Inside the Terrorist Network
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the interior of a 757 and a flight simulator screen showing the pentagon
join the discussion: What do you think motivated the Sept. 11 terrorists? And should the U.S. have been able to prevent the attacks?


Dear FRONTLINE,

I think the intense hatred of the west, especially our values and wealth, finally inspired the terrorists to hit us where they felt it would hurt the most...our financial and military centers. From all the different interesting documentaries and historical reports that I've seen since the attacks, it appears as though the radical islamists felt as though the west had invaded their customs and values and used them in order to help fight the soviets...then left the middle east high and dry to fend for themselves, without any help to rebuild their lives.

I do feel as though the U.S. should have been able to prevent these attacks, especially after viewing the PBS documentary this evening. This show has definitely convinced me that our intelligence agency should have been able to detect and monitor the various suspicious activities portrayed. Additionally, our various U.S. government and local agencies should have been more coordinated in order to communicate when suspicious activity was noted. And finally, I feel as though our immigration policies need to be stricter when it pertains to expired visas, student visas, and becoming involved with a tracking method simple enough to assure that an immigrant is investigated for even a simple traffic violation in which a court appearance is evaded.

Why not just refuse all immigration to the U.S. altogether???? However, its sad to think that this will not avoid the activites of our homegrown terrorists.

jacksonville, florida


Dear FRONTLINE,

Simply an excellent piece of work by Hedrick Smith and Ben Loeterman. No time to point fingers, as Hedrick said it was a combination of "complacency and lack of imagination(it could never happen here)." The U.S.intelligence agencies, and the Clinton administration(and perhaps other administrations) had pieces of information, but couldn't put the dots together. Yet, today, I feel we are still complacent. We are not, in my opinion, united. We are afraid to criticize,because we fear retribution. As a former Marine I am not shocked at the American public. In the mainstream, Americans are still smug and complacent. We still think that these folks(and not just fundamentalist Islamics)are not smart enough to do much more. President Bush and his administration I think have done a superb job, but so much more has to be done. Airports are not the only place where danger lurks, and yet it seems that is the only focus. As a private pilot, I know how easy it is for anyone with money can get flight training. Several years ago, I tried to emulate Tom Clancy and wrote a novel about fundamentalist Islamics getting flight training in Florida. Their objective was to crash into Washington's RFK stadium during the Dallas-Washington football game. The agent I sent the novel to said I had a great imagination. Others have, Clancy included, written novels where terrorists have crashed planes into public buildings, including the U.S. Capitol. In a way, you can understand some of the feelings of these fundamentalist/terrorist. They see a Western world full of violence, sex and other things(I'm not a moralist)that disturb their religious beliefs. It still doesn't allow them to carry out horrible acts. So, buckle down folks--this is going to be a long struggle. And, quite frankly, like Terry Rubin of the Philadelphia Inquierer has written--we will never elminate terrorism completly.

Dr. Ben Laime
albuquerque, new mexico


Dear FRONTLINE,

As an expert on the issue, I can tell you that, my opinion, Smith got it right in many respects. There was a failure of imagination with respect to the tactics (the planes in the bldgs.) However, the government has been telling people for some time that mass-oriented terrorist attacks are going to happen and that it was only a matter of time. In the late 90s we had come a ways since Brian Jenkins et al were saying that casualties were not the objective of the attacks. He has changed his mind. People should read Jourgensmeyer's book on religious warriors. It argues that a new breed of terrorists thinks and operates in ways that we have difficulty comprehending because they actually start to function on a different "cosmic" plane. Such people are not crazy; but they are really "out there." On the intelligence failure, it was more of a failure of the gov. to convince the pols to do enough preparation, than a collection/analysis failure. Question: How do you convince the leadership to spend billions on a threat that is unprecedented and low probablility?

ray picquet
madison, ct


Dear FRONTLINE,

A limited capacity for critical thinking, enormous amounts of rage, narrow horizons, a desire to be noticed, maybe even a genuine belief their "cause" was blessed by God--that's what motivated the three pilots. The muscle--the younger guys--who knows? Probably the same combination of circumstances and emotions that makes young Americans with few options amd little hope join gangs. Maybe they also lacked the maturity to understand how short life is, or the imagination to recognize that it's precious.

mount kisco, ny


Dear FRONTLINE,

I think the terrorists have a core group who essentially hate the USA, or any "infidel" from anywhere. They have, as others in the past, exploited the true meanings of their religion and used it as a way to recruit intelligent, well trained Arabs of the Islamic faith, and somehow were able to convince them that their cause was not only just, but the only one.

Just as the Kamikaze pilot was conned into "dying for the Emperor", this core group knew how to use religion as a method of mind control, albeit with a bit of hatred thrown in. They found a real leader in Atta, whose cold, calculated drive coupled with his intelligence and education, was also a fine one to recruit others, and to calm anyone with misgivings about what they were to do. It was merely blind obedience, which one sees usually in a dog. Yet, Atta had many skills, including ways to elude detection.

Yes, I do think the U.S.A. should have been able to prevent the attacks. Unless we eliminate our profound complacency, learn to know our enemies well and above all, have a communication-sharing system with all agencies and persons who could have stopped this from occurring, I do think they will strike again. Perhaps not a large, well planned attack as that on 9/11, but anyone in any cell, anywhere in the world, can take retribution for what was done to the al-Quaida, and even justify it in their own minds as something which is "pleasing to Allah". Bin Laden is still missing, and presumed alive, but he is a small player in this.

He was a disgruntled hippie-like individual born to wealth and chose radicalism to give himself an identity. Lastly, I think we all need to take heed from this, and develop a positive cynicism (not paranoia) for anyone who does anything suspicious. We are a complacent people, and though what occurred is horrible, many more could have been killed. Please, if you have not already done so, share this program with the federal government agencies. Thank you for an excellent, yet chilling program.

Toni Helfrick
deland, fl


Dear FRONTLINE,

fanatisism at its very worst. for the free world, the question is, what to do? if we truly believe in freedom and democracy, why do we continue to support goverments that deny the citizens the right to debate, argue and even rise up against leaders who were not freely elected? fanatics will always gravitate to countrys that have no real leadership [afghanistan, somolia, et al] and take over, pointing the steel barrel of hatred at the west, believing that the youth of islam [fodder] will conjure up a new "world order"...

jersey city, nj


Dear FRONTLINE,

A most dynamic and chillingly enlightening program. As always, there are more questions than answers but one thing is clear. America's committment to complacency. How can you, at the same time, say what a terrible, dangerous world we live in and leave yourself ( and your citizens) so vulnerable to it? Good question huh? Here's a better one. What is yet to come?

new york, ny


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