|Chapters 7, 8|
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DID US OFFICIALS HAVE REASONS FOR ALLOWING 9/11?
Pre-9/11 Plans to Attack Afghanistan
With regard to Afghanistan, Ahmed, drawing on various sources,>1 calls it a matter of public record that "corresponding with the growing shift in US policy against the Taliban, a military invasion of Afghanistan was planned long before 11th September.">2 Ahmed and Thompson both suggest that at least one of the fundamental purposes behind this plan was to facilitate a huge project of a consortium of oil companies known as CentGas (Central Asia Gas Pipeline). This consortium, which includes Delta Oil of Saudi Arabia, was formed by Unocal, one of the oil giants of the United States, to build pipelines through Afghanistan and Pakistan for transporting oil and gas from Turkmenistan to the Indian Ocean. In September of 2000, a year before 9/11, an Energy Information Fact Sheet, published by the US government, said:
Afghanistan's significance from an energy standpoint stems from its geographic position as a potential transit route for oil and natural gas exports from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea. This potential includes proposed multibillion dollar oil and gas export pipelines through Afghanistan.>3
At one time, Unocal and Washington had hoped that thcTaliban would provide sufficient stability for their project to move forward, but they had lost this hope.
Providing some background, Ahmed and Thompson explain that the Taliban was originally created by the CIA, working in conjunction with Pakistan's ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence), with additional financial support from Saudi Arabia.>4 According to Ahmed Rashid's well-known book Taliban, the pipeline project was central to this support:
Impressed by the ruthlessness and willingness of the then-emerging Taliban to cut a pipeline deal, the State Department and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency agreed to funnel arms and funding to the Taliban.>5
When the Taliban, with this financial support from Saudi Arabia and the CIA funneled through the ISI, conquered Kabul in 1996, Unocal was hopeful that it would provide enough stability to allow its pipelines to be built and protected. Indeed, it was reported, "preliminary agreement [on the pipeline project] was reached between the [Taliban and Unocal] long before the fall of Kabul.">6 Unocal even reportedly provided some of the financial support for the Taliban.>7 The fact that the Taliban continued to serve the purposes of the ISI is illustrated, Thompson points out, by the fact that when Taliban troops were about to conquer the major city in northern Afghanistan in 1998, an ISI officer sent a message saying: "My boys and I are riding into Mazar-i- Sharif.">8 In any case, after the Taliban conquered this city, it had control of most of Afghanistan, including the entire pipeline route. CentGas then announced that it was "ready to proceed.">9
Later that year, however, Unocal, having become dubious about the Talibans ability to provide sufficient stability, pulled out of CentGas. From then on, says Ahmed, "the US grew progressively more hostile toward the Taliban, and began exploring other possibilities to secure its regional supremacy, while maintaining basic ties with the regime, to negotiate a non-military solution.">10
The final attempt to find a non-military solution reportedly occurred at a four-day meeting in Berlin in July of 2001. The Bush administration tried to get the Taliban to share power, thereby creating a joint government of "national unity." According to the Pakistani representative at the meeting, Niaz Naik, one of the Americans said "either the Taliban behave as they ought to...or we will use another option..a military operation" Another American reportedly told the Taliban: "Either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of boobs.">11 Although one of the Americans later denied that such a threat was made, one of them confirmed it, saying: "I think there was some discussion of the fact that the United States was so disgusted with the Taliban that they might be considering some military action.">12
According to a BBC report, furthermore, Naik said that he was told by senior American officials that "military action against Afghanistan would go ahead by the middle of October" -- that it would take place "before the snows started falling in Afghanistan, by the middle of October at the latest.">13 Thompson, noting that the United States started bombing Afghanistan on October 7, asks: "Is it coincidence that the attacks begin exactly when the US said they would, months before 9/11?">14 The supposition that it was not simply a coincidence is supported by an account from a former member of the South Carolina National Guard, who later declared:
My unit reported for drill in July 2001 and we were suddenly and unexpectedly informed that all activities planned for the next two months would be suspended in order to prepare for a mobilization exercise to be held on Sept. 14, 2001. We worked diligently for two weekends and even came in on an unscheduled day in August to prepare for the exercise. By the end of August all we needed was a phone call, which we were to expect, and we could hop into a fully prepared convoy with our bags and equipment packed.>15
If this report is true, it suggests that it was known in July that the attacks would occur shortly before September 14. In any case, Niaz Naik also did not think that mere coincidence was involved. The BBC report quoted him as saying that he "was in no doubt that after the World Trade Center bombings, this pre-existing US plan had been built upon and would be implemented within two or three weeks."
Naik also said it was doubtful that Washington would drop its plan even if bin Laden were to be surrendered immediately by the Taliban, because "the wider objective was to topple the Taleban [sic] regime and install a transitional government.">16 Ahmed and Thompson find this assessment of the wider objective, along with the view that included facilitating the pipeline project, to be confirmed by subsequent events, such as the fact commented upon in the following statement by a writer in an Israeli newspaper:
If one looks at the map of the big American bases created, one is struck by the fact that they are completely identical to the route of the projected oil pipeline to the Indian Ocean.... If I were a believer in conspiracy theory, I would think that bin Laden is an American agent.>17
Thompson and Ahmed also point out that both the new Afghani prime minister, Hamid Karzai, and President Bush's special envoy to Afghanistan, Zalamy Khalilzad, were previously on Unocals payroll. These appointments, Ahmed adds, "illustrate the fundamental interests behind US military intervention in Afghanistan.">18 As early as October 10, Ahmed further notes, the US Department of State had informed the Pakistani Minister of Oil that "in view of recent geopolitical developments," Unocal was ready to go ahead with the pipeline project.>19 In light of this background, Ahmed concludes that 9/11 was more the "trigger" than the reason for the US war in Afghanistan.>20
Pre-9/11 Plans to Attack Iraq
In a statement in early March of 2002, President Bush, after saying that he was not very concerned about Osama bin Laden, added: "I am deeply concerned about Iraq.">21 Thompson and Ahmed believe that this was not a recent concern, that the war against Iraq, like the war against Afghanistan, had already been planned by US officials prior to 9/11.
