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I find myself accepting the re-election (or re-selection) of George Bush more calmly than most of my friends. Our sadness these days should be less for the presidency, and more for the war.
For the next few weeks many people's eyes will be focused on obtaining an accurate vote count in Ohio and other close states. But beyond the efforts to fix a broken electoral system there must also be a strategy to heal America's deep divisions as a society, if we are ever to see democracy work. To defeat the divisive electoral tactics of a Karl Rove, we must find issues which can bring right and left together to correct the excesses of a bureaucratic center. I shall argue that the quest for truth about 9/11 is such an issue. I believe further that it stands a better chance than vote recounts of shortening George Bush's occupancy of the White House.
There are also good reasons for thinking that Bush's conduct of the war in Iraq, although almost certain to be very bloody in the immediate short run, might through its own ideological arrogance and incompetence lead, one way or another, to a quicker exit from that suffering country than we would have seen with a President Kerry.
And if short-term casualty rates on all sides rise in Iraq, as they surely will, this may cause some of the right-wing voters for Bush to have second thoughts. To quote from my Salon article,
according to the available polls, 98 percent of the Iraqis want the Americans to leave. Meanwhile a poll by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations showed that more than two-thirds of both the U.S. public and U.S. leaders agree that the United States should withdraw from Iraq if a clear majority of Iraqi people want it to do so.
If Bush ignores these sentiments, at least it will not be the Democrats who have to pay the electoral price for an unnecessary and immoral war.
It is tempting to think that the most urgent priority is a tactical one: to protest the slaughter in Fallujah and other Iraqi hot points. But beyond the battle of Fallujah one has to think how to contest the neocons who are intent on extending what they call "World War IV" beyond the borders of Iraq. One of them, Frank Gaffney, has in the National Review Online (11/5/04) renewed their call for the US to proceed (after "the reduction in detail of Fallujah and other safe havens . . . in Iraq") to "Regime change -- one way or another -- in Iran and North Korea."
Such irresponsible language is offered I believe in part as a provocation, not just to persuade the White House to plan new invasions but also to dissuade Iran and Syria from helping to bring peace to the Middle East. For as the Financial Times sensibly observed,
Both Syria and Iran fear the US is determined to bring down their own regimes when its hands are free from Iraq. So co-operation on Iraq may not be sustainable without a broader and friendlier dialogue between these two governments and Washington. 
Gaffney is speaking for a neocon fraction, hitherto unsuccessful, inside the Bush tent. As Newsweek reported last September,
administration hawks are pinning their hopes on regime change in Tehran -- by covert means, preferably, but by force of arms if necessary. . . . Informed sources say the memos echo the administration's abortive Iraq strategy: oust the existing regime, swiftly install a pro-U.S. government in its place (extracting the new regime's promise to renounce any nuclear ambitions) and get out. This daredevil scheme horrifies U.S. military leaders. . . . 
The current mood on the right is that they can now go far beyond the political boundaries previously imposed. My hope is precisely that the President's triumphalism, newly liberated from thoughts of re-election, will lead to his own downfall in less than four years. It is interesting that Karl Rove, even while sounding himself somewhat triumphant, recently saw fit to warn on TV that "Those that the gods destroy they first make prideful."  (I doubt that Greek wisdom will have much impact on Bush's God-driven certainties.)
Two years ago, op-eds in the U.S. press began to talk of Bush's "Imperial Presidency." They were seeing the analogies between the Bush and Nixon administrations, without (apparently) thinking about Nixon's downfall. Optimists like myself began to predict to friends that Bush, even if re-elected, would also not last out his full eight years.
This was before startling leaks out of Washington, notably Chalabigate and the outing of Valerie Plame, led people to start talking more seriously of a Second Watergate. There has since been a lot of more recent evidence of a serious split between the CIA and the White House. See for example "Longtime CIA official laments surging battle with White House," (New York Times, 10/2/04).  The last such major confrontation ended with the President's resignation.
Day by day the White House-CIA confrontation under Bush looks more and more like that under Nixon. In the confidence of his electoral victory to a second term Nixon first fired the incumbent CIA Director (Helms) and then installed a new DCI (Schlesinger) whose avowed purpose was to shake up the CIA and fire a great number of its officers. Under Bush the incumbent DCI Tenet has "resigned" (almost certainly he was fired), and his replacement, Porter Goss has promised a similar shake-up. (As David Wise has reported of "an astounding internal memo slipped to the press last week, Porter J. Goss, the new head of the CIA, expects his spies to `support the administration'".) 
Already a number of senior CIA officers have "resigned," and it is clear that the agency itself feels that it is under attack. In the words of Vince Cannistraro, former CIA counterterrorism chief, "It is very fair to say there is tremendous turmoil in the middle ranks of the clandestine service."  Pointing to "Powell's sack and Rice's promotion," Sidney Blumenthal predicts that "his fall and her rise signal the purge of the CIA and the State Department -- a neoconservative night of the long knives." 
