Before Bush leaves office and a new President is sworn in, it has become imperative that before the page is turned on the Bush Administration that he finally be held accountable for something the Democrats, the Republicans, and most of all, the news media never had the stomach or the backbone to do -- hold Bush and Rice completely accountable for the 911 attacks.
The failure of those responsible for insisting on such accountability not only is an insult to history and the consequences of Bush's failure, it also resulted in subsequent disasters that never would have occurred had those responsible for holding those in power accountable for their mistakes, negligence and incompetence, did their jobs as they are supposed to. And what they never did was hold Bush and Condoleeza Rice completely accountable for the worst attack and the worst loss of life on American soil caused by a foreign enemy in US history and all that has followed.
The evidence against Bush and Rice for not only gross, but virtually criminal negligence in the 911 attacks is so overwhelming and irrefutable, that if Bush were the CEO of a large corporation whose headquarters happened to be the World Trade Center, where tens of thousands of his employees worked, and if Condoleeza Rice had been the company's chief security officer, and the exact same set of facts as existed leading up to the 911 attacks were applied to Bush as a CEO, George W Bush in all probability would have been indicted and convicted of 3,000 counts of criminally negligent homicide and Rice would have been an accessory.
And yet from that time and to this day, Bush and Rice have never been held accountable for the most disastrous negligence with regards to National Security ever committed by a President. Instead Bush, Rice and Cheney with the help of a cowed press actually fostered the fantasy that its been the Bush Administration who took terrorism seriously and kept us safe, when it was the Bush Administration who never took terrorism seriously until it was too late and through a series of negligent acts and failure to act in a reasonable way, allowed the 911 attacks to happen. And what's more Bush himself knows it.
We know that Bush was petrified of any real investigation into 911 and what it might reveal and the conclusions it would reach as evidenced by his refusal at first to cooperate with the 911 Commission and even vehemently opposed its creation. After it was created over his objections he at first refused to allow Rice to cooperate. It is obvious that he didn't want to cooperate because he knew that in the end, he would be held accountable for the same kind of gross negligence that eventually became apparent in his decisions to invade Iraq, the post invasion mismanagement of Iraq, his handling of Katrina and what we know now about the failures of the lack of oversight involving massive fraud which has caused the economic meltdown.
The difference of course being that all those things hadn't happened yet. But Bush himself knew it was his fault. One only has to remember that look on his face when Andy Card whispered that two planes had hit the World Trade Center in a terrorist attack, to see that at that moment Bush knew that all the people who had warned him that such an attack was not only possible but imminent, all the people who warned him that Al-Qaeda was the biggest threat to US national security in the world, were all right, and that he and Rice who both dismissed terrorism as a major threat were wrong,
Bush finally agreed to cooperate with the 911 Commission when they promised not to include in their report any blame for the 911 attacks and changed their stated goals to investigating what happened limiting themselves to intelligence failures and to make recommendations for the future to fix the problems they found, explicitly stating they would not come to any conclusions for the purposes of fixing the blame for the attacks in any one place, to but look toward fixing problems with the intelligence apparatus.
But the biggest problem, the real problem behind the 911 attacks never got fixed. And that problem was Bush himself and the simple, irrefutable fact that 911 happened because Bush never took terrorism seriously before the attack, in spite of constant warnings to the contrary. This is why that stupid deer caught in the headlights expression crossed his face in the schoolroom that day when Andy Card whispered in his ear and told him what happened. At that moment he knew everything everyone had been telling him about terrorism was right and he and Condoleeza Rice was wrong and now thousands of Americans were killed because of it.
The other major failure was of course the press. Unfortunately for this country for the last 15 years the United States has been saddled with the biggest collection of journalistic cowards to ever carry press passes in this country. The evidence of Bush's negligence, which will be presented here and itemized, was overwhelming and obvious. And no member of the press wanted to touch it with a ten foot pole. For no other reason than fear. They were scared to death what the reaction would be from the Republicans who would accuse them of lack of patriotism at holding Bush accountable at a time when the country needed to be pulled together.
