"When it comes to the unity of America, those days seem distant from our own," former President George W. Bush lamented in remarks at a 9/11 event on Saturday.
Even the 9/11 Commission soft-pedaled the failures of U.S. leaders and the intelligence community.
The terrorist leader phoned his mother in Syria on September 10. "Something big" was going to keep them from meeting for a while, he said.
The news that Ahmad Shah Massoud had been killed "made me feel sick to my stomach," said the CIA officer who led the first team into Afghanistan after 9/11.
"The match is about to begin," said one of the communications. The NSA didn't translate them into English or disseminate them.
September 7 saw the terrorists enroute to their 9/11 departure points. The four hijackers of United Airlines Flight 93 were the earliest team in position.
Al Qaeda paid for the hijackers' flight training, travel, and more than a year's residence in the U.S., without triggering banking suspicious activity reports.
The personal warning from terrorism staffer Richard Clarke could not have been stronger. But he was just frustrated by the bureaucracy, Rice thought.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed talked about the men's relationship; it may have reshaped what happened on September 11.
"Smile in the face of doom, young man," Atta instructed the other 9/11 hijackers, "for you are passing to the gardens of eternity."
Even al Qaeda leaders didn't know the date of the planned attack. When told, they had objections—but bin Laden overruled them.
Deadly failure on KSM: Multiple reports cited the person recruiting terrorists to attack the U.S—but the CIA and FBI were looking elsewhere.
Trump said in a recent interview that al-Baghdadi and Soleimani, who were both killed while he was in office, were "bigger" terrorists than Osama bin Laden.
Zaid Jarrah was a computer program by day, terrorist by night. He bought a poster of the Boeing 757 cockpit to study and to share with other bin Laden members.
Zabihullah Mujahid said the Taliban "have given promises that Afghan soil won't be used against anyone."
Marwan al-Shehhi shared his room with Mohammed Atta. They shopped in Target, Circuit City, Payless Shoes, Lowe's.
Mohammed Atta logged into his Travelocity account to shop for flights from Washington Dulles airport and from Boston, departing around 8:00 am on September 11.
"The time for training is over," al Qaeda member Abu Zubaydah said on an intercepted call. After torture, he pointed the CIA to the 9/11 mastermind, KSM.
The special agent noted an "inordinate number" of suspicious flight students; guessed the terrorists' intentions; made four recommendations. FBI HQ did none.
"What the president said just wasn't true," Chris Wallace said.
Field office agents were also rebuked for seeking information. "Things work much better when our agencies are communicating HQ to HQ," the CIA said.
Rob O'Neil told Fox News his approach would be "I'm gonna kill everyone I see, and I'm gonna grab the Americans."
The FBI and CIA's a fatal mistake—confusing Khalid al-Mihdhar, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and "Khallad"—allowed 9/11 mastermind KSM to escape attention.
The 9/11 Commission wrote that Said Bahaji had "no personality and limited knowledge of Islam." But three of the 9/11 hijackers attended his wedding.
The men used code. "Architecture" meant the World Trade Center, "arts" was the Pentagon, "law" was the U.S. Capitol building, "politics" was the White House.
Ziad Jarrah took his 9/11 role seriously. But a delay in takeoff from Newark Airport gave passengers the information they needed to fight back.
The FAA warned that terrorists might use everyday objects modified into weapons. But the team knew—from experience—their box cutters wouldn't cause a problem.
Terrorist mastermind KSM had two visas and was on a watch list. yet no one in the State Department, immigration, FBI or intelligence community paid attention.
Although the CIA knew of Khalid al-Mihdhar's ties to al-Qaeda, he was able to meet Mohammed Atta in New Jersey on August 9th. It went badly.
On August 7, 2001, the intelligence team discussed Iraq's rumored weapons of mass destruction—another misreading that led to disaster.