Category Archives: 9/11

Finally: 9/11 in Real Perspective

There are a lot of 9/11 retrospectives and remembrances kicking around, as there always are, but few of them are as brutally honest and as trenchantly powerful as Kyle Moore’s at Comments from Left Field.

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The FBI and NSLs 2: The “Accident” Excuse Unravels (Updated)

As predicted, the DoJ IG’s conclusion that the FBI’s illegal use of NSLs did not constitute a crime is being called into question, and by a Republican no less.

Referring to the exigent circumstance letters, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote in a letter Friday to Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine: “It is . . . difficult to imagine why there should not have been swift and severe consequences for anyone who knowingly signed . . . a letter containing false statements. Anyone at the FBI who knew about that kind of wrongdoing had an obligation to put a stop to it and report it immediately.”

Yes, of course they did, but report it to who? Alberto?

Charlie’s sudden concern for the possibly illegal use of the NSLs after 6 years of sitting obediently on his ass and watching the Bush Administration and the Justice Dept play fast-and-loose with the Constitution arose yesterday when it came to light that the FBI’s own legal staff were expressing doubts about the way the NSLs were being handled as early as 2004.

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poll result: New Yorkers on government foreknowledge of 9-11

The results of this poll are very interesting. Half of New Yorkers think that the government had foreknowledge of the 9-11 attacks and consciously failed to act. Note that this is a poll of residents of New York state total, not just New York City. A separate poll mentioned in this article notes that 63% of Canadians agree. For the record, I also agree, at least if “foreknowledge” is interpreted to mean general rather than specific foreknowledge.

I guess this means that I’m a “conspiracy theorist” because, as far as I can tell, the operational definition of “conspiracy theorist” these days is “one who does not accept pronouncements coming from the administration (and transmitted through the mainstream media) as articles of faith”.

Rummy Don’t Come’Round Much Any More

Since his disgraceful, unsatisfying, and downright spooky appearance before the 9/11 Commission, Donald Rumsfeld sightings have been scarce as hen’s teeth. A devotee of the Sunday news/talk shows who used to make their rounds so often that his easily-skewered habit of asking himself questions he would then go on to answer while his interviewer struggled to get a word in edgeways had become a comedic staple, Rummy in the last few weeks has been noticably absent. Calls for his resignation were followed by Junior’s ludicrous statement that he wouldn’t fire Rumsfeld because he was ‘one of the best Secretaries of Defense this country has ever had’, an endorsement so far over the top that even without Capitol Hill Blue one would have reason to wonder what he was on.

Gail Sheehy, one of our last few real investigative reporters, doesn’t have an answer as to why that might be but she sure does have a lot of questions about his behaviour on 9/11 that she’d like to have answers to. Like where was he for 2 hours while the planes were crashing into the towers?

“Two planes hitting the twin towers did not rise to the level of Rumsfeld’s leaving his office and going to the War Room? How can that be?” asked Mindy Kleinberg, one of the widows known as the Jersey Girls, whose efforts helped create and guide the 9/11 commission. The fact that the final report failed to offer an explanation is one of the infuriating holes in an otherwise praiseworthy accounting.Rumsfeld was missing in action that morning — “out of the loop” by his own admission. The lead military officer that day, Brig. Gen. Montague Winfield, told the commission that the Pentagon’s command center had been essentially leaderless: “For 30 minutes we couldn’t find” Rumsfeld.

For more than two hours after the Federal Aviation Administration became aware that the first plane had been violently overtaken by Middle Eastern men, the man whose job it was to order air cover over Washington did not show up in the Pentagon’s command center. It took him almost two hours to “gain situational awareness,” he told the commission. He didn’t speak to the vice president until 10:39 a.m., according to the report. Since that was more than 30 minutes after the last hijacked plane crashed, it would seem to be an admission of dereliction of duty.

At the very least. In point of fact, the behaviour of everybody in the Bush Admin who was responsible for reacting to news like this was shockingly lackadaisical. Junior sat in a classroom reading a children’s book for almost 10 minutes, Cheney was on the phone but doesn’t seem to have felt pressed to do anything much, and Rummy was out to lunch. He has never offered any explanation of where he was, what he was doing, or why it took so long for him to respond. Why didn’t he know what the rest of us knew? Why didn’t he do his job?

