9-11 COMMISSION – POLITICIZING OUR SECURITY
FORECASTS & TRENDS E-LETTER
IN THIS ISSUE:
1. The 9-11 Commission – Mostly Political “Hacks.”
2. What Have We Learned? Nothing Really New.
3. The Intelligence Information Sharing “Wall.”
4. Missed Opportunities In Clinton Administration.
5. Blaming Bush & Advancing Their Own Careers.
So, have you been watching the 9-11 Commission hearings recently? Not much. That’s probably good. Not at all. That’s even better. The 9-11 Commission hearings have ranged from highly energized exchanges to utter boredom. The Commission’s public hearings (10 so far) have included an embarrassing amount of grandstanding and partisan spectacles, especially on the part of the Democrats.
Several of the commissioners seem much more intent on advancing their personal agendas and careers than they do about seeking the truth about 9-11. It is clear that some of the commissioners are jockeying for positions in a Kerry administration should he be the next president. Conflicts of interest abound on the Commission.
The Commission claims to have interviewed over 1,000 witnesses and yet little, if any, new information has been gleaned. Nevertheless, the Commission is expected to release a final report in late July which reportedly will claim that the 9-11 tragedy could have been prevented.
We’re not quite sure how the terror attacks could have been prevented, or even how the Commission has already drawn such a conclusion. We don’t understand how the CIA and the FBI, which were legally prohibited from sharing certain information going all the way back to 1978, would have or could have collaborated and connected all the dots pertaining to the 9-11 attacks. Even if they had, could we have prevented it? Apparently, the 9-11 Commission wants us to believe that the answer is yes.
It’s called the Blame Game. It is becoming increasingly clear that a majority of the members of the Commission wants to lay the blame for the 9-11 tragedy on President Bush. This week, we will examine the 9-11 Commission, its penchant for blaming Bush and its many conflicts of interest.
Makeup Of The Commission
The “National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States” (aka, the 9-11 Commission) was created as a result of congressional legislation and was signed into law by President Bush in November 2002. The Commission was supposed to be a bipartisan group consisting of five Republicans and five Democrats, with a mandate to investigate “facts and circumstances relating to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001” and a budget (so far) of $15 million taxpayer dollars.
The chairman is Thomas Keen (Rep.), former New Jersey governor and longtime political insider. The vice chairman is Lee Hamilton (Dem.), who previously spent 34 years in the House of Representatives from Indiana.
The four Republican commissioners are Fred Fielding (former US attorney), Slade Gorton (former Senator and attorney), John Lehman (former Navy Secretary) and Timothy Roemer (former House member). The four Democratic commissioners are Richard Ben-Veniste (former US attorney), Bob Kerrey (former Senator), James Thompson (former IL governor and US attorney) and Jamie Gorelick (more details on her below).
The 9-11 Commission also has a staff of apprx. 80 people, over half of which are attorneys.
What We Have Learned – Nothing New
So what have we learned so far from the “blue ribbon” Commission? The media would have us believe that the following are new revelations, but they aren’t. For example, Bush received a briefing (PDB) from Condi Rice on August 6, 2001 which warned that Osama bin Laden was intent on attacking the US, possibly including the hijacking of commercial airliners. Yet this news generated a firestorm in the media back in May 2002, and it was the subject of this E-Letter that same month.
We are also led to believe it is new news that the CIA had serious concerns about Zacarias Moussaoui (the 20th hijacker) after his suspicious behavior in a Minnesota flight school, but didn’t pass this information on the Bush administration. Ditto for the fact that the FBI knew that two of the other 9-11 hijackers were in the US, but they did not attempt to locate and arrest them due to federal restrictions on such activity. This is all old news.
Jamie Gorelick & The CIA/FBI “Wall”
One of the biggest controversies arising from the 9-11 Commission hearings – which is also not new news - has to do with the so-called “wall” between the CIA and the FBI, which prevented the sharing of information. 9-11 commissioner Jamie Gorelick, who served as Deputy Attorney General under Janet Reno in the Clinton administration, came under fire from the current Attorney General John Ashcroft. Ashcroft made public a classified memo that Gorelick sent to the FBI and others in the intelligence community, warning the agencies about sharing information.
The Gorelick memo was entitled, “Instructions on Separation of Certain Foreign Counterintelligence and Criminal Investigations.” It contained new directives to the agencies regarding intelligence sharing and included the following:
“We believe that it is prudent to establish a set of instructions that will more clearly separate the counterintelligence investigation [CIA] from the more limited, but continued, criminal investigations [FBI]. These procedures, which go beyond what is legally required, will prevent any risk of creating an unwarranted appearance that FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] is being used to avoid procedural safeguards which would apply in a criminal investigation.”
