National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States

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The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also known as the 9-11 Commission), was an independent, bipartisan commission created by congressional legislation and the signature of President George W. Bush in late 2002, to analyze the a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Who is the enemy?

Who is this enemy that created an organization capable of inflicting such horrific damage on the United States? We now know that these attacks were carried out by various groups of Islamist extremists. The 9/11 attack was driven by Osama bin Laden.[1]

A wealthy Saudi, Osama bin Laden, following the Soviet exit from Afghanistan, organized volunteers to mobilize jihad elsewhere.

The history, culture, and body of beliefs from which Bin Ladin shapes and spreads his message are largely unknown to many Americans. Seizing on symbols of Islam's past greatness, he promises to restore pride to people who consider themselves the victims of successive foreign masters. He uses cultural and religious allusions to the holy Qur'an and some of its interpreters. He appeals to people disoriented by cyclonic change as they confront modernity and globalization. His rhetoric selectively draws from multiple sources-Islam, history, and the region's political and economic malaise.

Bin Ladin also stresses grievances against the United States widely shared in the Muslim world. He inveighed against the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, which is the home of Islam's holiest sites, and against other U.S. policies in the Middle East.

By September 11, 2001, al Qaeda possessed, with the Afghan Taliban providing sanctuary.

  • leaders able to evaluate, approve, and supervise the planning and direction of a major operation;
  • a personnel system that could recruit candidates, indoctrinate them, vet them, and give them the necessary training;
  • communications sufficient to enable planning and direction of operatives and those who would be helping them;
  • an intelligence effort to gather required information and form assessments of enemy strengths and weaknesses;
  • the ability to move people great distances; and
  • the ability to raise and move the money necessary to finance an attack.


As a broad strategy, the Commission proposed, "We propose a strategy with three dimensions:

  • (1) attack terrorists and their organizations,
  • (2) prevent the continued growth of Islamist terrorism, and
  • (3) protect against and prepare for terrorist attacks."

They believed government needed to change, and focused fixing five things whose fragmentation contributed to the attacks:

  • unifying strategic intelligence and operational planning against Islamist terrorists across the foreign-domestic divide with a National Counterterrorism Center;
  • unifying the intelligence community with a new National Intelligence Director;
  • unifying the many participants in the counterterrorism effort and their knowledge in a network-based information sharing system that transcends traditional governmental boundaries;
  • unifying and strengthening congressional oversight to improve quality and accountability; and
  • strengthening the FBI and homeland defenders.


  1. National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also known as the 9-11 Commission) (2004), The 9/11 Commission Report