Why wasn’t Rumsfeld able to see on TV what millions of civilians already knew? After the Pentagon was attacked, why did he run outside to play medic instead of moving to the command center and taking charge? The 9/11 report records the fatal confusion in which command center personnel were left: Three minutes after the FAA command center told FAA headquarters in an update that Flight 93 was 29 minutes out of Washington, D.C., the command center said, “Uh, do we want to, uh, think about scrambling aircraft?”FAA headquarters: “Oh, God, I don’t know.”

Command center: “Uh, that’s a decision somebody’s going to have to make probably in the next 10 minutes.”

But nobody did. Three minutes later, Flight 93 was wrestled to the ground by heroic civilians.

How is it that civilians in a hijacked plane were able to communicate with their loved ones, grasp a totally new kind of enemy and weaponry and act to defend the nation’s Capitol, yet the president had “communication problems” on Air Force One and the nation’s defense chief didn’t know what was going on until the horror was all over?

And one more question Sheehy didn’t ask: Why hasn’t the press been all over this? Why is our media so breathlessly riveted to how ‘French’ Kerry is supposed to look when we have a Defense Secretary who doesn’t seem to understand what the word ‘defense’ means? He understands the words ‘pre-emptive strike’ alright. He understands how to start a war that doesn’t defend us from anything, and he knows how to do it on a matchbook cover. But he doesn’t know enough to go to the command center and make decisions that need to be made when the country is actually attacked? And the press couldn’t care less?

This is two scandals in one.

BA Uses Fab Friday to Dump On 9/11CR Rec’s

In what has become a tradition over the last few years, the Bush Admin normally saves its most unpopular statements for release after 3pm on Friday when no one is paying any attention. Karl Rove has proved, without question, that democracy doesn’t operate between 3pm Friday and 7am Monday because US citizens stop caring about it between 3pm Friday and 7am Monday. Friday afternoon press releases are reserved for announcing the BA’s most fascist, least popular, and most undemocratic initiatives, policies, and statements of intent because they will be completely ignored by citizens vacationing from their citizenship, and by Monday everyone has moved on to something else.

eRobin has pointed out that Rove isn’t the genius a lot of people claim he is, and she’s right. He’s not. What he is is a crafty political animal with low cunning, a bagful of sleezy tricks he isn’t afraid to use, and no illusions about Americans’ real attitudes toward their patriotism and responsibilities of citizenship. He knows that we like our patriotism to come without the pain of too much thought and our citizenship duties restricted to watching network tv news, preferably with the sound off. We don’t want to spend more than an hour a day on it; we want it pre-digested and fed to us with a spoon; and above all, in a complex world where nothing is what it appears to be, allies on one issue are enemies on others, and all the truth is in the nuances, we don’t want to hear, read, or be forced to learn anything that can’t be summarized in a 5-sec soundbite because we can’t handle nuance. We’re afraid of gray areas; we tremble before anything that has more than one level of meaning and believe that if something isn’t simple to understand it’s probably a trick; we prefer to deny uncomfortable realities rather than face up to difficult solutions, and the illusions of a ‘morning in America’ to the warnings of dark clouds on the horizon; we’d rather trust our leaders than keep an eye on them because the first we can do from our barcalounger and the second might require movement unrelated to a gym or a snowboard. We prefer war to peace if peace would be confusing. And we prefer being to afraid to facing our fears–we want somebody else to do that for us.

Nothing about this is particularly much less exclusively American. It’s human, it’s the way we operate and have for centuries. We are neither uniquely ignorant nor ingenious in our willful blindness. We are simply better able to allow ourselves to indulge in both as a result of our riches: we don’t have to deal with reality if we don’t want to; we can turn on the tv and watch other humans we can look down on swallow cockroaches and cheat on their lovers. We don’t have to work 7 days a week because four guys got hanged in Haymarket Square to win the 40-hr work week for us. We have a Consitution to protect our domestic liberty and oceans on both sides to protect us from foreign invasion. We’ve been extraordinarily lucky in both our geography and our progenitors because they did all the work for us and we can have our weekends off.

