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Readers Digest reports on the recent coup in Brazil (see April 1, 1964): “Seldom has a major nation come closer to the brink of disaster and yet recovered than did Brazil in its recent triumph over Red subversion. The Communist drive for domination-marked by propaganda, infiltration, terror-was moving in high gear. Total surrender seemed imminent—and then the people said ‘No!’” [Blum, 1995]
The New York Times publishes excerpts from a secret Pentagon study leaked by Daniel Ellsberg of the RAND Corporation to journalist Neil Sheehan. Ellsberg had worked in the Pentagon under Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. The study, later known as the “Pentagon Papers,” had been commissioned by McNamara and completed in 1968. It focused on how policy and tactical decisions had been made during the war. Between 30 and 40 writers and researchers participated in the 40-volume project, producing 3,000 pages of analysis and compiling 4,000 pages of original documents. After the Times publishes its first article on the papers, the US government goes to great lengths to block additional stories. But on June 30, the US Supreme Court rules in a 6-3 decision in favor of the New York Times. [New York Times, 6/13/1971; National Security Archives, 6/29/2001; Vietnam Veterans of America, 4/15/2004] The June 13 Times article reports that the Pentagon Papers included the following conclusions:
“That the Truman Administration decision to give military aid to France in her colonial war against the Communist-led Vietminh ‘directly involved’ the United States in Vietnam and ‘set’ the course of American policy.” [New York Times, 6/13/1971]
“That the Eisenhower Administration’s decision to rescue a fledgling South Vietnam from a Communist takeover and attempt to undermine the new Communist regime of North Vietnam gave the Administration a ‘direct role in the ultimate breakdown of the Geneva settlement’ for Indochina in 1954.” [New York Times, 6/13/1971]
“That the Kennedy Administration, though ultimately spared from major escalation decisions by the death of its leader, transformed a policy of ‘limited-risk gamble,’ which it inherited, into a ‘broad commitment’ that left President Johnson with a choice between more war and withdrawal.” [New York Times, 6/13/1971]
“That the Johnson Administration, though the president was reluctant and hesitant to take the final decisions, intensified the covert warfare against North Vietnam and began planning in the spring of 1964 to wage overt war, a full year before it publicly revealed the depth of its involvement and its fear of defeat.” [New York Times, 6/13/1971]
“That this campaign of growing clandestine military pressure through 1964 and the expanding program of bombing North Vietnam in 1965 were begun despite the judgment of the Government’s intelligence community that the measures would not cause Hanoi to cease its support of the Vietcong insurgency in the South, and that the bombing was deemed militarily ineffective within a few months.” [New York Times, 6/13/1971]
“That these four succeeding administrations built up the American political, military and psychological stakes in Indochina, often more deeply than they realized at the time, with large-scale military equipment to the French in 1950; with acts of sabotage and terror warfare against North Vietnam, beginning in 1954; with moves that encouraged and abetted the overthrow of President Ngo Dinh Diuem of South Vietnam in 1963; with plans, pledges and threats of further action that sprang to life in the Tonkin Gulf clashes in August, 1964; with the careful preparation of public opinion for the years of open warfare that were to follow; and with the calculation in 1965, as the planes and troops were openly committed to sustained combat, that neither accommodation inside South Vietnam nor early negotiations with North Vietnam would achieve the desired result.” [New York Times, 6/13/1971]
The term “al-Qaeda” is first mentioned in the international media. An article by the French wire service Agence France-Presse on this day entitled “Jordanian Militants Train in Afghanistan to Confront Regime” uses the term, although it is spelled “Al-Ka’ida.” The article quotes a Jordanian militant who says he has been “trained by Al-Ka’ida, a secret organization in Afghanistan that is financed by a wealthy Saudi businessman who owns a construction firm in Jeddah, Ossama ibn Laden.” (The spelling is the same in the original.) [Wright, 2006, pp. 410] The term will not be mentioned in the US until August 1996 (see August 14, 1996).
Debt of Honor, by Tom Clancy. [Source: HarperCollins]A novel by the military thriller writer Tom Clancy, one of America’s top-selling authors, includes a plotline of a suicide pilot deliberately crashing a commercial jet plane into the US Capitol building in Washington, DC. The story of Debt of Honor is based around a crisis between Japan and the United States. A short, armed conflict between the two nations arises and is won by the US. The book ends with a Japanese commercial airline pilot deliberately crashing a Boeing 747 into the US Capitol building during a joint session of Congress. The president is killed, along with most of the Senate, House, Supreme Court, and others. [New York Times, 10/2/1994; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 8/13/1996; Inter Press Service, 9/15/2001; Newsday, 5/20/2002] Clancy later describes to the BBC how he’d gone about writing this book: “I didn’t write Debt of Honor without first discussing it with an Air Force officer. And so I ran this idea past him and all of a sudden this guy’s eyeballing me rather closely and I said come on general, I know you must have looked at this before, you’ve got to have a plan for it. And the guy goes, ‘Mr. Clancy, to the best of my knowledge, if we had a plan to deal with this, it would be secret, I wouldn’t be able to talk to you about it, but to the best of my knowledge we’ve never looked at this possibility before.’” [BBC, 3/24/2002] Debt of Honor makes number one on the New York Times bestseller list. [Washington Post, 10/6/1994] Following the 9/11 attacks, there will be considerable interest in it, particularly because the Capitol building is considered to have been a likely intended target of Flight 93. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; Daily Telegraph, 9/17/2001; Book Magazine, 1/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 14]
Steve McGonigle. [Source: University of Texas at Austin]In October 1994, CBS News shows a documentary made by counterterrorism expert Steven Emerson called Jihad in America that alleges the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) and Holy Land Foundation have given critical financial support to Hamas. The story is largely based on confessions that Hamas operative Mohammad Salah and another man gave to Israeli officials in 1993 (see January 1993). It claims that these two Texas-based organizations are sending more than a million dollars to Hamas, much of it to buy ammunition. The US officially declares Hamas a terrorist organization in 1995 (see January 1995), and a new law passed in 1996 confirms a 1995 executive order that giving any support to groups like Hamas a crime (see April 25, 1996). [Dallas Morning News, 10/5/1994; Dallas Morning News, 4/8/1996] In March 1996, the Israeli government closes the Jerusalem office of the Holy Land Foundation because of alleged ties to Hamas. This prompts Steve McGonigle, a reporter at the Dallas Morning News, to begin investigating Holy Land, since their headquarters are near Dallas. Beginning in April 1996, McGonigle begins reporting on Holy Land and their ties to Hamas. He notices by looking at public records that Mousa Abu Marzouk, the political leader of Hamas being detained in New York (see July 5, 1995-May 1997), has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding to Holy Land beginning in 1992, the same information that FBI agents like Robert Wright are already aware of. In 1997, the Associated Press will note that Marzouk gave Holy Land its single biggest contribution in the first five years of Holy Land’s existence. Members of Congress such as US Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) ask the IRS to revoke the Holy Land Foundation’s tax-exempt status because of its support for a US-designated terrorist group. McGonigle also publishes that Marzouk’s wife invested $250,000 in 1993 in InfoCom, the computer company located next to Holy Land that will also be accused of Hamas ties (see September 16, 1998-September 5, 2001). McGonigle will continue to write more stories about Holy Land and Hamas, causing Holy Land to sue his newspaper for defamation in April 2000 (the suit will be dropped after 9/11). [Dallas Morning News, 4/8/1996; Associated Press, 5/26/1997; Columbia Journalism Review, 1/2002] Yet despite all of this media coverage, InfoCom will not be raided until one week before 9/11 (see September 5-8, 2001), and the Holy Land Foundation will not be raided until after 9/11.
