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Gorton lauds 9/11 report

As a member of the 9/11 Commission, former Washington Sen. Slade Gorton helped gather, interpret and analyze the data about the events leading up to that monumental tragedy.

And 10 days before its third anniversary, Gorton shared some of his acquired insights at a luncheon hosted by the Kitsap Association of Realtors at the Silverdale Hotel on Wednesday.

“Did 9/11 happen because we failed to connect the dots or because there were too few dots?” he asked. “We were clearly restricting our ability to find things out.

“Even the most aggressive and alarmist imaginations did not predict such a serious attack,” Gorton said. “With all the clarity provided by 20/20 hindsight, our first failure was one of imagination. No one imagined an attack of such intensity, so no one prepared for it. In the 2000 presidential election, neither candidate mentioned the possibility.”

Attendees included several candidates for county and legislative offices, almost all Republicans.

Gorton cited several specific intelligence lapses, most notably how the Federal Aviation Administration learned of the existence of a State Department list of suspected terrorists at one of the commission’s hearings.

And the FAA did not know about three of the four hijackings until after the planes crashed.

Gorton lauded the nonpartisan cooperation of the commission, but said this almost didn’t happen. Originally, the body was co-chaired by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Sen. George Mitchell, who are both, according to Gorton, extremely partisan.

Replacing them with former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean and former Rep. Lee Hamilton resulted in a more compromising environment.

This was further achieved by the replacement of former Sen. Max Cleland with former Sen. Bob Kerrey.

Gorton said the commission was then able to assemble a factual, dispassionate and complete history of all the events leading up to the fateful day.

“Osama bin Ladin told us explicitly what his goals were,” he said. “And he told us what it would take to stop him: ‘Abandon the Middle East, convert to Islam and end the immorality and godlessness of our culture.’

“But this did not originate with Osama,” Gorton said. “It draws upon a long stream of intolerance from a branch of Islam. And this decline is not reversible as long as women in these countries are discriminated against. But real change in those societies must come from within. It cannot be imposed.”

While Gorton does not favor re-organizing all intelligence efforts under a single agency, he said it is essential to share information.

“I don’t recommend consolidating the 15 intelligence units in the government,” he said. “The departments of Energy, Treasury and State all have investigative operations that should remain independent. But it is a good idea to have a national intelligence center and a director who coordinates the various agencies and requires them to share data. Too often, people would learn something and keep it to themselves.”

While agencies are now sharing more information, Gorton feels there is much work yet to be done.

“Recent changes have made us safer,” he said. “But not safe.”

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