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9/11: Could It Have Been Stopped?

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Preventing 9/11: Could it Have Been Done?

September 11th, 2001: the American people will remember this day as the day the unthinkable happened: someone, or rather a group of people, infiltrated the seemingly impregnable American defenses and turned our own airplanes on us. Crashing several planes into different important federal buildings, these terrorists spread terror throughout the country. Nobody thought that the most powerful country in the world could be attacked so easily, and without any warning. This raises an interested question. Were these attacks really done out of the blue? Or were they a foreseen danger that the government simply ignored, or delayed action against. A deeper look behind the scenes both before and after the attacks will reveal whether or not the leaders of our country shirked their responsibilities of keeping us safe, or simply failed in their attempts to stop any potential attacks from occurring. By looking first at how the attacks were planned and carried out, then looking at the numerous reports that government intelligence agencies, principally the CIA and FBI, had ample warning and information to have better prepared the country, it will become clear whether or not the attacks could have been prevented, and if so, whether it was the government's fault.

On October 12th, 2000, the USS Cole, a United States ship located near the Aden port in Yemen was pulling into the harbor to refuel (USS Cole History). As the ship was fueling up, a small fiberglass boat pulled up alongside it. The boat, full of explosives, detonated next to the Cole, leaving a massive hole in the side ("USS Cole Bombing," Wikipedia). The blast killed 17 soldiers, and injured numerous others ("USS Cole Bombing," Wikipedia). This attack seemed random at first, but in fact, it had been planned out for some time. Even worse, writes Rory O'Connor, the US government allegedly had information that such an attack might occur, and had neglected to pass along the information to the commander of the Cole (O'Connor 1). Intelligence analysts from the military have testified that the presence of al-Qaeda in Yemen was very well known, including by highly ranking officials in CENTCOM (Central Command), the division that dealt directly with the USS Cole (O'Connor 1). Had the commander of the USS Cole known about the presence of al-Qaeda in the area, it is almost a certainty that he and his crew would have been more vigilant in being wary of any potential danger. Of course, this did not happen because the government failed to inform them. The absence of any warning on the part of the US government would prove to be a mistake fatal to more than 3000 people.

September 11th, 2001 was a warm, sunny day in New York City. There were only a few clouds and the day had an upbeat feeling to it. Unfortunately, the optimistic air wouldn't even make it to 9 AM. At 8:46 AM, this horrific image played itself out above New York City: a plane that had taken off that morning from Logan Airport in Boston flew not towards its destination on the west coast, but rather directly into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. As the plane, full of fuel for it's cross-country journey, collided with the building and exploded, the thousands of people walking the streets stopped what they were doing and looked up in terror. At this time, the general opinion was that it was a tragic error by the pilot. That thought would be proven wrong a matter of minutes later.

9:01 AM. The sky above New York City is full of debris falling from the gigantic hole in the side of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. There is fear amongst the citizens, but not many people suspect an attack. Then, seeming to move slowly but in reality hurtling through the air, a second plane collides with the South Tower. At this point, everyone knows that America is under attack. Whom is attacking, no one knows, but there is no longer any thought of an accidental crash. A matter of 40 minutes later, yet another plane is flown into an important federal building, this time the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. About an hour later, a fourth plane is crashed. This time, however, the plane is not flown into any building. The plane, United Flight 93, was retaken from the hijackers and crashed into a field in the Pennsylvania countryside. The passengers of this plane, having called their loved ones after being informed of what was going on, decided to rise up against their assailants so that maybe they could save numerous other innocent people. The retaking of Flight 93 was a minor victory on a day wrought with anguish. At around 10 o'clock, the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed, showering New York with debris, and horrifically, the bodies that were on the floors that collapsed ("September 11th Attacks," Encyclopedia Britannica). Half an hour later, the North Tower fell as well. The final death count totaled 2993 people, 19 of which were the terrorists on the planes.

America had not experienced an attack as traumatizing as this one since the attack on Pearl Harbor. The New York skyline now seemed empty, devoid of the massive twin towers that had always stood out on any postcard or photograph. So why is it that these attacks were executed so easily, and without any warning so far as normal citizens are concerned? Is it possible that the government had no idea whatsoever that such an attack was imminent? These are the kinds of questions that must be asked in order to determine whether or not the government knew about, and could have prevented, the devastating attacks that occurred on September 11th, 2001.

As was said earlier, there were allegations soon after the bombing of the USS Cole of the government having had intelligence indicating that the attack would occur. Having already been attacked once, the most likely course of action for the US would seem to be to take a more active approach to anti-terrorism. Keeping a closer eye on terrorist groups, especially al-Qaeda seeing as they had already proved they could successfully carry out an attack, should have been priority alpha for agencies such as the CIA. However, what they should have done and what they actually did are two completely different stories. Two of the men who would eventually become 9/11 hijackers, Khaled al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hamzi, were living in California, and the CIA knew that they were al-Qaeda operatives (O'Connor 1). The proper course of action would have been to keep an eye on everything that these men were doing. Instead, they CIA didn't do anything


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