Part of the evidence for this claim is found in the document Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces, and Resources for a New Century, which I briefly mentioned in the Introduction. This document was published in September of 2000 by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a neo-conservative think tank that was formed by many people who went on to become insiders in the Bush admnistration, including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz (Rumsfeld's deputy at the Defense Department), and Lewis "Scooter" Libby (Cheney's Chief of Staff) >22 With regard to the question of whether the 2003 war against Iraq was really motivated by the perceived need to eliminate Saddam, as these men would then claim, the following passage in Rebuilding America's Defenses (quoted by Thomspon) is relevant:
The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.>23
The main thing, in other words, was getting a "substantial American force presence in the Gulf," with Saddam providing the "immediate justification." Edward Herman also points to the importance of this document for assessing the sincerity of the public rationale given for the war: "Key members of the Bush administration," points out Herman, "had announced an aim of 'toppling Saddam Hussein back in 2000 in the publication of the Project for the New American Century.">24
This group made an even earlier statement of this aim in a letter to President Clinton in January of 1998, urging him to adopt a strategy aimed at "the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime from power." This letter, signed by Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Perle, among others, urged Clinton "to take the necessary steps, including military steps, to protect our vital interests in the Gulf," adding that "American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council.">25
In supporting the contention that 9/11 was more a pretext than a reason for the attack on Iraq, Thompson quotes a report that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, only a few hours after the Pentagon had been struck, wrote a memo saying that he wanted the "best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at same time. Not only UBL [Usama bin Laden]. Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.">26 Thompsons contention is given additional support by John Pilger, who cites Bob Woodwards report that the next day at the meeting of the National Security Council, Rumsfeld said that Saddams Iraq should be targeted in the first round of the war on terrorism.>27
Critics can, furthermore, point to both actions and statements during and after the war that support their contention that the war had much more to do with oil and regional control than it did with the announced purposes for the war. Whereas the Bush and Blair administrations claimed that the war was to remove weapons of mass destruction, through which Saddam Hussein posed a threat to his neighbors and even the United Kingdom and the United States, the intelligence behind this assessment has been widely reported to have been distorted, even invented. Sir Jonathan Porritt, head of the Sustainable Development Commission, which advises Blair's government on ecological issues, publicly stated that the prospect of winning access to Iraqi oil was "a very large factor" in the allies' decision to attack Iraq in March, adding: "I don't think the war would have happened if Iraq didn't have the second-largest oil reserves in the world." Paul O'Neill, Bush's former Treasury Secretary, has said that the Bush administration had from the outset planned to attack Iraq, in large part for its oil.>28
The fact that oil was of preeminent importance was demonstrated Stephen Gowans says, by the fact that
the top item on the Pentagon's agenda, once it gave the order for jackboots to begin marching on Baghdad, was to secure the oil fields in southern Iraq. And when chaos broke out in Baghdad, US forces let gangs of looters and arsonists run riot through "the Ministry of Planning, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Irrigation, the Ministry of Trade, the Ministry of Industry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Information." ...But at the Ministry of Oil, where archives and files related to all the oil wealth Washington has been itching to get its hands on, all was calm, for ringing the Ministry was a phalanx of tanks and armoured personnel carriers.>29
The suspicion that Iraq was not attacked primarily for the publicly stated reasons is also suggested by the evidence that the Bush administration planned to use its post-9/11 "war on terrorism" as a pretext for attacks on still other countries. A report in Newsweek for example, said that prior to the attack on Iraq, some of Bush's advisors advocated also attacking Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Egypt. One senior British official was quoted as saving: "Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran.">30
One of those "real men" was Richard Perle, a founding member of PNAC, who has been quoted as describing America's "war on terrorism" in these words:
This is total war. We are fighting a variety of enemies. There are lots of them out there. All this talk about first we are going to do Afghanistan, then we will do Iraq.... [T]his is entirely the wrong way to go about it. If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and....just wage a total war...our children will sing great songs about us years from now.>31
This kind of vision could give fanaticism a bad name.
It is now increasingly recognized that insofar as the United States is waging a war on terrorism, "terrorism" is being defined in a very selective, self-serving way. "For Bush," Meyssan says, "terrorism seems to be defined as any form of violent opposition to American leadership.">32 Richard Falk likewise saw that it soon became clear that the "war on terrorism was being waged against all non-state revolutionary forces perceived as hostile to American global interests." What is really going on, in other words, is "an empire-building project undertaken behind the smokescreen of the war on global terror.">33 Phyllis Bennis agrees, saying that "the war [on terrorism] was never about bringing anyone to justice; it was about conquest and the mushrooming of US global power, all in the name of righteous vengeance.">34 Chossudovsky, Mahajan, and countless other critics have made the same point.
In any case, it is now widely agreed that the Bush administration (as well as Blair's government) lied about the reasons for attacking Iraq. Is it not time to expand this question to whether it also lied about the event itself, 9/11, that was used as the primary justification for the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq and the even larger agenda of the Bush administration?
A New Pearl Harbor Would Help
With regard to this larger agenda, both Ahmed and Thompson refer to the 1997 book by former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives. Besides portraying the Eurasian landmass as the key to world power, Brzezinski portrayed Central Asia, with its vast oil reserves, as the key to the domination of Eurasia. Having summarized this argument, Ahmed and Thompson point to Brzezinskis statement that ensuring continued "American primacy" by getting control of this region will require "a consensus on foreign policy issues" within the American public. Getting such consensus, however, will be difficult, because "America is too democratic at home to be autocratic abroad," a fact that "limits the use of America's power, especially its capacity for military intimidation." Continuing his analysis of the defects in the American character, Brzezinski explained that "the pursuit of power is not a goal that commands popular passion, except in conditions of a sudden threat or challenge to the public's sense of domestic well being.">35 Therefore, he counseled, the needed consensus on foreign policy issues will be difficult to obtain "except in the circumstance of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat.">36 Ahmed connects this passage to an earlier one, in which Brzezinski said that the American public, which is ambivalent about "the external projection of American power," had "supported America's engagement in World War II largely because of the shock effect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.">37
Ahmed's point is that if those two passages are read together, the kind of "widely perceived direct external threat" said to be needed would be Pearl Harbor type of event. Brzezinski's book, authored by a former national security advisor, cannot be considered simply one book among hundreds offering advice to the government. Although Brzezinski advised a Democratic president (Jimmy Carter), he is a hard liner who has reportedly been highly regarded by the Bush administration.
It is perhaps not merely coincidental, therefore, that three years after Brzezinskis apparent wish for a Pearl-Harbor-type event was published, the aforementioned publication of the Project for the New American Century would contain a similar passage. Although this passage has previously been cited, it is important to emphasize that it comes in the context of a call for the completion of the "revolution in military affairs," through which a Pax Americana, or "American Peace," can be more efficiently established. Unfortunately, according to this document's authors, the needed transformation would probably come about slowly "absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event--like a new Pearl Harbor.">38 If a new Pearl Harbor were to occur, in other words, this completion of the revolution in military affairs could be brought about more quickly, because the massive funding needed could be obtained. It was in response to this prediction that John Pilger made the assertion, quoted in the Introduction, that "[t]he attacks of 11 September 2001 provided the 'new Pearl Harbor.'">39 What kind of changes did these advocates of American dominance outline, and has the New Pearl Harbor helped bring them about?