A 1998 CNN map of likely flights to be hijacked in one version of Operation Bojinka. [Source: CNN]The first media mention of the Bojinka plot to crash an airplane into CIA headquarters occurs on this day, according to a search of the Lexis-Nexus database. An article in The Advertiser, an Australian newspaper, mentions the Bojinka plots to assassinate the Pope and then blow up about a dozen airplanes over the Pacific. The article adds, “Then the ultimate assault on the so-called ‘infidels’: a plane flown by a suicide bomber was to nose-dive and crash into the American headquarters of the CIA, creating carnage.” [Advertiser, 6/3/1995] While this first mention may be obscure from a United States point of view, the Bojinka planes-as-weapons plot will be mentioned in other media outlets in the years to come. In fact, in 2002 CNN correspondent David Ensor will comment about CNN coverage: “[E]veryone, all your viewers who wanted to, could have known that at one point Ramzi Yousef and some others were allegedly plotting to fly an airliner into the CIA headquarters in the United States, that, in fact, the idea of using an airliner as a weapon, that idea at least, had already been aired.… We talked about it. We’ve done stories about it for years, frankly.” [CNN, 6/5/2002]
Based on a review of the Lexis-Nexus database, the term al-Qaeda is first mentioned in the mainstream media on this day. A United Press International article draws from a State Department fact sheet released today (see August 14, 1996) and states, “Earlier, during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Usama Bin Ladin drew on his family’s wealth ‘plus donations received from sympathetic merchant families in the Gulf region’ to organize the Islamic Salvation Foundation, or al-Qaida. The group established recruitment centers in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan that enlisted and sheltered thousands of Arab recruits to fight the Soviets. ‘This network remains active,’ the State Department said.” (The spelling is the same as in the original.) [US Department of State, 8/14/1996; United Press International, 8/14/1996] The term was first used in an overseas article by the French wire service Agence France-Presse, in May 1993 (see May 30, 1993). The CIA has been aware of the term since at least the start of 1996 (see Shortly Before February 1996) and possibly by 1991, if not earlier (see February 1991- July 1992). However, the term will remain little used and little understood by the media for the next several years. For instance, the New York Times will first mention it two years later in quoting the courtroom testimony of one of the plotters of the 1998 African embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). It is referred to as “al-Qaeda, an international terrorist group, led by Mr. bin Laden.” [New York Times, 8/28/1998]
Ahmed Rashid. [Source: Jane Scherr/ University of California, Berkeley]Ahmed Rashid, correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review and The Daily Telegraph, conducts extensive investigative research in Afghanistan after the Taliban conquest of Kabul. As he will later write in his 2000 book, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, he sees a “massive regional polarization between the USA, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the Taliban on one side and Iran, Russia, the Central Asian states and the anti-Taliban alliance on the other. While some focused on whether there was a revival of the old CIA-ISI connection from the Afghan jihad era, it became apparent to me that the strategy over pipelines had become the driving force behind Washington’s interest in the Taliban, which in turn was prompting a counter-reaction from Russia and Iran. But exploring this was like entering a labyrinth, where nobody spoke the truth or divulged their real motives or interests. It was the job of a detective rather than a journalist because there were few clues. Even gaining access to the real players in the game was difficult, because policy was not being driven by politicians and diplomats, but by the secretive oil companies and intelligence services of the regional states.” [Rashid, 2001, pp. 163]
Abdel-Bari Atwan, editor in chief of the British-based pan-Arab daily al-Quds al-Arabi, travels to Afghanistan to interview Osama bin Laden in the mountains of Tora Bora.
Atwan's Journey to Afghanistan - The interview is arranged by Khalid al-Fawwaz, bin Laden’s representative in Europe. Atwan travels secretly to Peshawar, Pakistan, where he meets a representative of bin Laden. Then, dressed as an Afghan, he crosses the border with a series of guides and travels to Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan, where he meets al-Qaeda manager Mohammed Atef. Atwan is then taken up into the mountains, to the Eagle’s Nest base, where he meets bin Laden. Atwan first meets him “sitting cross-legged on a carpet, a Kalashnikov in his lap,” and they chat informally and then have dinner. Atwan spends two days in bin Laden’s company, and is surprised that such a rich Saudi is staying in such a humble cave, measuring six meters by four, and eating such poor food.
Bin Laden Speaks to Atwan - Bin Laden makes a number of comments during the two days, saying he has no fear of death, he still controls significant sums of money, the US military presence in Saudi Arabia is wrong, and the Sudanese government treated him badly over his recent expulsion and their non-repayment of funds he invested in Sudan (see May 18, 1996). He also talks of his time in Sudan and Somalia, as well as attempts on his life and bribes offered to him to tow the line by Saudi intelligence services. In addition, he claims responsibility for the “Black Hawk Down” incident (see October 3-4, 1993) and the Khobar Towers bombing (see June 25, 1996), and says other operations are in preparation. Atwan also notes that one part of the Eagle’s Nest has computers and Internet access, although this is not common in 1996.
No Signs of Bin Laden's Poor Health - Before the trip, Atwan had heard that bin Laden suffered from some mild form of diabetes. However, he will later comment: “I didn’t notice him taking any medication or showing any signs of ill health at all. We walked for more than two hours in the snow-covered mountains, and he seemed fit and well.” Therefore, Atwan will describe later accounts that say bin Laden requires kidney dialysis as “fanciful.” [Atwan, 2006, pp. 15-37, 61-62]
Bin Laden’s satellite phone is being monitored by US intelligence at the time of the US embassy bombings in early August 1998 (see November 1996-Late August 1998 and 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998).
Washington Times Article Falsely Blamed - On August 21, 1998, an article in the Washington Times says of bin Laden, “He keeps in touch with the world via computers and satellite phones…” The Washington Post will later note, “The information in the article does not appear to be based on any government leak and made no reference to government surveillance of bin Laden’s phone.” Other articles published on the same day make similar claims. However, it will become widely believed that this article causes bin Laden to stop using his satellite phone, which is being secretly monitored by the US (see November 1996-Late August 1998). [Washington Post, 12/20/2005] For instance, the 9/11 Commission will later blame this article and President Bush will repeat the story in late 2005. However, bin Laden’s use of a satellite phone was already widely publicized. For instance, in December 1996, Time magazine noted that bin Laden “uses satellite phones to contact fellow Islamic militants in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.” In 1997, bin Laden actually talked in a CNN interview about his use of satellite phones.
First Mention that US Was Monitoring His Calls in September - It is only on September 7, 1998, after bin Laden apparently stopped using his phone, that the Los Angeles Times is the first newspaper to mention that the US is monitoring his calls. The article says that US authorities “used their communications intercept capacity to pick up calls placed by bin Laden on his Inmarsat satellite phone, despite his apparent use of electronic ‘scramblers.’” [Washington Post, 12/22/2005]
Bin Laden Tipped Off by Missile Strike? - One possible explanation is that bin Laden stops using his phone after the August 1998 missile strike aimed at him (see August 20, 1998) for fear that the phone was used as a homing device for the missiles. The phone was in fact used as a homing device, and Defense Secretary William Cohen publicly acknowledged this by early 2001. The missile strike took place just one day before the Washington Times article. [United Press International, 2/21/2001] In 1998, a US man named Tarik Hamdi delivered a new battery for bin Laden’s phone. A former head of the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center has stated that the battery was somehow bugged to improve US monitoring of bin Laden (see May 28, 1998).