In the analysis of Spencer Ackerman, Bush [like Nixon before him] wants a CIA that will be more subservient, but the CIA will fight back.
Now, with the arrival of Goss as DCI, they see the Bush administration intent not so much on reforming the CIA as crushing it. And as is already clear, many intelligence veterans don't plan on going quietly into the night. There's a good chance that 2005 will be the worst year ever in the history of the CIA. 
The worst since 1973, he might have added -- the year of the biggest wave of CIA firings ever. But in the midst of its Nixon crisis the CIA managed to locate in its files clear evidence of an illegal break-in at Daniel Ellsberg's pychiatrist by the so-called White House plumbers, in the form of photographs which it duly forwarded to the Justice Department. This initiated the political process we remember as Watergate, making 1973-74 the worst years (until 2001) in the history of the presidency. 
But what we might call Bush's domestic overreach is not confined to the CIA and State. As the Washington Post reported on 11/22/04, Bush has taken aim at the same traditional Republican enemy as Nixon: the entire federal bureaucracy:
James Pfiffner, a specialist in presidential personnel at George Mason University, said Bush's efforts [at control] are closest to those of Richard M. Nixon's after his 1972 reelection, when he installed eight new Cabinet members and several White House officials at sub-Cabinet positions. "It was seen as heavy-handed," Pfiffner said, and created an us-vs.-them tension between political appointees and civil servants. "They didn't get the kind of inside, deep-down control that they wanted." 
Indeed not: instead Nixon got Watergate.
I will be surprised if the CIA and its allies have so lost their survival skills in the Washington jungle that they will be incapable of fighting back under Bush. But if the Nixon analogy continues to hold, the CIA's fight with the White House will not call into question the issues that have most alienated the presidency from the people. In 1973 this issue was clearly the Vietnam War, but Nixon's illegal campaigns in Cambodia failed in the end to be included in the articles of impeachment. In 2005 there will be two such issues the CIA will probably not touch -- one being the Iraq War, and the other being 9/11.
It is clear that the intellectual left does not have the power to threaten Bush by itself, but it can add its limited strength to revolts already mobilizing from different quarters. Those complaining from inside Washington's civil service have been joined by dissenters from the military. Former CENTCOM Commander Gen. Anthony Zinni called last May for the resignation of neocons like Paul Wolfowitz.  We have since seen an active enlisted sergeant in Iraq, Al Lorentz, be investigated for disloyalty and face a possible prison sentence, for posting on an antiwar website his opinion that the Iraq war cannot be won. 
Then there are the many traditional Republicans appalled at the neocon attack on public discourse. Clearly some kind of showdown is coming between those in the party for whom democracy is a legacy to be defended, and those for whom democracy is at best a nuisance and at worst a threat.
One of the former is John DiIulio, who
served briefly as director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. In a seven-page memo to [journalist Ron] Suskind about his resignation, he detailed how the White House suffered "a complete lack of a policy apparatus," how everything is "being run by the political arm" -- in a notable turn of phrase, "the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis." 
Shortly before the election, James Galbraith assembled a number of devastating public comments from traditional Republican economists about Bush's right-wing supporters. I shall repeat only that of Paul Craig Roberts, assistant secretary of the treasury for economic policy under Reagan:
Bush's supporters demand lock-step consensus that Bush is right. They regard truthful reports that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction and was not involved in the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. -- truths now firmly established by the Bush administration's own reports -- as treasonous America-bashing . . . Bush's conservative supporters want no debate. They want no facts, no analysis. They want to denounce and to demonize the enemies that the Hannitys, Limbaughs, and Savages of talk radio assure them are everywhere at work destroying their great and noble country. 
Finally, there are the mainstream media. The Bush administration has now shown the same displeasure towards the New York Times that Nixon displayed towards the Washington Post. Cheney last summer blasted the Times coverage of the 9/11 commission as "outrageous" and "malicious" -- even though, as Michael Massing has observed, the Times had earlier "helped the administration's case [on Iraq] before the war." 
Eric Boehlert of Salon.com commented:
The Bush White House's open feud with the Times represents a clear break with the tradition of most Republican presidents, including the current president's father, of tolerating the major mainstream press outlets despite misgivings or unhappiness with their coverage. The days when Times Publisher Arthur "Punch" Sulzberger Sr. traveled to the White House during the height of the Reagan administration for a cordial lunch with the president, Vice President Bush and Secretary of State George Shultz are long gone. While President Nixon "had no love for the New York Times . . . even he felt he had to deal with them." 
Asked by Eric Boehlert whether the neocon attack on the press is a way to eliminate a national point of reference on facts, Ron Suskind responded:
Absolutely! That's the whole idea, to somehow sweep away the community of honest brokers in America -- both Republicans and Democrats and members of the mainstream press -- sweep them away so we'll be left with a culture and public dialogue based on assertion rather than authenticity, on claim rather than fact. Because when you arrive at that place, then all you have to rely on is perception. And perception as the handmaiden of forceful executed power is the great combination that we're seeing now in the American polity. 
