“The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.”
I had originally begun to question the American government’s explanation for the events surrounding the successful terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, after reading articles published in the New York Times and the Washington Post. These stories made it clear to me that the full truth of what happened that day has not been revealed to the public.
On May 6, 2004, the Times reported that an official of the Federal Aviation Administration [FAA] had destroyed audio recordings made by “at least six air traffic controllers who dealt with two of the hijacked planes … without anyone making a transcript or even listening [to their contents]”. Inspector General Kenneth M. Mead of the Federal Aviation Administration attributed the destruction of the recordings to “poor judgment” on the part of the FAA official involved, who was not identified “for reasons of privacy”.
On August 2, 2006, two years after the 9/11 Commission’s final report was released, the Post revealed that the North American Aerospace Defense Command [NORAD] had provided “inaccurate information” to the commission, leading “some staff members and commissioners” to conclude that “the Pentagon’s initial story of how it reacted to the 2001 terrorist attacks may have been part of a deliberate effort to mislead the commission and the public.” “We to this day don’t know why NORAD told us what they told us,” said Thomas H. Kean, the former New Jersey Republican governor who led the commission. “It was just so far from the truth…It’s one of the loose ends that never got tied.”
On December 22, 2007, the Times disclosed that the Central Intelligence Agency [CIA] had destroyed videotapes which documented the 2002 interrogations of alleged Al Qaeda operatives Abu Zubaydah and Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri without sharing them with 9/11 investigators.
According to a CIA spokesman, the existence of the tapes was never revealed because “commission staff members never specifically asked for interrogation videos”. During December of 2003, commission staff members had sought permission to interview these prisoners directly, but were refused. Instead they were instructed to provide questions to CIA interrogators, who then posed their questions to the detainees.
Just months after the attacks it was revealed that the White House did not want a public inquiry into 9/11. On January 22, 2002, CNN reported that President Bush had tried to “limit the congressional investigation” into the attacks by assigning the inquiry to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. If limited to the Committee, the findings of this investigation would be classified and not subject to congressional oversight or public scrutiny. Under public pressure to convene a public inquiry, the White House eventually relented.
Once the 9/11 commission was eventually established on November 27, 2002, a meagre 3 million dollars was allotted to financing its operations. President Bush then refused 9/11 Commission Chair Thomas Kean’s request for an additional 11 million dollars. Kean had sought the funding as part of a 75 billion dollar supplemental spending bill that the president had requested from congress to pay for the war with Iraq.
During the investigation, the White House refused to share “classified” documents with the commission. In the Washington Times on October 27, 2003, an “administration official” who spoke “on the condition of anonymity” stated, “There are documents we do not feel it is appropriate to make available.”
President Bush was reluctant to testify before the commission. Initially he refused entirely, then consented to “meet only with the panel’s top two officials”, Chairman Kean and Vice Chairman Hamilton, allowing them “a single hour of questioning.” This was unacceptable to the commission. Eventually he did meet with all ten commissioners, but with conditions attached. The President and Vice President were interviewed together at the White House and would not testify under oath. An audiotape of the questioning was not permitted, a transcript of the exchange was not allowed and White House lawyer Alberto Gonzales was present with two staff members to provide legal counsel for the President and Vice President.
When considered together, these piecemeal revelations in the public record suggested a larger pattern of obstruction of justice. The FAA, NORAD, the CIA and the White House had all withheld or destroyed evidence during the public inquiry into the September 11 attacks. It appeared as if these agencies had intentionally hindered the commission’s investigation.
These facts came from newspapers and media outlets ranked among the most respected in the United States. For that reason, I considered the implications of their reports seriously. The information in these reports did not necessarily constitute evidence of a criminal conspiracy, but it was obvious from the documented facts that people within the American government were hiding something and no one in authority was asking why.
Why did an unidentified FAA manager destroy physical evidence crucial to understanding the events of 9/11? Why did NORAD lie about its actions on September 11? Why did the CIA destroy physical evidence and deny commission investigators access to material witnesses? Why did the Bush administration try to block a public inquiry into the attacks, withhold funding from the investigation, and then withhold information from the inquiry while insuring that both the President and Vice President would not testify under oath?
Why did the United States Congress not pursue these unanswered questions?
Regardless of their motivation, a crime was committed by those who obstructed the investigation into the September 11 attacks.
It may have been incompetence or negligence that government officials had clumsily concealed. A fantastic, coincidental convergence of mutual interests may have taken place, with many people in various government departments having something to hide simultaneously. For example, FAA managers may have failed to inform the military of the hijackings in a timely manner, contrary to established protocols, so they destroyed evidence of their negligence; NORAD commanders may have mishandled their fighter response when they tried to intercept the hijacked flights, so they concealed the fact that they had blundered; the CIA may have been torturing prisoners and did not want these crimes to be exposed; the Bush administration may have ignored warnings of an imminent terrorist attack because they did not consider the threat credible, then avoided political catastrophe by suppressing the truth.
