Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Ground Truth

The Untold Story of America Under Attack
John Farmer
Senior Counsel to the 9/11 Commission

The Ground Truth begins with the Clinton administration's response to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. It relates the abortive attempts to assassinate Osama Bin Laden with cruise missiles, criticizing both the missile launch that failed and those that were not sent. Farmer's take on both the Clinton and Bush administrations is that people high up in the administration believed that they were in control of America's security when in fact they were out of touch and unable to act decisively when action needed to be taken.

The center of the book is a detailed reconstruction of the events of September 11th 2001, showing the actions of the FAA, NORAD, DOD and the White House minute by minute based on written logs and voice recordings collected by the 9/11 Commission. Farmer's timeline shows that the only effective measures were taken by low level commanders and the passengers on United flight 93.

Farmer is particularly critical of the FAA, the Department of Defense and the Bush White House, not for their failure to anticipate or to deal adequately with the attacks on 911, but for their handling of the aftermath. In each case, according to Farmer, officials attempted to "spin" the story of 9/11 in order to make their agencies, and themselves, look good. These efforts at public relations interfered with the analysis of the events and confused the effort to improve our ability to respond to emergencies.

The Ground Truth then examines hurricane Katrina. Farmer contends that the mistakes of 911, gone uncorrected, occurred all over again in the response to Katrina. Even the newly formed Department of Homeland Security, which was supposed to be able to coordinate emergency response, was clueless and ineffective as Katrina swept across the Gulf of Mexico and drowned New Orleans and much of the Gulf coast. Again the most effective action was that of "spinning" the events, officials causing more delay in the delivery of needed help and supplies while preening before the TV cameras.

Farmer's story ends with the Bush administration. Whether our ability to deal with the many challenges facing us has improved is still unknown.


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