Bin Laden Tipped Off before the Strike? - Another possibility is that bin Laden stopped using his phone just before the missile strike. Sunday Times reporter Simon Reeve claims the Pakistani ISI warned him about the strike hours before it happened, and told him that his phone use was being monitored by the US (see August 20, 1998). [Reeve, 1999, pp. 201-202]
Top: a protest sign in a late 1998 Pakistan protest reads: “Down Down Clinton! Long Live Laden!” Bottom: a children’s toy featuring bin Laden from the late 1990s. [Source: National Geographic]According to reports, the failed US missile attack against bin Laden on August 20, 1998 greatly elevates bin Laden’s stature in the Muslim world. A US defense analyst later states, “I think that raid really helped elevate bin Laden’s reputation in a big way, building him up in the Muslim world.… My sense is that because the attack was so limited and incompetent, we turned this guy into a folk hero.” [Washington Post, 10/3/2001] An Asia Times article published just prior to 9/11 suggests that because of the failed attack, “a very strong Muslim lobby emerge[s] to protect [bin Laden’s] interests. This includes Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, as well as senior Pakistani generals. Crown Prince Abdullah has good relations with bin Laden as both are disciples of slain Sheikh Abdullah Azzam (see 1985-1989).” [Asia Times, 8/22/2001] In early 1999, Pakistani President Musharraf complains that by demonizing bin Laden, the US has turned him into a cult hero. The US decides to play down the importance of bin Laden. [United Press International, 4/9/2004]
An advertisement for ‘The Lone Gunmen.’ [Source: Fox]The pilot episode of a short-lived Fox television program involves a scenario chillingly similar to the 9/11 attacks that occur six months later. In the episode of The Lone Gunmen, which is a spin-off of the popular show The X-Files, a small, radical faction within the US government takes over a large passenger jet plane from the ground, using remote control, and then tries to crash it into the World Trade Center. Their intention is to blame the attack on foreign terrorists and therefore revive the arms race. Their plot is thwarted at the last moment, with the pilots regaining control of the plane and steering it upwards over the Twin Towers. [Knight Ridder, 9/14/2001; Jack Myers Report, 6/20/2002 ] In the program, the plane is destined for Boston, where two of the hijacked aircraft will in fact take off from on September 11. [Fox Television, 3/4/2001; Boston Globe, 9/12/2001] One of its stars, Bruce Harwood, will later call the storyline a “strange awful coincidence,” and add, “[W]ho knows if it was the source of inspiration for September 11.” [Mirror, 11/26/2002] Ratings are good for the show, with 13 million people watching it. [TV Guide, 3/9/2001] Yet despite the similarity to the actual attacks on the WTC, there will be very little commentary about this after September 11. Media commentator Jack Myers will observe, “This seems to be collective amnesia of the highest order.” [Jack Myers Report, 6/20/2002 ] A best selling 1994 novel by Tom Clancy had similarly included a large passenger jet used as a weapon, being deliberately crashed into the US Capitol building (see August 17, 1994). [Newsday, 5/20/2002]
“Massoud,” a 22-year-old Afghan, tells ABC News that al-Qaeda is “planning to hijack aircraft as a means of attacking the West,” according to journalist Edward Girardet. Girardet will write in a 2011 book that “ABC never used this information because of pressure brought about by a certain intelligence agency, presumably the CIA.” Massoud is employed by journalist Peter Jouvenal as a “runner” between Kabul and Pakistan, as a “means of tracking potential stories for the BBC, CNN, and other networks.” Jouvenal is Girardet’s source for Massoud’s story. Massoud also claims to work for the Pakistani ISI, the CIA, and al-Qaeda. He travels with Jouvenal to meet ABC in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as part of an effort to get asylum. [Girardet, 2011, pp. 333]
Time magazine reports: “For sheer diabolical genius (of the Hollywood variety), nothing came close to the reports that European security services are preparing to counter a bin Laden attempt to assassinate President Bush at next month’s G8 summit in Genoa, Italy. According to German intelligence sources, the plot involved bin Laden paying German neo-Nazis to fly remote-controlled model aircraft packed with Semtex into the conference hall and blow the leaders of the industrialized world to smithereens. (Paging Jerry Bruckheimer).” The report only appears on the Time website and not in the US version of the magazine. [Time, 6/20/2001] This report follows warnings given by Egypt the week before. In addition, there are more warnings before the summit in July. James Hatfield, author of an unflattering book on Bush called Fortunate Son, repeats the claim in print a few days later, writing: “German intelligence services have stated that bin Laden is covertly financing neo-Nazi skinhead groups throughout Europe to launch another terrorist attack at a high-profile American target.” [Online Journal, 7/3/2001] Two weeks later, Hatfield apparently commits suicide. However, there is widespread speculation that his death was payback for his revelation of Bush’s cocaine use in the 1970s. [Salon, 7/20/2001]
Karl Rove, Andrew Card, and Dan Bartlett.
