The government commission investigating
the 2001 terrorist assault on this country says the United States' civil aviation
and military defense systems were critically unprepared for the attack by al-Qaida
hijackers, who crashed passenger jets into New York and Washington.
A report released Thursday by the commission studying the September 11 attacks
listed a number of official lapses. Among them was a complaint that the Federal
Aviation Administration (FAA), the agency that controls all civilian air travel
was too slow to sound the alarm to military commanders when it became clear
that multiple hijackings were under way. As a result, efforts to intercept
the jets were tangled and confused.
Communications problems at the time of the attacks extended to the White
House, where officials had great difficulty keeping Vice President Cheney in
contact with President Bush, who was away from Washington at the time.
Since 2001, a White House spokesman said, officials have made "significant
improvements" to the nation's air defense procedures.