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We present the narrative of this report and the recommendations
that flow from it to the President of the United States, the United States
Congress, and the American people for their consideration. Ten
Commissioners — five Republicans and five Democrats chosen by elected
leaders from our nation's capital at a time of great partisan division — have
come together to present this report without dissent.
We have come together with a unity of purpose because our nation
demands it. September 11, 2001, was a day of unprecedented shock and suf-
fering in the history of the United States. The nation was unprepared. How
did this happen, and how can we avoid such tragedy again?
To answer these questions, the Congress and the President created the
National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (Public
Law 107-306, November 27, 2002).
Our mandate was sweeping. The law directed us to investigate "facts and
circumstances relating to the terrorist attacks of September 1 1, 2001," includ-
ing those relating to intelligence agencies, law enforcement agencies, diplo-
macy, immigration issues and border control, the flow of assets to terrorist
organizations, commercial aviation, the role of congressional oversight and
resource allocation, and other areas determined relevant by the Commission.
In pursuing our mandate, we have reviewed more than 2.5 million pages
of documents and interviewed more than 1,200 individuals in ten countries.
This included nearly every senior official from the current and previous
administrations who had responsibility for topics covered in our mandate.
We have sought to be independent, impartial, thorough, and nonpartisan.
From the outset, we have been committed to share as much of our investi-
gation as we can with the American people. To that end, we held 19 days of
hearings and took public testimony from 160 witnesses.
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Our aim has not been to assign individual blame. Our aim has been to
provide the fullest possible account of the events surrounding 9/11 and to
identify lessons learned.
We learned about an enemy who is sophisticated, patient, disciplined,
and lethal. The enemy rallies broad support in the Arab and Muslim world
by demanding redress of political grievances, but its hostility toward us and
our values is limitless. Its purpose is to rid the world of religious and polit-
ical pluralism, the plebiscite, and equal rights for women. It makes no dis-
tinction between military and civilian targets. Collateral damage is not in its
We learned that the institutions charged with protecting our borders,
civil aviation, and national security did not understand how grave this threat
could be, and did not adjust their policies, plans, and practices to deter or
defeat it.We learned of fault lines within our government — between foreign
and domestic intelligence, and between and within agencies. We learned of
the pervasive problems of managing and sharing information across a large
and unwieldy government that had been built in a different era to confront
At the outset of our work, we said we were looking backward in order
to look forward. We hope that the terrible losses chronicled in this report
can create something positive — an America that is safer, stronger, and wiser.
That September day, we came together as a nation. The test before us is to
sustain that unity of purpose and meet the challenges now confronting us.
We need to design a balanced strategy for the long haul, to attack terror-
ists and prevent their ranks from swelling while at the same time protecting
our country against future attacks. We have been forced to think about the
way our government is organized. The massive departments and agencies
that prevailed in the great struggles of the twentieth century must work
together in new ways, so that all the instruments of national power can be
combined. Congress needs dramatic change as well to strengthen oversight
and focus accountability.
As we complete our final report, we want to begin by thanking our fel-
low Commissioners, whose dedication to this task has been profound. We
have reasoned together over every page, and the report has benefited from
this remarkable dialogue. We want to express our considerable respect for
the intellect and judgment of our colleagues, as well as our great affection
We want to thank the Commission staff. The dedicated professional staff,
headed by Philip Zelikow, has contributed innumerable hours to the com-
pletion of this report, setting aside other important endeavors to take on this
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all-consuming assignment. They have conducted the exacting investigative
work upon which the Commission has built. They have given good advice,
and faithfully carried out our guidance. They have been superb.
We thank the Congress and the President. Executive branch agencies
have searched records and produced a multitude of documents for us. We
thank officials, past and present, who were generous with their time and
provided us with insight. The PENTTBOM team at the FBI, the
Director's Review Group at the CIA, and Inspectors General at the
Department of Justice and the CIA provided great assistance. We owe a
huge debt to their investigative labors, painstaking attention to detail, and
readiness to share what they have learned. We have built on the work of
several previous Commissions, and we thank the Congressional Joint
Inquiry, whose fine work helped us get started. We thank the City of New
York for assistance with documents and witnesses, and the Government
Printing Office and WW Norton & Company for helping to get this
report to the broad public.
We conclude this list of thanks by coming full circle: We thank the fam-
ilies of 9/11, whose persistence and dedication helped create the
Commission. They have been with us each step of the way, as partners and
witnesses. They know better than any of us the importance of the work we
We want to note what we have done, and not done. We have endeavored
to provide the most complete account we can of the events of September
11, what happened and why. This final report is only a summary of what we
have done, citing only a fraction of the sources we have consulted. But in
an event of this scale, touching so many issues and organizations, we are
conscious of our limits. We have not interviewed every knowledgeable per-
son or found every relevant piece of paper. New information inevitably will
come to light. We present this report as a foundation for a better under-
standing of a landmark in the history of our nation.
We have listened to scores of overwhelming personal tragedies and
astounding acts of heroism and bravery. We have examined the staggering
impact of the events of 9/11 on the American people and their amazing
resilience and courage as they fought back. We have admired their determi-
nation to do their best to prevent another tragedy while preparing to
respond if it becomes necessary. We emerge from this investigation with
enormous sympathy for the victims and their loved ones, and with
enhanced respect for the American people. We recognize the formidable
challenges that lie ahead.
We also approach the task of recommendations with humility. We have
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made a limited number of them. We decided consciously to focus on rec-
ommendations we believe to be most important, whose implementation
can make the greatest difference. We came into this process with strong
opinions about what would work. All of us have had to pause, reflect, and
sometimes change our minds as we studied these problems and considered
the views of others. We hope our report will encourage our fellow citizens
to study, reflect — and act.
Thomas H. Kean
Lee H. Hamilton
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