[Source: White House, US Office Pristina, Kosovo, White House]President Bush’s motorcade has arrived at Booker Elementary School and Bush enters the school with his entourage. The beepers of politicians’ aides are going off with news of the first WTC crash as Bush arrives. According to one account, Bush learns of the crash when adviser Karl Rove takes Bush aside in a school corridor and tells him about the calamity. According to this account, Rove says the cause of the crash was unclear. Bush replies, “What a horrible accident!” Bush also suggests the pilot may have had a heart attack. This account is recalled by photographer Eric Draper, who was standing nearby at the time. [Daily Mail, 9/8/2002] Dan Bartlett, White House Communications Director, also says he is there when Bush is told: “[Bush] being a former pilot, had kind of the same reaction, going, was it bad weather? And I said no, apparently not.” [ABC News, 9/11/2002] One account states that Rove tells Bush the WTC has been hit by a large commercial airliner. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001] However, Bush later remembers Rove saying it appeared to be an accident involving a small, twin-engine plane. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002] In a third version of the story, Bush later recalls that he first learns of the crash from chief of Staff Andrew Card, who says, “‘Here’s what you’re going to be doing; you’re going to meet so-and-so, such-and-such.’ And Andy Card says, ‘By the way, an aircraft flew into the World Trade Center.’” [Washington Times, 10/7/2002] “From the demeanor of the president, grinning at the children, it appeared that the enormity of what he had been told was taking a while to sink in,” according to a reporter standing nearby at the time. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Daily Mail, 9/8/2002]
An Associated Press news alert at 9:43 a.m. states, “An aircraft has crashed into the Pentagon, witnesses say.” [Associated Press, 2001 ; Broadcasting and Cable, 8/26/2002] This is apparently the first news of the crash. Initial television reports stated there had been an explosion at the Pentagon, but not that a plane caused it (see 9:39 a.m.-9:44 a.m. September 11, 2001). Minutes later, there is still uncertainty over what caused the explosion. At 9:49, CNN’s Chris Plant reports from the Pentagon, “[I]nitial reports from witnesses indicate that there was in fact a helicopter circling the building, contrary to what the AP reported, according to the witnesses I’ve spoken to anyway, and that this helicopter disappeared behind the building, and that there was then an explosion” (see (9:35 a.m.-9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/11/2001] It is not until 9:53 that CNN confirms, “it was a plane that crashed into the Pentagon.” [CNN, 9/11/2001]
Ann Gerhart. [Source: Simon & Schuster]Ann Gerhart, a Washington Post reporter, is warned by a Capitol Police officer to stay away from a window of the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, DC, because, the officer says, a suspicious plane is heading their way, and yet the first lady is allowed to remain in the building at this time and is only evacuated later on. [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Gerhart, 2004, pp. 163] Gerhart is in the Russell Senate Office Building, just north of the Capitol building, where she has been watching Laura Bush, the president’s wife, appearing before reporters and cameras alongside Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Judd Gregg (R-NH) (see 9:41 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Gerhart, 2004, pp. 160-163; Bush, 2010, pp. 199]
Officer Says, 'We're under Attack' - After Bush’s appearance has ended, Gerhart hurries to phone her newspaper and file the quotes. But, Gerhart will later recall, “As I moved closer to one of the building’s tall, beautiful leaded glass windows to get better cell phone reception, a Capitol Police officer practically tackled me.” The officer yells at her, “Get away from the window!” Gerhart asks, “Why?” and the officer replies: “Because we’re under attack! There’s still one plane up there and it’s headed right for us!” Gerhart then glances through the window and sees “huge clouds of thick smoke billowing up from the south.” She asks the officer what this is and is told, “A plane’s gone into the Pentagon.” [Gerhart, 2004, pp. 163-164]
First Lady Not Evacuated, despite Concerns - The Capitol building will be evacuated at 9:48 a.m., apparently because of the concern that a plane is heading toward it (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Associated Press, 8/21/2002; CNN, 9/11/2006] The Russell Senate Office Building will also be evacuated. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001] However, despite the fear that a plane is heading toward Capitol Hill, the first lady remains in the Russell Office Building at this time. She goes to Gregg’s office (see (9:45 a.m.-9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and will only be taken from the building to a “secure location” at 10:10 a.m. (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Kessler, 2006, pp. 136; Bush, 2010, pp. 200]
John McWethy. [Source: Steve Fenn / ABC]ABC News correspondent John McWethy was at the Pentagon at the time it was hit. [Newsweek, 9/24/2001] At some later time, an army general he knows offers to take him in closer to the crash site. McWethy recalls: “I got in very close, got a look early on at the bad stuff. I could not, however, see any plane wreckage—it was well inside and had been, basically, vaporized.” [Gilbert et al., 2002, pp. 187] The following day, Arlington County Fire Chief Ed Plaugher will similarly tell reporters: “[T]here are some small pieces of aircraft visible from the interior during this firefighting operation… but not large sections. In other words, there’s no fuselage sections and that sort of thing.” [US Department of Defense, 9/12/2001] According to the Defense Department’s book about the Pentagon attack: “The front part of the relatively weak fuselage [of Flight 77] disintegrated, but the mid-section and tail-end continued moving for another fraction of a second.… The chain of destruction resulted in parts of the plane ending up inside the Pentagon in reverse of the order they had entered it, with the tail-end of the airliner penetrating the greatest distance into the building.” [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 17] Navy Lt. Kevin Shaeffer reportedly sees a “chunk of the 757’s nose cone and front landing gear” in the service road between the Pentagon’s B and C Rings. [Virginian-Pilot, 9/9/2002] Other witnesses say they see a large airplane tire. [Office of Medical History, 9/2004, pp. 117-118; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 54] Army Staff Sgt. Mark Williams, whose search and rescue team enters the Pentagon less than four hours after the attack, recalls seeing “the scorched bodies of several airline passengers… still strapped into their seats” inside the building. [USA Today, 9/13/2001]
Allan Dodds Frank. [Source: CNN]A CNN correspondent incorrectly suggests that a third skyscraper may have recently collapsed in New York. Reporting from Lower Manhattan, Allan Dodds Frank describes: “[J]ust two or three minutes ago there was yet another collapse or explosion. I’m now out of sight, a Good Samaritan has taken me in on Duane Street. But at a quarter to 11, there was another collapse or explosion following the 10:30 collapse of the second tower. And a firefighter who rushed by us estimated that 50 stories went down. The street filled with smoke. It was like a forest fire roaring down a canyon.” [CNN, 9/11/2001] A third tower—the 47-story World Trade Center Building 7—does collapse on this day. It will not come down, however, until 5:20 in the afternoon (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 11/29/2001]
General Wesley Clark, former Supreme Commander of NATO, says on television, “This is clearly a coordinated effort. It hasn’t been announced that it’s over.… Only one group has this kind of ability and that is Osama bin Laden’s.” [Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/2001]
Local media outlets report the arrival of Air Force One, with President Bush on board, at Barksdale Air Force Base, near Shreveport, Louisiana (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001), even though the president’s location is meant to be a secret. [Salon, 9/11/2001; Rove, 2010, pp. 258] White House press secretary Ari Fleischer has given instructions to the pool of reporters on Air Force One to prevent them revealing the president’s whereabouts. He told the reporters they could only say they were at “an unidentified location in the United States.” He also told them to refrain from using their cell phones, and to not even turn their phones on, because the signals from them might allow someone to identify their location. [Salon, 9/11/2001; USA Today, 9/11/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 110] Bush’s senior adviser, Karl Rove, who is traveling on Air Force One, will later recall, “The president’s whereabouts were a closely guarded secret, or at least we thought so.” However, Rove will describe, “Watching local Shreveport television on the final approach to Barksdale, we saw our plane appear, preparing to touch down with fighter escorts covering us.” Why a television crew is at Barksdale Air Force Base, and therefore able to film Air Force One landing there, is unclear. [Rove, 2010, pp. 258] Mark Rosenker, the director of the White House Military Office, who is traveling with the president on Air Force One, will suggest that the media “perhaps intercepted a message—whether it be by land line or whether it be by two-way radio on the ground—that we were on our way.” [White House, 8/29/2002] According to Rove, “An enterprising local TV news director had stationed a camera just off the base on the flight path.” Consequently, “Everyone now knew where the president was.” The Secret Service is alarmed, but, Rove will comment, “[I]t didn’t seem likely there was a terrorist cell operating in northwest Louisiana and armed with surface-to-air missiles.” [Rove, 2010, pp. 258] Shortly before Bush records a statement at the base, to be broadcast on television (see 12:36 p.m. September 11, 2001), Air Force personnel will inform the reporters traveling with the president that media outlets have reported that Air Force One has landed at Barksdale. The traveling White House staff will then rescind the instruction that the reporters cannot reveal their location. [Salon, 9/11/2001; USA Today, 9/11/2001]