To reiterate the famous saying. " the first casualty of war is truth" and nowhere was it more apparent than with Bush and the 911 attacks, politicians and the press.
Had it been a Democratic President in the White House with the same set of facts the Republicans would have been screaming for impeachment. And they would have been right. Only it was a Republican in the White House and the press was cowed and so were the Democrats who were as frightened as being called unpatriotic as the press was. And so Bush and his administration was not only never held accountable for the worst attack and the biggest loss of life on American soil caused by a foreign enemy in US history, they were actually presented as the administration that was keeping America safe.
The worst part of all this is, 911 could have and would have been prevented had there been a more competent President and National Security Advisor. And the evidence of this, again, is overwhelming and irrefutable.And to this day the press still doesn't have the stomach the backbone or any other part of the anatomy related to courage, to simply state it -- Bush and his administration and their negligence are to blame for those attacks succeeding.
And the evidence is this:
During the transition period in January of 2001, as part of the transition of power, Bush had a face to face meeting with then President Clinton in which Clinton told him face to face that Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda were the single biggest threats to US national security in the world. During the same transition period Bush and Rice met face to face with outgoing National Security Advisor Sandy Berger where Berger told both Bush and Rice and that Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda were the single biggest threats to US national security in the world. And to further emphasize the point and the threat they represented, Berger told them the threat from Al-Qaeda was so great that he predicted that Bush and the Bush Administration would spend more time dealing with Al-Qaeda than any other single issue.
Continuing in January of 2001, prior to the Inauguration, as part of all Presidential transitions, Bush had two national security briefings at Blair House, the briefings all Presidents-elect get before taking power. At that meeting, George Tenent and the CIA made the case to George W. Bush that Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda were the single biggest threats to US national security in the world. And in the national security briefing he received from the FBI, Bush again was told that Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda were the single biggest threats to US national security in the world.
So in January of 2001 before Bush even took the oath of office he was told by the outgoing President of the United States, the outgoing National Security Advisor,the head of the CIA and the head of the FBI that Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda were the single biggest threats to US national security in the world (all of this comes from first person testimony in front of the 911 Commission, corroborated by all participants and never refuted by anyone).
And so what did Bush do with regards to terrorism and Al-Qaeda's threat to US national security when he took office? The first thing he did was demote Richard Clarke the anti-terrorism czar who served in that post for 20 years under four Presidents from a cabinet level position to a sub cabinet level position. And the reason is Bush, Rice Cheney and the majority of Republicans didn't believe terrorism was the threat Clinton and his people said it was. Bush didn't think terrorism was important enough to warrant Clarke having a cabinet level position and so demoted him. Remember, it was the Republicans who accused Clinton of a Wag the Dog ploy when Clinton, acting on CIA intelligence, launched a missile barrage at Bin Laden and an Al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. The Republicans led by Orin Hatch roundly accused Clinton of doing it to try and take the focus off his Lewinsky problem.
The next thing Bush did after taking office with regards to terrorism, according to Richard Clarke's testimony before the 911 Commission and stated in his book, was to disband what Clarke was describing as the Principals Meeting. As Clarke described this to the 911 Commission, in the Clinton administration there was a daily meeting chaired by Clarke and attended by relevant members of the Cabinet who had a role in fighting terrorism: the Attorney General, Bob Mueller, the director of the FBI, George Tenent at CIA, and directors of ATF,Immigration and other departments directly involved in anti-terrorism. According to Clarke, at these meetings, the latest intelligence regarding terrorism collected by each agency in the previous 24 hours was shared among the heads of all the agencies present. ( a big problem the 911 Commission found was the lack of sharing of intelligence -- but in keeping with their promise not to fix blame on any one individual they never stated the obvious -- that is was because of Bush's discontinuing of this process that vital information that would have prevented 911 was never received and shared). Then, according to Clarke's testimony, the heads of these agencies would go back to their respective departments and in his words, "shake the trees" for the latest information developed over the next 24 hours which they would then bring to the next meeting.