So the discontent that preceded Watergate One is being recklessly provoked again. But one cannot complacently predict a similar result. The neocons know that they are backed by a ruthless political machine with resources unlike anything which Nixon, isolated in the White House, could ever muster. And they hope soon to pass new laws to make organized opposition to them even more difficult. 
I say all this in the belief that America remains a fundamentally decent country. The crucial test for that decency will be whether it -- or more specifically you, the reader -- can be mobilized to resist the quite alien ideology in the White House and Pentagon, which now threatens to overwhelm decency and replace it with something different.
And the most immediate question is what issue is most likely to arouse that kind of mobilization. There are a number of possible issues, which we should briefly consider. But I shall argue that the most serious and also most viable issue -- the Achilles heel of this seemingly undefeatable machine -- is 9/11.
We saw already in the last Congress that Bush and Cheney were out-lobbied in Congress by the so-called Jersey Girls, widows and mothers of 9/11 victims. Despite strenuous White House opposition, they first obtained a 9/11 Commission, and then obtained an extension for it to complete its work. Almost single-handedly at first, they created a currrent in Washington that has drawn in members of both parties. And at this stage the Jersey Girls are still dissatisfied, having complained publicly about the Commission's failure "to ask the many crucial questions." 
The 9/11 movement is still growing, having received an enormous boost from the clear shortcomings of the 9/11 Commission Report.
Possible Issues for Indictment
There are many possible grounds for impeaching Bush and Cheney. One of the most notable is the meddling by Cheney's office in the enormous and corrupt contracts handed to his former company Halliburton. As Patrick Martin reported in an important article on October 30,
The Halliburton subsidiary [Kellogg Brown & Root, or KBR] has been hit with a series of complaints of overcharging and otherwise mishandling its contracts as the principal supplier of food, fuel and other materiel to the US invasion and occupation force in Iraq. It also faces investigations by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission over potentially illegal and corrupt dealings in Nigeria and Iran.
This is not the first time that top Pentagon officials appointed by George W. Bush have overruled career civil service professionals to award contracts to Vice President Cheney's old firm. In the fall of 2002, an Army lawyer objected to the initial Iraq-related contract for KBR, $1.9 million to draw up a plan for operating the country's oil infrastructure after a war. While tiny in relation to the huge oil field recovery and military supply contracts doled out later, this award was critical because it gave KBR an edge over any potential competitor. The Government Accountability Office later determined that the Army lawyer had been right. 
Martin further observes that "The investigation has remained bottled up in the Pentagon inspector general's office [where] the chief of staff is L. Jean Lewis, a right-wing Republican Party loyalist who first came to public notice -- and notoriety -- as an anti-Clinton activist in the Whitewater investigation."
There is a clear and obvious difference in the way that the American political establishment has handled the Halliburton and Whitewater affairs. In the first instance, the Clintons' loss of money on a small, failed real estate venture more than a decade old was leveraged into a massive scandal warranting a probe costing $50 million, culminating in impeachment. In the second case, a real, ongoing corrupt relationship, involving influence peddling worth billions of dollars -- perhaps the most blatant corruption in the long history of political corruption in the United States -- has been largely downplayed. Certainly, there have been no suggestions [before now] that Cheney warrants impeachment, or that his long-running effort to block disclosure of the proceedings of his energy task force constitutes a cover-up.
Halliburton's lawyers have huge resources to keep the KBR investigation bottled. The oil companies also have so far prevented the disclosure of Cheney's energy task force proceedings (even though some documents have been disclosed as a result of a suit brought by Judicial Watch, who in the 1990s were a prominent part of the get-Clinton team).
However I believe that the impeachment issue with the most traction and momentum, and the most important issue of all if America is to remain a democracy, is 9/11.
9/11 as an Issue for Impeachment
We now have four new books which between them strengthen the case that the Bush-Cheney Administration itself, taken as a whole, was at least partly responsible for the catastrophe of 9/11, not just by negligence but by design. I hope readers will buy and study them: Paul Thompson's The Terror Timeline, David Ray Griffin's The 9 /11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions, Mike Ruppert's Crossing the Rubicon, and Peter Lance's Cover Up. (I'm not impartial on 9/11, after having blurbed the first two books, and being mentioned in the third.)
Each book has its own different merits. Griffin's is the best introduction, Thompson's is the best research guide, Ruppert's is the strongest case against Cheney. Lance's Cover Up, while it says less about Bush and Cheney than the other books, is the best expose of how the 9/11 Commission became a seamless part of an ongoing cover-up, because of the involvement of some of its members and staff in prior pre-9/11 scandals, which a true investigation would have exposed. While his narrative is complex, it reaches to profound malfunctions in America's justice and intelligence establishments.
As Lance has revealed, Jamie Gorelick of the Commission participated in a 1996 Justice Department meeting which decided to treat organized crime as a higher priority than terrorism. This led to
the decision by federal prosecutors to dismiss as a "hoax and a scam," the testimony of mobster Greg Scarpa Jr. Scarpa testified that he relayed messages from Ramzi Yousef -- who in 1996 and '97 was housed in a cell next to Scarpa in the New York Metropolitan Correction Center -- to another Al Qaeda operative next door. Cooperating with authorities in hopes of obtaining a lighter sentence on racketeering charges, Scarpa befriended Yousef and copied his notes. In those missives, Yousef -- then on trial -- discussed blowing a plane up as part of a strategy to obtain a mistrial. He also passed detailed schematics of the bombs to be used and how they could be smuggled past airport security. Working with the FBI, Scarpa set up an outside phone line from which Yousef could patch phone calls from jail to anywhere in the world. But when Yousef made such calls, the FBI agents found themselves stymied because he spoke dialects of Urdu or Baluchi.
And when the TWA Flight 800 blew up, investigators found trace explosives favored by Yousef on the plane, but rejected sabotage as a cause in favor of mechanical failure. Lance suggests that decision was based solely on political considerations rather than the forensic evidence, as Scarpa Jr. was already slated to provide key testimony in several high-profile mob trials. Lance contends that high-ranking officials, like Jamie Gorelick -- now the FBI's chief counsel -- shut down the criminal investigation into the crash of TWA Flight 800 for fear that their outstanding cases against various mobsters would unravel. 
Missing from this newspaper account of Lance's complex argument is the necessary central fact that Scarpa Jr., if found credible, would have exposed the corrupt relationship between his father, a major mafia hit man and drug dealer as well as FBI informant, and his FBI handler Lindley DeVecchio. As an FBI source told Lance, "With Lin DeVecchio's help, Scarpa Sr. was wiping out by murder or arrest, the members of one of New York's last great crime families [the Colombo family]. It was a benefit for the Bureau."  So members of the FBI and the Justice Department, breaking their promises, put Scarpa Jr. away in solitary confinement for forty years, allowed the corrupt DeVecchio to retire with a full pension, and falsely pinned leaks to Scarpa Sr. and the mob from DeVecchio on to an innocent New York policeman, Joe Simone, whose pension was then taken away.
In short the whole story is a vivid illustration of the corruption so widespread in US law enforcement today. Both Scarpas, father and son, were major drug dealers;  and the protection given the father by De Vecchio meant that the FBI had become involved in determining who ran the drug traffic in New York City. Especially emblematic is the three-way collaboration between the mobster Scarpa Sr., the FBI organized crime man De Vecchio, and a newsman, Jerry Capeci, who falsely fingered Simone. 
The corrupt scene in New York was duplicated elsewhere. In 2002 AP reported that "For more than 20 years, FBI headquarters knew that its Boston agents were using hit men and mob leaders as informers and shielding them from prosecution for serious crimes, including murder."  A similar situation prevailed between the FBI and the inscrutable mobster Richard Cain in Chicago. 
The result was that in Boston as in New York, the FBI's protection of its informants had led to its de facto involvement in the structuring and protection of the local drug traffic. This is an important point in understanding 9/11, to which we shall return.
During the 1980s and 1990s the "Winter Hill Gang," an organized crime syndicate in Boston made up primarily of Irish and Italian thugs, ruled over the city. Led by "Whitey" Bulger, many of the members, like Bulger, were pedophiles, preying mostly on teenage girls, although in some cases, such as Bulger, young boys as well. Bulger's top aides were Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi and "Cadillac Frank" Salemme. This gang made millions of dollars during this time through the trafficking of drugs and guns. The Boston Herald would report that teenage girls were recruited to provide sexual favors for the gang, with some of these sect [sic] acts being secretly videotaped. . . .
The Winter Hill gang was protected for many years by FBI agents, including Paul Rico, who had recruited Flemmi as an FBI Informant, and agent John Connolly, who handled Whitey Bulger. Rationale for this arrangement was Bulger's and Flemmi's role in assisting the FBI in targeting members of the Patriarca Family, Boston's Italian Mafia syndicate. 
The FBI's inside access to the realities of drug trafficking in New York and Boston may explain their failure to pursue the report by Scarpa Jr., in an FBI FD-302 of December 29, 1996 that "Yousef wanted to make a deal with Scarpa's people in selling counterfeit money, drugs, etc."  In this period the FBI also turned down a proposal from Yousef to set up a meeting between his outside conspirators and Scarpa's "mafia friends" (actually FBI agents). 
The offer was credible: Scarpa was a drug trafficker, and both al Qaeda in general and Yousef's cell in particular have been accused of drug trafficking.  As the British government told its Parliament in 2001,
The [al Qaeda] network includes training camps, warehouses, communication facilities and commercial operations able to raise significant sums of money to support its activity. That activity includes substantial exploitation of the illegal drugs trade from Afghanistan. 