Members of President Bush’s staff decide to remove any nonessential passengers traveling with the president on Air Force One when it leaves Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, and determine that they will leave behind some congressmen, numerous White House staffers, and most of the journalists that have been accompanying them. [Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 118; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 145; Rove, 2010, pp. 259]
Reporters Traveling with President Reduced to Five - While the president’s staffers are preparing to leave Barksdale, Bush’s chief of staff Andrew Card pulls White House press secretary Ari Fleischer aside and tells him they need to reduce the number of people flying on the president’s plane. Usually, when the president flies, numerous personnel get to his destination ahead of him to prepare for his arrival, but at the present time, Bush’s support team is limited to those already on Air Force One. “Given the heightened sense of security,” Fleischer will later recall, “the Secret Service didn’t want the president to wait for the normal entourage to board the makeshift motorcade that would be assembled upon landing.” Card says the traveling White House staff is going to be reduced and the members of Congress on board will also be left behind at Barksdale, and he tells Fleischer to decrease the number of reporters flying with the president. Card wants the pool of reporters reduced from the current 13 to three, but agrees to Fleischer’s request to make it five. Fleischer decides the reporters that remain with them will be Ann Compton of ABC Radio, Sonya Ross of the Associated Press, Associated Press photographer Doug Mills, and a CBS cameraman and soundman. [Fleischer, 2005, pp. 145-146] White House assistant press secretary Gordon Johndroe passes on the bad news to the reporters. While they are waiting on a bus to be driven back to Air Force One, he comes on board and tells them there will only be five seats on the president’s plane for the media. [USA Today, 9/11/2001]
Reporters Angry at Being Left Behind - The reporters and nonessential personnel remaining at Barksdale Air Force Base will be standing on the tarmac and watching as Air Force One takes off from there, heading for its next destination (see 1:37 p.m. September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 5/3/2011] Some of the reporters will be angry at being left behind. As the president and his entourage are approaching the plane, Reuters correspondent Steve Holland will shout out to Fleischer, “Ari, what about us?” Another angry reporter will call out, “Who’s in charge here, the military or the civilians?” [White House, 8/8/2002; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 146]
'Skeleton Crew' Remaining on Air Force One - As well as the eight reporters, others removed from the plane include Representatives Adam Putnam (R-FL) and Dan Miller (R-FL), Bush’s senior education adviser Sandy Kress, Bush’s personal aide Blake Gottesman, and several Secret Service agents. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/2001] Fleischer will recall that after the nonessential passengers have been left behind, those who continue on Air Force One are just “a skeleton crew.” [White House, 8/8/2002] Those remaining at Barksdale will be escorted to a building and stay there until another plane flies them from the base back to Washington, DC, later in the afternoon (see (3:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/2001]
Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, Adam Putnam, Andrew Card, Ann Compton, Steve Holland, US Secret Service, Gordon Johndroe, Sonya Ross, Blake Gottesman, Doug Mills, Barnett A. (“Sandy”) Kress, Dan Miller
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Despite having been told by the FBI not to do so, Deena Burnett decides to speak to several groups of reporters about the four calls her husband Tom Burnett made to her from Flight 93, before it crashed in Pennsylvania. The FBI visited Deena the previous evening and, she later recalls, “told me specifically not to say anything to anyone about my cell phone conversations with Tom, especially the media, because it was part of their investigation.” [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 81] But by this morning, she will comment, “everything I would have told the media had been reported on the news by the FBI, police, and Father Frank” Colacicco, from the church where her family worships. “If they could tell their stories, I knew now I could tell mine. There would be no harm to ‘the evidence’ in answering [reporters’] questions.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/12/2001; Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 93-94] Throughout the day, she has six “media waves” separately come into her home to interview her. The reporters are interested in the cell phone calls she received from her husband. She recalls: “I had to be very cautious about everything I said. I didn’t want to say anything that would interfere with the FBI investigation. I verified the calls had taken place, but gave no specific information about what Tom and I had discussed.” The FBI visits Deena around 3:00 p.m. to ask some follow-up questions to their interviews with her the previous day (see (12:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). In her 2006 book, Deena Burnett makes no mention of them complaining about her having talked to the media. [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 97-104]
The Miami Herald reports, “Forty-five minutes. That’s how long American Airlines Flight 77 meandered through the air headed for the White House, its flight plan abandoned, its radar beacon silent… Who was watching in those 45 minutes? ‘That’s a question that more and more people are going to ask,’ said one controller in Miami. ‘What the hell went on here? Was anyone doing anything about it? Just as a national defense thing, how are they able to fly around and no one go after them?’” [Miami Herald, 9/14/2001] In the year after this article and a similar one in the Village Voice [Village Voice, 9/13/2001] , there will be only one other US article questioning slow fighter response times, and that article notes the strange lack of articles on the topic. [Slate, 1/16/2002] The fighter response issue finally makes news in 9/11 Commission hearings in 2004.
A man and his wife who were reported to have died on 9/11 in one of the aircraft that hit the World Trade Center are found to be still alive. [American Journalism Review, 11/2001] Reports stated that on September 11, Jude Larson, 31, and his pregnant wife Natalie, 24, had been en route to the University of California at Los Angeles, where Jude was a student. Some reports said they were on Flight 11, others said Flight 175. [Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 9/12/2001; Boston Globe, 9/19/2001] The alleged deaths were first reported in several newspapers in Hawaii, where Jude’s father, Curtis Larson, lives. [Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 9/13/2001; Newspaper Research Journal, 12/2003] The Associated Press, which has strict instructions to verify the names of victims independently, reported the deaths on its worldwide wires. The two names were then reported on passenger lists in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and on the websites of CNN and MSNBC. [Boston Globe, 9/19/2001] But on this day, Jude Larson—whose real name is in fact Jude Olson—contacts the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and notifies it that he and his wife are still alive. [Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 9/18/2001; Newspaper Research Journal, 12/2003] He is 30, not 31, his wife is not pregnant, and they live in Washington State, not California. His father had told the Maui News about his son and daughter-in-law’s deaths in an interview on September 11, in the hours after the attacks. [Maui News, 9/18/2001] But Curtis Larson will now say he has been the victim of a hoax. He says someone pretending to be his ex-wife called him on 9/11 to inform him of the deaths. Then someone claiming to be from one of the airlines called him with the same news. [Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 9/18/2001] But the American Journalism Review will accuse Larson of having “fabricated almost every detail of his story” about the two deaths. The Associated Press subsequently asks its members to remove the names of Jude and Natalie Larson from its victim list and delete any photographs of them. American newspapers will have corrections columns noting the error. [American Journalism Review, 11/2001]
Dan Rather. [Source: CBS News]On September 17, 2001, CBS News anchor Dan Rather says in an interview, “George Bush is the president, he makes the decisions and you know, as just one American wherever he wants me to line up, just tell me where.” [PBS, 4/25/2007] On September 22, he is interviewed again, and says that journalists are reluctant to criticize the Bush administration for fear of a public backlash. He adds, “I am willing to give the government, the President, and the military the benefit of any doubt here in the beginning.… I’m going to do my job as a journalist, but at the same time I will give them the benefit of the doubt, whenever possible in this kind of crisis, emergency situation. Not because I am concerned about any backlash. I’m not. But because I want to be a patriotic American without apology.” [Artz and Kamalipour, 2005, pp. 69] Less than a year later, Rather will say in another interview that he has not been aggressive enough in reporting since 9/11 for fear of being seen as unpatriotic (see May 17, 2002).