Taking terrorism seriously and continuing the counterterrorism policies of the Clinton Administration as described by Clarke in his testimony including his ability in the Clinton White House to meet with cabinet level officials to share intelligence alone would have prevented 911 ( though there would be even more action Bush could have taken to prevent the attacks that he chose not to take).
The first piece of evidence supporting this conclusion is the famous Phoenix Memo. An FBI agent in Phoenix had been called by the owner of a Phoenix flying school who was suspicious of two new students. The agent agreed the activity was suspicious and wrote up a report. What made it so suspicious was that the two flying students were both middle eastern men here on a visa ( a visa that unbeknownst at the time had expired) and the men wanted to learn how to fly jumbo jets but curiously didn't want to learn how to take off or land. They were also paying for their flying lessons with cash. One of those two men was Mohammed Atta.
The report was never sent up the ladder by the agent's superior at the Phoenix office. Under the old process during the Clinton Administration where terrorism had the highest priority, that information would have been sent right to the top and would have been something Mueller would have shared with Clarke.
Under that scenario, from that moment on, Atta and all of his associates wouldn't have been able to sneeze without the FBI knowing about it. They would have been under surveillance 24 hours a day. Their phones would have been tapped. The plot undeniably would have been discovered and 911 never would have happened with this one piece of information alone. But there was more. There was the Minneapolis Memo that finally came to light and resulted in the prosecution,after the fact, of Moussaoui. But Collen Rowley, the FBI agent most familiar with the Moussaoui case and how it could have prevented 911 wrote this in her memo to FBI director Mueller:
"I feel that certain facts, including the following, have, up to now, been omitted, downplayed, glossed over and/or mischaracterized in an effort to avoid or minimize personal and/or institutional embarrassment on the part of the FBI and/or perhaps even for improper political reasons:( italics mine)."
She went on to say,
"The Minneapolis agents who responded to the call about Moussaoui's flight training identified him as a terrorist threat from a very early point. The decision to take him into custody on August 15, 2001, on the INS "overstay" charge was a deliberate one to counter that threat and was based on the agents' reasonable suspicions."
Her memo continued, "Although the last thing the FBI or the country needs now is a witch hunt, I do find it odd that (to my knowledge) no inquiry whatsoever was launched of the relevant FBIHQ personnel's actions a long time ago. Despite FBI leaders' full knowledge of all the items mentioned herein (and probably more that I'm unaware of),
"In the day or two following September 11th, you, Director Mueller, made the statement to the effect that if the FBI had only had any advance warning of the attacks, we (meaning the FBI), may have been able to take some action to prevent the tragedy. Fearing that this statement could easily come back to haunt the FBI upon revelation of the information that had been developed pre-September 11th about Moussaoui, I and others in the Minneapolis Office, immediately sought to reach your office through an assortment of higher level FBIHQ contacts, in order to quickly make you aware of the background of the Moussaoui investigation and forewarn you so that your public statements could be accordingly modified. When such statements from you and other FBI officials continued, we thought that somehow you had not received the message and we made further efforts. Finally when similar comments were made weeks later, in Assistant Director Caruso's congressional testimony in response to the first public leaks about Moussaoui we faced the sad realization that the remarks indicated someone, possibly with your approval, had decided to circle the wagons"
You can read the entire memo here.
The fact is there was enough known well before the 911 attacks to have prevented it. Under the authority given Richard Clarke in the Clinton Administration and the priorty terrorism was given as a serious threat to US national security, that information would have been sent to the highest levels of government and it is virtually impossible that it would have been ignored by Clarke had he known about it.
Given Muellers testimony before the 911 Commission that he had told Bush that Al-Qaeda was the biggest threat to US national security in the world, it is unlikely that the dismissing of the suspicion raised by Moussaoui were the result of official FBI policy.It is a virtual certainty that the "improper political considerations" cited by Crowley in her memo for what she tries not to call a "cover up" involved the negligence of Bush and Rice in their dismissal of terrorism as a real threat. Add to this Clarke's testimony that he and George Tenent were "running around the White House like men with our hair on fire" in August of 2001 because of the big spike in Al-Qaeda intercepts and their translations, its not likely that there was any official playing down of the threat by either CIA or FBI. It simply fell on the deaf ears of Bush and Rice.
