Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume 2, Number 31 September 8 - 14, 2002 Quezon City, Philippines
Truth About Sept. 11
One year has passed since Sept. 11. Yet we, the American people, still don't know exactly what happened. There are still no plans for a public investigation of how more than 3,000 Americans lost their lives, of what could have been done to prevent the attacks or reduce their impact.
Secrecy has been the watchword of the obsessively inscrutable Bush Administration. So preoccupied is the Administration with keeping the people's business away from the people that, rather than spark a national discussion of what went wrong and what we could do better, these public servants are asking members of Congress to take lie-detector tests -- to find out who's been leaking plans to attack Iraq.
a doubt, military intelligence requires secrecy. But there is no conceivable
national security interest in keeping Americans in the dark about Sept. 11. A
crisis whose first few weeks were marked by patriotic unity rapidly devolved
into a divisive "war on terrorism" marked by opportunistic assaults on
the Bill of Rights, old-fashioned oil wars and a cynical neo-McCarthyism whereby
those who questioned Bush and the Republican Party were smeared as
"anti-American." United We Stand bumper stickers aside, the terrorists
have skillfully turned us against each other: citizen against immigrant,
Republican against Democrat, Christian against Muslim. Secrecy only deepens
hell with closed-door Congressional hearings. America needs a full, open,
publicly televised investigation into 9/11, and it needed it last October. Using
the post-JFK assassination Warren Commission as a model is a start, though that
panel's lack of openness fed conspiracy theories that continue to cause
Americans to distrust their government four decades later. The best way to avoid
alienating the public from its public servants is to keep an investigation
times of crisis both the electorate and the elected forget that this country
belongs to the people. As American citizens and taxpayers, therefore, we deserve
-- and should demand -- honest answers to the following still-unanswered
did Bush know and when did he know it? A few months ago it was revealed that,
while vacationing in Crawford, Texas on Aug. 6, 2001, Bush had received an
"analytical report" warning from National Security Advisor Condoleezza
Rice that a terrorist attack was imminent. What was the exact nature of that
warning? How detailed was it? Should Bush have cut short his vacation and headed
back to Washington? The administration has stonewalled on this issue, but they
can only allay suspicions of a September Surprise by coming clean now about the
briefings he received before 9/11.
Echelon cough up the 9-10 warnings? The National Security Agency acknowledges
that it "intercepted" two messages (one said "tomorrow is zero
hour") from terrorists indicating that the next day, Sept. 11, would be the
date of a major attack. Unfortunately, those messages weren't processed and
evaluated until it was too late, on Sept. 12. The NSA maintains a sophisticated
voice- and keyword-recognition computer system called Echelon. A former NSA
director told the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur that Echelon uses
automation to monitor every phone call, fax transmission, email and wire
transfer in the world. Did the 9-10 warning come from Echelon? Is Echelon being
used to monitor ordinary Americans? Is there any way to speed up the rate at
which the NSA processes important intercepts?
didn't our Air Force shoot down the hijacked planes? Air traffic controllers
lost contact with all four aircraft within minutes of takeoff. Two were off
course and ignored controllers for more than an hour and a half, yet the
mightiest air defense network in the world failed to prevent the suicide bombers
from striking their targets. Did overworked air traffic controllers fail to
notice the errant planes? How long did it take them to get the word to military
authorities? Did a bureaucratically inept Air Force fail to react quickly
were only 12 jets patrolling U.S. airspace? According to The New York Times,
only 12 Air Force National Guard planes, most of them on the ground, were
assigned to patrol the entire continental United States at the time of the
attacks. Whose judgment determined that this level of protection was adequate?
What would happen in the event of a nuclear first strike against the U.S.? Would
an increased budget have increased that number, and what is our current field
is American policy concerning hijackings? Had an Air Force jet successfully
intercepted one of the doomed flights, would its pilot have been ordered to
shoot it down? If so, would that order have had to come from the President, or
would a lower-ranked official be sufficient? If a shooting were authorized,
would it ever be implemented over a densely populated area? Passengers need to
know where they stand before they board a plane.
United Flight 93 shot down over Pennsylvania? The Pentagon has neither denied
shooting down Flight 93 nor confirmed that its heroic passengers caused the
flight to crash while trying to wrest its controls from the hijackers. The
flight was airborne some two and a half hours before crashing outside
Shanksville, leading many to speculate that it was fired upon to protect the
White House or other likely targets in Washington. It seems unlikely that a
cockpit voice recording of a struggle between passengers and jihadis exists; if
it did, why not release such an inspiring artifact to a public hungry for
inspiration? All 9/11 flight information, including any Flight 93 recordings,
ought to be given to the media. And it's time for the military to indicate
whether or not it, rather than the passengers, brought down the jet.
didn't federal law require reinforced cockpit doors? This common-sense proposal
had been adopted by carriers in other countries years earlier, but not in the
United States. Did the airlines lobby against the move because of increased
costs? If so, which airlines? And which federal officials and/or members of
Congress are criminally responsible for jeopardizing the safety of the flying
public for the sake of a few bucks?
locked the roof doors at the World Trade Center? During the 1993 World Trade
Center bombing, hundreds of workers escaped smoke by going to the roofs. On
Sept. 11 hundreds died when they went up dozens of flights of stairs only to
find those same roof doors locked. Why did city fire officials order those doors
locked between 1993 and 2001, and more importantly, why didn't they post notices
through the World Trade Center complex to advise that roof doors would no longer
be unlocked? Prosecutions may be in order for criminal negligence.
skimped on FDNY communications? Scores of New York firefighters died in the
stairwells of the World Trade Center after they'd been ordered to evacuate the
buildings -- because they couldn't hear those orders on their antiquated radio
system. The fire department had requested up-to-date equipment years earlier.
