Doug Kellner on Tue, 21 May 2002 07:33:53 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Bush administration responsibility for the September terrorism attacks

5/20/2002 11:42:28 AM | Douglas Kellner]
Bush administration Responsibility for the September 11 Terrorism Attacks

In mid-May 2002, a political hullabaloo erupted when CBS News leaked a
report on May 15 that the CIA briefed George W. Bush about bin Laden network
plans to hijack airplanes on August 6, when he was vacationing in his ranch
in Texas. There was immediately an explosion of controversy, raising
questions, for the first time in a public debate, what the Bush
administration knew about possible terrorist attacks pre-September 11 and
what they had done to prevent them. Also, during May 2002, a Phoenix Arizona
FBI memo from summer 2001 was released that warned of the dangers of Middle
Eastern men going to flight school and gaining skills to hijack planes, and
the dangers of the al Qaeda network carrying out such hijackings. Moreover,
the arrest of Zacarias Moussaouri, the alleged 20th al Qaeda hijacker, in
Minnesota in late August 2001, who had been taking flying lessons and acting
suspiciously, should have raised warning signals.

Over the summer of 2001, there had been reports that there were dangers of
an airplane terrorist attack on the G8 economic summit in Genoa that George
W. Bush attended. There were reportedly so many intelligence reports
circulating in summer 2001 of the dangers of imminent terrorist attacks on
the U.S. that a government official Richard Clarke, charged with
coordinating anti-terrorist responses, warned FBI, aviation, INS, and other
crucial government agencies to be on the highest alert and not to take
vacations during a six week period over the summer. John Ashcroft, U.S.
Attorney General, was ordered to take government jets instead of commercial
airlines and the FAA passed down several alerts to the commercial airlines.

It was also well-known in certain circles that in 1994 the French had foiled
a terrorist airplane attack on the Eiffel Tower, while in 1995 arrests were
made of terrorists who allegedly planned to use an airplane to attack the
CIA headquarters. Philippine police subsequently warned the U.S. that Ramzi
Yousef, who had helped plan the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, had schemes
to hijack and blow up a dozen U.S. airliners and was contemplating taking
over and crashing a plane into the CIA headquarters himself.

Furthermore, there had been a whole series of U.S. government reports on the
dangers of terrorism and need for a coordinated response. A 1996 report of a
White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security headed by Al Gore
developed a report that was never acted on (see A 1999 National Intelligence
Council report on Terrorism specifically warned that bin Laden's al Qaeda
network might undertake suicide hijackings against U.S. targets; the report
noted that members of the al Qaeda network had threatened to do this before
and that the U.S. should be alert to such attacks (see "1999 Report Warned
of Suicide Hijack," Associated Press, May 17, 2001). And reports by former
U.S. Senators Gary Hart and Howard Rodman, and by the Bremer National
Commission, recommended consolidating U.S. intelligence on terrorism and
organizing federal responses to prevent and fight domestic terrorist attacks
on the U.S. ( On the Hart-Rudman report, see; for the Bremer National Commission on
Terrorism report, see

Not only did the Bush administration fail to act on warnings of imminent
terrorist attacks and the need to provide systematic government responses to
coordinate information and attempt to prevent and aggressively fight
terrorism, but, shamefully, the Bush administration halted a series of
attempts to fight the bin Laden network that had been begun by the Clinton
administration. Earlier, a wave of revelations came out, ignored completely
in the U.S. media, concerning how high-ranking officials in the Bush
administration had completely neglected threats of terrorist attacks by the
bin Laden network and even curtailed efforts to shut-down the terrorist
organization that had been initiated by the Clinton administration. An
explosive book published in France in mid-November, Bin Laden, la verite
interdite (2001), by Jean Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie, claimed
that under the influence of oil companies, the Bush administration initially
blocked ongoing U.S. government investigations of terrorism, while it
bargained with the Taliban over oil rights and pipeline deals and handing
over bin Laden. This evidently led to the resignation of a FBI deputy
director, John O'Neill, who was one of the sources of the story. Brisard and
Guillaume contend that the Bush administration had been a major supporter of
the Taliban until the September 11 events and had blocked investigations of
the bin Laden terror network. Pursuing these leads, the British Independent
reported on October 30: "Secret satellite phone calls between the State
Department and Mullah Mohammed Omar and the presentation of an Afghan carpet
to President George Bush were just part of the diplomatic contacts between
Washington and the Taliban that continued until just days before the attacks
of 11 September." Furthermore, Greg Palast had published an FBI memo that
confirmed that the FBI was given orders to lay off the bin Laden family
during the early months of George W. Bush's rule [See Greg Palast, "FBI and
U.S. Spy Agents Say Bush Spiked bin Laden Probes Before September 11." The
Guardian (Nov. 7, 2001). Palast's article is collected on his home page that
has a lot of other interesting reports on Bush administration activities;

