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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

September, 2004

The 9/11 Investigation Final Report:
WHAT'S WRONG WITH KANSAS?
By Stephen Simac

 

  If this road goes in it must come out" said the Scarecrow, "and as the
Emerald City is at the other end, we must go wherever it leads us." 
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.
 
   Three years have passed since the 9/11/01 Attack on America. Two investigations into the events and details of that day have been conducted and results published. One conclusion has been reached by the investigations, the media and the shell shocked public.
  The first Joint Investigation (JI) was an inside job by the two houses of Congress, co-chaired by long time intelligence insiders, Senator Bob Graham and Congressman Porter Goss of Florida. (Goss has since been nominated for the head of the CIA by George Bush.)
  Whole chapters and numerous pages of the JI's final report were blanked out for "national security." Their conclusion: only the hijackers and Al Quaida were to blame, no individual or agency in the government was held responsible.
   This satisfied most of the American major media and their audience, but some family members of the victims were not. They lobbied tirelessly for an independent investigation, pushing aside the resistance of the Bush administration and a deadened apathy of the country to "just get over it," like the consensus to "just get over" the stolen election of 2000.
   Bush was forced to agree to a second investigation after a year of entrenched opposition to new hearings. His first choice, Henry Kissinger had too many conflicts of interests; customers of his possibly linked with 9/11. Former Governor Thomas Kean of New Jersey was then chosen to be titular head of the commission. Kean also had obvious conflicts of interest, but they were overlooked by the media.
   Most members of the Kean Commission (KC) who did accept appointments to the "non-partisan," (equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans; no other parties) had conflicts of interest but the members' biases and most of their public hearings were studiously ignored.
   It wasn't quite another Warren Commission, the investigation into the assassination of President Kennedy. Allan Dulles, who had been recently fired by JFK as head of the CIA, was a member of the WC. Those hearings were widely followed by the media and the public. Thirty five years later, former President Gerald Ford, also a WC member, admitted that their final report had lied about the location of the bullet hole in JFK's shirt to support their "magic, single bullet" theory.
   The Kean Commission (KC) held hearings for 18 months, only two weeks of which were widely covered by the media. In July they issued their final report, a massive 500 plus page tome. Most reports skimmed the surface of its findings, headlining the official conclusion; no individual or agency of the US government was responsible or censured, only the hijackers and al Qaeda, (and maybe the Iranians) were to blame.

