[saymaListserv] 9/11: Please keep asking about this

Kit Potter listener at bellsouth.net
Sat Jun 21 14:34:46 JEST 2003

I find this very disturbing - let's keep reminding the news media that we'd
like to hear the results of the investigations. Homeland Security cannot
address the problems if the government hasn't researched what the problems
were to begin with! We may be wasting our money and we are certainly losing
rights for no proven reason here.
It would be good to be informed on this! This is a long article, but worth
at least scanning, I feel.
In the Light,

Bush's 9/11 Coverup?    By Eric Boehlert

Family members of victims of the terror attacks say the White House has
smothered every attempt to get to the bottom of the outrageous
intelligence failures that took place on its watch.

June 18, 2003  (Salon.com) For family members of those who died on Sept.
11, last week brought a rare chance to meet face-to-face with a man who
has become a symbol of their dissatisfaction -- FBI director Robert
Mueller. The bureau had quietly invited several dozen family members to
Washington to hear a presentation on the war on terrorism, but for the
small band of husbands, wives and parents who successfully lobbied
Congress last year for an independent 9/11 commission to investigate the
attacks, it was a chance to ask some of the troubling questions they have
about that day.

They weren't simply queries about the national security collapse that
occurred on 9/11, and how a hijacked plane, flying hundreds of miles off
course, was able to dive-bomb untouched into the Pentagon a full hour
after the World Trade Center had already been attacked twice. Or how more
than a dozen terrorists were able to enter America illegally and then
live here undetected for weeks and months, and why U.S. intelligence
sources failed to piece together significant clues that emerged in
advance of the attack

Family advocates also wanted to know why the government -- and
specifically the Bush administration -- has been so reluctant to find
answers to any of the obvious questions about what went wrong that day,
why so little has been fixed, and why virtually nobody has accepted any
responsibility for the glaring failures.

While the administration of President George W. Bush is aggressively
positioning itself as the world leader in the war on terrorism, some
families of the Sept. 11 victims say that the facts increasingly
contradict that script. The White House long opposed the formation of a
blue-ribbon Sept. 11 commission, some say, and even now that panel is
underfunded and struggling to build momentum. And, they say, the
administration is suppressing a 900-page congressional study, possibly
out of fear that the findings will be politically damaging to Bush.

"We've been fighting for nearly 21 months -- fighting the administration,
the White House," says Monica Gabrielle. Her husband, Richard, an
insurance broker who worked for Aon Corp. on the 103rd floor of the World
Trade Center's Tower 2, died during the attacks. "As soon as we started
looking for answers we were blocked, put off and ignored at every stop of
the way. We were shocked. The White House is just blocking everything."

Another 9/11 family advocate -- a former Bush supporter who requested
anonymity -- was more blunt: "Bush has done everything in his power to
squelch this [9/11] commission and prevent it from happening."

Thus far, the administration has largely succeeded. Its stonewalling has
gotten little news coverage, and there is scant evidence that the public
is outraged. The national discussion has moved on -- to Iraq, to that
country's still-missing weapons of mass destruction, to Laci Peterson.
But there are increasing signs that White House efforts to blunt a full
inquiry into the domestic failures that preceded Sept. 11 could emerge as
an issue in the 2004 presidential campaign, in which Bush and his
handlers hope to exploit 9/11 for maximum political advantage.

Sen. Bob Graham, a Florida Democrat and former chair of the Senate
Intelligence Committee, has raised the profile of his presidential
campaign with sharp criticism of Bush for both his administration's
intelligence failures before Sept. 11 and its attempt to paper them over
since. "The public has the right to know what its government has done and
is doing to protect Americans and U.S. interests," Graham told Salon
Monday. "Potential embarrassment isn't a good enough reason to keep these
government materials secret."

Other Democrats almost certainly will realize that the issue is one way
to counter the public's belief that Bush has been an effective leader in
the war on terrorism.