The U.S. media completely ignored these and other reports concerning how the
Bush administration had shut down or undermined operations against the bin
Laden network begun by the Clinton administration. An explosive article by
Michael Hirsch and Michael Isikoff on "What Went Wrong" published in the May
28 Newsweek, however, contained a series of revelations of how the Bush
administration had missed signals of an impending attack and systematically
weakened U.S. defenses against terrorism and the bin Laden network.
According to the Newsweek story, the Clinton administration national
security advisor Sandy Berger had become "'totally preoccupied' with fears
of a domestic terror attack and tried to warn Bush's new national security
advisor Condoleezza Rice of the dangers of a bin Laden attack." But while
Rice ordered a security review "the effort was marginalized and scarcely
mentioned in ensuing months as the administration committed itself to other
priorities, like National Missile Defense (NMD) and Iraq."

Moreover, Newsweek claimed that John Ashcroft, U.S. Attorney General, was
eager to set a new rightwing law and order agenda and was not focused on the
dangers of terrorism, while other Bush administration high officials also
had their ideological agendas to pursue at the expense of protecting the
country against terror attacks. In the Newsweek summary:

It wasn't that Ashcroft and others were unconcerned about these problems, or
about terrorism. But the Bushies had an ideological agenda of their own. At
the Treasury Department, Secretary Paul O'Neill's team wanted to roll back
almost all forms of government intervention, including laws against money
laundering and tax havens of the kind used by terror groups. At the
Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld wanted to revamp the military and push his pet
project, NMD. Rumsfeld vetoed a request to divert $800 million from missile
defense into counterterrorism. The Pentagon chief also seemed uninterested
in a tactic for observing bin Laden left over from the Clinton
administration: the CIA's Predator surveillance plane. Upon leaving office,
the Clintonites left open the possibility of sending the Predator back up
armed with Hellfire missiles, which were tested in February 2001. But
through the spring and summer of 2001, when valuable intelligence could have
been gathered, the Bush administration never launched even an unarmed
Predator. Hill sources say DOD didn't want the CIA treading on its turf.

As these revelations unfolded, Democrats and others called for blue-ribbon
commissions to study intelligence failures that made possible the September
11 terrorist attacks. Republicans, led by Vice-President Dick Cheney,
predictably attacked the patriotism of anyone who ascribed blame to U.S.
policy concerning the September 11 attacks and according to Democratic
Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle, Cheney had repeatedly urged him not to
hold hearings on U.S. intelligence and policy failures that led to the
September 11 attacks. Bush administration spokespeople attacked as well
California Senator Dianne Feinstein who retorted in a memo:

I was deeply concerned as to whether our house was in order to prevent a
terrorist attack. My work on the Intelligence Committee and as chair of the
Technology and Terrorism Subcommittee had given me a sense of foreboding for
some time. I had no specific data leading to a possible attack.

In fact, I was so concerned that I contacted Vice President Cheney's office
that same month [i.e. July 2001] to urge that he restructure our
counter-terrorism and homeland defense programs to ensure better
accountability and prevent important intelligence information from slipping
through the cracks.

Despite repeated efforts by myself and staff, the White House did not
address my request. I followed this up last September 2001 before the
attacks and was told by 'Scooter' Libby that it might be another six months
before he would be able to review the material. I told him I did not believe
we had six months to wait.