The contents of the anthrax letter addressed to Tom Brokaw. [Source: FBI]A letter addressed to news anchor Tom Brokaw at NBC News is mailed from Princeton, New Jersey. It is postmarked September 18, 2001, which means it is dropped into a mailbox either some time after 5 p.m. on September 17 or some time before 5 p.m. on September 18. The letter contains deadly anthrax spores and a short message in slanting block letters:
THIS IS NEXT
TAKE PENACILIN NOW
DEATH TO AMERICA
DEATH TO ISRAEL
ALLAH IS GREAT
There is no return address and the word penicillin is misspelled. The letter is opened on October 12, turned over to the FBI the same day, and tests positive for anthrax the next day. Several days later, an employee at the New York Post is diagnosed with cutaneous anthrax. An unopened letter is found at the Post’s editorial office, addressed to “Editor.” It also is found to contain real anthrax and the exact same message as the Brokaw letter, and was postmarked on the same day and from the same location. That same week, an employee at CBS News and the infant son of an ABC News employee are diagnosed with anthrax infections, but no letters are found in their New York offices. It is presumed those letters are mailed with the other two, but are thrown away. Also, several employees at a Florida building containing the offices of the Sun, a tabloid, get sick with anthrax infections. However, no letter is found there either. The victims at the Sun suffer from the more deadly inhalation anthrax instead of cutaneous anthrax, suggesting that letter could be sent separately. That letter appears to be directed at the National Enquirer, another tabloid owned by the same company as the Sun, but was redirected to the Sun due to a recent relocation of the Enquirer’s offices. [New York Times, 12/5/2001; Vanity Fair, 9/15/2003] A second wave of anthrax letters follows in early October (see October 6-9, 2001).
The Pentagon secretly awards the Rendon Group a $16.7 million contract to test public opinion and track and analyze foreign news reports in places like Cairo; Istanbul; Tashkent, Uzbekistan; Islamabad, Pakistan; and Jakarta, Indonesia. One of Rendon’s main targets will be Al Jazeera. The contract specifies that Rendon will track “the location and use of Al Jazeera news bureaus, reporters and stringers, both regionally and globally. The… effort will provide a detailed content analysis of the station’s daily broadcast. TRG [The Rendon Group] will also chart event-related regional media coverage to identify the biases of specific journalists and potentially obtain an understanding of their allegiances.” Rendon will land many more contracts from the Pentagon over the next few years including ones that call on the firm to plant television news segments in the foreign media promoting US positions and to “push” stories favorable to the US. According to Rendon, in some cases the firm helps “foreign governments to correct things that are bad or wrong in the news cycle, and amplify those things that are not bad.” [New Republic, 5/20/2002; Chicago Tribune, 11/13/2005]
Bin Laden appears on Al Jareeza, in a taped statement broadcast shortly after US-led strikes on Afghanistan begin. [Source: Al Jazeera]In a recorded statement broadcast on television worldwide, Osama bin Laden issues a strongly worded message to the United States, but makes no claim of responsibility for 9/11. The recording is broadcast on the Al Jazeera television network within an hour of the first US strikes on Afghanistan, and is then shown by CNN. There is no date on the tape and no immediate way of determining where it was made. [New York Times, 10/8/2001] Bin Laden is shown sitting in a stone cave. His top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, appears at his side. [Associated Press, 10/8/2001] Referring to the 9/11 attacks, bin Laden says, “What the United States tastes today is a very small thing compared to what we have tasted for tens of years.” He praises those responsible, saying, “I ask God Almighty to elevate their status and grant them paradise.” [BBC, 10/7/2001] It is the first time he has spoken publicly about 9/11. But he makes no claim in his statement of having been responsible for the attacks. [Associated Press, 10/8/2001] He has previously explicitly denied responsibility for 9/11 (see September 16, 2001 and September 28, 2001). Bin Laden concludes his message warning, “[N]either the United States nor he who lives in the United States will enjoy security before we can see it as a reality in Palestine and before all the infidel armies leave the land of Mohammed.” [BBC, 10/7/2001] The following day, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer will tell reporters that, after watching this message, President Bush concluded that bin Laden “virtually took responsibility” for 9/11. [CNN, 10/8/2001]
The Bush administration asks the major US television networks to refrain
from showing unedited video messages taped by Osama bin Laden. They agree. A Newsweek article is critical of the decision, pointing out that “all but one [of these networks] are controlled by major conglomerates that have important pending business with the government.” The article openly questions if the media is “doing too much of the government’s bidding” in reporting on 9/11. Says one expert, “I’m not saying that everything is a horrible paranoid fantasy, but my sense is there’s an implicit quid pro quo here. The industry seems to be saying to the administration, ‘We’re patriotic, We’re supporting the war, we lost all of this advertising, now free us from [business] constraints.’” [Newsweek, 10/13/2001]
An al-Qaeda representative offers to arrange a television interview of Osama bin Laden. There are two versions of how this offer is made. According to CNN, an al-Qaeda contact of the Qatar-based Al Jazeera, with which it has a footage-sharing agreement, invites CNN and Al Jazeera to submit questions to bin Laden. CNN, worried about accusations of improper conduct, contacts the other major US television news stations and tells them it will share any footage that emerges. It also says it will only air the interview as long as it is newsworthy and not “propaganda.” CNN then draws up six questions about al-Qaeda’s role in 9/11 and the recent anthrax attacks in the US. It gives the questions to Al Jazeera, which adds another 25 and sends them to its Kabul bureau, which, in turn, passes them on to its al-Qaeda contact. The ethics of this are hotly debated in the US media, with Fox News publicly refusing to participate. Nevertheless, an Al Jazeera manager will later say: “I assure you they [Fox] contacted me to send more questions of their own. I got calls and emails from them.” Fox will later admit to the contacts, but say it would only have agreed to take part in the event of a regular interview. However, Al Jazeera media relations manager Jihad Ballout will contradict CNN’s account of the offer, saying the two organizations are approached independently, and al-Qaeda eventually chooses Al Jazeera. [Miles, 2005, pp. 175-176, 179-180] The interview will take place on October 20 (see October 20, 2001).
