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Constructing CassandraReframing Intelligence Failure at the CIA, 1947-2001$
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Milo Jones and Philippe Silberzahn

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780804785808

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804785808.001.0001

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The Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001

The Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001

(p.192) 6 The Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001
Constructing Cassandra

Milo Jones

Philippe Silberzahn

Stanford University Press

This chapter presents an overview of the CIA's analysis of al-Qa'ida and Usama bin Ladin prior to September 11. It documents the scale of the CIA's failure to provide warning of bin Ladin's intentions and capabilities prior to the attacks. It describes how the CIA's culture and identity shaped the Agency's view of al-Qa'ida during each stage of the intelligence cycle prior to 9/11, and contrasts these mainstream Agency views with those of a Cassandra, Michael Scheuer. It describes how Scheuer, as head of the CIA's bin Ladin Unit, Alec Station, tried to provide strategic warning within the Agency, but was discounted and then demoted for his efforts. It documents how the Agency's homogeneity of personnel, scientism, preference for secrets and drive for consensus led to a fundamental misunderstanding of the threat posed by al-Qa'ida, and thus created the proximate conditions for an intelligence failure to occur.

Keywords:   Michael Scheuer, intelligence failure, Usama bin Ladin, George Tenet, George W. Bush, William Jefferson Clinton, Alec Station, Douglas McEachin, 9/11 Commission

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