Wednesday, March 31, 2004

9-11 defenses deliberately removed

From "The Bush administration and September 11: the implications of Richard Clarke's revelations" by Patrick Martin:

"Clarke's testimony confirms that the Al Qaeda attacks were made possible by a virtual stand-down of the counter-terrorist preparations that had been in effect in the last years of the Clinton administration - certainly from the time of the bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998.

What neither Clarke, nor his interrogators, nor the media have addressed is whether this stand-down was deliberate: i.e., that at some level of the US government, a decision was made to permit a terrorist attack to go forward in order to provide the necessary pretext for US military action in the Middle East and Central Asia, a step which up until then was politically impossible."

and (my emphasis):

"Another significant detail is Clarke’s report that after his office had triggered a nationwide counter-terrorist alert during the summer of 2001, based on intelligence intercepts, it encountered pressure from the Pentagon, which said that military units on alert status were beginning to suffer from fatigue. The alert, which had included the Federal Aviation Agency, was eased by the end of August, two weeks before the 19 suicide hijackers boarded their flights. The timing suggests that those who dispatched the hijackers knew when security was being relaxed. What was their source of information?"

Perhaps the greatest unsolved mystery of 9-11 is how the normal defenses of the American government were relaxed in the weeks just prior to the attack. This is particularly troubling considering the fact that as recently as June 2001 George Tenet was nearly 'frantic' with worry about CIA intelligence intercepts which indicated an imminent terrorist attack. On June 22, the Pentagon's Central and European Commands imposed 'Force Protection Condition Delta,' the highest anti-terrorist alert, and actually ordered some ships in the Middle East out to sea to protect them from attack (and note NORAD's very interesting Amalgam Virgo exercises held in early June at Tyndall Air Force Base - where hijacker Saeed Alghamdi may have worked - with guess-who on the cover of the brochure, regarding defense against a cruise missile attack on American soil, even more interesting if the attack on September 11 on the Pentagon was actually by a cruise missile). On June 23, the State Department issued a worldwide warning on terrorist attacks. On June 28, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice received an intelligence summary warning that a significant al Qaeda attack in the near future was "highly likely." On July 3, Tenet made an urgent special request to 20 friendly intelligence services, asking for the arrest of a list of known al Qaeda operatives. A meeting of commanders of all federal counter-terrorism agencies was held in the White House Situation Room on July 5. At that meeting Richard Clarke said:

"Something really spectacular is going to happen here, and it's going to happen soon."

He directed every counterterrorist office to cancel vacations, defer non-vital travel, put off scheduled exercises and place domestic rapid-response teams on much shorter alert (would NORAD have been so lackadaisical if the alert was still in place on September 11?). During this time FBI field agents were issuing warnings about suspicious aviation training that fell into the black hole of the FBI's head office, never to be seen by anyone who could have used the information. On July 31, the FAA warned airlines that terrorists were planning and training for hijackings and urged them to maintain a "high degree of alertness." Tenet delivered his report to Bush in Crawford on August 6. Is it a coincidence that shortly thereafter the high terrorism alert was cancelled? Tenet's report could not have been comforting, as Tenet was still making dire warnings in late summer, and was reported to have "repeated this so often that people got tired of hearing it." The Bush Administration's attempts to blame their complete failure to prevent 9-11 on Clinton or on unfortunate negligence won't wash. There was active malfeasance, in the Pentagon and probably the FBI and possibly the Bush White House, to relax the usual defenses to allow the terrorist attacks to succeed.