I just finished reading "The Cell" last weekend, and the story just blew my mind! Many of the things recalled in the book were known to me already, based on what I had heard on the news and read in other media outlets, but to see just how easy it was for the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 to be carried out was frightening and very tragic; considering that there were warning signs everywhere. One of the things that came to me was the fact that many of the law enforcement and intelligence agencies responsible for averting what happened on 9/11were either bogged down in bureaucratic red tape or territorial conflicts that threatened to bruise fragile egos. This could be seen from the conflict with the FBI-NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force with other special squads to the inability of the FBI, CIA, and other intelligence agencies to share vital information. What was so frightening and appaling was how easy it was for terrorists to enter this country, purchase weapons and even learn how to fly planes.
The book also gives us the disturbing fact that two adminstrations--one bogged down in partisan politics and a power hungry special counsel trying to pry into the president's sex life, the other somewhat oblivious to what was handed to them by their predecessors (no one still wants to admit that the Clinton adminstration, whom many right wingers still want to pin this tragedy on urged the Bush administration to immediately put in place the action to take out Bin Laden and they didn't, nor the fact that Attorney General Ashcroft refused to grant the request of the FBI to add more funding for antiterrorism)--were totally unprepared for what would happen.
If there was to be a tragic hero in this book it would have to be John O'Neill; the former FBI special agent who headed up the antiterrorist division and eventually due to politics was forced out of the loop. O'Neill came very close to cracking the case and discovering Bin Laden's nefarious plans. The irony of it all was that after he retired, he went to be the head of security at the World Trade Center, where he died shortly after taking the position on September 11.
The book is so relevant considering that we are still recovering from the wounds of 9/11, and the disturbing fact that even after the development of the Homeland Security Administration and the reforms called on by the 9/11commission, we are no safer now than we were before the tragedy took place. I hope that this book will be a reminder and a wake up call to the fact the post Cold-War society we live in is even more dangerous than ever.