The New York FBI's lack of interest in Yousef's drug proposal parallels the Boston FBI's bizarre lack of interest in two local al Qaeda terrorists, Nabil al-Marabh and Raed Hijazi, who were also suspected of drug-trafficking.  (Hijazi, "an American citizen . . . awaiting trial in Jordan in a foiled millennium terrorist plot, told FBI agents about `Arab terrorists and sympathizers,' but they were more interested in whatever knowledge he had about heroin being brought into Boston via Afghanistan.") 
The FBI's Suppression of Yousef's 1994 Plane Hijacking Plot (Bojinka Two)
Lance took an earlier version of the Yousef story to the 9/11 Commission,. At the time, as described in his earlier book 1000 Years for Revenge, he was more concerned about a phenomenon he could not understand: why the Justice Department and FBI in 1996 had ignored Yousef's links to Osama bin Laden, and his plans, revealed to Philippine investigators, to implement a hijacking plot very like that of 9/11.
As Lance had written,
The FBI had evidence from the Philippines that the bomber had conceived another plot to inflict damage on America -- the scheme [which other investigators have called Bojinka Two] to hijack airliners and fly them into U.S. buildings, including the World Trade Center. Yet there wasn't a word about it in the nearly six-thousand-page transcript of the Bojinka trial. 
(The term Bojinka, as used by both Yousef and his prosecutors, referred to his different plan to plant bombs simultaneously on a number of US airliners. For this crime, which in a test run had already killed a Japanese airline pasenger, Yousef and two associates, one of them Abdul Hakim Murad, were tried and convicted in 1996. But at the time of Yousef's arrest in 1995 "Bojinka Two," the plan to hijack airliners, was already being implemented; and a version of it, a plan to crash a plane into CIA headquarters, may have been discovered in Yousef's laptop.) 
Lance had not yet learned how the false branding of Scarpa Jr. as a liar had led to the neglect of important information about Yousef's bomb plots, including (he believes) the ill-fated flight of TWA 800.  Thus at the time he did not yet know how sensitive the topic would be for Commissioner Gorelick. What he wanted to discuss was why the Justice Department in 1996 had concealed the involvement in Bojinka of Yousef's uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), a close associate of Osama bin Laden and major author of the 9/11 plot.
The 9/11 Commission's Prolongation of Earlier Cover-Ups
But Philip Zelikow, Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission, shocked Lance with the news that his information would be taken privately by Commission team leader Dietrich Snell. For in 1996, when he was Assistant U.S. Attorney, Snell himself had helped to prosecute Yousef in the Bojinka trial, in a way that systematically excluded not only Scarpa's testimony but all reference to both KSM and Bojinka II.
As Lance wrote later in Cover Up,
Under objective circumstances, Snell would have made an important witness before the Commission. But in the heavily conflicted world of the Commission staff, he was hired to be one of its senior attorneys and team leaders. 
The cover-up Lance wished to discuss with Snell was not over.
[The Commission's] Staff Statement No. 16, co-written by Dietrich Snell, concluded that KSM didn't begin planning the 9/11 attacks until 1996. There was no mention of Yousef's involvement in the plot. . . . If this take on the story were true, it would let the Justice Department and the FBI off the hook for ignoring the evidence presented to them . . . in 1995 -- evidence showing that Yousef and KSM . . . were planning to hijack airliners and fly them into six U.S. buildings . . . including the WTC. 
Five months ago I published a story about a closely related cover-up, the performance before the 9/11 Commission of US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. (Fitzgerald had overseen the Yousef-Scarpa pass-through operation, and later falsely denounced Scarpa's account of it as a "hoax.")  I shall quote from what I wrote in a June 2004 story for Pacific News Service,
As Fitzgerald told the commission, Ali Mohamed was an important al Qaeda agent who "trained most of al Qaeda's top leadership," including "persons who would later carry out the 1993 World Trade Center bombing."
As for Ali Mohamed's long-known relationship to the FBI, Fitzgerald said only that, "From 1994 until his arrest in 1998, he lived as an American citizen in California, applying for jobs as an FBI translator and working as a security guard for a defense contractor." 
Whatever the exact relationship of Mohamed to the FBI, it is clear from the public record that it was much more intimate than simply sending in job applications. Three years ago, Larry C. Johnson, a former State Department and CIA official, faulted the FBI publicly for using Mohamed as an informant, when it should have recognized that the man was a high-ranking terrorist plotting against the United States. In Johnson's words, "It's possible that the FBI thought they had control of him and were trying to use him, but what's clear is that they did not have control." (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/04/01)
In Mohamed's plea-bargain testimony, as summarized on a U.S. State Department Web site, he revealed that in late 1994 the FBI ordered him to fly from Kenya to New York, and he obeyed. "I received a call from an FBI agent who wanted to speak to me about the upcoming trial of United States v. Abdel Rahman (in connection with the 1993 WTC bombing). [Patrick Fitzgerald participated in the prosecution of this trial.]  I flew back to the United States, spoke to the FBI, but didn't disclose everything that I knew." 