Which explains Fab Friday. Rove’s view of us is the view I’ve just expressed. It’s who he thinks–knows–we are, or would prefer to be. He panders to it, strokes it, encourages it every chance he gets, and one of his favorite tricks is to drop his bombshells just as we have dropped our attention as citizens to focus on the only two days we have in which we get to act like ordinary humans.

Which is why I find it so disturbing that he would save the announcement of the BA’s disagreement with the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission for a Friday afternoon.

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration warned Friday that the two central reforms proposed by the Sept. 11 commission — creating a powerful intelligence chief and establishing a new counterterrorism center — may remove barriers protecting intelligence from political influence and undermine civil liberties.The president and his senior advisors are drafting initial orders on some of the commission’s recommendations that could be issued as soon as next week. But action on the centerpiece reforms deserves more consideration, a senior White House official said.

“We need to, in considering each of these recommendations, place a premium and real attention on how to protect civil liberties while better safeguarding our homeland,” the official said.

Similar concerns were expressed by senators Friday during the first congressional hearing on the Sept. 11 commission’s recommendations. The question of how to protect the independence of the intelligence community has become perhaps the most difficult dilemma for policymakers who are otherwise eager to embrace reform.

Many questions arise from the waves like a school of dolphins: Why would an Administration that for three years has been assiduous about gathering every possible power it can to itself suddenly refuse one? Why would an administration previously contemptuous of anyone else’s privacy while obsessing over its own suddenly be concerned about protecting ours at its own expense? And if it’s an election-year ploy, why announce it on Fab Friday when they know it will be ignored?

Part of my discomfort no doubt comes from the painful discovery that I actually agree with them. My experience over the past 3 1/2 years of the BA has been that when I approve some decision they’ve made, either I’m wrong or they’re lying. Usually it turns out they had a plan to twist that seemingly intelligent and citizen-friendly decision into a pretzel that makes it its own opposite, and I’m wary of that but I don’t see how it applies here. The 9/11CR plops power right into their waiting laps, and even Kerry is stumping hard for it. Why would they reject it? It codifies and encapsulates in law–potentially–exactly what they’ve been roundly criticized for doing: politicizing intelligence. Why turn away from the very development that would legitimize what has been illegitimate up to now? The possibility that they’re genuinely concerned about citizen rights is laughable given the PATRIOT Act and all their other blithe intrusions on civil liberties, so I dismiss that out of hand. What other reasons could there be? A few come to mind.

1) Rove wants to take the opportunity for Junior to act ‘presidential’ by appearing to ‘think it over’ and ‘have doubts’–BA spinmeisters are already out there making a big deal about how Bush is ‘reading the whole report all the way through; he will finish it’ (NPR), apparently unaware that their breathless surprise at his uncharacteristic behaviour is showing–over something there is no real danger will not be passed with or without him.

2) He wants to set Junior’s reluctance smack up against Kerry’s unvarnished enthusiasm, making Kerry look like a callow opportunist and Junior like a seasoned statesman by comparison, cautious and thoughtful–traits noticeably lacking in Shrub’s palette over the past 3 years.

3) He wants the Pubs to be able to disclaim responsibility down the line when the re-organization blows up in everybody’s face.

4) He thinks Junior might lose the election and doesn’t want that kind of power put into Democratic hands.

But the first two are positive for him and don’t explain why he would do it on Fab Friday, and the second two are exercises in projecting farther into the future than the next election–a skill conspicuous by its absence from Karl’s portfolio.

In fact everything about this announcement is uncharacteristic of Rove, Bush, and the whole BA. It doesn’t fit with anything else they’ve done since the day they took office. So what the hell is going on?

Kerry Backs 9/11C Rec’s: Rush to Judgment 2

I suppose it was inevitable. It’s an election year. But did he have to be so damned enthusiastic about it?