While many believed that Ashcroft was trying to lay the blame for the 9-11 tragedy on Gorelick, and in particular her 1995 memo, he did point out that the intelligence sharing wall had existed for years prior to 1995. Here are some excerpts from Ashcroft’s testimony before the Commission:
“Although you understand the debilitating impact of the wall, I cannot imagine that the commission knew about this memorandum, so I have declassified it for you and the public to review. Full disclosure compels me to inform you that its author is a member of this commission… Government erected this wall. Government buttressed this wall. And before September 11, government was blinded by this wall…the wall that segregated criminal investigators and intelligence agents…
The Justice Department was so addicted to the wall, it actually opposed legislation to lower the wall. Finally, the USA Patriot Act tore down this wall between our intelligence and law enforcement personnel in 2001. And when the Patriot Act was challenged, the FISA Court of Review upheld the law, ruling that the 1995 [Gorelick] guidelines were required by neither the Constitution nor the law…
But the simple fact of September 11 is this: We did not know an attack was coming because for nearly a decade our government had blinded itself to its enemies… [Agents] were isolated by government-imposed walls, handcuffed by government-imposed restrictions, and starved for basic information technology. The old national intelligence system in place on September 11 was destined to fail.”
Ashcroft’s testimony sparked a firestorm of criticism directed at Jamie Gorelick, and many groups called for her resignation from the Commission. As this is written, she has not stepped down, and I don’t expect she will. I have linked below an editorial she wrote in her own defense last week in the Washington Post.
The truth is, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was signed into law in 1978 by President Jimmy Carter. It placed restrictions on the sharing of so-called “foreign intelligence” (such as the CIA allegedly had on certain of the 9-11 hijackers) with other government agencies and/or law enforcement.
The point is, the information sharing wall existed long before Jamie Gorelick became Deputy AG under Clinton/Reno. This is not new news. It jumped into the spotlight, however, shortly after 9-11 when it became clear to the public that the CIA and the FBI were not communicating.
What We Seem To Have Forgotten
Former President Bill Clinton was interviewed in private by the Commission in early April. Had I been on the Commission, I would have asked him about the following events as described in my E-Letter dated May 24, 2001 (better skip this part if you are a big Clinton fan):
“February 1993 - A massive van bomb explodes in the underground parking garage of the World Trade Center killing six and wounding 1,042. The operation was carried out by four Islamist extremists and was masterminded by Ramsey Yousef. Yet following that disaster, there was no 'shake-up' in the government intelligence community. President Clinton did not even visit the World Trade Center. Clinton was (reportedly) the first modern president to not take daily intelligence briefings, and this practice reportedly continued even after the WTC attack.
1995- Airliners as Missiles: Intelligence sources in the Philippines uncovered a plot to hijack multiple US commercial airplanes and crash them into buildings. This was called "Project Bojinka," and it was again masterminded by Yousef and reportedly funded by Osama bin Laden. This was the first link to Al-Qaeda. Other evidence found was used to link Yousef to the 1993 WTC bombing and convict him. Elements of the Clinton administration became increasingly concerned with future terror attacks, yet the President still did not take daily intelligence briefs. The CIA Director (reportedly) could not even get a meeting with Clinton.
1996- Gore To Investigate: Finally, after additional pressure from his Cabinet and the National Security Agency, who feared additional terrorist attacks, Clinton assigned VP Al Gore the task of reviewing airline and airport security. Though there were several good suggestions and improvements placed on the table, in the end, few if any were actually implemented in order to fix the airports or the airlines. Yet the effort was heralded as a success.
1996- Torricelli Guts CIA/FBI: In this same year, Sen. Robert Torricelli proposed legislation that would ‘scrub’ the US intelligence agencies of supposed human rights violations. Specifically, it barred them from recruiting 'thugs' or 'unsavory characters' within the bad guy networks around the world. This resulted in the hobbling of the ‘HUMINT’ (human intelligence) capabilities of our intelligence agencies. The Clinton administration supported it whole-heartedly.
1996- Sudan Offers Up Bin Laden: The government of Sudan (reportedly) offered to arrest Osama bin Laden and turn him over directly to the US, but the Clinton administration declined on the grounds they feared we did not have enough direct evidence to indict him.
After Clinton declined the first offer, Sudan (reportedly) even offered to arrest bin Laden and deport him to a mutually agreed upon third country, where the US could take him into custody and do whatever we would with him. Again, Clinton declined the offer, after which Sudan forced bin Laden to find another host country. He went to Afghanistan. We know the rest of the story.”
There were other terrorist attacks against the US overseas which were admittedly the work of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. The Khobar Towers in June 1996; the US embassies in Nairobi and Tanzania in August 1998; and the USS Cole in October 2000. Hundreds were killed including dozens of US citizens and service men and women. Still there was no major overhaul of national security or our intelligence agencies. We did bomb an aspirin factory in Sudan and a deserted al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan in 1998 at the height of the Monica Lewinski scandal.