Any one of these scenarios is a plausible explanation for a corrupted government department to protect its own interests, but it did not seem credible to me that every employee in every department would cover up for others who had made mistakes or were derelict in their duties. By doing so they would become accessories after the fact. An independent investigation was going to identify the individuals who “screwed up”; it was only a matter of time. It seemed more reasonable that professional bureaucrats concerned with their own careers would be quick to expose those who were culpable, thereby avoiding personal responsibility while earning accolades for themselves.
Even if opportunists did not come forward, there must have been honest government employees working that day who shared their experiences with commission investigators. If mistakes had been made then concealed, there must have been someone somewhere who came forward with information that would clarify the anomalies extant in the public record – unless they were coerced into silence, or their testimony was suppressed.
An independent investigation was going to expose the individuals who screwed up; it was only a matter of time. As it turned out however, no government agency or its employees would ever be held accountable in any way for failing to stop any of the attacks. In the preface to the 9/11 Commission’s final report published in 2004, it was stated: “Our aim has not been to assign individual blame.” (xvi)
Nowhere in the commission’s report was it acknowledged that various departments of the federal government had obstructed their investigation.
In 2006, Commission Chair Thomas H. Kean and Vice Chair Lee H. Hamilton co-authored a book entitled, “Without precedent: the inside story of the 9/11 Commission”, in which this obstruction of justice by government officials was discussed:
“Fog of war could explain why some people were confused on the day of 9/11, but it could not explain why all of the after-action reports, accident investigations, and public testimony by FAA and NORAD officials advanced an account of 9/11 that was untrue.” (261)
Nor could the “fog of war” explain the commission’s inaction after discovering that they had been lied to.
Kean stated that “the issue was presented to the commission in May 2004” and that they had a “reporting date” of July 22. “At that point, we did not have time to launch a separate investigation into why the FAA and NORAD had presented inaccurate information in public, nor was that question clearly under the commission’s mandate.” (262)
Once the 9/11 commission chose not to pursue their investigation further, it became the responsibility of the Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI] to resolve these allegations. The FBI serves as both a federal criminal investigative body and an internal intelligence agency for the United States Department of Justice. Despite these widely publicized incidents of wrongdoing and the subsequent public demand for answers, no investigation was ever initiated by the Bureau.
The failure of Congress, the 9/11 Commission and the FBI to respond to revelations of possible government malfeasance was inexplicable to me; the mainstream media’s failure to discuss the significance of their inaction while “objectively” reporting the facts was both distressing and alarming. Surely every editor and reporter who read a daily newspaper, listened to the radio, watched television or accessed the internet would be aware of the same facts that I was. If so, wouldn’t they have similar questions and reservations regarding the official rendition of events? Instead, each perceived case of government “mismanagement” was considered individually and superficially in the media’s coverage. No one was speculating that there might be a connection between these randomly reported events. No analysis was ever provided that discussed the possibility that the events being reported were anything other than part of one huge “snafu”.
Even the 9/11 commission chairman Thomas Kean had voiced his concerns publicly. Former Senator Max Cleland had resigned from the 9/11 commission after accusing the Bush administration of “stonewalling” the investigation. Cleland publicly accused the White House of “trying to undermine the work of the commission and of ‘Nixonian’ efforts to conceal important evidence”. He and many others had called for a new inquiry. Regrettably, there would be no modern equivalent of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s dogged coverage of the Watergate scandal to sustain public demands for further investigation.
Then I read the story of FBI Special Agent Coleen Rowley. In an open letter sent to Bureau Director Robert Mueller that was published by Time magazine, Rowley publicly revealed that FBI Headquarters personnel in Washington, D.C. had failed to take action on information provided by the Minneapolis, Minnesota Field Office regarding its investigation of suspected terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui. She accused Mueller and others at the highest levels of FBI management of “skewing the facts” in the Moussaoui investigation during the 9/11 inquiry. Rowley expressed her belief that certain facts had been “omitted, downplayed, [or] glossed over … in an effort to avoid or minimize personal and/or institutional embarrassment on the part of the FBI and/or perhaps even for improper political reasons”.