Missile Defense and a Space Pearl Harbor
It is important to realize that the centerpiece of the "revolution in military affairs" is a program to weaponize and hence dominate space. This program will require much of the massive increase in funding for "defense" for which Brzezinski and the Project for the New American Century have called. The purpose of this program is spelled out quite explicitly in a document called "Vision for 2020," which begins with this mission statement: "US Space Command--dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect US interests and investment.">40 Its primary purpose, in other words, is not to protect the American homeland, but to protect American investments abroad. It makes this point even more explicit by comparing the importance of the Space Command today with the fact that in previous times "nations built navies to protect and enhance their commercial interests." It is to dominate space to protect the commercial interests of America's elite class that, according to current projections, over $1 trillion will be required from American taxpayers.>41
The "Vision for 2020" document engages in no sentimental propaganda about the need for the United States to dominate space for the sake of promoting democracy or otherwise serving humanity. Rather, it says candidly, if indiscreetly: "The globalization of the world economy...will continue with a widening between 'haves' and 'have-nots.'" In other words, as America's domination of the world economy increases, the poor will get still poorer while the rich get still richer, and this will make the "have-nots" hate America all the more, so we need to be able to keep them in line. We can do this through what the advocates of this program originally called "Global Battlespace Dominance." Because some people found this term too explicit, the preferred term today is "Full Spectrum Dominance" (which provided the tide for a previously quoted book by Rahul Mahajan). This term means not only being dominant on land, on the sea, and in the air, as the US military is already, but also having control of space. Discussing this "American project of global domination associated with the weaponization of space," Richard Falk says: "The empire-building quest for such awesome power is an unprecedented exhibition of geopolitical greed at its worst, and needs to be exposed and abandoned before it is too late.">42
The only part of this program that has received much public discussion is the defensive aspect of it, which in the Reagan Administration was called the Strategic Defensive Initiative and is today called the Missile Defense Shield. Although these names suggest that America's goal in space is purely defensive, this so-called shield is only one part of a three-part program. One of the other parts is putting surveillance technology in space, with the goal of being able to zero on any part of the planet with such precision that every enemy of US forces can be identified. This part is already well on the way to realization.>43 The third part of the prograrn - which shows that the informal name for this program, "Star Wars," is more accurate than its technical name - is putting actual weapons in space, including laser cannons. These lasercannons have the offensive potential, as one writer put it, to "make a cruise missile look like a firecracker.">44 With lazer weapons on our satellites, the United States will be able to destroy the military satellites any adversarial country would try to send up, and this is, indeed, part of the announced intention: "to deny others the use of space." The US Space Command could thereby maintain total and permanent dominance. The aggressive purpose of the US Space Command's program is announced in the logo of one of its divisions: "In Your Face from Outer Space.">45
It is not only in this document that such aggressive aims are frankly stated. As Mahajan points out, the Project for the New American Century's document makes the following "remarkable admission":
In the post-Cold-War era, America and its allies...have become the primary objects of deterrence and it is states like Iraq, Iran and North Korea who most wish to develop deterrent capabilities. Projecting conventional military forces--will be far more complex and constrained when the American homeland...is subject to attack by otherwise weak rogue regimes capable of cobbling together a minuscule ballistic missile force. Building an effective...system of missile defenses is a prerequisite for maintaining American preeminence.>46
In other words, although the name "missile defense shield" suggests that the system is designed to shield America from attacks, its real purpose is to prevent other nations from deterring America from attacking them. This statement further suggests that Iran, Iraq, and North Korea were later determined by President Bush to deserve the title "axis of evil" because of their perverse wish to develop the capacity to deter the United States from projecting military force against them. The Project's description of the US military's role in these offensive terms is fully in accord with the Bush administrations National Security Strategy, published in 2002, which, besides embodying most of the recommendations of Rebuilding America's Defenses, says that "our best defense is a good offense.">47 The most important new component of this offense is to be the "full spectrum dominance" afforded by complementing America's land, air, and sea forces with a full-fledged Space Force.
Shortly before becoming Secretary of Defense in January of 2001, Ronald Rumsfeld completed his work as chairman of the Commission to Assess US National Security Space Management and Organization. This "Rumsfeld Commission," as it was informally known, published its report in the second week of January.>48 The aim of its proposals, it said, was to "increase the asymmetry between US forces and those of other military powers." Besides advocating the termination of the 1972 ABM Treaty (which the Bush administration acted on promptly), this report recommended substantial changes, including the subordination of all the other armed forces and the intelligence agencies to the Space Force. Recognizing that such a drastic reorganization of the armed forces and intelligence agencies would normally evoke great resistance, the report added:
History is replete with instances in which warning signs were ignored and change resisted until an external, "improbable" event forced resistant bureaucracies to take action. The question is whether the US will be wise enough to act responsibly and soon enough to reduce US space vulnerability. Or whether, as in the past, a disabling attack against the country and its people--a "Space Pearl Harbor" will be the only event able to galvanize the nation and cause the US Government to act.>49
We have, accordingly, yet another suggestion by a central figure in the Bush administration that another "Pearl Harbor" may be necessary to "galvanize the nation."
This report was released on January 11, 2001, exactly nine months before the US suffered attacks from the air that our defenses appeared to be helpless to prevent. And the primary response evoked by these attacks was a sense of America's vulnerability. The chairman of the commission that issued the above report was, furthermore, well placed to take advantage of those attacks and the resulting sense of "US space vulnerability." As Meyssan points out, at a press conference that began at 6:42 PM on 9/11 itself, Rurnsfeld, now Secretary of Defense, used the attacks to browbeat Democratic Senator Carl Levin, who was then chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee (during the brief period of the Bush administration during which Democrats had control of the Senate). Before live camera, Rumsfeld said:
Senator Levin, you and other Democrats in Congress, have voicedfear that you simply don't have enough money for the large increase in defense that the Pentagon is seeking, especially for missile defense, and you fear that you'll have to dip into the Social Security funds to pay for it. Does this sort of thing convince you that an emergency exists in this country to increase defense spending, to dip into Social Security, if necessary, to pay for defense spending --increase defense spending?>50
It does appear that the attacks of 9/11 provided Rumsfeld with what he thought could pass for "a Space Pearl Harbor," and he seemed remarkably prepared to take advantage of it.
Furthermore, if US officials were involved in facilitating the attacks of 9/11 Rumsfeld was not the only one with great interest in the Space Command. Its other primary advocate was its current commander, General Ralph E. Eberhart, who in his role as commander of NORAD was in charge of air traffic control on 9/11." Also, General Richard Myers, who was in the process of becoming the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and was the Acting Chairman on 9/11, had previously been head of the US Space Command. Known by some as "General Starwars," he was in charge during the writing of "Vision for 2020," with its quite explicit expression of the intent to get absolute control of space so that the Pentagon can protect American commercial interests while they are increasing the gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots" of the world. Accordingly, the three men who have been most identified with advocacy of the US Space Force are also the three figures who would have been most directly involved in promulgating and overseeing a "stand down" order on 9/11, if such was given.
The evidence summarized in this chapter shows that officials of the Pentagon and the Bush administration would have had many reasons-- from their plans for Afghanistan and Iraq to their desire for massive funding to weaponize space--for allowing, if not planning, the attacks of 911.Some of this evidence points to the truth of at least the seventh possible view--that the White House had specific knowledge of the attacks in advance, knowing that they would occur, for example in time to launch a war against Afghanistan before the winter snows started. Some of the evidence even suggests the eighth view, according to which the White House was involved in the planning. It is possible of course, that although central figures of the Bush administration evidently desired "a new Pearl Harbor," they did not plan the attacks but simply learned that they had been planned by others, so that all they had to do was to make sure that the attacks were not prevented.
Yet with all that was apparently riding on the occurrence of a new Pearl Harbor, reasonable people could conclude that the White House would not have left this occurrence to chance.
A Precedent: Operation Northwoods
All the information summarized so far arguably presents strong evidence pointing to US complicity in the attacks of 9/11 involving US intelligence agencies, the Pentagon, and the White House. But regardless of how strong this evidence may be considered, many and perhaps most Americans will resist the idea that this "attack on America" could have been an inside job, staged by America's own leaders. The primary responsibility of the president and vice president, their cabinet, US intelligence agencies, and US military leaders is to protect America and its citizens. Even if the official account of 9/11 leaves dozens of unanswered questions, the true account cannot, many Americans will assume, be that American political and military leaders colluded to allow, much less stage, the attacks of 9/11- Regardless of the benefits that may have been foreseen if a "new Pearl Harbor" were to occur; our military and political leaders would not have participated in a plan to bring about such an event. We feel that we know a priori that all conspiracy theories of this type are false, because American military and political leaders simply would not do such a thing.