Newsweek later summarized what at this time Mohamed did and did not tell the FBI. He told them
about bin Laden's connection to some of the bombers. He described how the Islamic terrorist used "sleepers" who live normal lives for years and then are activated for operations. What he did not tell the spooks was that he was helping plan to bomb the U.S. embassies in Africa. 
The FBI's mishandling of Mohamed, whether deliberate or simply inept, allowed him to become a crucial part of the al Qaeda plot to blow up the US Embassy in Kenya.
In 1993, according to the Toronto Globe and Mail, Ali Mohamed had been picked up by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Canada in the company of an al Qaeda terrorist.  Mohamed immediately told the RCMP to make a phone call to the FBI. The call quickly secured his release. The Globe and Mail later concluded that Mohamed "was working with U.S. counter-terrorist agents, playing a double or triple game, when he was questioned in 1993." 
The RCMP's release of Mohamed may have affected history. The encounter apparently took place before Mohamed flew to Nairobi, photographed the U.S. Embassy in December 1993, and took the photos to bin Laden. According to Mohamed's confession -- after the 1998 bombing of that building, which killed more than 200 people -- "Bin Laden looked at the picture of the American Embassy and pointed to where a truck could go as a suicide bomber."
It has been widely reported, and never denied, that after Mohamed first came to the United States from Egypt in the early 1980s he was in contact with the CIA and worked with U.S. Army Special Forces.  Mohamed trained the 1993 WTC bombers at an Islamist center in Brooklyn, New York, where earlier he had been recruiting and training Arabs for the U.S.-supported Afghan War. The London Independent has reported that he was on the U.S. payroll at the time he was training the Arab Afghans, and that the CIA, reviewing the case five years after the first WTC bombing, concluded in an internal document that the CIA itself was "partly culpable" in the World Trade Center attack.  But the 9/11 Report is utterly silent about Mohamed's links to the CIA and FBI. 
In the light of Lance's important revelations, I can finally see a way to make more sense of what I previously reported. Fitzgerald, an Assistant US Attorney in 1996, worked with Snell to prosecute Yousef in a second trial, for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. (As previously noted, at this time Fitzgerald was also one of those who successfully, but falsely, labeled Scarpa's story of revelations from Yousef "a hoax.") 
It is not contested that Ali Mohamed gave information to the FBI in 1994 about the 1993 WTC plot, which would most likely include information about the key figure, Yousef. Is it possible that Fitzgerald's evasiveness, or shiftiness, is because evidence obtained from Mohamed was not shared with the defense, as the law requires?
The CIA's admission that it was "partly culpable" in the World Trade Center bombing of 1993 makes perfect sense in the light of what we now know. The CIA was responsible for the presence in America of both Ali Mohamed and his mentor, the blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, spiritual advisor to the terrorist Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ). As Lance elaborated,
Even though he'd been on a U.S. terrorism Watch for three years, the Sheikh was granted a visa to enter America. This was another blunder on the part of U.S. intelligence. . . . Later, the CIA would try to blame his admission on a corrupt case officer. . . . But the State Department later determined that, although he was on the list of `undesirables,' the Sheikh obtained three sanctioned visas from CIA agents [sic, i.e. officers] posing as State Department officials at the U.S. embassy in Khartoum. Many intelligence analysts believe that Abdel Rahman's entry was payback by the Agency. 
An unnamed FBI agent quoted by Robert I. Friedman treated the Sheikh's visa as not a blunder, but part of a conscious policy:
"It was no accident that the sheikh got a visa and that he's still in the country," replied the agent, visibly upset. "He's here under the banner of national security, the State Department, the NSA [National Security Agency], and the CIA." The agent pointed out that the sheikh had been granted a tourist visa, and later a green card, despite the fact that he was on a State Department terrorist watch-list that should have barred him from the country. He's an untouchable, concluded the agent. "I haven't seen the lone-gunman theory advocated [so forcefully] since John F. Kennedy." 
Other such "untouchables" would appear to include
I think we have here another explanation for the Justice and FBI cover-up of Bojinka Two in the 1990s, and the 9/11 Commission's perverse efforts in 2004 to claim that the 9/11 plot was only hatched in 1996 by Yousef's uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (a member of the 1994 Bojinka plot).  For if the CIA was "partly culpable" for the 1993 WTC bombing, it is hard to see how they could be free of culpability for Yousef's continued plotting, which grew into 9/11.
Lance's second complaint is that the authorities, by ignoring Scarpa Jr., allowed and perhaps facilitated the TWA 800 disaster. To this I add a third complaint, that by ordering Mohamed's release in 1993, the authorities facilitated the Kenya Embassy tragedy. To both of us it is clear that the Commission, instead of getting to the heart of these scandals, consciously recruited as Commissioners, staff and witnesses those who had a major stake in covering them up.
And what they were covering up, in effect, included earlier, pre-9/11 occasions when the US intelligence bureaucracies had, knowingly or unknowingly, facilitated terrorist attacks in which Americans were killed.