NORFOLK, Va., July 27 – Senator John Kerry called Tuesday for an 18-month extension of the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, sharpening his critique of President Bush’s response to the panel’s recent report by declaring, “backpedaling and going slow is something that America can’t afford.”Escalating the political tussle over national security, Mr. Kerry, at a campaign rally in this Navy town, said the commission should stay in existence past its scheduled Aug. 26 expiration to monitor progress on its many recommendations and issue status reports.

“You can’t treat the commission report as something you hope will go away,” he said. “Leadership requires that we act now, not talk, not vague promises, not excuses.”

An 18-month extension so they can ‘make sure we do it right’, he said, or words to that effect (I heard him say it). Like the 9/11CR is the fucking Bible or something and he’s a fundamentalist acolyte. But it’s an election year and the numbers are tight and Junior waffled over the 9/11C from the beginning, stonewalling it, refusing to release documents until it was forced to, playing games around who would testify and how, and all the rest of it. He’s vulnerable here so we have to jump on it.

The problem is: the 9/11CR is NOT the be-all/end-all, NOT the Received Word From On High. It’s just a report by some politicians who’ve made some serious mistakes that we already know about and failed even to ask some of the most vital questions. In an NYT Op-Ed yesterday, Gerald Posner took them to task for their easy dismissal of Saudi complicity.

[E]ven more startling is the report’s conclusion that the panel has “found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually” helped to finance Al Qaeda. It does say that unnamed wealthy Saudi sympathizers, and leading Saudi charities, sent money to the terror group. But the report fails to mine any of the widely available reporting and research that establishes the degree to which many of the suspect charities cited by the United States are controlled directly by the Saudi government or some of its ministers.The report makes no mention, for example, of an October 2002 study by the Council of Foreign Relations that draws opposite conclusions about the role of Saudi charities and how “Saudi officials have turned a blind eye to this problem.” The 9/11 panel also misses an opportunity to more fully explore an intelligence coup in 2002, when American agents in Bosnia retrieved computer files of the so-called Golden Chain, a group of Mr. bin Laden’s early financial supporters.

Reported to be among the 20 names on this list were a former government minister in Saudi Arabia, three billionaire banking tycoons and several top industrialists. Yet the report neither confirms nor denies this. Nor does it address what, if anything, the Saudis did with the information, or whether the men were ever arrested by Saudi authorities.

After going over the evidence that Saudis, including members of bin Laden’s family, were allowed to leave the US at a time when other planes were grounded (whether or not they were questioned before they went is unclear), he concludes:

Of course, none of these matters undermine the report’s central conclusions about what went wrong inside the United States leading up to 9/11. And satisfying answers to questions about the relationship between the Saudis and Al Qaeda might not be available yet. But the commission could have at least asked them. By failing to address adequately how Saudi leaders helped Al Qaeda flourish, the commission has risked damaging its otherwise good work. (emphasis added)

Robert Dreyfuss points out in 9/11C–Failure #2 that some of their central recommendations betray an astonishing ignorance of both Islam and what drives Islamic terrorism.

Thing Two. Perhaps it’s too much to expect people like Fred Fielding, Slade Gorton, Jim Thompson, Bob Kerrey and the rest of the 9/11 Commission to say anything intelligent about how to “Prevent the Continued Growth of Islamist Terrorism,” one of the top priorities in the “What To Do? A Global Strategy” chapter of their report. After all, it’s fair to say that they are virtual know-nothings when it comes to understanding Islam, not to mention its radical and fundamentalist manifestations.But this chapter isn’t a road map on fighting “Islamist terrorism.” It is a veritable Bartlett’s of quotable (and meaningless) platitudes. So far, at least, I haven’t seen anyone point this out.

Here are a few of the silliest (and by the way, these are not taken out of context, but are the central observations and “recommendations” of the commission in how to fight Islamic terrorism by “engage[ing] in the struggle for ideas”):

“It is among the large majority of Arabs and Muslims that we must encourage reform, freedom, democracy, and opportunity.”