In 1962, however, a plan was formulated that provides a partial precedent, a plan about which we now know because of recently declassified documents. The background to this plan was President Eisenhower's request to the CIA, near the end of his administration, to come up with a pretext to invade Cuba. The CIA formulated "A Program of Covert Operations Against the Castro Regime," the goal of which was "the replacement of the Castro regime with one more devoted to the true interests of the Cuban people and more acceptable to the US, in such a manner to avoid any appearance of US intervention.">52 Eisenhower had approved this plan. But after the next president, John Kennedy, accepted a CIA plan that led to the Bay of Pigs fiasco, he had responsibility for Cuba taken away from the CIA and assigned it to the Department of Defense Early in 1962, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Lyman Lemnitzer brought Kennedy a plan called Operation Northwoods.>53
According to the covering "Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense," signed by all the Joint Chiefs, this plan, marked Top Secret described "pretexts which would provide justification for US military intervention in Cuba.">54 According to the "Memorandum for Chief of Operations, Cuba Project," a decision to intervene "will result from a period of heightened US-Cuban tensions which place the United States in the position of suffering justifiable grievances." It was important, the memorandum said, "to camouflage the ultimate objective." Part of the idea was to influence world opinion in general and the United Nations in particular "by developing the image of the Cuban government as rash and irresponsible, and as an alarming and unpredictable threat to the peace of the Western Hemisphere.">55
The plan then listed a series of possible actions to create this image. For example: "We could develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington...We could sink a boatload of Cubans enroute to Florida (real or simulated).">56 Particularly interesting, in light of some of the proposed scenarios as to "what really happened" on 9/11 (see Ch. 1, n. 32), is the following idea:
It is possible to create an incident which will demonstrate convincingly that a Cuban aircraft has attacked and shot down a chartered civil airliner.... The destination would be chosen only to cause the flight plan route to cross Cuba. The passengers could be a group of college students off on a holiday....
b. Take off times of the drone aircraft and the actual aircraft will be scheduled to allow a rendezvous south of Florida. From the rendezvous point the passenger-carrying aircraft will descend to minimum altitude and go directly into an auxiliary field at Eglin AFB where arrangements will have been made to evacuate the passengers and return the aircraft to its original status. The drone aircraft meanwhile will continue to fly the filed flight plan. When over Cuba the drone will being [sic] transmitting on the international distress frequency a "MAY DAY" message stating he is under attack by Cuban MIG aircraft. The transmission will be interrupted by destruction of the aircraft which will be triggered by radio signal.>57
Kennedy rejected this plan, even though it was endorsed by all the joint chiefs. Those who say that, although military leaders might formulate such plans, an American president would never agree to such a despicable plan can point to this rejection as evidence. However, different presidents, in different circumstances, make different decisions. For example, in the early 1890s, a plan to annex Hawaii was rejected by President Grover Cleveland, whose secretary of state considered the plan "a selfish and dishonourable scheme of a lot of adventurers." But this scheme was accepted by the next president, William McKinley >60 (who was also the one who used the Maine incident to justify entering the war against Spain in order to take control of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines). Accordingly, the fact that Kennedy turned down that particular plan at that particular time‚shortly after the Bay of Pigs embarrassment--does not necessarily mean that all American presidents in all circumstances would turn down plans to achieve geopolitical goals through "incidents" involving the taking of innocent lives, even innocent American lives.>61
The evidence in this chapter, in any case, provides further support for the conclusion of Michel Chossudovsky, only partially quoted earlier, that the post-9/11 American war "is not a campaign against international terrorism. It is a war of conquest... [a] nd the American people have been consciously and deliberately deceived by their government.">62 The next chapter will provide one more kind of evidence presented by the critics for this conclusion.
FOOTNOTES chapter 7
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1These sources include Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie, Forbidden Truth: U.S. - Taliban Secret Oil Diplomacy and the Failed Hunt for Bin Laden (New York: Thunder's Mouth Press/Nation Books, 2002), and .Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000).
DID US OFFICIALS BLOCK CAPTURES AND INVESTIGATIONS AFTER 9/11?
Continuing the Anti-Hunt for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda
Ahmed and Thompson provide considerable evidence that although the war in Afghanistan was supposedly to root out al-Qaeda and bin Laden-- taking him, in President Bush's language, "dead or alive"--the actual objective must have been something else, since there were several instances in which the government and its military commanders seemed at pains to allow bin Laden and al-Qaeda to escape.
For example, according to many residents of Kabul, a convoy of al-Qaeda forces, thought to include its top leaders, made a remarkable escape during one night in early November of 2001. A local businessman said:
We don't understand how they weren't all killed the night before because they came in a convoy of at least 1,000 cars and trucks. It was a very dark night, but it must have been easy for the American pilots to see the headlights. The main road was jammed from eight in the evening until three in the morning.
Thompson comments: "With all of the satellite imagery and intense focus on the Kabul area at the time, how could such a force have escaped the city unobserved by the US?">1
Also early in November, US intelligence agencies, having watched al-Qaeda fighters and leaders move into the area of Jalalabad, reported that bin Laden himself had arrived. According to Knight-Ridder newspapers, this is what happened next:
American intelligence analysts concluded that bin Laden and his recreating fighters were preparing to flee across the border. But the US Central Command, which was running the war, made no move to block their escape. "It was obvious from at least early November that this area was to be the base for an exodus into Pakistan," said one intelligence official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity. "All of this was known, and frankly we were amazed that nothing was done to prepare for it.">2
Shortly thereafter, on November 14, the Northern Alliance captured Jalalabad. That night, a convoy of "several hundred cars" holding 1,000 or more al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters, evidently including bin Laden, escaped from Jalalabad and reached the fortress of Tora Bora. US forces bombed the nearby Jalalabad airport, but apparently not the convoy.>3
On November 16, approximately 600 al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters, including many senior leaders, reportedly escaped from Afghanistan, by taking a long trek to escape the bombing in the Tora Bora region. Although there are two main routes from the Tora Bora region to Pakistan, US planes bombed only one of these routes, so that the 600 men were able to escape unharmed by using the other one. Hundreds more reportedly continued to use this escape route over the next weeks, generally not bothered by US bombing or Pakistani border guards.>4 One Afghan intelligence officer reportedly said that he was astounded that the Americans did not station troops to block the most obvious exit routes. The Telegraph later said: "In retrospect, and with the benefit of dozens of accounts from the participants, the battle for Tora Bora looks more like a grand charade." Eyewitnesses expressed shock, it said, that US forces pinned in Taliban and al-Qaeda forces, thought to contain many high leaders, on three sides only, leaving the route to Pakistan open. An intelligence chief in Afghanistan's new government was quoted as saying: "The border with Pakistan was the key, but no one paid any attention to it.">5
A Special Forces soldier stationed in Fayetteville, North Carolinalater stated that on November 28, US forces had bin Laden pinned in a Tora Bora cave but failed to act. While Special Forces soldiers were waiting for orders, he said, they watched two helicopters fly into the area where bin Laden was believed to be, load up passengers, and fly toward Pakistan. This statement, made on condition of anonymity, is given more credibility, Thompson points out, by the fact that Newsweek separately reported that many Tora Bora locals claimed that "mysterious black helicopters swept in, flying low over the mountains at night, and scooped up al-Qaeda's top leaders.">6 "Perhaps just coincidentally," Thompson adds, the same day that this story was reported there was also a story reporting that five soldiers at Fayetteville--at least three of whom were Special Forces soldiers who had recently returned from Afghanistan--and their wives had died since June in apparent murder-suicides.>7
In late December of 2001, the new Afghan interior minister, Younis Qanooni, claimed that the ISI had helped bin Laden escape from Afghanistan.>8 For critics of the official account, this claim is significant given the fact that the Bush administration has considered Pakistan a partner in its post-9/11 efforts.
In March of 2002, this apparent lack of interest in killing or capturing bin Laden was put into words by the president himself, who said of bin Laden: "He's a person who's now been marginalized...! just don't spend that much time on him...I truly am not that concerned about him." The suspicion that the war was never about bin Laden, which Bush's statement could be taken to imply, was explicitly stated, Thompson points out, a month later by General Richard Myers, who said that "the goal has never been to get bin Laden.">9 Another American official was quoted as making an even more revealing statement, saying that "casting our objectives too narrowly" risked "a premature collapse of the international effort if by some lucky chance Mr. bin Laden was captured.">10 A way of making sense of all this was provided by George Monbiot, who wrote a week after 9/11:
If Osama bin Laden did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him. For the past four years, his name has been invoked whenever a US president has sought to increase the defence budget or wriggle out of arms control treaties. He has been used to justify even President Bush's missile defence programme.... Now he has become the personification of evil required to launch a crusade for good: the face behind the faceless terror.... [H]is usefulness to western governments lies in his power to terrify. When billions of pounds of military spending are at stake, rogue states and terrorist warlords become assets precisely because they are liabilities.>11
Monbiots statement, in conjunction with the American officicial's concern about a "premature collapse of the international effort," provides apossible explanation as to why the "hunt for bin Laden" was unsuccessful.
Concealing the Role of Pakistan's ISI
As we saw earlier, the CIA and its counterpart in Pakistan, the ISI, worked together in the late 1990s to create the Taliban and ensure its victory. This point is reinforced by Chossudovsky, who says: "Without US support channeled through the Pakistani ISI, the Taliban would not have been able to form a government in 1996.">12 Furthermore, he says, just as without the ISI there would have been no Taliban government in Kabul, "without the unbending support of the US government, there would be no powerful military-intelligence apparatus in Pakistan.">13 This close relationship between the CIA and the ISI goes back to the 1980s, during which the ISI was the local agency through which the CIA conducted its covert operation in Afghanistan, which began in 1979. The CIA and the ISI recruited radical Muslims from around the world to form the Mujaheddin to fight against Soviet forces.>14 Osama bin Laden was originally brought to Pakistan to help with this effort. Although he was under contract to the CIA, "the CIA gave Usama free rein in Afghanistan, as did Pakistan's intelligence generals" -- Ahmed quotes John Cooley as saying--and bin Laden used that free rein and his accumulated wealth to begin organizing al-Qaeda in 1985.>15 In the late 1980s, Pakistan's President Benazir Bhutto, seeing how strong the Mujaheddin movement was becoming, told President Bush: "You are creating a Frankenstein.">16 Then in the late 1990s, after the CIA had worked with the ISI to create the Taliban, South East Asia specialist Selig Harrison who knew CIA agents, reports that he warned them that they "were creating a monster.">17
And if both al-Qaeda and the Taliban were reportedly becoming monstrous, the same was said of the ISI itself. After the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan, the ISI, which had at the instigation of the CIA begun producing heroin in order to turn Soviet soldiers into addicts, began smuggling its heroin into Western countries, using the huge profits to build itself up. As a result, said one analyst, the ISI became a "parallel structure wielding enormous power over all aspects of government." Time magazine later confirmed this analysis, saying that the "notorious" ISI "is commonly branded 'a state within the state,' or Pakistan's 'invisible government,'" and a story in the New Yorker called the ISI "a parallel government of its own.">18
This history of the ISI, with its links to the CIA on the one hand and al-Qaeda and the Taliban on the other, is important in light of evidence that these links were never broken. Chossudovsky, rejecting the view that the "Osama-CIA links belong to the 'bygone era' of the Soviet-Afghan war," asserts: "The CIA has never severed its ties to the 'Islamic Militant Network.'">19 And Ahmed quotes Selig Harrison's statement, made in March of 2001, that "[t]he CIA still has close links with the ISI.">20
These links are also supported by an investigator with a very different political perspective from Ahmed's and Chossudovky's, Gerald Posner. I cited earlier Posners report on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah insofar as it dealt with Zubaydah's claim that his al-Qaeda activities were carried out on behalf of Saudi officials. Zubaydah also reportedly said that it was on behalf of Pakistani officials. "According to Zubaydah," reports Posner,
he was present in 1996, in Pakistan, when bin Laden struck a deal with Mushaf Ali Mir, a highly placed military officer with close ties to some of the most pro-Islamist dements in ISI. It was a relationship that was still active and provided bin Laden and al-Qaeda protection, arms, and supplies.>21
Posner also reports that, just as three of the Saudis identified by Zubaydah died within four months, the same fate befell Musfaaf Ali Mir seven months later. On February 20, 2003, he, his wife, and many of his closest confidants were killed when their air force plane--which had recently passed inspection--went down in good weather.>22 Accordingly, although Posner accepts the official American position on most issues, he here presents evidence against the US attempt to distance the Pakistanis, portrayed as good, from bin Laden and al-Qieda, portrayed as evil.
In any case, the importance of the fact that the ISI continued to be closely linked with both the CIA and al-Qaeda may have been made manifest by a discovery coming shortly after 9/11 - This was the disovery that an ISI agent, Saeed Sheikh, had made a wire transfer of .000 to Mohamed Atta's bank accounts in Florida, and that he had done this at the instruction of none other than General Mahrnoud Ahmad, the Director of the ISI.>23 Accordingly, the ISI, which had continued to work closely with the CIA, was discovered to have secretly sent money to the man considered to be the ringleader of the 9/11 terrorists. This "damning link," as Agence France-Press called it, was reportedly first revealed to the US government by the Indian government.>24
The discovery of this transfer took on even more potential significance when it was learned that General Mahmoud Ahmad had been in Washington on 9/11--having, in fact, been there from September 4 until several days after 9/11. During this period, he reportedly met with CIA Director George Tenet until September 9, then met with officials in the Pentagon, the National Security Council, and the State Department, as well as with the chairmen of the House and Senate Intelligence committees. The News, a leading newspaper in Pakistan, made this significant comment on September 10: "What added interest to [General Ahmad's] visit is the history of such visits. Last time [his] predecessor was [in Washington], the domestic [Pakistani] politics turned topsy-turvy within days." The reference, Thompson points out, is to the coup of October 12, 1999, when General Musharraf took over the government--after which he made General Ahmad, who had been instrumental to the success of the coup, the Director of the ISI.>25
Big things also happened on the occasion of this visit, and not only the attacks of 9/11 itself. On September 9, the leader of the Northern Alliance, Ahmad Masood, was the victim of an assassination, which the Northern Alliance declared to be the work of the ISI. That this assassination followed immediately upon extended conversations between the head of the ISI and the head of the CIA is especially significant, suggests Chossudovsky, in light of the fact that the United States had long been seeking to "weaken Masood, who was perceived as a nationalist reformer." Suggesting that this assassination "served US interests," Chossudovsky adds that after Masood was dead, "the Northern Alliance became fragmented into different factions. Had Masood not been assassinated, he would have become the head of the post-Taliban government formed in the wake of the US bombings of Afghanistan.">26 These reflections provide a possible explanation of the treatment of Julie Sirrs by the Defense Intelligence Agency, discussed in Chapter 6.