This is highly shocking and calls attention to the role of Vice President
Dick Cheney in failing to produce an adequate response to the dangers of
terrorism. A year previous, in May 2001, the Bush administration announced
that "Vice-President Dick Cheney is point man for administration. on three
major issues: energy, Global warming, and domestic terrorism."
[See CBS News, "New Terror Task Force. Cheney To Lead at Terrorist Threats
to U.S.," May 8, 2001. A June 30, 2001 CNN report headlined "Cheney is point
man for administration" noting that Cheney would be in charge of task forces
on three major issues: energy, Global warming, and domestic terrorism." We
know that Cheney concentrated on energy issues, to the detriment of paying
attention to terrorism, and there should be an inquiry into what he did and
did not do as head of the Bush administration anti-terrorism task force. A Web-site on May 11 also posted a report that states
that: "Bush asked Vice President Dick Cheney to lead the task force, which
will explore how attacks against U.S. citizens or personnel at home and
overseas may be detected and stopped." To prevent future terror attacks on
the U.S., it would thus be highly important to see exactly what Cheney did
or did not do and address the problems revealed.]

On a May 19, 2002 Meet the Press Cheney acknowledged that he had been
appointed head of a Bush administration task force on terrorism before
September 11, and claimed that he had some meetings on the topic. Yet Cheney
and others in the Bush administration seemed to disregard several major
reports that cited the dangers of terrorist attacks, including congressional
reports by former Senators Gary Hart and Howard Rudman in early 2001 that
had called for a centralization of information on terrorism, but it appeared
that the Bush administration failed to act on these reports. Obviously,
Cheney concentrated on energy issues, to the detriment of paying attention
to terrorism and should thus be held in part responsible for Bush
administration failure to deal with pre-September 11 terrorist threats.

Thus, plans to use airplanes as vehicles of terrorist attack should have
been familiar to the intelligence agencies and to Cheney and the Bush
administration. Furthermore, there were many other reports circulating from
foreign and domestic intelligence services that the U.S. had reason to fear
terrorist attacks from the bin Laden network just previous to the September
11 terror attacks.
[ On Israeli intelligence warning the U.S. of terrorist networks sneaking
into the U.S. for attacks, see "Officials Told of 'Major Assault' Plans,"
Los Angeles Times, Sept. 20, 2001. Carolyn Kay has assembled scores of
warnings from Russian, Israeli, German, U.S. and other intelligence sources
warning that a major domestic terrorist attack was about to unfold against
the U.S., but Cheney, the Bush administration and the National (In)security
Apparatus failed to respond or prepare for the impending attacks (see]

Consequently, serious questions should be raised to the Bush administration
and to the head of their anti-terrorism Task Force Dick Cheney concerning
what they knew and did not know, and what they did and did not do in
response to the reports from domestic and foreign intelligence concerning
the likelihood of al Qaeda airplane hijackings and terrorist attacks on the
U.S. As head of the Bush administration task force on terrorism, Dick Cheney
should be held especially accountable, but so far the media and Democrats
have not raised this issue and Cheney himself is aggressively attacking
anyone who raises such issues as an unpatriotic enemy of state. Obviously,
there was no apparent coordination of information in the Bush administration
and if Cheney was head of the task force that was supposed to deal with
terrorism, it is disgraceful that he did not establish a group to centralize

It therefore appears as I write in May 2002 that top officials of the Bush
administration did little or nothing to protect the U.S. against terror
attacks in the homeland. Domestically, since September 11, the Bush
administration's actions against terrorists in the U.S. have also been
strikingly inept. While terrorist cells have been broken up all over the
world, so far the Bush administration has not arrested one alleged member of
the al Qaeda network post-September 11. Nor have they caught the
perpetrators of the anthrax attacks, although evidence exists that members
of the national security state itself may have produced the high-grade
military anthrax used in the attacks on the media and government. The Bush
administration has repeatedly made warnings of imminent terror attacks,
keeping the country jittery and justifying their unjustifiable foreign and
domestic policies, but they have done little to make the country safer and
have instead exploited the crisis to push through their hardright agenda.

 Douglas Kellner
 Graduate School of Education
 Moore Hall Mailbox 951521
 Los Angeles, CA 90095
 Fax: 310 206-6293
 Phone: 310 825-0977

----- Original Message -----
From: "Doug Kellner" <>
To: <>
Sent: Friday, May 17, 2002 11:34 AM
Subject: <nettime> Cheney's the one

> 5/17/2002 11:16:39 AM | Douglas Kellner]
> Cheney's the Man

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: contact: