Pre- 9/11 warnings: A lesson of vigilance

Regarding "Lessons from pre-9/11 warnings" (May 17): It's true that there were mistakes made in the information-gathering that led up to Sept. 11. The US government and US citizens – myself included – have always had a tendency to view our country as a beacon to the world, unable to conceive of anyone doing us harm. As was the case prior to Pearl Harbor, the public mentality before 9/11 was, "We're oceans away, and we don't have to worry."

We must stop viewing ourselves as isolated from the rest of the world and its problems. We – as a nation, not just our government officials – have a tendency to rest on our laurels when the going is good. But it's during times of peace that we should be our most vigilant.
Gregory S. Davis
Maryville, Tenn.

What concerns me about the recent news that various arms of the US government had pieces of information warning of the 9/11 attacks is White House spokesman Ari Fleischer's statement: "The possibility of a traditional hijacking – in the pre-Sept. 11 sense – has long been a concern of the government." But "this was a new type of attack that was not foreseen."

From his statement, we know the government had reasonable expectation that a more "traditional" hijacking would occur. We know the government had reason to be concerned about that probability, and that they now want to be somehow unaccountable for that because the intended use of the planes in the hands of the hijackers was "not foreseen." In other words, because the end result was outside the spec of a traditional hijacking, the fact that government organizations failed to identify and avert it shouldn't matter and they shouldn't be held responsible.

The administration's general assumptions were costly for many relying on their own assumptions – personal safety while flying in commercial air carriers, and that even in the event of a "new type" of attack, compliance with FAA safety regulations would safeguard against a series of incidents that might lead to a hijacking, regardless of how hijackers intended to "use" the plane.

Perhaps in a world where pre- and post- 9/11 will forever be a line of demarcation in emotion, thought, and action, there is no room for assumptions. However, as the US government had "reasonable expectations" that a hijacking would occur, yet took few actions to prevent it, so should the people of the US have "reasonable expectations" that the government be accountable to its people for that failure to act. There is one assumption the administration can make. That is to assume responsibility.
Julie Umnus

The ability of people to be followers and practically lynch someone based on hearsay, rather than stopping to think about the facts for themselves, worries me. Not one of the warnings I've heard of comes close to describing the events of 9/11, yet they'll be used to undermine our president and his administration. And getting the public up-in-arms toward its leaders during a war will only weaken a nation.

How could the US have disrupted Al Qaeda's plan when there was no clear-cut plan available to disrupt? And who, really, would have imagined aircrafts could be used as they were on 9/11? It's easy to say with hindsight that this attack was preventable, but realistically, no one would have been able to predict it and be taken seriously on Sept. 10. My plea is that the public, writers included, not take political stands, and instead of pointing accusing fingers, write and think about this in a manner that will produce positive results. This is the only way to ensure anything good may come of this disaster.
Marie Caronia
Brooklyn, N.Y.

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