The significance of Masoods assassination was perhaps alluded to by John O'Neill, the investigator who had resigned from the FBI after having his attempts to investigate al-Qaeda obstructed. On September 10, the day after Masood's assassination, O'Neill moved into his new office in the North Tower of the WTC, where he had become director of security, and on 9/11 he was one of the people killed. On the night of September 10, he had reportedly told a colleague: "We're due for something big. I don't like the way things are lining up in Afghanistan.">27
From the perspective of the critics of the official account of 9/11, the fact that Masood was assassinated while the ISI chief was visiting Washington might have been one of the reasons Washington tried to keep this visit quiet. In any case, a comparison of transcripts of Condoleezza Rice's press conference on May 16, 2002, suggests, believes Chossudovsky, that the Bush administration did want to keep General Ahmads presence in Washington from being widely known. The transcript from the Federal News Service shows that the following interchange occurred:
QUESTION: Are you aware of the reports at the time that the ISI chief was in Washington on September 11th, and on September 10th, ,000 was wired from Pakistan to these groups in this area? And why he was here? Was he meeting with you or anybody in the administration?
MS. RICE: I have not seen that report, and he was certainly not meeting with me.
Besides the question whether it is credible that the head of Pakistan's intelligence agency would meet with the National Security Council but not with the president's National Security Advisor, the other suspicious thing is that, as pointed out by Chossudovsky, the White House version of this transcript begins thus:
QUESTION: Dr. Rice, are you aware of the reports at the time that (inaudible) was in Washington on September 11th...?
This version of the transcript, which unlike the transcript from the Federal News Service--does not contain the information that the person being discussed was "the ISI chief," was the one reported on the CNN show "Inside Politics" later that day.>28
The suspicion that US officials wanted to conceal the ISI connection is also suggested by the evidence, raised by Chossudovsky, that the FBI, in reporting on the connection with Pakistan, did not specifically mention General Ahmad, Saeed Sheikh, or the ISI. For example, Brian Ross of ABC News reported that he had been told by federal authorities that they had "tracked more than ,000 from banks in Pakistan." Ross also reported that according to Time magazine, "some of that money ... can be traced directly to people connected to Osama bin Laden.">29 The FBI's way of reporting the story, saying that the money came from "people connected to Osama bin Laden," diverted attention from General Ahmad, Saeed Sheikh, and the ISI. Indeed, thus laundered, the potentially embarrassing discovery about the transfer of money was used to confirm the official account--that primary responsibility for the attacks belonged to Osama bin Laden.
Later evidence suggested that Saeed Sheikh had transferred even more money to Atta. Thompson says that evidently ,000 was transferred in 2000 and another ,000 on August 11 of 2001, and that it is not clear to which of these transfers the story that broke in October referred.>30 Also, the New York Times suggested that a total of about ,000 was transferred to Atta's Florida accounts by one "Mustafa Ahmed," and this name was thought by some, including the Guardian and CNN, to be an alias for Saeed Sheikh.>31 This individual's final transfers to Atta's account occurred on September 8 and 9.>32 "These last-minute transfers," Thompson reports, "are touted as the 'smoking gun' proving al-Qaeda involvement in the 9/11 attacks, since Saeed is a known financial manager for bin Laden." However, Thompson asks, "since Saeed also works for the ISI, aren't these transfers equally a smoking gun of ISI involvement in the 9/11 attacks?">33
Chossudovsky takes this thought a step further, calling the story of the ISI's transfer of money to Atta, in conjunction with the presence of the ISI chief in Washington during the week, "the missing link behind 9-11." According to his summary statement:
The 9-11 terrorists did not act on their own volition. The suicide hijackers were instruments in a carefully planned intelligence operation. The evidence confirms that al-Qaeda is supported by Pakistan's ISI [and it is amply documented that] the ISI owes its existence to the CIA.>34
Chossudowski, accordingly, believes that this evidence suggests possible complicity by "key individuals within the US military-intelligence Establishment," adding: "Whether this amounts to complicity on the part of the Bush administration remains to be firmly established. The least one can expect at this stage is an inquiry.">35
Chossudowsky is not alone in his musings on the possibility that the money transfer might point to direct US involvement in the planning of 9/11. Ahmed and Jared Israel both ask whether the long-time connection between the CIA and the ISI might mean that US financial aid was funneled to al-Qaeda through the ISI.>36 This possibility is also suggested by a story in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, which said: "There are many in Musharraf's government who believe that Saeed Sheikh's power comes not from the ISI, but from his connections with our own CIA. The theory is that...Saeed Sheikh was bought and paid for.">37
Ahmed, realizing that the suggestion of CIA financing is speculative, believes that what happened next at least demonstrated that Washington did not want the continuing relationship between al-Qaeda and the ISI explored. On October 8, just before the beginning of the bombing campaign in Afghanistan, General Ahmad gave up his position with the ISI. Although it was publicly announced that he had decided it was time to retire, a story in the Times of India said: "the truth is more shocking." This more shocking truth was that after India had given US officials evidence of the money transfer ordered by General Ahmad, he had been quietly dismissed after "US authorities sought his removal.">38 For Ahmed, this behavior suggests a cover-up:
The US, which one would think would be spearheading a full-scale investigation into the role of the ISI, actually prevented one from going ahead by asking from behind the scenes for the ISI chief...to quietly resign....
Chossudovsky likewise finds it disturbing that "the Bush administration refuses to investigate these ISI links.">40
Another possible connection between the ISI and 9/11 is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, identified by the US government as the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks (as well as one of the planners of Project Bojinka, the 1993 bombing of the WTC, and the bombing of the USS Cole). In 1999, according to reports, he repeatedly visited Atta's apartment in Hamburg.>41 As we saw earlier, the day before 9/11 he evidently gave Atta final approval during a telephone call intercepted by the NSA. All this is generally known (with the proviso that, according to the NSA, it did not translate the content of that call until after 9/11). What has rarely been mentioned, however, is evidence that Mohammed, a Pakistani, had links to the ISI. One of the few exceptions to this silence was Josef Bodansky, the director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, who stated in 2002 that Mohammed was related to the ISI, which had acted to shield him.>42 If this is correct, then the day before 9/11, Mohamed Atta was given money by one ISI agent (Saeed Sheikh) and final authorization by another ISI agent (Khalid Shaikh Mohammed). We will see below, furthermore, that there is evidence that Saeed and Mohammed worked closely together on another ISI-related operation.
Further Evidence that the ISI Should Be Investigated
Critics of the official account of 9/11 report that in addition to the fact that US officials evidendy tried to cover up the connection between die ISI and the al-Qaeda operatives in the United States, there have been still other stories about the ISI suggesting that any real attempt to understand 9/11 would need to focus on it. Some of these stories have involved investigative reporters.