In my opinion this cover-up extends to the 9/11 Report's extraordinary and absurd contention that "No persuasive evidence exists that al-Qaeda relied on the drug trade as an important source of revenue."  This ignores the British government's report to Parliament, previously cited, that al-Qaeda's financing "includes substantial exploitation of the illegal drugs trade from Afghanistan."  It ignores also a US Central Command report that in December 2003 a dhow was intercepted near the Strait of Hormuz carrying almost two tons of hashish valued at up to $10 million. There were "clear ties" between the shipment and al-Qaeda, the Centcom statement said. 
Once again what is being covered up is the CIA's culpability in helping in the 1980s to build up the Islamist drug networks, in order to help finance its proxy armies in Afghanistan (a pattern repeated in 2001-04). 
Just as Watergate ended up being about much broader scandals than a break-in at the DNC, so the 9/11 Commission investigation must be seen as a scab covering major scandals affecting both parties over at least the past decade. If we fail to force a true account of what has happened here, then in truth we are like the good Germans of the 1930s, appalled but powerless as they watched their Republic fade away.
What Happened on September 11, 2001?
I know that many of my friends, left, center, and right, still resist the idea of looking beneath the surface of the official account of 9/11. But whatever one thinks, one must recognize that the still unexplained mysteries of 9/11, reinforced by books like these, have helped to define a new political constituency in America that spans and unites both left and right, and is determined to obtain answers.
There is still an appalling lack of resolution as to what happened in the USG on 9/11. The 9/11 Commission Report had to admit that information first supplied by NORAD, and then later corrected, was still simply wrong (though the Report's unsupported "corrections" to the record seem just as doubtful). 
Paul Thompson is much blunter:
NORAD's explanations about 9/11 have never made sense, and their new eagerness to be seen as an incompetent "Cold War vestige" is equally suspect. NORAD officials brazenly lied throughout their testimony. In the new NORAD timeline they presented, they even claimed that CNN first began showing images of the World Trade Center on fire at 8:57 when it is easily verifiable that CNN began doing this at 8:48. [CNN, Transcript, 9/11/01, NORAD Testimony, 5/23/03] Like their many other lies, one can see how this lie serves to cover up the extent of their failure. Unfortunately, the Independent Commission did not require that testimony be given under oath, so these officials cannot be charged with perjury. 
Even from the flawed data in the 9/11 Commission Report itself, it is clear that in pursuing the truth about this matter, all eyes should now be focused on the behavior of Cheney that day. As a non-conspiratorial article by Benjamin Demott in the October Harper's concludes, "Details in the President's, Vice President's, and other accounts of the framing and delivery of the `presidential' order to shoot down the hijacked airlines inspire severe doubt that the order came from Bush himself, rather than from an official -- Vice President Cheney -- with no military authority."  The bulk of DeMott's article focuses on ways that Bush (fortunately for him, not under oath) lied to the Commission.
We need a comparable article focusing on the apparent lies, to the Commission and elsewhere, by Cheney. As the webblogger Xymphora has noted,
apologists for the Official Story can't rely on the delay in Cheney's orders reaching the pilots to explain why no defensive action was taken. Someone still has to explain why NORAD acted as if it was under a standdown order. 
If there was a standdown order given that day, almost certainly Cheney had something to do with it.
Cheney's behavior on that day, as Paul Thompson points out, was extraordinary:
In his May 2003 testimony, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta claimed that about 9:25 or 9:26, a few minutes after his arrival at the bunker beneath the White House, he overheard an aide tell Vice President Cheney that a hijacked plane headed toward Washington was 50 miles away, then 30 miles away (judging by the speed of the plane it would have been 50 miles from Washington around 9:27). [Norman Mineta Testimony, 5/23/03, Washington Post, 1/27/02, ABC News, 9/11/02] When the plane was announced to be 10 miles away, the aide asked the vice president, "Do the orders still stand?" Cheney replied, "Of course the orders still stand. Have you heard anything to the contrary?" Mineta inferred that the order was an order to shoot down the plane. [Norman Mineta Testimony, 5/23/03]. . . .
Why did Cheney and others track Flight 77 getting closer and closer to Washington, and fail to give any evacuation orders? How many of the 125 people killed inside the Pentagon could have been saved?
Mike Ruppert's book (citing a White House Press Release of 5/8/01) shows that, in the weeks before 9/11, "all counter-terror response planning and organization had been placed under the control of Dick Cheney" (337). Ruppert makes an initial if still circumstantial case, the strongest that I have seen so far, that "on the day of September 11th Richard Cheney was in full and complete control" of a properly functioning command system, which then deliberately let some of the hijacked planes hit their targets (591, cf. 411, 433). 