A video still of bin Laden filmed during his interview with Hamid Mir in November 2001. [Source: National Geographic]Pakistani reporter Hamid Mir is taken blindfolded to a location somewhere in the mountains of Afghanistan to interview bin Laden. The sound of antiaircraft fire can be heard in the distance. Bin Laden looks paler and his beard is greyer. While he doesn’t claim responsibility for the 9/11 attacks, he says that Muslims were behind it and that Muslims have the moral right to commit such attacks because they are done in self-defense. He says, “I wish to declare that if America used chemical or nuclear weapons against us, then we may retort with chemical and nuclear weapons. We have the weapons as deterrent.” He also says, “This place may be bombed. And we will be killed. We love death. The US loves life. That is the big difference between us.” [Reuters, 11/10/2001; Newsweek, 11/26/2001]
Walter Isaacson. [Source: Aspen Institute]In 2007, Walter Isaacson, chairman and CEO of CNN in the early 2000s, will say: “There was a patriotic fervor and the Administration used it so that if you challenged anything you were made to feel that there was something wrong with that.… And there was even almost a patriotism police which, you know, they’d be up there on the internet sort of picking anything a Christiane Amanpour, or somebody else would say as if it were disloyal… Especially right after 9/11. Especially when the war in Afghanistan is going on. There was a real sense that you don’t get that critical of a government that’s leading us in war time.” When CNN starts showing footage of civilian casualties in Afghanistan, people in the Bush administration and “big people in corporations were calling up and saying, ‘You’re being anti-American here.’” [PBS, 4/25/2007] So in October 2001, Isaacson sends his staff a memo, which says, “It seems perverse to focus too much on the casualties or hardship in Afghanistan.” He orders CNN to balance such coverage with reminders of the 9/11 attacks. [Washington Post, 10/31/2001] Isaacson will add, “[W]e were caught between this patriotic fervor and a competitor [Fox News] who was using that to their advantage; they were pushing the fact that CNN was too liberal that we were sort of vaguely anti-American.” An anonymous CNN reporter will also later say, “Everybody on staff just sort of knew not to push too hard to do stories critical of the Bush Administration.” [PBS, 4/25/2007]
On December 3, 2001, New York Times reporter Judith Miller telephones officials with the Holy Land Foundation charity in Texas and asks them to comment about what she says is a government raid on the charity planned for the next day. Then in a December 4, 2001, New York Times article, Miller writes that President Bush is about to announce that the US is freezing the assets of Holy Land and two other financial groups, all for supporting Hamas. US officials will later argue that Miller’s phone call and article “increased the likelihood that the foundation destroyed or hid records before a hastily organized raid by agents that day.” Later in the month, a similar incident occurs. On December 13, New York Times reporter Philip Shenon telephones officials at the Global Relief Foundation in Illinois and asks them to comment about an imminent government crackdown on that charity. The FBI learns that some Global Relief employees may be destroying documents. US attorney Patrick Fitzgerald had been investigating the charities. He had been wiretapping Global Relief and another charity in hopes of learning evidence of criminal activity, but after the leak he changes plans and carries out a hastily arranged raid on the charity the next day (see December 14, 2001). Fitzgerald later seeks records from the New York Times to find out who in the Bush administration leaked information about the upcoming raids to Miller and Shenon. However, in 2005 Fitzgerald will lose the case. It is still not known who leaked the information to the New York Times nor what their motives were. Ironically, Fitzgerald will succeed in forcing Miller to reveal information about her sources in another extremely similar legal case in 2005 involving the leaking of the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame. [New York Times, 12/4/2001; New York Times, 12/15/2001; Washington Post, 9/10/2004; Washington Post, 2/25/2005] The 9/11 Commission will later conclude that in addition to the above cases, “press leaks plagued almost every [raid on Muslim charities] that took place in the United States” after 9/11. [Washington Post, 9/10/2004]
On December 14, 2001, it is first reported that 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah was stopped and questioned at Dubai airport (see January 30-31, 2000); a controversy follows on when the US was told about this and what was done about it.
Initial Account - The story of Jarrah being detained at Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), first appears in the Chicago Tribune on December 14. This initial report says that Jarrah was stopped because he was on a US watch list. US officials refuse to comment on the matter. (Note that this report and most other early accounts place the incident on January 30, 2001 (see January 31, 2000 and After), but this appears to be incorrect and later reports say it happened exactly one year earlier, on January 30, 2000.) [Associated Press, 12/14/2001]
Did the US Tell the UAE to Stop Jarrah? - Jane Corbin reports the same story for the BBC in December 2001 and then repeats it in a book. Once again, US officials refuse to comment on the story. In her account, UAE officials claim Jarrah was stopped based on a tip-off from the US. A UAE source tells Corbin: “It was at the request of the Americans and it was specifically because of Jarrah’s links with Islamic extremists, his contacts with terrorist organizations. That was the extent of what we were told.” [BBC, 12/12/2001; Corbin, 2003] One day after the BBC report, a US official carefully states that the FBI was not aware before 9/11 that another US agency thought Jarrah was linked to any terrorist group. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 12/13/2001]
CNN Revives the Story, Has More Sources - In August 2002, CNN also reports that Jarrah was stopped because he was on a US watch list. It claims this information comes not only from UAE sources, but from other governments in the Middle East and Europe. It also still refers to the incorrect January 31, 2001 date. For the first time, a CIA spokesperson comments on the matter and says the CIA never knew anything about Jarrah before 9/11 and had nothing to do with his questioning in Dubai. [CNN, 8/1/2002]
Denials Are Helped by Confusion over Date - Regarding the denials by US authorities, author Terry McDermott point outs: “It is worth noting, however, that when the initial reports of the Jarrah interview [came out,] the Americans publicly denied they had ever been informed of it. As it happened, Corbin had the wrong date for the event, so the American services might have been technically correct in denying any knowledge of it. They later repeated that denial several times when other reports repeated the inaccurate date.” Based on information from his UAE sources, McDermott concludes that the stop occurred and that the US was informed of it at the time. [McDermott, 2005, pp. 294-5]
FBI Memo Confirms US Was Notified - In February 2004, the Chicago Tribune claims it discovered a 2002 FBI memo that discusses the incident. The memo clearly states that the incident “was reported to the US government” at the time. This account uses the January 30, 2000 date, and all later accounts do so as well. [Chicago Tribune, 2/24/2004]
9/11 Commission Downplays Incident - In July 2004, the 9/11 Commission calls the incident a “minor problem” and relegates it to an endnote in its final report on the 9/11 attacks. It does not mention anything about the US being informed about Jarrah’s brief detention at the time it happened. In this account, Jarrah was not on a US watch list, but he raised suspicion because of an overlay of the Koran in his passport and because he was carrying religious tapes and books. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 496]
Vanity Fair Adds New Details - A November 2004 Vanity Fair article adds some new details. In this account, UAE officials were first suspicious of Jarrah because of a page of the Koran stuck in his passport, then they searched his luggage and found it full of jihadist propaganda videos. Six months earlier, the CIA had asked immigration throughout the region to question anyone who might have been to a training camp in Afghanistan, which gave the UAE even more reason to question him. Jarrah was asked about his time in Afghanistan and revealed that he intended to go to flight school in the US, but he was let go. The UAE told the CIA about all this, but German officials say the CIA failed to pass the information on to German intelligence. [Vanity Fair, 11/2004]
German and More FBI Documents Also Confirm US Was Involved - McDermott has access to German intelligence files in writing his book published in 2005. He says that German documents show that the UAE did contact the US about Jarrah while he was still being held. But the US had not told the Germans what was discussed about him. Other FBI documents confirming the incident are also obtained by McDermott, but they indicate the questioning was routine. UAE officials insist to McDermott this is absolutely untrue. McDermott suggests that the CIA may not have told the FBI much about the incident. He also says that while UAE officials were holding Jarrah, US officials told them to let Jarrah go because the US would track him (see January 30-31, 2000). [McDermott, 2005, pp. 294]
Continued Denials - In September 2005, US officials continue to maintain they were not notified about the stop until after 9/11. [Chicago Tribune, 9/28/2005] Original reporting on the incident will not occur much in the years after then.
