and, in one scenario, shooting down the airliners) but postponed the exercise after 9-11. Also prior to 9-11, the CIA planned a simulated crash of a civilian plane into a crucial link in the nation's satellite intelligence system, the headquarters of the National Reconnaissance Office. The simulation took place on the morning of September 11th 2001, just as a real aerial attack was occurring at the Pentagon.

The issue is risk-assessment. In the case of the Genoa summit, the White House assessed the risk to be of a sufficient magnitude to request that anti-aircraft rocket batteries with a range of 9 miles be set up at the Genoa airport and the air space around the city closed. The Italian government, agreeing with this risk assessment complied. If the White House had assessed a similar level of risk existed for the seizure of airliners in the United States, it could, at a minimum, have had the FAA order that airlines not keep keys to cockpit doors in the passenger compartment (for the convenience of the attendants). It could also, depending on the level of assessed risk, order NORAD to maintain patrols to intercept rogue airliners (as it did after 9-11) or even place armed guards in the planes.

What is not known is how much risk could be reasonably inferred by the President.


1) Did the National Security Staff brief the President on the threat of terrorist attacks prior to 9-11?

2) Did Richard A. Clarke, the NSC officer on terrorism, write any memos on terrorists threats? If so, to whom were they offered and how were they evaluated?

3) Did George Tenet brief the National Security Council or President on the risks of terrorist attacks? If so, how were those briefings evaluated?

4) How Did the CIA's "station" on Al-Qaeda or its Warning Officer on terrorism assess the probability of a terrorist attack in the summer of 2001? Was this assessment provided to the White House?

5) On what intelligence, analysis or warnings, if any, did the CIA and NRO base the simulated air crash on 9-11?

6) On what intelligence, analysis or warnings, if any, did NORAD base its simulated hijacking?

7) On what intelligence, analysis or warnings, if any, did the Secret Service base its request to the Italian govern for anti-aircraft defenses and air-space closure in Genoa in July 2001?

8) Were Counter-Attack Teams (CATs) deployed with surface to air missiles at the White House, Pentagon or other buildings prior to 9- 11? If so, On what intelligence, analysis or warnings, if any, were these CAT team deployment based?


Richard A. Clarke

George Tenet

John Fulton (NRO, CIA Simulation Officer)

Gen. Ralph E. Eberhart (commander of NORAD)

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