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Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission Hardcover – August 15, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (August 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307263770
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307263773
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,197,386 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A re-creation of the inner workings of a government commission threatens to be a dry bureaucratic procedural, but the 9/11 Commission was so politically fraught that its story is compelling in its own right. Chairman Kean and vice-chair Hamilton detail the commission's fight with Congress for more money and time; its wranglings with the Bush administration to win access to witnesses and classified documents; its delicate relations with victims' families, who were its harshest critics and staunchest champions; its strategic use of public censure to wring concessions from recalcitrant officials; and the forging of a bipartisan consensus among fractious Republican and Democratic commissioners. Their tone is evenhanded and diplomatic, but some adversaries—NORAD, the FAA, House Republicans—get singled out as stumbling blocks to the investigation. The authors cogently defend the compromises they made and swat conspiracy theories about coverups, but critics unhappy with the commission's refusal to "point fingers" or its lukewarm resistance to White House claims of executive privilege may not be satisfied. The issues the commission wrestled with—official incapacity to prevent disaster, the government's use and misuse of intelligence, presidential accountability—are still in the headlines, which makes this lucid, absorbing account of its work very timely. Photos. (Aug. 15)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The 9/11 Commission Report (2004) was an exception to the rule that U.S. government publications are written in unreadable bureaucratese. Its plain English yielded sales of hundreds of thousands of copies, and its success indicates that a huge audience may exist for this account by the commission chairmen. Former politicians Kean and Hamilton adopt a chronological approach and a style dominated by descriptions of their investigative process: theirs is not a source for knowledge about the Islamic terrorist strikes of 2001. Information related to 9/11 does permeate the text, but it appears as the object of fact finding, such as the time line of the FAA's and NORAD's reactions to the hijackings. Along with the formal organization of the commission, Kean and Hamilton dwell on two habits of Washington that they worried would roil the commission: leaks and partisanship. As their narrative rolls forward, this leak or that partisan enters their story, whose most dramatic moments reside in the commission's televised hearings. These, one learns, had scant investigative value and were considered vehicles for educating the public about the terrible attacks. A continuation of that lofty aim, this volume's prominence is assured; less certain is the perseverance of average readers. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful By o dubhthaigh VINE VOICE on August 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In all honesty, the book is a little dull, especially when compared with The Looming Tower, just published. There isn't a whole lot more revealed about the 9/11 coverup than what is in the official report. However, one very striking detail is highlighted and ought to be taken seriously by the lemmings who live below the 49th parallel and above the Mexican Border: Alberto Gonzales is the man who stood between the 9/11 Commission and what the Bush administration did, failed to do, and then covered up.

The US version of the Spanish Inquisitor is the architectural genius behind the current administration's efforts to dismantle the separation of powers encoded in the US Constitution, behind the US refusal to be held to the Geneva Convention in the detainment and treatment of prisoners, the chief interrogator in the gulag of secret prisons in Eastern European and Western Asian countries used by the CIA to torture Al-Qayeda suspects, and the one who has changed the make-up of the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department from a wing that essentially hired on merit attorneys with a proven track record enforcing civil rights, to politically appointing attorneys who worked in the private sector defending or attacking civil rights and affirmative action standards. In other words, kangaroo courts.

Through the course of Kean and Hamilton's book, you are confronted with repeated efforts by Gonzales to stonewall the 911 Commission from completeing its publicly stated and Congressionally mandated mission. Gonzales acts on "behalf of his client." Excuse me?!?! Kean and Hamilton stop short of accusing Gonzales of obstruction, but it's quite clear that every effort is being made to ensure that the "client" never testifies or is interviewed on his own.
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Fran Sepler on August 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I found this book fascinating. There are rarely Washington insiders with the narrative talent and an appreciation for process, and in this case, we have a book that provides both. The careful negotiations, resistance and calculations by federal agencies, the push and pull of partisan politics and the unique friendly-adversarial role of the 911 families provide for absorbing reading. If nothing else, the use of careful diplomacy by the authors in knowing when to wheedle and when to subpoena is a lesson unto itself. The delicacy of diplomacy and the ham-handedness of security considerations provide a rare insight into the difficulties of maneuvering inside the beltway, and the differences amongst and amidst the commission itself are more than simple sniping -- they are in many ways a laboratory for American political struggles. Recommended for policy wonks and aspiring diplomats, and for those, like me, who'd rather get the inside scoop on the White House than Hollywood.
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13 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Loyd E. Eskildson HALL OF FAME on August 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Kean and Hamilton's invaluable leadership skills in the 9/11 Commission come through naturally, quite clearly, and throughout "Without Precedent." The effort easily could have foundered through political squabbling - either among commission members themselves, or with information sources that had various reasons to without cooperation. Fortunately, Kean and Hamilton learned from prior commissions (eg. those investigating Pearl Harbor and President Kennedy's assassination) and emphasized bi-partisanship in staffing selections, seating, public interviews, and formulating the final report - and thereby provided an excellent product.

The idea of forming an independent commission to look into 9/11 was first voiced 10/01, but it took over a year before it was created. Part of the reason was a joint House/Senate Intelligence Committee investigation that had already started - however, it lacked the time etc. to go into sufficient detail, and was hampered by White House refusal to submit various documents or personnel for review.

Similarly, the White House opposed the creation of the commission - "would distract from waging the ongoing war on terrorism." Fortunately, pressure from the 9/11 families got the idea enacted. Then the real struggles began.

Security clearances took about two months despite many of the members having already served in high positions, and then there was the funding issue. Congress had provided only $3 million - Kean requested a staff determination of a more realistic amount ($14 million), and with Senators Lieberman and McCain (and the 9/11 families) was able to get it approved. (The Challenger Space Shuttle Commission used about $40 million; Republicans, however, were leery of the whole idea of a commission.
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Format: Paperback
The "National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States" consisted of five Democrats and five Republicans, and lasted from November 2002 until its final report was issued in August 2004 (shortly before the 2004 election). Arguably having been "set up to fail," the Republicans had wanted it to last for only one year (Pg. 20), and initially allocated only a paltry $3 million for it. The Bush administration strongly resisted having National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice testify under oath in public, although she ultimately did (Pg. 110).

Among other things, the Report revealed how the inability of the FBI and CIA to share information hampered intelligence-gathering; how two of the hijackers known to the CIA had lived openly under their own names for several months; how an FBI memo warned that the matter of Arab men receiving flight school training needed to be looked into; and how Zacarias Moussaoui had been arrested in Minnesota just weeks before 9/11, and "described as a terrorist suspect with an interest in flight training." (Pg. 16)

It also pointed out the "massive intelligence failure" in assessing Iraq's prewar weapons of mass destruction, as "American forces occupying Iraq found none of the predicted stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons." (Pg. 129) It strongly criticizes the FAA passenger screening, as not only "permeable," but "aimed at keeping bombs out of baggage, not at keeping planes from being turned into guided missiles." (Pg. 138) National terrorism coordinator Richard Clarke (whose book
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