“The U.S. government must define what the message is, what it stands for. We should offer an example of moral leadership in the world, committed to treat people humanely, abide by the rule of law, and be generous and caring to our neighbors… That vision of the future should stress life over death.”

“Just as we did in the Cold War, we need to defend our ideals abroad vigorously. America does stand up for its values.”

“The U.S. government should offer to join other nations in generously supporting a new International Youth Opportunity Fund.”

These are PPPP’s (Pointless but Positive Political Platitudes) meant to shore up Junior’s ill-advised, inaccurate hyperbole about Islamic fundamentalism arising from a hatred of ‘freedom’, which is such arrant, bigoted, and superficial nonsense that even the neocons who thought this idiotic strategy up never used it as an excuse before he did.

The 9/11CR is just a political document, and it needs to be treated that way: picked apart until the grain is separated from the mountains of chaff, not embraced like Holy Writ. Yet even the 9/11 Family Steering Committee, up to now one of the 9/11C’s most vocal and reliable critics, is jumping on the bandwagon.

We intend to hold any elected official publicly accountable for any obstruction or opposition to the implementation of these recommendations. We will maintain a log on our website that will track the course of this legislation. We will in effect conduct our own oversight – “the people’s oversight”. And we will actively lobby Congress and the White House until these important recommendations are in place.

You can stand down guys; it’s an election year and everybody’s breaking their necks to get in line. We’re apparently going to have this crap hung around our necks at the speed of light, and nobody’s going to bother too much with whether it makes sense or not, will fix anything or not, or count the glaring holes in it.

It’s an election year.

The Pakistan Connection

Pakistan’s role in the 9-11 attacks has been woefully underreported in the US. That’s no surprise, of course, since it’s an inconvenient fact for an administration peddling fairy tales about Saddam’s alliance with Osama. But for those of you who prefer non-fiction to fantasy, I suggest reading Michael Meacher’s recent article in the Guardian. To extract four points and one quote:

(1) A Pakistani intelligence (ISI) operative who wired $100,000 to Mohammed Atta before the 9-11 attacks is about to be hanged for a crime he didn’t commit, namely the execution of WSJ reporter Daniel Pearl. (Pearl is thought to have been particularly interested in our government’s role in training or backing the ISI.)

(2) The head of ISI who ordered the money wired has not been charged with anything, questioned or brought to trial. He has quietly retired, and neither the US nor Pakistan is raising a peep about it.

(3) The man thought responsible for Pearl’s murder, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, is “…unlikely to be accused of the crime in an American criminal court because of the risk of divulging classified information” (NYT).

(4) FBI translator Sybel Edmonds, who has tried to expose individuals and governments that helped orchestrate the 9-11 attacks, has been put under two gag orders by the Justice Department, and her formerly public testimony to Congress has been retroactively classified. (I believe Sybel Edmond’s story is, as Mick would say, so not over.)

… and the quote:

Daniel Ellsberg, the former US defence department whistleblower who has accompanied Edmonds in court, has stated: “It seems to me quite plausible that Pakistan was quite involved in this … To say Pakistan is, to me, to say CIA because … it’s hard to say that the ISI knew something that the CIA had no knowledge of.” [Former ISI head] Ahmed’s close relations with the CIA would seem to confirm this. For years the CIA used the ISI as a conduit to pump billions of dollars into militant Islamist groups in Afghanistan, both before and after the Soviet invasion of 1979.

W ith CIA backing, the ISI has developed, since the early 1980s, into a parallel structure, a state within a state, with staff and informers estimated by some at 150,000. It wields enormous power over all aspects of government. The case of Ahmed confirms that parts of the ISI directly supported and financed al-Qaida, and it has long been established that the ISI has acted as go-between in intelligence operations on behalf of the CIA.

And after you’re done reading this article, go back and reread an old but very important report by Seymour Hersh that our media has steadfastly ignored while breathlessly promoting stories like the meeting between Mohammed Atta and Iraqi intelligence officials. (Yeah, sure, Mohammed Atta happened to be in Florida while this meeting was supposedly taking place in Prague – but why get hung up on facts that don’t fit with the story you’re selling?)