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Breakdown: How America's Intelligence Failure Led to September 11
Breakdown: How America's Intelligence Failure Led to September 11 (Paperback)
by Bill Gertz "TWO U.S. AIR FORCE TECHNICIANS sat in a windowless room at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, watching a bank of video monitors..." (more)
Key Phrases: United States, World Trade Center, New York (more...)
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Editorial Reviews
From Publishers Weekly
From the bestselling author of a scathing indictment of Clintonian foreign policy, Betrayal, comes an unbalanced but revealing expose on the mistakes, misdirections and blunders behind "the most damaging intelligence failure since Pearl Harbor." Gertz supports his argument that the intelligence community has "lost sight of its purpose and function" with interviews, news clips and almost 100 pages of government documents, some partially classified (a National Security Agency report reproduced within contains little but the date and the designation "TOP SECRET UMBRA"-the rest is "withheld at the request of U.S. intelligence officials"). He points a very stern finger at the FBI, the NSA and the CIA, "where preservation of the agency's budget takes precedence over its performance." In one confounding case, Gertz writes, veteran CIA field agent Robert Baer was investigated and nearly prosecuted by the FBI for planning an assassination of Saddam Hussein; when the CIA discovered their jig was up, they left Baer out to dry. But while the insights into a government overrun by bureaucracy can be fascinating (and infuriating), Gertz seldom assigns any blame toward either George H.W. or George W. Bush's policies in the Middle East. He saves his condemnation, instead, for the Clinton administration (again). This one-sided portrayal may leave the critical reader feeling as if only half the story is being told, as Gertz's strong conservative bent distorts what could have been an important and well-informed look at the terrorist disaster.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

The New York Times
Chilling...[Gertz] stokes the public's demand for a more rigorous intelligence apparatus.

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Inside This Book (learn more)
First Sentence:
TWO U.S. AIR FORCE TECHNICIANS sat in a windowless room at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, watching a bank of video monitors. Read the first page
Key Phrases - Capitalized Phrases (CAPs): (learn more)
United States, World Trade Center, New York, White House, State Department, Saudi Arabia, Cold War, Directorate of Operations, Middle Eastern, Pearl Harbor, Saddam Hussein, Defense Intelligence Agency, George Tenet, Persian Gulf, Church Committee, Counterterrorist Center, James Woolsey, Soviet Union, Coast Guard, East Africa, Robert Mueller, Senate Select Committee, Counterterrorism Center, Customs Service, Egyptian Islamic Jihad
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover | Surprise Me!
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131 of 158 people found the following review helpful:

Let's get serious please..., August 25, 2002
Reviewer: A reader
Does anyone really doubt that there wasn't a huge intelligence failure that led up to 9/11? All of these terrorist killers just materialized out of thin air? Political correctness, bureaucratic infighting and just miscellaneous stupidity couldn't have come into play as well? Our government was preoccupied with Clinton and Monica, the false War on Drugs, anything, anything, anything except those that bombed our embassies in Africa, blew up the USS Cole, killed our soldiers in the Saudi Arabian Khobar towers, etc. Lots of great wishful thinking (maybe the Taliban will hand Bin Laden over) too... It's a crying shame and let me tell you this dear readers, author/journalist Bill Gertz is a major patriotic American to tell the truth to us like this. You know, the people that failed us are still running the system! And as Coleen Rowley so bravely said, and I paraphrase, should we put the counterterrorism unit chief and his supervisor (the fools Maltbie and Frasca that messed up the Moussaoui matter) in charge now? Tenet stills runs the CIA. This is American accountability? What have we really learned since 9/11? Thank God for this book, I hope it causes a real storm and makes people upset, upset enough to demand change!

14 of 20 people found the following review helpful:

Helpful, August 29, 2002
Reviewer:Robert D. Steele (Oakton, VA United States) - See all my reviews

The author has done a wonderful job, without reference to any of the fifteen books on intelligence reform published between 1999 and 2000, in quickly reviewing the key elements of intelligence failure and in recommending some specific reforms that thus far have been denied by successive Administrations.

If this book forces policymakers to think, and makes it possible for the public to get very angry about the various failures of intelligence that contributed to 9-11, then it will be in the running for most patriotic and useful book of the year.

The author leaves one aspect of the 9-11 failure untouched--although he makes references to Democratic and to Republican policymakers, what he does not tell the American people is that intelligence failures do not occur without very substantive policy failures of two kinds: first, policy failures where the intelligence professionals are gutted, abused, intimidated, and generally prevented from being effective. The Director of Central Intelligence usually serves as the policy representative to intelligence in carrying out these abuses, rather than as the intelligence representative to policy. The second failure is one of "inconvenient warning," where solid professional intelligence estimates are set aside and ignored because the politicians don't want to be bothered, don't think it will cost them with their domestic constituencies, and are not truly committed to long-term national security. This is a bi-partisan problem--until the American people appreciate the connection between voting, policymaker character, and intelligence success, we will continue to get the government--and the intelligence community--that our citizens deserve.

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:

Government Bungling - Again!, December 23, 2005
Reviewer:Pragmatist (Phoenix, AZ.) - See all my reviews
Gertz begins by relating how, prior to 9/11, the CIA failed to help an Afghan leader trying to rally forces against the pro bin Laden Taliban. As a result, he was captured and executed.