Which city officials refused to allocate the necessary funding, causing
firefighters to die needlessly? Do the FDNY and other urban fire departments now
have better communications?
much asbestos was released by the World Trade Center collapse? World Trade was
one-third completed when builders stopped using asbestos fire retardant, which
means that the equivalent of four normal-width 60-story skyscrapers full of a
banned carcinogen was pulverized and released in a cloud that blanketed lower
Manhattan and Brooklyn. The Environmental Protection Agency has never come clean
on what may eventually become known as America's Chernobyl, but New Yorkers
deserve to know the full extent of their exposure.
was the Pentagon so vulnerable? Not only did Defense Department employees perish
at the Pentagon, the attack revealed that even the headquarters of American
military power can be successfully targeted. Does the Pentagon have a
surface-to-air missile system that could avert similar catastrophes in the
future? If not, one should be constructed.
about the other knives? After American planes were grounded, investigators found
box cutters attached under seats on Delta flights out of Boston's Logan airport
and from Atlanta bound for Brussels. Was anyone ever arrested in connection with
would-be hijackings of these other flights? What were the intended targets of
those aborted hijackings? Were those box cutters, and those on the four hijacked
flights, placed there by personnel who service aircraft ("These look like
an inside job," a U.S. official told Time magazine) or were they smuggled
aboard through lax security checkpoints by would-be hijackers?
there other plots? American officials have questioned thousands of individuals
in connection with 9/11. Have they uncovered other schemes intended for that
day, or for later on?
The War on Terrorism
anyone take responsibility or make demands? It's difficult to imagine that the
group that carried out an act as expensive and carefully planned as 9/11 chose
not to claim credit for it. Furthermore, terrorist organizations typically make
demands -- requests for changes in policy, say, or the release of political
prisoners. Secretary of State Colin Powell initially promised to provide proof
of Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda group's leading role as instigators of 9/11, but
has since reneged on that pledge. Moreover, that assertion doesn't fit bin
Laden's known methods; rather than plan or carry out operations himself, he
usually agrees to fully or partially fund plots conceived and executed by other
Islamist groups. If the Bush Administration received communiqués from a group
or groups claiming responsibility for 9/11, Americans need to know that.
did the U.S. decide to invade Afghanistan? As recently as April 2001, the Bush
administration funneled millions of dollars in aid to the Taliban in order to
reward the hardline Islamic regime for virtually eliminating opium production.
By June, however, relations had cooled noticeably and invasion plans were being
prepared. Would we have invaded Afghanistan if Sept. 11 hadn't happened? Were
there any discussions between future U.S. puppet Hamid Karzai and the Bush
administration before or immediately after 9/11?
was Osama bin Laden on 9/11? Afghans told reporters that bin Laden and his
entourage fled Afghanistan for Kashmir on Sept. 10, yet military officials were
saying as late as January that the world's most wanted man was holed up in the
Tora Bora region. Did the U.S. really know where Osama was on 9/11, and if so,
where was he? Why weren't American commandos inserted into Afghanistan or
Pakistan in order to apprehend him? If the U.S. knew that he had left
Afghanistan, is this why it refused to negotiate with the Taliban for his
many civilians died in Afghanistan? Perhaps the most deliberately underreported
story of 2001-2002 was the number of Afghan civilians killed by American bombs,
missiles, mines and bullets. (Estimates begin at CNN's conservative 3,500.)
While the Pentagon's argument that it is difficult to track these things from
satellites and high-flying planes rings true, there's no doubt that they know
more than they care to admit. We deserve to know how many innocent people our
tax dollars have killed, and how many of their relatives now have reason to
the government spying on American citizens? Not only is the federal government
asking postal workers and meter readers to report on anything unusual they see
in our homes, anecdotal evidence suggests that opponents of administration
policy are being targeted for wiretaps and other forms of harassment and
intimidation by government intelligence agencies. Obviously there is no place
for such retro-Cold War behavior in this country; the FBI, CIA and NSA must
reveal and cease all such unconstitutional activities against Americans.
doesn't the Bush administration want a real investigation of 9/11? The House and
Senate, whose intelligence committees are now meeting in private, are
considering bills that would set up limited, closed-door independent
investigative panels, but Bush has stymied even those watered-down efforts at
openness, arguing they "would cause a further diversion of essential
personnel from their duties fighting the war." What is he hiding? Americans
pay George W. Bush's salary, and Americans deserve to know what he's doing.
Rall's new book, "To Afghanistan and Back," is available at <nbmpub.com>)
21, 2002 Bulatlat.com