In November of 2001, Christina Lamb was in Pakistan investigating the connections between the ISI and the Taliban, but the ISI had her arrested and expelled from the country.>43
That the kidnappers were not just ordinary terrorists was suggested by their demands, especially their demand that the United States sell F-16 fighters to Pakistan. As Thompson comments: "No terrorist group had ever shown interest in the F-16's, but this demand and the others reflect the desires of Pakistan's military and the ISI.">45 It was reported by UPI at me end of January, in fact, that US intelligence believed the kidnappers to be connected to the ISI.>46 After this, stories about Pearl would only seldom mention the ISI.
After it was learned that Pearl had been murdered, it was also learned that Saeed, the ISI agent who had wired ,000 to Mohamed Atta, had been involved in the kidnapping. The ISI picked him up and held him secretly for a week, after which neither Saeed nor the ISI would discuss what had transpired that week. The Pakistani police then attributed Pearl's murder to him. Saeed at first confessed, but, after he was sentenced to hang, he recanted. Thompson asks: "Did Saeed work out a secret deal during his 'missing week' in ISI custody to get a light sentence, a deal that is later broken?">47 In any case, between Saeeds arrest and his conviction, Thompson reports, some news stories mentioned his links to al-Qaeda, some mentioned his links to ISI, and a few mentioned that he might have been related to both groups, but many stories failed to mention either connection. By the time of Saeed's conviction in July of 2002, moreover, "not a single US newspaper is connecting Saeed to either al-Qaeda or the ISI." Thompson asks: "Is the media afraid of reporting any news that could imply a connection between the ISI and the 9/11 attacks?">48
The same question could be asked, furthermore, with regard to the reporting about Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's involvement in the Pearl case. In 1997, former CIA agent Robert Baer was told by a former police chief in Qatar -- to which Mohammed had fled after the exposure of the Bojinka plot in the Philippines--that Mohammed was one of bin Laden's key aides.>49 Baer then told Pearl about Mohammed, so Pearl may have been looking into the connection between Reid and Mohammed. Investigators later came to believe, in any case, that Reid operated under Mohammed's supervision.>50 They also came to believe that Mohammed was the mastermind behind the kidnapping.>51 Furthermore, Josef Bodansky, the man who claimed in 2002 that Mohammed had ties to the ISI, also claimed then that Mohammed was the one who ordered Pearl's murder,>52 and in October of 2003, reporter John Lupkin said that US officials "now have new information that leads them to believe [Mohammed] killed Pearl.">53 In this story, however, there is no mention of a possible ISI connection. Pearl is said to have been working on "a story on Islamic militants." And the only organization to which Mohammed is connected is al-Qaeda.
In any case, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, thought to be the mastermind behind 9/11, is also thought to be behind the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl. If that is so, it would not be a big leap to infer that Pearl may have been killed out of fear that he was uncovering the truth about 9/11. And if Mohammed was indeed connected with ISI, this would be further reason to suspect ISI involvement in 9/11.
Yet another story involving the ISI and reporters began when Pakistan's government failed in February of 2002 to prevent the News from publishing a story about Saeed's connections to the ISI. Saeed had not only admitted his involvement in attacks on the Indian parliament, the story revealed, but had also said that the ISI had helped him finance, plan, and execute the attacks. Shortly thereafter, the ISI pressured the News to fire the four journalists who worked on the story and also demanded an apology from the newspaper's editor. The journalists were fired and the editor fled the country.>54 After summarizing these reports, Thompson adds: "This information comes from an article tided, 'There's Much More To Daniel Pearl's Murder Than Meets the Eye,' and that certainly seems to be the case.">55
The fact that the ISI apparently has so much to hide, combined with the fact that an American journalist was reportedly kidnapped and perhaps murdered by the same ISI agent who had sent money to Mohamed Atta, should, one would think, make US intelligence agencies very anxious to interview Saeed to learn all they could about the ISI. The Washington Post, for example, said: "The [ISI] is a house of horrors waiting to break open. Saeed has tales to tell.">56 However, in late February of 2002, Time magazine stated that the second highest Taliban official in US custody, Mullah Haji Abdul Samat Khaksar, had after several months still been waiting to talk to the CIA, even though he had reportedly volunteered the information that "ISI agents are still mixed up with the Taliban and al-Qaeda." Many months later, the Indian Express was wondering why Saeed, sitting in a Pakistani prison, still had not been interviewed by US intelligence agencies.>57 This lack of curiosity suggests to critics of the official account that US intelligence agencies assumed that these men had nothing to tell them that they did not already know.
Far from pursuing the ISI connections, in fact, Washington seemed intent on denying that there were any. In March of 2002, Secretary of State Powell declared that there were no links between Pearl's murder and "elements of the ISI." In light of the overwhelming evidence that the main suspect, Saeed Sheikh, worked for the ISI, said the Guardian, Powell's denial was "shocking.">58 Shortly thereafter, when Attorney General Ashcroft announced a criminal indictment against Saeed, there was no mention of his financing of the 9/11 attacks.>59
These incidents suggesting an official desire to cover up ISI involvement, furthermore, reportedly had a startling precedent in 1999. According to later reports, an informant for the US government, Randy Glass, made a wire-recording of a conversation at a dinner involving himself, some illegal arms dealers, and an ISI agent named Rajaa Gulum Abbas. This dinner, which took place on July 14, 1999, and was observed by FBI agents at nearby tables pretending to be customers, was at a restaurant within view of the WTC. Abbas, besides saying that he wanted to buy a shipload of stolen US military weapons to give to bin Laden, pointed to the WTC and said: "Those towers are coming down.">60 In June of 2002, Abbas was secredy indicted for attempting to buy US military weapons illegally. But when the indictment was finally revealed in March of 2003, it made "no mention of Pakistan, any ties to Afghanistan's former Taliban regime or the ultimate destination of the weapons.">61
If the part of this story about the towers is true, it suggests, obviously, that the plan to attack the WTC was discussed long before the Bush administration took office, and even before September of 2000, when the Project for the New Amencan Century published its manifesto with its reference to the good that could come out of a new Pearl Harbor." And if true, moreover, it makes the circumstantial case for ISI involvement in the planning for 9/11 even stronger, adding further interest to the fact that the Bush administration has been so intent to keep the ISI's nameout of all stories about 9/11.
FBI Flight from Flight School Investigations
Further lack of curiosity about the background to the attacks was shown by the FBI in relation to a story, which broke four days after 9/11, that many of the alleged hijackers had received flight training at US military installations. These installations included the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, and the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California.>62 The Pensacola station was even listed on the drivers licenses of three of the men as their permanent address.>63 When asked about this report, a spokesperson for the US Air Force said that while the names were similar, "we are probably not talking about the same people.">64
TV producer, book author, and investigative journalist Daniel Hopsicker reports that when he asked a major in the Air Force's Public Affairs Office about this story, she said: "Biographically, they're not the same people. Some of the ages are 20 years off." But when Hopsicker, replying that he was interested only in Mohamed Atta, asked if she was "saying that the age of the Mohamed Atta who attended the Air Forces International Officer's School at Maxwell Air Force Base was different from the terrorist Atta's age as reported," she replied: "Urn, er, no." Then when Hopsicker said that he would like information about the Mohamed Atta who had attended the school at Maxwell, so that he could contact him, the major reportedly said that she did not think he was going to get that information. On September 16, news reports said that, with regard to Atta and two other men who had reportedly attended US military schools: "Officials would not release ages, country of origin or any other specific details of the three individuals.">65
Even US senators evidently got stonewalled. When Florida's Senator Bill Nelson learned that three of the hijackers had been trained at Pensacola Naval Station, he sent a letter to Attorney General Ashcroft asking if this was true. Hopsicker reports that when a spokesman for Senator Nelson was asked about this, he said: "we never got a definitive answer from the Justice Department. So we asked the FBI for an answer... Their response to date has been that they are trying to sort through something complicated and difficult."