Perhaps it was fear of a backlash that provoked Bush's staff to invite
the Sept. 11 families to the Mueller seminar. But by the accounts of
several people who attended the briefing at FBI headquarters, in a wing
named after Bush's father, the mood was often contentious as the FBI
chief and Department of Justice prosecutors answered questions for more
than two hours. One flash point came during a sharp exchange about what
the FBI had -- or had not -- done with several internal memos filed by
field agents detailing concerns that al-Qaida operatives may be training
at U.S. flight schools. Mueller confirmed that weeks before the Sept. 11
attack, one young FBI agent had seen two such memos but that she did not
act on them.

According to family representatives, Mueller defended the agent, saying
she did not have the proper training or tools to take action on the
information. But when pressed on how such egregious oversight was able to
occur, the director grew defensive and then demanded: "What do you want
me to do, fire her?"

The remark was meant to be rhetorical, but in unison family members
responded audibly: "Yes!"

"We're the most skeptical audience Mueller will ever have, and I think it
showed," says Sept. 11 widow Beverly Eckert, whose husband, Sean Rooney,
died in the twin towers. "We want answers."

Just over a year ago, the families' questions were at least being asked.
During May 2002, controversy swirled when CBS News reported that five
weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush had been briefed about an active
plot by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida operatives to seize civilian aircraft.
The revelations stood in stark contrast to White House spin in the wake
of the Sept. 11 attacks that nobody in the administration or the
intelligence community had "specific information" about a possible
hijacking plot.

Into that combustible mix came revelations that FBI special agents in
Phoenix and Minnesota had warned their superiors about suspected al-Qaida
operatives training at U.S. flight schools. For the White House, the
"what did Bush know and when did he know it" narrative was its first real
political crisis after Sept. 11, the first time the press along with
Democrats were asking pointed questions -- and gaining traction by the
day. Even the New York Post, usually a reliable White House ally, ran a
headline that declared "Bush Knew"; the conservative Weekly Standard
warned that "the administration is now in danger of looking as if it has
engaged in a cover-up."

But the White House, aided by global circumstances and a distractible
news media, conspired to change the subject.

First, a succession of senior administration officials made dire warnings
about the certainty of suicide bombers striking inside America. Then, on
June 6, 2002, the administration abruptly reversed itself and announced
it was backing the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, as
first proposed by Democrats. And the White House made the historic
announcement the same day FBI agent Colleen Rowley testified before
Congress about her famous Minneapolis memo, ensuring that the Department
of Homeland Security was the next day's top headline.

Then, by last August, the Capitol was abuzz in talk of war with Iraq, and
the buzz persisted for the next nine months. "Iraq changed everything
with the press," says one victims' advocate whose wife died in Tower 1.
"Nobody cares about this after Iraq."

"It was a successful attempt to change the story," notes John Pike,
director of GlobalSecurity.org, a nonprofit defense policy group. "From
the White House's perspective, no good can come of these [9/11]
investigations. So I think their approach has been entirely predictable,
and easy to understand."

Adding insult for some family activists was the fact that Bush used the
9/11 attacks as a justification for the war on Iraq. "I sat and listened
to the State of the Union speech [last January] when Bush mentioned 9/11
12 or 13 times," recalls Kristin Breitweiser, whose husband, Ronald, was
killed when United Flight 175 slammed into Tower 1. "At the same time, we
were having trouble getting funding for the independent commission."

Gabrielle was equally upset: "Bush has never personally met with the
[9/11] families to discuss any of this, so for him to use Sept. 11 and
its victims to justify his agenda, I myself am disgusted."

In the face of today's public indifference, the victim activists have
placed their faith in two investigations they hope will finally answer
some key questions. Though the Sept. 11 attacks were arguably one of the
decisive moments in U.S. history, both investigations appear mired in a
deadly Beltway mixture of bureaucratic morass and political sniping.

The first was a bipartisan joint inquiry conducted by the House and
Senate examining intelligence and law-enforcement failures that led up to
the Sept. 11 attack. Its relatively narrow scope came about after Bush
and Vice President Dick Cheney personally phoned then-Senate Majority
Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., in late January 2002, pressuring him to limit
the congressional investigation surrounding Sept. 11.

