A BuzzFlash Reader Commentary
The Truth Will Out
By Rebecca Knight
May 20, 2002
History has proven the lessons politicians seem incapable of learning. Watergate, Iran/Contra, and Monicagate should have shown the Bush administration that there was no way that they could have kept a secret as significant as having foreknowledge of a possible terrorist attack by using hijacked commercial airliners. The attempts to hide this information may be the downfall of the Bush administration. It's the cover-up, stupid!
In my lifetime five Presidents have been exempt from scandalous investigations: Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Ford, and Carter. Ford and Carter performed admirably in raising the standards from the tawdry days of the Nixon Watergate scandal. From that point forward, our presidents have subjected America to a constant barrage of accusations and investigations into alleged illegal activities. The underlying thread of all of these scandals has been the compromising of standards by the Republican Party. Yes, even the investigations into the Clinton administration have been proven to be the result of Republican zeal and questionable tactics. One must remember that Clinton was exonerated in Whitewater, Travelgate, and Filegate. The perjury charges brought against Clinton in Congress were highly questionable and passed only because of the Republican majority.
We must remember that Bush campaigned on the promise of restoring honor and integrity to the White House. He also promised to be a "uniter, not a divider." He has hardly lived up to those grandiose promises. From the moment he took office, under highly questionable circumstances, he has governed as if the American voters granted him a mandate to do as he pleased. Now his presidency is burdened by the weight of not one, but two, potential scandals: Enron and alleged failures to act in avoidance of the Sept. 11th attacks. George might want to recruit someone to teach him how to juggle because he may be investigated on both issues at the same time.
Americans were so shaken by the attacks of September 11, 2001 that they gave Bush astoundingly high approval ratings for his handling of the situation. They backed his every move, supported his military attacks, and believed his every word. Eight months later we learn that he had been warned. One has to wonder what political calculation caused Bush and his advisors to keep such a significant secret. Had Bush stated forthrightly in the days following the attacks that, yes, there was evidence of planned terrorist attacks and then explained the reasoning behind whatever actions he had taken, the public would have accepted him at his word. But he did not.
American citizens deserve an explanation from the Bush administration for a series of miscalculations and bad decisions beginning with the apparent rejection of the Hart-Rudman Report entitled "Road Map for National Security: Imperative for Change." Presented in early 2001, this report is replete with detailed warnings regarding the vulnerabilities of U.S. homeland security. It concludes with seven recommendations designed to correct those vulnerabilities. What was the Bush response to the Hart-Rudman Report? He asked Vice President Cheney to conduct an investigation and make recommendations on homeland security. Brilliant! He already had a detailed study and excellent recommendations before him. Instead of taking action, he puts off making any decisions by referring everything to Cheney. After the events of 9/11, many of the Hart-Rudman recommendations were implemented, but notice the valuable time that was wasted and the lives possibly lost due to inaction.
Why did the Bush administration ignore the foreign sources that alerted administration officials of potential terrorist attacks? Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned the U.S. that "something would happen" 12 days before Sept. 11th. Israeli intelligence officials warned their counterparts in the United States in August 2001 that large-scale terrorist attacks on highly visible targets on the American mainland were imminent. Mossad officials went to Washington to warn the CIA and FBI that a cell of up to 200 terrorists was planning a major operation. It was reported by Germany's daily newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, that U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies received warning signals at least three months prior to Sept. 11th that Middle Eastern terrorists were planning to hijack commercial aircraft to use as weapons to attack important symbols of American and Israeli culture. U.K. intelligence services apparently also had advance warning. It was reported on the Arabic satellite television channel MBC on Saturday, June 23, 2001 that followers of exiled Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden are planning a major attack on U.S and Israeli interests in the next two weeks. Russian intelligence notified the CIA during the summer that 25 terrorist pilots had been specifically training for suicide missions. In an interview September 15 with MSNBC, Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed that he had ordered Russian intelligence in August to warn the US government "in the strongest possible terms" of imminent attacks on airports and government buildings.
