▪ Abstract 

This essay examines the failure to anticipate the terrorist attacks of September 11 from four perspectives: cognitive biases of government analysts and policy makers concerned with terrorism, organizational pathologies of key bureaucracies such as the CIA and the FBI, political and strategic errors of senior government officials, and the unusual nature of al Qaeda. Drawing on past studies of strategic surprise, it argues that agencies such as the CIA at times did impressive work against the terrorist organization, but that in general the U.S. government, and the U.S. intelligence community in particular, lacked a coherent approach for triumphing over the skilled terrorists it faced. In hindsight, it is clear that numerous mistakes at all levels of the U.S. government and the broader U.S. analytic community made strategic surprise more likely.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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