Essay Title: “Yes, individuals made mistakes, but it was the system that failed us” (Amy Zegart). How far do you agree that the 9/11 attacks were primarily a consequence of structural failure? Central Argument: I will be arguing that it was the structural weaknesses surrounding the intelligence agencies led to the intelligence failures in 9/11.
I agree with Amy Zegart’s statement that the 9/11 attacks were primarily a consequence of structural failure. The intelligence agencies, including the FBI and the CIA, were unable to effectively communicate and share information due to organizational and cultural issues. This lack of communication and collaboration created blind spots in the intelligence-gathering process, leading to missed opportunities to prevent the attacks. Additionally, there were gaps in the intelligence-gathering process, such as the lack of focus on terrorist threats and the use of outdated technology. These structural weaknesses within the intelligence agencies allowed the 9/11 attacks to occur. Therefore, while individuals made mistakes, it was the systemic failure of the intelligence agencies that ultimately led to the tragedy of 9/11.
Furthermore, the 9/11 attacks exposed the lack of preparedness and coordination between different government agencies. The lack of inter-agency communication and cooperation made it difficult to respond effectively to the crisis. For example, the military was not prepared to shoot down commercial airlines and there was confusion about who was in charge of the response effort. These systemic failures showed that the government was not adequately prepared to handle a major crisis and that significant reforms were necessary to improve the country’s security.
Additionally, the 9/11 attacks highlighted the need for better intelligence-gathering methods and the use of modern technology. The attacks showed that traditional intelligence methods, such as human intelligence and signals intelligence, were not sufficient to prevent such a large-scale attack. The use of modern technology, such as data mining and predictive analytics, could have helped intelligence agencies to identify and prevent the attacks.
In conclusion, the 9/11 attacks were primarily a consequence of structural failure. The intelligence agencies were unable to effectively communicate and share information, there were gaps in the intelligence-gathering process, and the government was not adequately prepared to handle the crisis. These systemic weaknesses allowed the 9/11 attacks to occur, and significant reforms were necessary to improve the country’s security. While individuals made mistakes, it was the system that ultimately failed us.
The structural weaknesses also include the politicization of intelligence and especially with regard to 9/11. Conceptual/Theoretical Framework: I believe the question has to be raised whether or not the attack of 9/11 can be considered an actual surprise attack or a surprise attack merely due to a failure of intelligence. I will be considering it in respect of the early warning signs that the U.S Government should have acted upon. I will also be considering whether the lack of technology and other factors did contribute to this intelligence and failure and will argue that the lack of either technology or capabilities of the intelligence agencies is related to the structural weaknesses that persisted prior to the 9/11 attacks. Key points: 1. The organizational structure of intelligence and failure to share information. 2. Was there a policy failure on the part of the U.S Government whereby warning signs or increased terrorist attacks were being ignored. 3. Bureaucratic obstacles 4. Did a lack of technology in analyzing intelligence contribute to the intelligence failure that led to the 9/11 attacks?
I agree that these key points are relevant to the structural weaknesses surrounding the intelligence agencies prior to the 9/11 attacks.
- The organizational structure of intelligence and failure to share information: The intelligence agencies were fragmented and lacked a centralized structure, making it difficult for them to effectively communicate and share information. This lack of communication and collaboration led to missed opportunities to prevent the attacks.
- Policy failure: There were early warning signs, such as the increased number of terrorist attacks, that the U.S. government ignored. This policy failure contributed to the intelligence failure and allowed the 9/11 attacks to occur.
- Bureaucratic obstacles: The intelligence agencies were also hindered by bureaucratic obstacles, such as legal restrictions on the sharing of information and a lack of resources. These obstacles prevented the agencies from effectively responding to the threat of terrorism.
- Lack of technology: The lack of technology in analyzing intelligence also contributed to the intelligence failure leading up to the 9/11 attacks. The intelligence agencies were relying on outdated methods and technologies, making it difficult for them to keep pace with the evolving threat of terrorism.
In conclusion, the structural weaknesses surrounding the intelligence agencies prior to the 9/11 attacks were multi-faceted and included the organizational structure, policy failures, bureaucratic obstacles, and lack of technology. These weaknesses contributed to intelligence failure and allowed the 9/11 attacks to occur. It is important to address these structural weaknesses in order to prevent similar tragedies from happening in the future.
9/11 Commission (2004), The 9/11 Commission Report.
Amy Zegart (2007), 9/11 and the FBI: The organizational roots of failure, Intelligence and National Security, 22:2, 165-184
Christina Shelton (2011), The Roots of Analytic Failures in the U.S. Intelligence Community, International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, 24:4, 637-655.
Dahl, Erik J, Intelligence and Surprise Attack: Failure and Success from Pearl Habor to 9/11 and Beyond, George University Press, 2013.
Hedley, J. (2005), Learning from Intelligence Failures, International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, 18:3, 435-450.
Melvin A Goodman (2003), 9/11: The Failure of Strategic Intelligence, Intelligence and National Security, 18:4, 59-71.
Paul R. Pillar (2006) Good literature and bad history: The 9/11 commission’s tale of strategic intelligence, Intelligence, and National Security, 21:6, 1022 – 1044.
Stephen Marrin (2011), The 9/11 Terrorist Attacks: A Failure of Policy Not Strategic Intelligence Analysis, Intelligence and National Security, 26:2-3, 182-202.
Smith, David A. (2004), Intelligence in War: Knowledge of the Enemy from Napoleon to Al-Qaeda, Naval War College Review, Vol 57(3), Article 21.
Further instructions: More arguments to be raised and points should be made back with evidence and more sources than provided should be used.