** Interestingly, the diplomat who claims to have negotiated the handover of Osama bin Laden by Sudan to the Clinton administration is scheduled to testify before the 9-11 Commission on May 7. However, the Commission has chosen to interview Mansoor Ijaz only in private. It will be interesting to see if his testimony ever sees the light of day.
Blaming Bush & Advancing Their Careers
The Democrats on the Commission clearly want to lay the blame for 9-11 on the Bush administration. Clinton would get a “pass” if they have their way. Even Commission chairman Thomas Keen – who is a Republican – seems willing to play along. He was one of the first to say publicly that he believes 9-11 could have been prevented.
I believe it would have been next to impossible for the Bush administration to have prevented 9-11. Yet from what we read, the final report from the Commission (which is already being drafted before all the witnesses are heard) may indeed lay much of the blame on President Bush and his advisors.
Dare we look at some of the motivations behind certain of these 9-11 commissioners? Yes, we do. Former Senator Bob Kerrey has been perhaps the most vocal and fiery member of the Commission. Rumor has it that Kerrey is on the short list of possible VP running mates for John Kerry (“Kerry/Kerrey” – wouldn’t that be interesting), or if not, possibly Secretary of State in a John Kerry cabinet.
Richard Ben-Veniste is a long-time power broker in Washington, along the lines of Vernon Jordan during the Clinton years. Ben-Veniste was, among other things, a Special Prosecutor and chief of the Watergate Task Force back in the 1970s. He was also chief counsel for the Senate Whitewater Committee. He could be positioning for a general counsel spot in a Kerry White House.
And Jamie Gorelick? Presumably, she would love to be Attorney General in a Kerry administration.
The point is, all of the Democrats on the Commission have conflicts of interest and/or strong motivations to see Bush defeated by Kerry in November. Maybe this explains some of their behaviors and actions while supposedly being non-partisan.
Richard Clarke – The Most Damning Evidence?
Richard Clarke’s testimony before the 9-11 Commission is cited as being perhaps the most damning evidence of the Bush administration’s lack of concern about national security and a terrorist attack. Though his book seems to go further in blaming the Bush administration than he did under oath, it was still clear that Clarke expected Bush to do in eight months what he himself had failed to do in his long career as the nation’s counter-terrorism czar.
However, the liberal press failed to mention how Clarke’s 9-11 testimony (not to mention his book) directly contradicted his comments during an August 2002 press conference. In August 2002, Clarke praised the Bush administration for not only continuing the anti-terrorism policies and strategies of the Clinton administration, and accelerating them, but also for increasing funding for covert anti-terrorism activities by five-fold.
Rather than relying on a summary of his remarks in August 2002, CLICK HERE to read the actual transcript of Clarke’s comments.
Perhaps Clarke has provided the most damning evidence of all, but not of Bush’s complacency. His evidence helps to prove that most of those who have been most critical of the Bush Administration's handling of the threat of a terrorist attack have definite ulterior motives, as I have discussed above. Mr. Clarke held his tongue on any criticism of Bush until an election year in which his expose' was to be published. Remarkable timing, wouldn't you say?
As I have written before, the Democrats and the liberal media are in an all-out effort to see that Bush is not re-elected. The politicization of the 9-11 Commission, sadly, is little more than a last-ditch effort to bring Bush down. As a result, most of the rhetoric you hear coming from this Commission is much ado about nothing. It is more about defeating Bush at all costs and about advancing their personal agendas.
I predict that the work of this Commission is going to be disregarded as a flawed piece of political propaganda, rather than a constructive review of the intelligence process. They have forgotten their mandate to review the events that led up to the 9-11 attacks and to recommend how security and the intelligence community can be improved to prevent future attacks.
The truth is, there have been security failures and lapses in all recent administrations. I would argue that the most egregious failures occurred on Bill Clinton’s watch, but we will never hear that admitted (or even hinted) by the 9-11 Commission or the media.
As noted earlier, I don’t believe the Bush administration could have prevented the 9-11 attacks. Certainly, there was intelligence that was not shared or didn’t make it into the right hands. Even if it had, it is doubtful that most of the hijackers could have been stopped.
This also raises the question of whether or not lawmakers and the American people would have tolerated – in advance - the extreme measures that would have been necessary to prevent the 9-11 tragedy. But I will leave that question, and discussion of same, for another time.
The good news is, a great deal has already been done to increase our security, largely at the initiative of President Bush. I have no doubt that the terrorists would have already struck us again if they could. Rather than playing the blame game, the 9-11 Commission should carry out its mandate and provide the administration and our intelligence agencies the information they need.
Very best regards,
Gary D. Halbert
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