Ruppert argues that Cheney was in charge because of the multiple wargames running that day -- Vigilant Warrior, Vigilant Guardian, Northern Vigilance, an NRO exercise (name unknown), and Tripod II (a non-military biochemical attack exercise involving FEMA) -- that needed coordination from outside NORAD.  If he has no single source to nail this claim down, it is because of the extreme evasiveness shown by officials about that day, as for example:
When asked who was responsible for coordinating the multiple wargames running on the morning of September 11, 2001, General Ralph E. Eberhart, the man in charge of NORAD on the morning in question, replied "No Comment." 
This anecdote can stand as a synecdoche for the performance of the 9/11 Commission as a whole, and its studied efforts to avoid answering the most urgent questions about September 11.
Whatever the real truth, it is surely fair to quote here James Fenimore Cooper, as Benjamin DeMott does in the October Harper's: "In all the general concerns the public has a right to be treated with candor. Without this manly and republican quality . . . [American] institutions are converted into stupendous fraud."
Two years ago one of my wisest political friends suggested, not altogether seriously, that the first step in a program for a better America should be to "Impeach Cheney First." If enough people insist on learning what the 9/11 Commission covered up, that proposal could have legs. An impeachment debate as a political event in Congress may still be far off, but I believe that a vigorous pursuit of the 9/11 mysteries is likely to create a demand for it.
Of course it is most unlikely that the new Congress would actually impeach Cheney. But the case for malfeasance on 9/11, if pursued, could be a strong enough one to force Bush eventually to accept Cheney's resignation, much as Nixon in his Watergate crisis was forced to drop Agnew. And the resignation of Agnew (who had been regarded as Nixon's insurance against impeachment) was more the beginning than the end of a critical purgation, a crisis which, although painful, left America in the end better off than it had been before.
The Challenge of Watergate Two
In the Watergate crisis an important, even crucial role was played by the media. In part the media were protecting themselves: Nixon like Bush despised the so-called "responsible" press, and was threatening to deprive the Washington Post of its lucrative TV franchises. But the "responsible" media in 2005 are less likely to display as much independence as they showed in 1971, when they printed the leaked Pentagon Papers. Both the country and the media have changed, and the Northeastern establishment is no longer as powerful as before.
At present the mainstream media have been unwilling to touch the 9/11 controversy. As Paul Thompson reports on his website, when the 9/11 Commission held important hearings in May 2003 on the critical issue of air defense, the New York Times and Los Angeles Times failed to report them at all. 
It is obvious that, for reasons summarized by Ben Bagdikian and others, the corporate media are not now likely to perform the cleansing and healing role they played in Watergate One. In this new crisis the American people will have to be actors, not witnesses; and they must help to achieve what the media will not do for them.
There is, at least at the present, a great new medium for those interested in speaking truth to power. It is the blogosphere of the Web, and more and more of us are becoming blogonauts. The old media themselves swept Watergate One under the rug, as soon as it was about to raise issues about the malfeasance, not just of Nixon, but of the CIA. One can predict that the Web, as currently constituted, will never do that.
I have never agreed with those on the left who argued that the way to make things better was to make them worse (je schlimmer, desto besser). But if a power-crazed administration takes us down the path to disaster in the Middle East, we should use all our efforts to turn disaster into opportunity.
It is of course inconceivable that ordinary people using the web could by themselves bring down a sitting president. But the coming months do indeed promise a political contest at a high level -- between those in power -- over values: the traditional values of the American democratic process versus the new "values" (if that is what they are) being imposed by a radical new right.
Frank Gaffney wrote in his National Review essay that the Bush strategy of preemptive war rested squarely on "the ultimate moral value -- freedom -- as the cornerstone of his strategy." The test of the coming months will be how much of American society still prefers the traditional value of freedom in a context of multilateralism, moderation, and peace.
My act of faith is that there is still in American society a strong preference for the moderation advocated by John Adams, as in a passage I keep quoting from his Autobiography:
This is the established order of Things, when a Nation has grown to such an height of Power as to become dangerous to Mankind, she never fails to loose her Wisdom, her Justice and her Moderation, and with these she never fails to loose her Power; which however returns again, if those Virtues return. (IV, 58)
In the coming contest between these values of expansionism and of moderation, the immediate task for those who wish for a much better society will be to encourage and lend their weight behind the better part of the existing one.
The main truth established by the 9/11 Commission is the existence of a massive cover-up in which Commission members and staff were also actively involved. The country still needs to learn what lies behind the cover-up. As a first step there should be a campaign to release all of the records of the 9/11 Commission, officially the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.
To obtain these records expeditiously may require legislation analogous to the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992.  This set up the Assassinations Records Review Board, which was responsible for the release of many important documents, including the now notorious documents on Project Northwoods.
These papers will not tell us what really happened. But they will give more details about the cover-up of the last two years, a cover-up in which Cheney himself played an active role.  And the cover-up, some of us can remember, was all that emerged, and all that needed to emerge, about Watergate One.
Impeach Cheney First.
Peter Dale Scott, a former Canadian diplomat and University of California professor, is the author of many books, including Drugs, Oil, and War (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003). His website is www.peterdalescott.net.