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Context of '(May 31, 1989): TV Documentary Warns of the Possibility of Terrorists Crashing a Plane into a Building in Washington'

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Syndicated columnist Jack Anderson receives a memo written by International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT) lobbyist Dita Beard; the memo goes a long way towards proving that in return for hefty campaign contributions to the GOP, the Justice Department dropped its antitrust suit against the corporation (see 1969 and July 31, 1971). The memo, written on June 25, 1971 by Beard to ITT vice president Bill Merriam, is entitled “Subject: San Diego Convention.” Beard indicated her distress at the possibility of someone leaking the fact that ITT had quietly contributed $400,000 to the GOP for its 1972 convention in San Diego. Two of the few who know of the contribution, Beard wrote, were President Nixon and Attorney General John Mitchell. She asked whether the $400,000 should be donated in cash or in services, then wrote: “I am convinced because of several conversations with Louie re Mitchell that our noble commitment has gone a long way toward our negotiations on the mergers eventually coming out as Hal wanted them. Certainly the president has told Mitchell to see that things are working out fairly. It is still only McLaren’s mickey-mouse that we are suffering.” Anderson doesn’t know who “Louie” is, but he is sure “Hal” is Harold Geneen, ITT’s president. ITT had announced a $100,000 contribution, but the real amount is four times that. One of Anderson’s aides, Brit Hume, interviews Beard, and during a night of heavy drinking and Beard’s emotional outbursts, finds out that in May 1971, Beard had gone to a party hosted by Kentucky governor Louie Nunn, the “Louie” of the memo. Mitchell was at the party, and Beard was there to prime Mitchell as to what exactly ITT wants in return for its contribution and its assurance that it can secure San Diego as the GOP’s convention site. According to Beard, the deal was hatched between herself and Mitchell at Nunn’s party. Anderson quickly publishes a column based on the memo that causes a tremendous stir in Washington and the press. [Anderson, 1999, pp. 194-200] (In his book The Secret Man, Bob Woodward will give the date for Anderson’s column revealing the Beard memo as February 19. This is apparently a typographical error.) [Woodward, 2005, pp. 37] The White House will successfully pressure Beard to disavow the memo (see Mid-Late March, 1972).

Entity Tags: Jack Anderson, Dita Beard, Brit Hume, Bob Woodward, Bill Merriam, Federal Bureau of Investigation, International Telephone and Telegraph, Richard M. Nixon, Harold Geneen, John Mitchell, Louie B. Nunn

Timeline Tags: Nixon and Watergate

Despite reports alleging the Wartime Information Security Program (WISP) has been shut down, an internal Pentagon memo reveals it is still in existence. The program, which is currently being run out of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is designed to censor public information in the event of a national emergency or war. It was supposedly shut down after Congress cut off funding for WISP in 1974 (see 1974). The recent memo, however, summarizes the WISP’s current objectives: “The National WISP provides for the control and examination of communications entering, leaving, transiting, or touching the borders of the United States, and voluntary withholding from publication, by the domestic public media industries, of military and other information which should not be released in the interest of the safety and defense of the United States and its allies.” Investigative columnist Jack Anderson will later report: “There has been no Congressional funding for work on the censorship program since 1974, but the Pentagon directive is still in effect. So, too, is Executive Order 11490, which outlines each federal agency’s responsibilities in time of ‘severe emergency.’” Anderson will add that FEMA has drafted “standby” legislation to activate the censorship plans “whenever the president shall deem that the public safety demands it.” [Ocala Star-Banner, 3/29/1986]

Entity Tags: Wartime Information Security Program, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Jack Anderson.Jack Anderson. [Source: Associated Press]Jack Anderson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter, warns in a television documentary that terrorists could crash a plane into a landmark building in Washington, DC, such as the Pentagon or the White House. Anderson will later write that in the program he points out “the vulnerability of Washington landmarks to a terrorist attack.” The reasoning behind his warning, he will write, is that Reagan National Airport in Washington is “a greater convenience for terrorists hoping to attack the White House, the Capitol, or the Pentagon.” He notes in the documentary that “a plane could appear to onlookers to be landing at Reagan [National Airport], take a turn, and dive at the most critical seats of government.” The documentary is “created 10 years before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon,” Anderson will write, which would mean it is made in 1991. [Meridian Magazine, 9/18/2001; Casa Grande Dispatch, 7/28/2004] However, other accounts indicate that the documentary he will describe is in fact a program broadcast in May 1989, titled “Target USA.” This program includes “a chain of revelations of various plans by terrorist groups within and outside of the US,” according to its producer, Saban Productions. In it, Anderson “spells out what he says is a real threat to the American infrastructure,” according to the Chicago Tribune. He interviews numerous people whose lives have been involved with or affected by terrorism. Referring to the program, Anderson has commented that after spending “trillions and trillions of dollars” to protect itself from “a nuclear holocaust that’s unlikely to occur now,” America has ended up “with a threat that we’re unprepared for, that is underfunded and underplanned and understrategized [for].” [Hollywood Reporter, 7/11/1988; Chicago Tribune, 5/30/1989] The documentary attracts a large national audience. [Meridian Magazine, 9/18/2001] It is one of the “unheeded warnings” before 9/11 “about terrorists flying airliners into buildings,” Anderson will comment. [Casa Grande Dispatch, 7/28/2004]

Entity Tags: Saban Productions, Jack Anderson

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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