September 11 and the origins of the "War on Terrorism":
A revisionist account
by Stephen J. Sniegoski fifth update
Table of contents
Alibis and new revelations
By STEPHEN J. SNIEGOSKI
Largely as a result of the joint House and Senate intelligence committee's investigation of the September 11 attacks, the mainstream media have highlighted a veritable cascade of evidence that demonstrates the government's prior knowledge of the impending al Qaeda terrorism. The question being bandied about by those of a skeptical mindset is: "What did the government know, and when did it know it?"
High Bush administration officials have continued to rely on variants of Sergeant Schultz's habitual defense on "Hogan's Heroes": "I ... know ... nothink ... absolutely nothink." (Unfortunately for them, knowing "nothink" seems credible only in the case of Our President.) The official story now is something to the effect that the government security agencies may have had considerable intelligence on al Qaeda's terrorist scheme but that it was not shared among the agencies and most definitely was not passed on to Cabinet-level officials.
Members of Congress who have been investigating the information in the hands of the Executive Branch have emphasized its significance. Senator Bob Graham (D-Fla.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, put it this way: "Had one human being or a common group of human beings sat down with all that information, we could have gotten to the hijackers before they flew those four airplanes either into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, or the ground of Pennsylvania."  Regarding the intelligence agencies, Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said: "I don't believe any longer this is a matter of connecting the dots. I think they had a veritable road map. And we want to know why they didn't act on it."  And Senator Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), in an interview aired on CNN, remarked: "There was plenty of information available before September 11. I think historians are going to find, tragically, that, had it been acted upon, the hijackers could have been stopped." 
Before demonstrating the untenable nature of the current official story, I'll briefly review some of the new information. First is the much-publicized May 22 letter from Coleen Rowley, an attorney in the FBI's Minneapolis office, to FBI Director Robert Mueller and the Senate Intelligence Committee, which documents efforts by FBI headquarters in Washington to block an investigation of Zaccarias Moussaoui, now awaiting trial for his alleged involvement in the September 11 plot.  Similarly, FBI Special Agent Robert G. Wright Jr. has revealed that higher-ups obstructed his counterterrorism investigations of al Qaeda; his diligence led to his demotion to a "pencil pushing" position.  Then there was the memo of FBI Agent Kenneth Williams in Phoenix about the possibility that al Qaeda was using American flight schools to train terrorists. 
Information has also come out that the CIA was actually tracking two of the hijackers, Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar.  Moreover, the CIA intercepted al Qaeda communications and even had agents infiltrate the group: the Company was aware of plans to hijack planes and crash into buildings. The messages intercepted on September 10 were especially revealing. Two CIA officials, paraphrasing the classified intercepts, report that they included such statements as, "Good things are coming," "Watch the news," and "Tomorrow will be a great day for us."  Furthermore, the National Security Agency monitored conversations between Mohamed Atta and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the al Qaeda bigwig who is thought to have organized the September 11 attacks. 
Also emerging are revelations that various foreign intelligence services discovered and sent on to the United States information about upcoming al Qaeda terrorism. These revelations have caused the always perspicacious Justin Raimondo to ask, "Who didn't know?" Raimondo observes: "If the Israelis knew in advance, then so did practically every other intelligence agency on Earth including the Brits, the French, the Russians, the Egyptians, the Moroccans, and the Jordanians. I wouldn't be at all surprised to hear that Liechtenstein is next on the list." 
With foreign security agencies rating the intelligence important enough to send to the United States, after alerting their own political leadership, it is mind-boggling to hear that U.S. security agencies then looked on it with indifference and simply buried it. Are the security agencies of the United States really so inferior to those of Third World states?
I mention the apparent superiority of other nations' security agencies in anticipation of the argument that one does not expect a government agency to be competent. While government agencies cannot make their citizenry prosperous, they often are able to perform the more simple tasks of spying and killing. 
No outrage, no gratitude
Let us continue with the official fable, which holds that senior administration officials not only were unaware of the information prior to September 11 but even failed to learn of it afterward, until just recently when it came out in the major media. Either the top dogs never made an effort to find out what their security agencies had known or they were lied to by their agency heads. Since none of the Bushite overlords have demonstrated any outrage or condemned any of their bureaucratic barons to the career guillotine we would have to presume that the administration never tried to find out what their underlings knew.
But is President Bush at least happy that Congress and the media have been able to pry out the truth of what was known? Far from it. In early June he said, "What I am concerned about is tying up valuable assets and time, and possibly jeopardizing sources of intelligence." The president praised the "long, long hours" put in by members of the intelligence agencies and made this telling point: "I'd rather have them sacrificing on behalf of our nation than, you know, endless hours of testimony on congressional hill."  (That's right: "congressional hill.") Again, the president doesn't seem to show any concern about blunders by the security agencies, much less any outrage at being lied to.