Lack of Coordination: In '95, Philippine police investigating a fire and explosion learned the details of plans to blow up 11 airliners over the Pacific, as well as to fly a plane into CIA headquarters. The individual involved also admitted having attended several U.S. flight schools. This information was not combined with Phoenix FBI findings that a number of Middle-East men with a hatred of America - one had bin Laden photo on his wall. another made calls to a Palestinian terrorist, still another was asking about airport security, and they had a "fatwah" that commericial airplanes were legitimate targets. Nor was it combined with the Minneapolis' finding that Moussaoui was similarly trying to learn to fly large jets, nor a like finding in Oklahoma City. The CIA did track two 9/11 terrorists to the U.S. (who had taken U.S. flight training) - but failed to even notify the FBI. Worse yet, when Minneapolis FBI agents were frustrated in their efforts to have Moussaoui's computer searched (refused because "no crime had been committed") and tried to notify the CIA - they were reprimanded.

The CIA attempted to prosecute Robert Baer (one of its top operatives) for supposedly trying to assassinate Sadam Hussein, per Iranian intelligence. It then claimed credit for stopping several Millenium attacks (actually accomplished via alert Custom's official), and for "thwarting" terrorist attacks after simply nabbing individuals entering with false documents. Also determined that a small boat attack against a U.S. warship was not possible, prior to the U.S.S. Cole bombing.

Lack of Capable Staff: In the early 1990s, the CIA had nobody in Iraq. Subsequent intelligence buildup involved adding staff attached to embassies who largely stayed inside and filed reports. Prior "housecleanings" had moved away from rewarding staff for recruiting spies, and instead focused on diversity, and avoiding recruitment of those with prior criminal or terrorist backgrounds. Clinton administration further weakened efforts by refocusing counter-intelligence on antii-abortion bombings - despite the FBI believing that Islamic terrorism was a much greater problem.

Sudan offered intelligence on bin Laden, and even to arrest him. Clinton administration did not follow-up, and the offer evaporated upon the erroneous bombing of a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant.

Former CIA Director Woolsey: Prior to 9/11, several times each year some crazy person would get into a cockpit, and the call would go out to strengthen the doors. NOTHING HAPPENED! (Was the ONE simple action that likely prevented 9/11.)

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful:

A little right biased, September 9, 2005
Reviewer:J. Grammer (Iraq) - See all my reviews
This was a informative book that outlined what Gertz thought was the reason Sept 11th happened. Though these were problems left over from countless decades of neglect to the intellgence community Gertz seems to protray this as the cause of failure. It is a combination af manyy things and to point your finger at one aspect of the pie is ludicris. The book does make a good point on how politics get in the way of policy. "It is what you do and not what you say, if your not part of the future than get out of the way." Stop pissing around and playing favorites and get the job done!

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful:

Excellent reminder of how 9.11 was a complete failure for , May 12, 2005
Reviewer:a (Akron, OH) - See all my reviews
both the CIA and FBI. Mr. Gertz, the excellent correspondent for the excellent (meaning not anti-Bush/republican NY Times/Wash. Post/CNN/CBS/ABC,etc.) Washington Times does an excellent job in explaining how 9.11 could have been prevented. Examples include the lack of adequately trained translators, CIA apprehension in "penetrating" al-Qaeda, and the 1970 era of anti-CIA political machinatiions that decimated the US intelligence. Also, Mr. Gertz details the lack of attention paid to the intelligence community during eight years of Bill/Hillary/Madeline/fat Al Gore/Sandy stolen documents Berger/et al. Binny struck in 93, 95, 96, 98, and 2000 (and many aborted/thwarted attacks) and all we got from that administration was some cruise missiles and an exploded milk factory in Sudan (while cowardly running from Somalia). This all led to the tragedy of 9.11 (and now the madman Kim Jong-il.)
Mr. Gertz does offer many solutions to the problems with many quote from senior intelligence officials (thank you, James Woolsey).
Thank you for the great work Mr. Gertz.

9 of 18 people found the following review helpful:

"Breakdown" Wears Blinders, March 3, 2005
Reviewer:Theresa McBrien (Eatonville, WA USA) - See all my reviews
"Breakdown: How America's Intelligence Failures Led to September 11" by Bill Gertz provides an operational history of America's spy community.

While his credentials and writing ability are beyond reproach, Gertz fails miserably by simplistically concluding that politics ruined our intelligence gathering system. Without mentioning the bloody, destabilizing covert actions that compelled legislative intervention, Gertz blames congressional panels "packed with liberal Democrats who assumed that U. S. intelligence agencies posed a threat to American democracy and engaged in wide criminal activity."

To agree with Gertz, one must ignore scores of corporate-friendly coups supported by the CIA in the last half century. For a more complete examination of intelligence misdeeds, read "Endless Enemies: The Making of an Unfriendly World" by Jonathan Kwitny.

By taking a partisan stance to draw a political conclusion, Gertz fails to put the blame where it belongs; on the hubris ridden, bureaucratic Boys Club that the intelligence service has become. Sycophancy and conformity cross party lines, and smother the creative thinkers in our nation's intelligence community.

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