But this wasn't the only chance the Bush Administration had to prevent 911.
A year ago the media reported on Tenent's statements that the intelligence coming in pointing to a major Al-Qaeda attack in July of 2001 was so disturbing he went to the White House for what he thought was an emergency meeting with Rice about what he saw as a serious impending Al-Qaeda threat. Rice was so dismissive at the time that when asked about the meeting in 2007 she said she couldn't even remember having it though White House logs show that in fact Tenent did have a meeting with her on the date in July that he claimed.
But the two most damning pieces of evidence against Bush, Rice and Cheney is the August 4th PDB (Presidential Daily Briefing) entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Within the United States" and an August CIA memo indicating that a CIA translation of an Al-Qaeda intercept said that there was going to be an imminent major attack against the United States and in the words of the CIA memo it was going to be "spectacular".
While the memo could not say where in the world this attack would take place, whether it would be against US interests overseas or in the US itself, the most important thing is that it was completely ignored by Bush and Rice.
Rice's flimsy defense of herself regarding the August 4th PDB was that it was, in her words, "a historical overview" of Al-Qaeda and didn't contain any actionable intelligence or specific threats. It's hard to imagine what part of the word "daily" in Presidential Daily Briefing Rice thought was about history. Maybe she thought the CIA didn't have anyone smart enough to title a paper "Bin Laden Determined to Strike Within the US: A Historical Overview" if that's what was intended. But on page 2 of that document (which can be found online) there was the mention of "30 current FBI investigations" into Al-Qaeda cells which were known to be in the United States. And as if that weren't enough, Rice's one time claim that they "had no idea Al-Qaeda was going to use airplanes as weapons", is totally undermined on page 2 where the joint intelligence report says that Al-Qaeda planned to use hijacked airliners as part of their plan to strike inside the United States. This remember, was on August 4th 2001.
While it does not specifically say they would use those hijacked airliners as missiles, to use that as a defense puts Rice in the position of trying to make the argument that simply hijacking airliners and holding passengers hostage was nothing to get excited about and not actionable therefore she and Bush were not to blame for not knowing that Al-Qaeda would use them as missiles on Sept 11.
But this is what was known before the attack: There were all the warnings given to Bush by Clinton,Berger,the FBI, the CIA and Richard Clarke during the Presidential transition about the threat Al-Qaeda posed that Bush and Rice totally ignored. There was the Tenent meeting in July. And in August of 2001 not only was there the August 4th PDB, but Clarke testified that the spike in Al-Qaeda intercepts were the highest he had ever seen in 20 years of fighting terrorism, and the translations indicated a major Al-Qaeda attack against the US was imminent. So imminent that he testified that in mid August of 2001 he and George Tenent were "running around the White House like men with their hair on fire", trying to get Rice's attention and a meeting with Bush to warn him of the impending danger. Their requests for a meeting with Bush who was on vacation in Crawford were denied. And Rice took no action herself.
If Bush and Rice had taken the threats seriously from the beginning and the warnings contained in the Aug 4 memo coupled with Clarke and Tenent's sounding the alarm based on the intelligence they did have at the time, how simple would it have been to issue an urgent high alert to every major airline and airport in the country against possible hijackings by Middle Eastern men? How basic would it have been to issue those directives and warnings and put airline and airport security on alert to be watchful of Middle Eastern men between the ages of 18-50 and to report any suspicious behavior or red flags? And what would that alert of airline and security people have found on the morning of Sept 11th at Logan International Airport at 8 am if people had been looking? It would have found that 6 Middle Eastern men all bought one way tickets on transcontinental flights to San Francisco, all paid cash and none of them had any luggage. What kind of red flags would that have sent up if people were operating under a security directive to be alert for possible hijackings by Middle Eastern men?
And if one wants to make the argument that no one knew when those attacks would take place, remember that all of the Al-Qaeda intercepts the CIA translated indicated the attack was imminent.