And those blunders, if they were blunders, were of the most serious nature. The intelligence and security agencies had the vital information but refused to share it? But sharing information is part of the raison d'être of the intelligence and security agencies. What would their value be if they simply kept information to themselves? (I am adopting the voice now of an earnest believer in Good Government, which everyone is officially supposed to be.) If staff members of the agencies really didn't realize that it was important to share information, especially with higher officials, they should be sacked forthwith, having proved that they simply lack the intellectual capacity to understand the purpose of their job. That no such action has been undertaken or, apparently, planned leads one to disbelieve that the Bush administration really perceives mental incompetence as the problem.
The Ministry of Diversion
The solution that Our President now proposes is the creation of a Department of Homeland Security, which would consist of a vast bureaucracy of some 170,000 busy bees. Currently, that proposal is monopolizing public attention, diverting the nation's focus from the issue of what the government knew prior to September 11. If the Department of Homeland Security is the answer to America's security problems, then there is no need to dig up what went wrong before September 11, which is simply water over the dam. What we really need is for Our Elected Representatives to work hard to make the proposed new department a reality. Let's not distract them from that urgent task! So goes the party line.
The major irony in all of this is that the proposed department does not really address the alleged security failures. As proposed, the new ministry does not include the FBI, CIA, or NSA!  Not only will the same old "incompetents" continue to handle the intelligence information, but the same old structures will remain as well. In actuality, the Bush Homeland Security proposal does not even go so far as the proverbial rearrangement of deck chairs on the Titanic a typical government ruse to improve credibility.
In the public debate about what took place before 9/11, the proposed department is nothing but a red herring.
What we'd have to believe
Now for a summary of what all would have to be true if the official story were true:
The leading U.S. national security agencies were totally incompetent prior to September 11.
The Bush administration was totally indifferent to that incompetence.
Admittedly ignorant of what its security agencies knew before September 11, the administration is righteously angry about Congress's efforts to find out what they knew.
The administration is operating in good faith when, while proclaiming that intelligence will be more important than ever in the "war on terrorism," it proposes a puffing-up of the national-security bureaucracy that will do nothing to address the alleged flaws in the major intelligence agencies.
In science, the essential criteria for choosing among competing hypotheses are elegance, simplicity, and explanatory power. They seem to be valid criteria for evaluating accounts of events in the world of affairs, too. But those criteria are noticeably lacking in the hodgepodge official story.
It is far more straightforward to conclude that the high-level officials of the Bush administration (excluding the mentally challenged president, of course) had access to the critical intelligence but deliberately withheld that information in order to allow a terrorist act to take place. As I have pointed out in earlier articles, such terrorism could and did provide the needed rationale for the administration to carry out its pre-existing agenda: penetration of energy-rich Central Asia and the removal of Israel's enemies. Moreover, as I have also pointed out in earlier essays, while the "war on terrorism" does address the aforementioned objectives, it does nothing to make America herself safer from terrorism, though that is the official justification for the war. 
There is no direct evidence, yet, that administration figures had specific information about the impending September 11 attack, but that should not surprise us, because they have erected imposing barriers against the exposure of such evidence. The White House is declining to release the CIA briefing paper that was given to the president at his Texas ranch on August 6, titled: "Bin Laden determined to strike in the U.S." Vice President Cheney says the CIA paper is just a "rehash," containing nothing of significance. Nevertheless, Congress is prohibited from seeing it, because, according to Cheney, "it contains the most sensitive sources and methods. It's the family jewels." 
There you have it. The administration tells the public that it knew nothing about vital information collected by its national security agencies. But the information the administration had access to is kept secret from the media and Congress. They say the information is insignificant, while saying simultaneously that it is too sensitive to divulge, because divulging it could reveal sources. We might think of it as a rehash of jewels, at once worthless and invaluable.
How is the public to know the information would not show that the administration had access to key intelligence on the 9/11 attacks? Unfortunately, we just have to take the administration's word for it. After all, its leading figures wouldn't lie, would they?
The mainstream media, for their part, have reverted to their normal state of incuriosity and passivity. Can anyone imagine the media's accepting comparable non-explanations from Richard Nixon? Of course not, because the mainstream media hated Nixon, and while they might not be enamored with Bush, they are in lockstep in support of his "war on terrorism." They do not wish to do anything that would cast it in a negative light and hamper its prosecution.
June 12, 2002
To Dr. Sniegoski's
sixth update of July 5.
© 2002 by WTM Enterprises. All rights reserved.
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