Despite budget restraints and complaints from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.,
that the White House had "slow-walked and stonewalled" the joint inquiry,
the panel's 900-page report was completed late last year. Today it
remains stuck in national security limbo as the joint inquiry staff
negotiates with the White House and its intelligence agencies over what
portions can and cannot be released in the public version of the report.
The release date has already been pushed back several times as the
declassification process drags on into its seventh month. Even the
Republican chairman of the joint inquiry, Rep. Porter Goss of Florida, a
former CIA operations officer, has expressed deep frustration at the pace
of the process.

"It appears the joint intelligence committee did too good of a job,"
quips Breitweiser. Indeed, last fall the New York Times reported that
"the findings of a joint committee have been far more damaging than most
officials at either agency expected when the panel's inquiry began [in
early 2002]." The report is expected to detail disturbing lapses in
counterterrorism at the CIA and FBI, where warnings about the Sept. 11
attacks went unheeded. They're revelations that are sure to be
uncomfortable for the administration.

"I understand when you have national security issues, that's fine," says
Breitweiser. "But I hope [the delay] is about national security issues
and it's not about embarrassment. Because for people to be holding up
making this nation safe because they fear embarrassment, I don't have any
time for that. We need to fix the egregious errors of 9/11."

Raising concerns about the joint inquiry review process was the
revelation that the administration wanted some information that had
already been made public during open hearings to be reclassified in the
joint inquiry report. Also alarming was the news from this spring when
former Rep. and current 9/11 commissioner Tim Roemer, an Indiana
Democrat, tried to read transcripts from the joint inquiry's closed-door
hearings. Even though he had actually served on the joint inquiry a year
earlier, Department of Justice attorneys refused to let him read the
transcripts, insisting that the White House needed five days to decide
whether it wanted to exert executive privilege to keep the information
under wraps. The White House eventually relented.

"It was upsetting to find out the White House was trying to block the
independent commission's access to the joint inquiry information, when we
all know the mandate that created the independent commission states
clearly that the commission is to use the joint inquiry as a starting-off
point," notes Breitweiser, who also voted for Bush in 2000. "So why would
they be blocking access to that?"

Today, the negotiating continues over what gets declassified. "We're
making some headway. It's a very long, complicated process. But the
public deserves to be told as much as we can tell them about what
happened on Sept. 11," reports Eleanor Hill, who directed the joint
inquiry staff. Asked whether she's happy with the level of cooperation
she's receiving from the administration's intelligence community, Hill
responded: "I'll reserve judgment on that."

As Breitweiser noted, the joint inquiry report is supposed to serve as a
springboard for the independent 9/11 commission, which is charged with
taking a much broader view of the terrorist attack -- everything from
border security to immigration. (A classified version of the joint
inquiry report has already been made available to the commission.)

Known formally as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the
United States, the panel has been bogged down by delays in obtaining
security clearances, setting guidelines for how the group would handle
classified material, and selecting members. The White House first
proposed Henry Kissinger to chair the panel, which provoked some bitter
complaints. Kissinger eventually withdrew after refusing to make public
the list of his consulting clients.

"I would've thought it'd be further along by now," says Gabrielle. "The
length of time it's taken to get up and running is astonishing."

Commission spokesman Al Felzenberg calls the panel's inquiry "the most
important investigation ever done in American history, given its scope."
The final report, due next May, will be "the definitive account of what
took place on Sept. 11," he says, "how it could happen and what went
wrong, as well as what worked and what did not work and what
recommendation would we have for the American government and the American
people to make it safer."

But the investigation almost never happened at all.

Family advocates complain it was created virtually in spite of the White
House; they point to the extraordinary game of hardball the
administration practiced right on the eve of last year's midterm
elections when it derailed a bipartisan congressional deal to form the
commission, citing concerns with its potential scope and subpoena power.
Members of both parties who had already scheduled a press conference to
announce the panel were stunned by the turn of events. Weeks after the
2002 election, and following a candlelight vigil by 9/11 victim families
held in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House, the
independent commission was finally formed, more than a year after the
terrorists attacked.