The spike in Al-Qaeda intercepts, the Al-Qaeda cells under surveillance and the indication that the US was going to be hit with a major attack should have been enough to cause Bush and Rice to act. It wasn't. Bush and Rice completely ignored these warnings because they didn't take terrorism seriously. That's why you see that stupid expression on Bush's face in that Florida schoolroom the morning of September 11th when he was told the news. He knew he had been wrong and now 3,000 Americans were paying for it with their lives and the country would be thrown into a convulsion.
When Bush came to office, his and the Republicans primary national security concern was getting out of the ABM treaty with Russia so they could re-start Star Wars. The Bush Administration believed the biggest threat to US national security in the world wasn't Al-Qaeda, but China.
Not only was the gross negligence of Bush and Rice totally responsible for allowing the 911 attacks to occur, but thanks to timid Democrats, unpatriotic Republicans too afraid to speak out against a Republican President who should have been impeached, and a spineless cowardly press who was afraid to hold Bush accountable for fear of being labled unpatriotic themselve by the Republicans, Bush, Rice and Cheney were actually able to promote themselves as the watchdogs and saviors of US National security and the leaders in the fight against terrorism. They with the help of the press promoted the fallacy that they were the ones keeping America safe, they were the party of anti-terrorism, when the truth is, if it weren't for their gross national security negligence, arrogance and bad judgement, 911 would have easily been prevented.
Instead they blamed the intelligence agencies who, for all of the criticism sent their way, had in their possession and had developed enough intelligence to have prevented the 911 attacks had their been someone at the top who cared enough to take it all seriously.
Three weeks after the attacks Rice held a press conference, the purpose of which was to state that there was nothing they could have done to have prevented the attacks. All they had, she said, was this August 4th PDB and she outlined some of the things in it. Watching that press conference and hearing about that memo I almost fell out of my chair and said to myself, uh-oh, its going to hit the fan now and Bush is going to get impeached. It wasn't until 5 years later that the press decided this was news and there was a brief flurry of stories about that memo which quickly died down.
At that same press conference Rice's defense for why they couldnt have prevented 911 was that they didnt know the day or date, they didnt know the names of the hijackers, they didnt know the target and they didnt know they were going to use airliners as weapons.
I dont know how much consideration Rice or Bush ever gave to the idea that there wasnt a cab driver in America who couldnt have prevented 911 with that kind of information but the irony is most of that information was available and knowable if only Bush or Rice had cared enough to want to know.
And if the press had done their jobs, something we havent seen in 20 years, and held Bush and Rice accountable for their mistakes in judgment and gross negligence and incompetence, even if Bush hadnt been impeached, he never would have had the political capital to invade Iraq, so the value of holding Bush accountable not only would have been a service to history and justice and the people killed that day, it would have prevented another huge mistake.
The gross incompetence of Bush and his whole administration which became obvious with the unnecessary Iraq invasion that the press would have stopped with some honest reporting, the incalculable mess caused by the mismanagement of post invasion Iraq, the disastrous and deadly response to Katrina, and now the worst financial crisis since the Depression, all of that Bush Administration ineptitude and incompetence first reared its ugly head and became apparent in the 911 attacks which the equally inept mass media ignored.
Unfortunately, when it came to Iraq, the majority of mass media, led by the journalistically challenged Judith Miller and her unchallenged (editorially and otherwise) front page New York Times stories promoting the fallacy of Sadaams nuclear threat, were the same collection of mouthpieces for the Bush Administration that they were with regards to the Bush role in the 911 attacks. Bush and Rice were obviously demonstrably guilty of gross negligence bordering on criminal, not to mention violating the oath to protect the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic when it came to their ignoring of warnings leading to the 911 attack. But Republicans, Democrats and most of all the press, when it counted most, became the Three Monkeys -- See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil -- and share the responsibility in everything that America went through from that day forward by doing the last thing they should have done --they kept their mouths shut in the face of all the evidence and did their best to silence those who wouldn't.
Copyright 2009 Marc Rubin
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