Nevertheless, on October 10, with this "complicated and difficult" problem unsolved and dozens of other facts seeming to scream out for an extensive and intensive investigation, FBI Director Mueller, calling the FBI's month-long investigation of 9/11 "the most exhaustive in its history," declared it over. Officials reportedly said that Mueller's attitude was that his agents now had "a broad understanding of the events of September 11" and that it "was now time to move on.">66 Mueller, according to the Washington Post, "described reports that several of the hijackers had received flight training in the United States as news, quite obviously.'" But he had the agents who were investigating this news reassigned.>67 "The investigative staff has to be made to understand," one law enforcement official was quoted as saying, "that we're not trying to solve a crime now.">68
To critics of the official account, a cover-up is suggested not only by the FBI's refusal to investigate this story but also by evidence that it had earlier tried to conceal the training received by some of the hijackers at two flight schools in Venice, Florida. Hopsicker, reporting that many of the men had trained at these two schools, also reports that just 18 hours after the 9/11 attacks -- FBI agents came to both schools and removed student files.>69 This story, like the one about the FBI confiscating the film from the gas station across from the Pentagon immediately after the crash there, lends additional support to the charge that the FBI had rather specific advance knowledge.
The FBI's Quick Release of Omar al-Bayoumi
One fact about post-9/11 investigations that the critics of the official account find significant is that whereas many people with no apparent connections to the hijackers were arrested and held for long periods, some people with seemingly obvious connections were, if arrested at all, quickly released. For example, reports Thompson, back in 1999, when Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar -- who would later be named as two of the hijackers--first entered the country, they were met at the airport in Los Angeles by a Saudi named Umar al-Bayoumi. He drove them to San Diego and provided an apartment for them. He also helped them open a bank account, obtain car insurance, get Social Security cards, and call flight schools in Florida.>70 As the CongressionalJoint Inquiry would later learn, "One of the FBI's best sources in San Diego informed the bureau that he thought that al-Bayoumi," who seemed to have access to large sums of money, "must be an intellignece officer for Saudi Arabia,">71 Two months before 9/11, al-Bayoumi moved to England. After 9/11, he was arrested by British agents working with the FBI. However, the FBI, ostensibly accepting his story that he had met Alhazmi and Almihdhar by coincidence, angered British agents by releasing him "after a week without charge." Thompson comments: "Al-Bayoumis quick release is in sharp contrast to that of hundreds of US Muslims who are held anonymously for many monris after 9/11 despite having no connections to terrorism of any kind.">72
A Cover-Up at the NSA?
In late October of 2001, the Boston Globe reported that some government intelligence officials were furious because, they said information pertinent to the 9/11 investigation was being destroyed by the National Security Agency (NSA). They also claimed that possible leads were not being followed because of lack of cooperation by the NSA.>73 In a story that Thompson evidently thinks might be related, investigative reporter James Bamford, an authority on the NSA, reported that at least six of the identified hijackers, including all of those that boarded Flight 77 from Washington, had from August until 9/11 been "living, working, planning and developing all their activities in Laurel, Maryland, which happens to be the home of the NSA. So they were actually living alongside NSA employees as they were plotting all these things.">74 This fact might be simply a coincidence, but the accusations of a cover-up by NSA officials could make one wonder.
Later Developments Involving Moussaoui
On July 2, 2002, motions from Zacarias Moussaoui were unsealed infederal court. Claiming to have information showing the US goverment wanted the attacks of September to happen, Moussaoui indicated that hewanted to testify before both a grand jury and Congress.>75 Thus far what he has to say has not been made public.
In September of 2002, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh revealed that federal prosecutors had not discussed a plea bargain with Moussaoui since he had been indicted the previous November. Reporting that Moussaoui's lawyers, and some FBI officials, remain bewildered at the government's failure to pursue a plea bargain," Hersh quoted a federal public defender as saying: "I've never been in a conspiracy case where the government wasn't interested in knowing if the defendant had any information--to see if there wasn't more to the conspiracy.">76
On July of 2003, an Associated Press story contained the following statements:
Defying a court order, the Justice Department said Monday it would not make an al-Qaeda witness available to terrorism suspect Zacarias Moussaoui -- even though prosecutors understood this could mean dismissal of the charges.
From the point of view of critics of the official account of 9/11, these stories suggest that the Justice Department's primary concern is not to find out what really happened, nor to prosecute the man who has beenknown as "the 20th hijacker," but to keep him from speaking in public.
Promotions Instead of Punishment
The two major theories to account for the failure to prevent the attacks of 9/11, as we have seen, are the complicity theory and the incompetence theory. As Barrie Zwicker pointed out, "Incornpetence usually earns reprimands," so the incompetence theory is weakened in the eyes of critics by the absence of reprimands. Thompson reports for example, that over a year after 9/11, the directors of the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA all admitted before a congressional committee that no individuals in their agencies had been fired or even punished for missteps connected to 9/11.>78
To the contrary, Thompson adds, some of them were promoted. For example, Marion "Spike" Bowman--the agent at FBI headquarters who altered the Minneapolis FBI's request for the warrant to search Moussaouis belongings -- was in December of 2002 given an FBI award for "exceptional performance." This award came, furthermore, after a congressional report said that Bowman's RFU unit had given Minneapolis FBI agents "inexcusably confused and inaccurate information" that was "patently false.">79
Reflecting on this and other promotions, a former Justice Department official said that FBI Director Mueller had "promoted the exact same people who have presided over the--failure.">80 Such actions, of course, give critics support for their contention that from the point of the FBI and the Bush administration more generally, the events of 9/11 represented not a failure but a spectacular success.
For the critics of the official account, the evidence summarized in this chapter, which concerns official US behavior after 9/11, furtherstrengthens the case for concluding not only that the official account is false but also that the true account would point to US complicity. For one thing, the evidence that American forces did not really try to capture
Osama bin Laden suggests that his long-term relationship with US agencies had not really, as the official account says, come to an end. As to exactly which US institutions were involved in the conspiracy, evidence in this chapter, more than that in previous ones, suggests CIA involvement. This chapter also provides further evidence of complicity by the White House, at least in the attempt to cover up the ISI's--and thereby the CIA's--involvement. With regard to White House involvement in the planning: If the prediction about the WTC towers made by an ISI agent in 1999 really occurred and reflected a joint ISI-CIA plan, then that plan must have been formulated long before it was certain that George W. Bush would become president. If he was involved in the planning, he would most likely have been brought in after the basic plan had already been formulated.
FOOTNOTES to Chapter 8:
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1Thompson, "Timeline," early November 2001 (A), quoting London Times, July 22,2002.