Zacarias Moussaoui is the only person to have been convicted of conspiring to kill citizens of the United States as part of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. From February 26 to May 29, 2001, Moussaoui attended flight training courses at Airman Flight School in Norman, Oklahoma. This school was also visited by Mohammed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi, the terrorists who piloted planes into the towers of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
Clarence Prevost, the flight instructor assigned to Moussaoui, began to have suspicions about his student and convinced his supervisors to contact the FBI. On August 16, 2001, Moussaoui, a French citizen, was arrested by the FBI in Minnesota and charged with an immigration violation. After his arrest, Moussaoui refused to cooperate with the FBI during questioning. Within days of his arrest the French Intelligence Service confirmed Moussaoui’s affiliations with radical fundamentalist Islamic groups and activities connected to Osama bin Laden. French authorities had been monitoring Moussaoui since 1996.
For Coleen Rowley this information confirmed the Minneapolis FBI agents’ suspicions and provided probable cause on which to request a criminal search warrant to access Moussaoui’s apartment and personal belongings – specifically his computer. In order to do so, however, they needed FBI Headquarters [FBIHQ] to authorize and arrange contact with the United States Attorney’s Office in Minnesota. According to Rowley, “Prior to and even after receipt of information provided by the French, FBIHQ personnel disputed with the Minneapolis agents the existence of probable cause to believe that a criminal violation had occurred [or] was occurring.” The request for arranging a search warrant was refused by the FBIHQ, not once but several times over the following weeks. Permission to obtain a search warrant was finally granted on the morning of September 11, 2001, after the attacks had begun.
Information obtained through the eventual search of Moussaoui’s belongings was allegedly used in his conviction on six felony charges, yet no evidence directly linking Moussaoui to the 9/11 attacks has ever been publicly released.
FBI Director Robert Mueller had testified that the Bureau had no advance knowledge of possible terrorist attacks on the United States. During the same period in which the FBIHQ was refusing to authorize its agents’ repeated requests for a search warrant however, it was already in possession of what is called The Phoenix Memo. The Phoenix memo is a letter that was sent to FBI headquarters on July 10, 2001, by FBI Special Agent Kenneth Williams, stationed in Phoenix, Arizona. At the time Williams was investigating students enrolled at various flight schools in the United States for possible terrorist links.
In his memo Williams stated: “The purpose of this communication is to advise the Bureau and New York of the possibility of a coordinated effort by USAMA BIN LADEN (UBL) to send students to the United States to attend civil aviation universities and colleges. Phoenix has observed an inordinate number of individuals of investigative interest who are attending or have attended civil aviation universities and colleges in the State of Arizona.” Williams explained that this activity “gives reason to believe that a coordinated effort is underway to establish a cadre of individuals who will one day be working in the civil aviation community … These individuals will be in a position in the future to conduct terror activity against civil aviation targets.” Zacarias Moussaoui’s flight school training obviously profiled him as one of these individuals.
Williams recommended that FBI field offices with these types of schools in their jurisdictions “establish appropriate liaison” with them and that “the FBIHQ should discuss this matter with other elements of the U.S. intelligence community” in order to obtain “any information that supports Phoenix’s suspicions.”
The memo was addressed to several FBI Agents who specialized in antiterrorism intelligence, including Dave Frasca, chief of the Radical Fundamentalist Unit at FBI headquarters and Rodney Middleton, acting chief of the Usama bin Laden Unit.
Apparently Williams’ concerns were ignored. The existence of the memo also makes it difficult to understand how FBI Director Mueller could testify that the Bureau had no advance knowledge of possible terrorist attacks on the United States.
The memo was entitled, “Zakaria Mustapha Soubra; IT-OTHER (ISLAMIC ARMY OF THE CAUCUSUS)”. The FBI had identified Soubra as a radical Muslim fundamentalist hostile to the United States. He had been enrolled at the Embry Riddle University [ERU] in Prescott, Arizona, as an Aeronautical Engineering student taking courses on “international security” relating to aviation. Several of Soubra’s Sunni Muslim associates were identified as having arrived at ERU around the same time as him. Williams states that these associates came from “Kenya, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, India, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.” He goes on to name eight of them, but in the text made available to the public their names are blacked out. Throughout the memo there are several large sections of text that are blacked out, making it impossible to glean the significance of information which has been withheld.
Coleen Rowley and Kenneth Williams were not the only FBI employees to expose superiors exercising “poor judgement”.
Sibel Deniz Edmonds was a translator for the FBI. Edmonds alleges that she reported breaches of national security and intentional blocking of intelligence which had involved her supervisor Mike Feghali. She also claims that the FBI received information during April of 2001 indicating that “Osama bin Laden was planning attacks on four or five American cities with planes”, that “some of his people were already in the country” at that time, and that “the attacks would happen within a few months”. When her superiors failed to act on this information, she took her concerns to the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility. After the September 11 attacks, Edmonds was told to “keep quiet” regarding this issue. Instead, she addressed her complaints to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General. Edmonds was fired from her position on March 22, 2002.
