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Without Precedent:   The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission
By Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton
384 pp.
Knopf. US$29.95
ISBN-10: 0307263770 / ISBN-13: 9780307263773

On September 11, 2001, terrorists attacked the United States.

On November 27, 2002, President George W. Bush signed Public Law 107-306 that directed the formation of a special commission that would to "examine and report upon the facts and causes relating to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, occurring at the World Trade Center in New York, New York, in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon in Virginia." This law formed the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, commonly referred to as the 9/11 Commission.

The stark, simple words of the law disguised a mountainous task. On December 18, 2002, Commission chairman Thomas Kean and vice-chairman Lee Hamilton met for the first time to discuss how they might tackle the work ahead. They both knew they faced what they called "a thicket of political controversy."

The mandate they had been given was all-inclusive. It called for investigation in the areas of intelligence, law enforcement, diplomacy, visas, immigration and border control, the impact of congressional oversight and resource allocation, and any other areas of the private or public sectors deemed relevant and necessary by the Commission.

It is easy to think a book that documents a government investigation might be uninteresting, dry or unreadable. Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission is none of these. Kean and Hamilton present their investigation with such skill in narrative that they have ultimately given us a story -- a true story, written by the key investigators, the ones with their fingers on all those threads of disparate information that tell the story of the uncovering of the crime.

Beset by obstacles and working at a time when the country was still emotionally raw from the events of 9/11, they tell how they both started the work of the Commission with an expectation of failure, of a disintegration along political fault lines that would prevent the truth being brought to the light of day. Without Precedent is the story of how they persevered and succeeded in bringing out a report that has been generally acclaimed to be fair and impartial. The issues they dealt with are still before us every day in the papers and on TV. This book is a timely and addition to the body of political works that has helped the public grapple with the disturbing legacy of 9/11.

In addition to his chairmanship of the the 9/11 Commission, Thomas Kean has been the governor of New Jersey. Lee H. Hamilton was a United States congressman from Indiana for 34 years and has served on the President's Homeland Security Advisory Council.

Thomas Eddings, for Notable Book Reviews
Notable Book Reviews received one or more copies of this book in exchange for this review.
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