Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Frightening Reality

Thanks to a tweet by my friend Dave, I tracked down and read The Ground Truth: The Untold Story of America Under Attack on 9/11 by John Farmer. It’s a frightening account of incompetence perpetrated at every level of government.

Farmer, who served as senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission, provides a compelling read. The book looks at the attacks on 9/11 chronologically. 1996 through 2000 is explored in terms of years. January 2001 through September 10, 2001 is dealt with as months, weeks, and days. September 11 is explored in first hours, then minutes, and finally seconds. This structure succeeds in ratcheting up the tension and drama, despite the reader’s advance knowledge of what’s ultimately coming. It also highlights the confusion and misinformation delivered on what Farmer refers to as “The Day of Days.”

The other interesting (and equally alarming) aspect of the book is a comparison between the government response on 9/11 and the government response to Hurricane Katrina four years later. Two disasters: one man-made and considered unlikely, one natural and predicted with certainty. Different agencies were involved between the two events, but Farmer’s case is that because the 9/11 Commission (along with the American public and media) was lied to, the changes put in place as a result were inappropriate and inadequate. This, he posits, led directly to the botched response at the local, state, and federal levels of government when Hurricane Katrina hit.

The Ground Truth is a fascinating read and a fairly damning assessment of American government competency. No surprises there, I suppose.