The FBI's decision to take no action on Zacarias Moussaoui must be considered in light of this continuous stream of warnings from overseas. The US government was being repeatedly alerted to the danger of devastating attacks using hijacked commercial aircraft, yet the FBI failed to act quickly or decisively enough in investigating a man, believed by French intelligence to be linked to Osama Bin Laden, who wanted to learn how to steer a 747 jumbo jet, but not to take off or land. Moussaoui was interested in flight patterns around New York City. He asked whether the doors of a 747 could be opened in flight. He paid for his flight lessons, nearly $7,000, in cash and he told his instructors that he urgently needed to learn how to fly big jets, even though at the time he didn't have so much as the license to fly a Cessna. We now know that Moussaoui's possessions contained evidence that would have exposed key elements of the September 11th conspiracy. The FBI didn't search Moussaoui's things because it says it didn't have enough evidence for a search warrant. Critical evidence was in the hands of French intelligence. The FBI says that if that evidence exists, the Bureau never received it. Moussaoui was detained by the Immigration and Naturalization Service and not even turned over to the FBI until after September 11.
It has now been confirmed through memos that the FBI had seriously discussed the possibility of a potentially devastating terrorist attack, including the mentioning of the name Osama Bin Laden. With the addition of the Bush administration admissions regarding their knowledge of warnings more questions come to mind, but some questions are answered.
Now it is crystal clear why Willie Brown, Salman Rushdie, John Ashcroft, and who knows how many others were warned against flying commercial airliners. Now we can understand why there was no look of shock of Bush's face as Andrew Card whispered in his ear the morning of Sept. 11th. This also clarifies why Bush has stated publicly that he saw the first plane hit the tower before the television news had such a tape. Now the decision of Jeb Bush to place Florida under martial law in early September makes sense, as does his statement when hearing about the airplanes hitting the towers, "Was it the terrorists?" Now the attempts by Bush and Cheney to hinder or limit a Congressional inquiry in to the events of Sept. 11th take on additional significance. There could also be a connection between the Bush revelations and the departure of Karen Hughes from Washington. Maybe she knows some things that we don't and she has chosen to get the hell out of Dodge before the proverbial manure hits the fan!
Americans would like to know why George W. Bush, having been supplied with warnings regarding impending terrorist strikes on our soil went to Texas for a month long vacation. Once alerted while in Crawford, why didn't Bush head back to Washington and work to secure our homeland rather than continuing to talk to his cows? We should know who is responsible for the insider trading in the days leading up to Sept. 11th. Most importantly, we should know why the Bush administration is just now acknowledging the existence of this highly critical terrorist warning. For what reason did he wait? And what is behind the timing of this latest revelation?
actions were taken by the Bush administration to avoid the terrorist attacks?
They claim to have alerted the airline industry, but Michael Wascom, spokesman
for the Air Transport Association stated, "I'm not aware of any warnings
or notifications." Boston's Logan Airport, where terrorist flights
originated, was also unaware of any such notifications. Americans deserve
some sensible answers. The apparent failure of the Bush administration
to act with true aggression to protect American citizens is beyond all
comprehension. Of the many resources and actions available to this nation,
how is it possible that they could not have put a plan of protection in
motion? Creative Buzz
Bush's response to the firestorm of criticism his announcement created was to send Condoleezza Rice out to take questions from the press. Ms. Rice stated that, yes, there were warnings made available to Bush regarding terrorists hijacking commercial airliners, but they never imagined the possibility of the airliners being used as they were on Sept. 11th. Oh, please! That statement has already been proven ludicrous since the FBI was aware in 1996 that Bin Laden and Al Qaida were formulating a plan to hit the CIA headquarters. In fact, the Filipino police turned over to the United States in 1995 a confession of convicted terrorist Abdul Hakim Murad in which he proposed such an idea. Information from Mr. Murad's confession formed the basis for a report to United States intelligence in 1999.