"Bush begrudgingly signed [the commission] into law," complains one
family advocate. "Since it was created, he's done everything to take the
teeth out of it. His fingerprints and Karl Rove's are all over this."

"If President Bush and the administration are not happy with the
independent commission, then it's their own fault because all they had to
do was set up a commission on their own," adds Breitweiser. "But they
didn't, so it was left to other people to make sure it got done.
Undeniably the administration has dragged its feet."

In the past the White House has denied the charge, insisting it's
cooperating with the commission. Yet even during hearings, that
cooperation has seemed lackluster at best.

Unlike congressional inquiries, the commission's witnesses have not been
asked to testify under oath. As a result, federal officials under Bush's
command have not always been forthcoming. At their May 23 public hearing
in Washington, commissioners were trying to piece together what, if any,
defensive measures the government took on the morning of Sept. 11.
Specifically, they wanted to know whether the military's North American
Aerospace Defense Command, once notified by the Federal Aviation
Administration, should have been able to scramble jets in order to
intercept some of the hijacked aircraft. Yet 20 months after the attack,
9/11 commissioners still could not get straight answers from NORAD and
FAA representatives who testified as to when the FAA notified NORAD about
the wayward jets on the morning of 9/11.

Adding to the general confusion that day was baffling testimony by
Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta. "I don't think we ever thought
of an airplane being used as a missile," he told the commissioners. But
it was widely reported last year that several government studies had
warned of just such a scenario.

For months, the commission was struggling to get by on a minuscule budget
of $3 million. That low funding and the yearlong delay in creating the
commission stand in stark contrast to previous panels formed to
investigate momentous disasters in American history.

For instance, on April 15, 1912, the Titanic sank after hitting an
iceberg, killing approximately 1,500 of its 2,200 passengers. According
to historians, Titanic survivors began disembarking in New York at 10
o'clock on the night of April 18. The next morning at 10:30, a special
panel of the Senate Commerce Committee was gaveled into session inside
the ornate East Room of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York.

Last year, when Cheney called Daschle to urge him to limit any hearings
into 9/11, the V.P. argued it would drain sources away from the war on
terrorism. By contrast, just 11 days after Japanese bombers hit the U.S.
with a sneak attack killing nearly 3,000 people, President Franklin D.
Roosevelt signed an executive order creating a commission to "ascertain
and report the facts relating to the attack made by Japanese armed forces
upon the Territory of Hawaii on December 7, 1941 ... and to provide bases
for sound decisions whether any derelictions of duty or errors of
judgment on the part of United States Army or Navy personnel contributed
to such successes as were achieved by the enemy on the occasion
mentioned." It was the first of eight government-led investigations into
the Pearl Harbor.

The Warren Commission, headed by Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, was
formed just seven days after President Kennedy was assassinated. Last
February, after seven astronauts died when the Space Shuttle Columbia
disintegrated 200,000 feet above Texas, NASA's Columbia Accident
Investigation Board was created 90 minutes after the incident; $50
million was immediately set aside for the probe. And in just four months,
the board has already made public significant findings about the crash

By contrast, nearly two years after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World
Trade Center, the 9/11 commission only recently opened up its New York
City office. The commission's budget has been increased to $14 million,
but many experts say that's still far short of the sum needed to do the
job right.

Given that perspective, there's a growing sense among some 9/11 advocates
that the news media have let them -- and the nation -- down. "I'm very
disappointed in the press," says Breitweiser. "I think it's disgusting
the independent commission is doing the most important work for this
nation and it's not even reported in the New York Times or on the nightly
news. I've been scheduled to go on 'Meet the Press' and 'Hardball' so
many times and I'm always canceled. Frankly I'd like nothing better than
to go head to head with Dick Cheney on 'Meet the Press.' Because somebody
needs to ask the questions and I don't understand why nobody is."

Among frustrated family members of Sept. 11 victims, there's a feeling
they're losing the battle of time in their struggle to get answers from
the Bush administration. "There's a very, very small window to effect
changes," says one 9/11 widower, Bill Harvey. "And unfortunately, that
window is closing."
 Copyright 2003 salon.com


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