"Quick Dorothy!," Aunt Emma screamed. "Run for the cellar!"
   Although there were failures in "policy, capabilities and management" the commission agreed that any blame for allowing the hijackers to succeed in their long shot plan was primarily "a failure of imagination." This was compounded by the intelligence community "relax"ing after the Y2K/Millennial Threat frenzy.
   Without any strong media hooks, their final report sank like a lead weight below the media and public attention span shortly after it was issued. This was days before the DNC in Boston was held. Then there was the Code Orange alert based on three year old information. Then the Olympics, and the ongoing celebrity or murder trial of the month.
   "Because if you did not wear spectacles the brightness and the glory of the Emerald City would blind you." said the Green Man.    It's unrealistic to expect the media to read through this massive report on daily deadlines before the next news cycle then report on it in any in-depth way, much less to question its conclusions based on the evidence presented by the commission.
   The only stories that followed were on the KC's proposals for structural reform of the $40 plus billion US intelligence "community," especially the call for an overall Intelligence Director to ride herd over the "intelligence community." Their structural reform doesn't mean firing any one, only hiring more people.
   Iran's not stamping the hijackers passports when they passed through on their way home from Afghanistan headlined for a few days, softening up the opposition to an Invasion of Iran, future Nuclear Terror. These angles seemed to satisfy most of the media chorus.    On Aug. 17th the New York Times described a "largely glowing reaction to the Sept. 11 commissions final report," even though it "documented intelligence and law enforcement failures before" the attacks, and held no individual or agency responsible. They reported a "whirlwind of unusual midsummer activity on Capitol Hill" to pass legislation to create a "national intelligence director to oversee all spy agencies, including those within the Defense Department."   Infighting from the Defense Department and the Justice Department to avoid losing control over their intelligence budgets will probably torpedo this plan, but the story became buried inside. Structural reform is eye-glazing, mind numbing wonkish stuff.   The most damning and actionable evidence revealed by the KC was virtually ignored by all reporters, but it is a matter of public record. Through an extensive reading of classified and unclassified documents and questioning hundreds of individuals the KC discovered that there were many prior warnings from within the intelligence agencies about terrorists hijacking planes and crashing them inside the United States.  "No indeed, I don't know anything. You see I am stuffed so I have no brains at all. he answered sadly.
   These began in the mid 90's and continued through the summer of 2001. They specifically warned of plans to hijack commercial airlines and crash them as bombs into Washington, DC and New York City. These were based on reliable sources and were "actionable" but very little actual and no successful action was taken to prevent such attacks. 
   The KC discovered a 1995 National Intelligence Estimate that predicted future terrorist attacks within the United States, specifying the Capitol, Wall Street and the World Trade Center as probable targets. In early 1995, an accomplice to the 1993 WTC bombing told Philippine authorities (immediately shared with US intelligence) of plans to fly a plane into CIA headquarters, not that far from the Pentagon. In late 1998 there were reports of an al Qaeda plan to hijack and crash an explosives laden plane into a US city.
   In 1998 National Security Council counterterrorism coordinator Richard Clarke held a paper exercise with the Pentagon, Defense Dept. and the Secret Service with a "scenario" of a group of terrorists hijacking a plane and crashing it into Washington DC. In December 1999, after the millennium bomber was caught at the US border with explosives in his spare tire planning to bomb LAX, Clarke's staff warned that "foreign sleeper cells are present in the US and attacks in the US are likely."   In August of 1999 the FAA Civil Aviation Security identified suicide hijacking operations by al Qaeda as a possible threat. The Gore Commission on Airline Security had earlier called attention to lax screening of passengers and what they carried onto the planes.
   In 2000, Clarke held a Counterterrorism Security Group "devoted largelyÉto a possible airline hijacking by al Qaeda." Early in 2001, CIA Deputy Director of Operations James Pavitt, gave an intelligence briefing to Bush and his staff, "conveying that Bin Ladin was one of the gravest threats to the country."    The Presidential Daily Brief of August 6, 2001, received by Bush and his "high level officials" directly from CIA director George Tenet was titled "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in the US." It warned of planned attacks by Bin Ladin cells in the states with "patterns of suspicious activities consistent with preparations for hijackingsÉ including surveillance of federal buildingsÉ"   The KC report directly contradicts National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice's famous excuse for not preventing the attacks, that they "couldn't be imagined." They acknowledge that "the possibility was imaginable, and imagined," yet echo her excuse when they place the blame on "a failure of imagination."
   "You have no right to expect me to send you back to Kansas unless you do something for me. In this country everyone must pay for everything they get." Oz, the Great and Terrible.  The KC discovered that there was no follow through by any agency on these specific warnings to develop the most basic elements of a plan to deter such a surprise attack.