Her firing prompted Edmonds to make public her experiences and to sue the FBI for wrongful dismissal under the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989. Since that time, publication of court proceedings on her whistleblower claim has been blocked by the assertion of State Secrets Privilege.
Still another story came to my attention that suggested military malfeasance. On August 17, 2005, U.S. army intelligence officer Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer went public with claims that a secret military intelligence unit, codenamed Able Danger, had identified Mohammed Atta and three other al-Qaeda members as a potential threat a year before they carried out the September 11 attacks. Shaffer said that the unit had been prevented from sharing its information with the FBI by Pentagon lawyers who were “concerned that the military should not be involved in surveillance of suspects inside the US”.
Shaffer claims that he was eventually able to set up meetings three times between the FBI’s Washington field office and officials from Able Danger who believed the information about Atta should be shared with domestic law enforcement. Michael Mason, head of the FBI field office, said “it’s possible the meetings were arranged, but that cannot be verified.” Shaffer also said that each of the meetings was cancelled on short notice – by members of his special operations command.
The 9/11 commission did not mention Able Danger in its final report, despite having been briefed on its work by Colonel Shaffer in October of 2003. A statement from the commission said that three of its staff attended the briefing but none, including Executive Director Philip Zelikow, remembers Shaffer mentioning Mohammed Atta. The other three terrorists Shaffer discussed were Khalid al-Mihdhar, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Marwan al-Shehhi, all of whom participated in the September 11 attacks.
The 9/11 commission “determined in its report that intelligence agencies did not learn of Atta until after the attacks happened”, but Navy Captain Scott Phillpott came forward to support Shaffer’s statements, telling FOX News on August 22, 2005, that “Atta was identified by Able Danger in January/February 2000.”
In a statement to FOX News, Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita said he was “not certain” the Pentagon could substantiate the claims made by the officers, since the information collected by Able Danger no longer existed. Major Eric Kleinsmith, who was with Army intelligence until February 2001, testified that he was ordered to destroy Able Danger’s information. “I deleted the data,” he said. “There were two sets, classified and unclassified … plus charts we’d produced.”
On August 26, 2005, yet another person came forward to endorse Shaffer’s statements. James D. Smith was a defense contractor who worked on the technical side of the Able Danger unit. “I am absolutely positive that he [Atta] was on our chart among other pictures and ties that we were doing mainly based upon [terror] cells in New York City,” Smith said.
After learning of Able Danger, I could no longer seriously entertain the possibility that government officials were simply covering up incompetence among their ranks. Yet this theory was the only relatively “benign” explanation I could imagine for why so many government sources had withheld information from the public. As preposterous as it was, I had to accept the very real possibility that a cabal of powerful individuals controlling strategic elements of the American federal government had allowed the attacks of September 11 to succeed for reasons of their own.
The highest leadership within the FAA, NORAD, the CIA, the White House, the FBI and the Pentagon had all been exposed publicly as having acted inappropriately, if not illegally. Ostensibly, members of these agencies had obstructed justice and committed perjury. During the 9/11 inquiry evidence had been destroyed or withheld, investigators were lied to and testimony was suppressed. Why was no one in a position of authority trying to find out why? The 9/11 commission chose to stop short of answering some very disturbing questions and Congress had also chosen not to pursue the matter any further. If Congress would not police the Police, then who would? Not the mainstream media, that was certain. They accepted without reservation every story provided to them by their “official sources”.
No government official was ever held accountable in any way for their actions or inaction. Unlike the inquiry into the attack on Pearl Harbor, in which Major General Walter C. Short and Admiral Husband E. Kimmel were accused of being unprepared and charged with dereliction of duty, not a single scapegoat was offered to appease the public following the 9/11 debacle.
General Ralph Edward Eberhart, Commander in Chief of NORAD during the 9/11 attacks, was subsequently given the added responsibility of the U.S. Space Command in April, 2002, then promoted to command of the United States Northern Command [USNORTHCOM] in October of 2002.
General Richard Bowman Myers was the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from March 2000 to September 2001. He was the acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff [CJCS] during the September 11 attacks; at the time, CJCS Henry Hugh Shelton was on a plane to London, England. On October 1, 2001, General Myers was promoted to CJCS.
As the commission stated in the preface to its final report, the purpose of the investigation was not to assign individual blame.
While the mainstream media failed to question the omissions and distortions of the 9/11 commission’s final report, the alternative media has continued to vigorously pursue answers that might explain the inconsistencies of the government’s official story. That government authorities have chosen to ignore so many salient facts is now part of the story itself.
The conspiracy theory propounded by the commission explaining the successful attacks of September 11 was badly flawed and incomplete. To learn more, I was forced to consider alternative theories and their interpretation of the facts. To my dismay, I found them to be quite credible.