Reaction from Capital Hill regarding the Bush admission has been interestingly mixed. Bush was quoted as saying, "There is a sniff of politics in the air." To which Senator Barbara Boxer responded, "Sniff of politics? We want a sniff of truth. Why didn't we (Congress) know about this a lot sooner?" House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt said, "What we have to do now is find out what the president - what the White House - knew about the events leading up to the events of 9-11, when they knew it, and most importantly what was done about it." Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle asked, "Why did it take eight months for us to receive this information?" Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, "There was a lot of information. I believe and others believe, if it had been acted on properly we may have had a different situation on Sept. 11."
The point is that in the Bush administration, to apply an oft-used quote, "what we have here is a failure to communicate." The response by the Bush administration and most of the Republican party is decidedly predictable, following a pattern we have seen time and time again. First, discredit the source of the news. Second, pretend that the news was released as a partisan tactic. Third, pretend that the opposition is using the bad news for partisan advantages. Fourth, pretend you did nothing wrong and attack your accusers as anti-American or traitors giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Fifth, hide behind the war. Sixth, never take responsibility for your actions. Seventh, announce a new terrorist alert to avert attention. Eighth, if all else fails, blame Clinton.
Oh, yes. Blame Clinton! However, blaming Clinton does not absolve Bush from his responsibilities. He had warnings and he had several months to make changes to Clinton anti-terrorism policies, but he had done nothing. George, the buck stops with you on this one!
Laura Bush has decided to stand by her man. She said that victims of Sept. 11 are being "preyed upon" by those who question whether President Bush was negligent to terrorist intelligence last summer. She also gently reminded Democrats that the war is still on and they should be working with her husband, not criticizing him. "I know my husband. And all Americans know how he has acted in Afghanistan and in the war with terror. I think really, we need to put this in perspective and I think it's sad to prey upon the emotions of people as if there were something we could have done to stop" the Sept. 11 suicide hijackings, Mrs. Bush said. Gee, Laura, you might remember that your husband would not be in hot water had he just told the truth. Many of the victims' family members are quite upset with your husband's decision to keep his secret.
The ever elusive Vice President Dick Cheney said that congressional Democrats need to be "very cautious" about their criticism of the Bush administration's decision not to disclose intelligence before Sept. 11 that terrorists wanted to hijack U.S. airplanes. Cheney warned Democrats "to not seek political advantage by making incendiary suggestions that the White House had advance information that would have prevented the tragic attacks of 9-11." Cheney said that Democratic attacks could backfire. "The people and agencies responsible to help us learn to defeat such an attack are the very ones most likely to be distracted from their critical duties if Congress fails to carry their obligation in a responsible fashion," he said. Now Dick, how could you be so threatening and cynical? Republicans are experts on partisan politics and it is a little hypocritical of them to expect Democrats to let this just slide by after the way Clinton was hounded by the Right for his entire presidency.
Shall we play the political "shoe on the other foot" game? It doesn't take an imagination as vivid as Stephen King's to know what would be happening politically right now if these events had unfolded during a Clinton or Gore presidency. The Republicans would be screaming about a criminal abuse of public trust. They would be calling for a special prosecutor and the talk of impeachment would be deafening.
The reality of this situation is that before the Bush revelation, the administration and Congress could blame the intelligence services for failing to prevent the attacks. However, now that defense is gone. The Bush administration has been caught in a lie. This is more than a minor problem, despite their attempts to downplay it.
Which will it be, Enron or the terrorist attack controversy that sinks the Bush presidency? Or will he escape unscathed? In both situations the Bush penchant for Nixonian secrecy could be his undoing. Every lie uncovered creates a scandal and with every scandal eventually the truth will out.
Let the investigations begin!
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Rebecca Knight may be contacted at email@example.com
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