   "There were no complete reports of [Osama bin Ladin's] strategy, orÉ involvement in past terrorist attacksÉ or the scale of the threat his organization posed to the United StatesÉThe methods for detecting and then warning of surprise attacks the US government had so painstakingly developed in the decades after Pearl Harbor did not fail, they were not really tried, [against] the enemy most likely to launch a surprise attack directly against the United States."
   Hundreds of billions of dollars, perhaps a trillion has been spent since WWII on performing risk assessments and prevention exercises by the numerous known and unknown intelligence agencies and sub-contracters. However not even the most basic protocols had been done to prevent a known dangerous threat to the country. 
   There was no analysis of how an aircraft could be used as a weapon, of telltale indicators for this method of attack, requirements were not proposed or set to monitor these indicators, and systemic issues to strengthen security defense to protect aircraft against hijackings were not put on the national policy agenda. The KC admits that all of these should have been done based on the threat level, but still finds no one to blame for not doing so.
   The US easily spends more on intelligence gathering than most industrial nations combined. Yet these agencies, especially the CIA wanted more money to increase their counterterrorism efforts against Bin Ladin, complaining they had been "starved" since the end of the Cold War.
    The KC report absolves any agency of blame because of "how hard it was for the intelligence community to assemble enough to the puzzle pieces gathered by different agencies to make sense of them then develop a fully informed joint plan."
  "There is only one thing we can do," returned the Lion, "and that is to go to the Land of the Winkies, seek out the Wicked Witch and kill her."   "The most serious weaknesses were in the domestic agencies, the FBI, the INS, the FAA. NORAD had planned scenarios of hijacked planes being guided to American cities," but like a Maginot line only from "aircraft that were hijacked overseas"
   "At no point before 9/11 was the Department of Defense fully engaged in the mission of countering al Qaeda, though this was the most dangerous foreign enemy then threatening the United States."
   The KC members were "struck with the narrow and unimaginative menu of options for action offered to both Presidents Clinton and Bush." After Clinton tried to kill Bin Laden based on CIA "actionable intelligence," Joint Chiefs of Staff General Shelton opposed any further "waste of good ordinanceÉ firing Tomahawk cruise missiles that cost more than the 'jungle gyms and mud huts' at terrorist camps."
   Clinton testified to the Commission that in his two hour one on one transition meeting with Bush, he told his sucessor that the "biggest threat is Bin Laden and the al Quaeda." Bush met with the commission only after they agreed to his appearing together with his "second in command" Cheney, off the record. George said he didn't remember "much being said about al Quaeda" by Clinton.   Bush was advised by George Tenet that even killing Bin Laden wouldn't end the threat. Clarke pushed for funding the Northern Alliance tribal warlords to harass the Taliban, plans were worked up by the Special Operations Command to invade Afghanistan with special forces. The CIA was unenthusiastic "remembering covert actions, promoted by the White House, had gotten the Clandestine Service into trouble in the past."
    One of the few joint CIA/FBI operations undertaken against the threats was a failed search for two of the hijackers who had flown in from South East Asia and began living in southern California in January 2000. They had entered the US from a terrorist "operational cadre" meeting in Kuala Lumpur.
   Although the CIA knew of their entry by March of 2000, they didn't notify the FBI until January 2001. The hijackers lived in San Diego for several months in 2000 with an FBI informant as their landlord, and their names were listed in the telephone book, before they moved to Arizona to attend flight schools.
   FBI agents, very late in the game, began working with the CIA to find them in the states. They were unable to even though one of the hijackers flew to Europe then back into the U.S on July 4, 2001.  The report describes numerous instances of miscommunication and withheld information between the FBI agents and CIA agents involved. This team of agents didn't play well together because the CIA was playing "zone defense" and the FBI went "man on man."  
  "Everyone had the jobÉ of managing the case to make sure things get doneÉ No one looked behind the curtain."
   "How can I help being a humbug," he said "when all these people make me do things that everybody knows can't be done? It was easy to make the Scarecrow, and the Lion and the Woodman happy, because they imagined that I could do anything. But it will take more than imagination to carry Dorothy back to Kansas, and I'm sure I don't know how it can be done.
    In the end the Independent Investigation, like the Joint Investigation (like the Warren Commission) held no individual or agency responsible for not doing their jobs. Despite these and other clear warnings and documented failures the KC detailed, no one was called on to resign or be demoted.   They laid any fault on the need for structural reform of the intelligence community. They clearly made a strong case for the need, but not for their specific reform choices.
   One glaring deficiency they highlighted was the need "to institutionalize
imagination," for which they had no suggestions.
 

 

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