At the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), held between January 30 and February 2, author Ann Coulter says, “When contemplating college liberals, you really regret once again that John Walker [Lindh] is not getting the death penalty.” She adds, “We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed too. Otherwise they will turn out to be outright traitors.” [Washington Monthly, 4/2002]
CNN broadcasts an interview of Osama bin Laden conducted by Al Jazeera reporter Tayseer Allouni. The interview was recorded in October 2001 (see October 20, 2001). [CNN, 2/5/2002; Miles, 2005, pp. 176-177] Al Jazeera had decided not to broadcast the interview because al-Qaeda operatives intimidated Allouni, he was not allowed to ask his own questions, and the station thought the resulting product was just propaganda for bin Laden. However, Western intelligence agencies obtained the tape (see Before November 11, 2001), and news of it leaked to the media. CNN then obtained a copy and now broadcasts it, thinking this a media coup. For example, CNN executive Eason Jordan says the video is “extremely newsworthy… it not only absolutely warrants being seen, it must be seen.” It is unclear where CNN got the tape from. Author Hugh Miles will suggest that the network acquired the tape with the blessing of the US government. He will point out that National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice recently instructed news outlets not to air bin Laden messages, apparently for fear they may contain hidden signals. However, CNN is not rebuked for running excerpts from the tape. Miles will also point out that Al Jazeera’s refusal to broadcast the tape is used to attack the station in the US media, as it is “widely insinuated that the affair had been an attempt by Al Jazeera to cover up bin Laden’s confession of responsibility for 9/11.” However, in retrospect, Miles will say it is a “smear campaign by the coalition, bitter at Al Jazeera’s coverage of the war and desperate to have bin Laden’s near-confession on air, to prove their vengeful war was justified.” [Miles, 2005, pp. 177-182]
Juan Gonzalez, a New York Daily News reporter and author of the book, Fallout: The Environmental Consequences of the World Trade Center Collapse, tells The American Prospect: “In 25 years as a reporter, I’ve never faced as much scrutiny or as much difficulty getting stories in the paper as I have had around this issue. There’s been enormous concern expressed by some government officials and some civic leaders about my reporting, that it’s unnecessarily alarming people, and I believe that some of these government officials are doing a disservice by unnecessarily saying that things are okay when they really don’t know.” [American Prospect, 2/25/2002; Kupferman, 2003 ]
Haiti-Progres, a Haitian newspaper published in the United States, reports that President Aristide’s Lavalas party is engulfed in financial scandals which are wreaking havoc on the economy. The most serious scandal so far is the duty-free import of 70,000 metric tons of rice by Lavalas senators and representatives, who used the cover of a fake cooperative (see (Late January 2002)). [Haiti Progres, 2/6/2002]
Pakistani police publicly name Saeed Sheikh and a Islamic militant group he belongs to, Jaish-e-Mohammed, as those responsible for reporter Daniel Pearl’s murder. [Observer, 2/24/2002] In the next several months, at least 12 Western news articles mention Saeed’s links to al-Qaeda [ABC News, 2/7/2002; Boston Globe, 2/7/2002; Associated Press, 2/24/2002; Los Angeles Times, 3/15/2002] , including his financing of 9/11 [New York Daily News, 2/7/2002; CNN, 2/8/2002; Associated Press, 2/9/2002; Guardian, 2/9/2002; Independent, 2/10/2002; Time, 2/10/2002; New York Post, 2/10/2002; Evening Standard, 2/12/2002; Los Angeles Times, 2/13/2002; New York Post, 2/22/2002; Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 2/24/2002; USA Today, 3/8/2002] , and at least 16 articles mention his links to the ISI. [Cox News Service, 2/21/2002; Observer, 2/24/2002; Daily Telegraph, 2/24/2002; Newsweek, 2/25/2002; New York Times, 2/25/2002; USA Today, 2/25/2002; National Post, 2/26/2002; Boston Globe, 2/28/2002; Newsweek, 3/11/2002; Newsweek, 3/13/2002; Guardian, 4/5/2002; MSNBC, 4/5/2002] However, many other articles fail to mention either link. Only a few articles consider that Saeed could have been connected to both groups at the same time [London Times, 2/25/2002; Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/3/2002; London Times, 4/21/2002] , and apparently, only one of these mentions he could be involved in the ISI, al-Qaeda, and financing 9/11. [London Times, 4/21/2002] By the time Saeed is convicted of Pearl’s murder in July 2002, Saeed’s possible connections to al-Qaeda and/or the ISI are virtually unreported in US newspapers, while many British newspapers are still making one or the other connection.
A Gallup poll conducted in Muslim nations shows 18 percent believe that Arabs were responsible for 9/11 and 61 percent do not. In Pakistan, 86 percent say Arabs were not responsible. [Guardian, 2/28/2002] Even Pakistani President Musharraf has said bin Laden was not the mastermind, though he says that he probably supported it. [Reuters, 8/4/2002]
Myers making his comments at a press conference. [Source: Banded Artists Productions]Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers states, “The goal has never been to get bin Laden.” He adds, “Obviously, that’s desirable,” but then he hints it won’t be desirable to do so soon, saying, “I just read a piece by some analysts that said you may not want to go after the top people in these organizations. You may have more effect by going after the middlemen, because they’re harder to replace. I don’t know if that’s true, or not, and clearly we would like to eventually get bin Laden.” [Evans, Novak, Hunt & Shields, 4/6/2002] In early 2005, the recently retired Executive Director of the CIA will explicitly state that it is better to let bin Laden remain free (see January 9, 2005).
Nicholas Kristof. [Source: Publicity photo]Columnist Nicholas Kristof writes a series of articles in the New York Times suggesting that Steven Hatfill could be responsible for the 2001 anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001). His columns start out vague. In his first column on the subject on May 24, 2002, he speaks of an unnamed “middle-aged American who has worked for the United States military bio-defense program and had access to the labs at Fort Detrick, Maryland. His anthrax vaccinations are up to date, he unquestionably had the ability to make first-rate anthrax, and he was upset at the United States government in the period preceding the anthrax attack.” [New York Times, 5/24/2002] Kristof writes in his next column: “Some in the biodefense community think they know a likely culprit, whom I’ll call Mr. Z. Although the bureau has polygraphed Mr. Z, searched his home twice and interviewed him four times, it has not placed him under surveillance or asked its outside handwriting expert to compare his writing to that on the anthrax letters.” [New York Times, 7/2/2002] His next column suggests Mr. Z could have been behind a fake anthrax scare in 1997 (see April 24, 1997). [New York Times, 7/12/2002] In his final column, he reveals that Mr. Z is in fact Steven Hatfill, the FBI’s prime suspect at the time. Kristof writes: “There is not a shred of traditional physical evidence linking him to the attacks. Still, Dr. Hatfill is wrong to suggest that the FBI has casually designated him the anthrax ‘fall guy.’ The authorities’ interest in Dr. Hatfill arises from a range of factors, including his expertise in dry biological warfare agents, his access to Fort Detrick labs where anthrax spores were kept (although he did not work with anthrax there) and the animus to some federal agencies that shows up in his private writings. He has also failed three successive polygraph examinations since January, and canceled plans for another polygraph exam two weeks ago.” [New York Times, 8/13/2002] Many of the allegations in Kristof’s articles will turn out to be incorrect. The US government will finally clear Hatfill of any connection to the anthrax attacks in 2008 (see August 8, 2008).
A rare follow-up article about insider trading based on 9/11 foreknowledge confirms that numerous inquiries in the US and around the world are still ongoing. However, “all are treating these inquiries as if they were state secrets.” The author speculates: “The silence from the investigating camps could mean any of several things: Either terrorists are responsible for the puts on the airline stocks; others besides terrorists had foreknowledge; the puts were just lucky bets by credible investors; or, there is nothing whatsoever to support the insider-trading rumors.” [Insight, 6/3/2002] Another article notes that Deutsche Bank Alex Brown, the American investment banking arm of German giant Deutsche Bank, purchased at least some of these options. Deutsche Bank Alex Brown was once headed by “Buzzy” Krongard, who quit that company in March 2001 and became Executive Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). “This fact may not be significant. And then again, it may. After all, there has traditionally been a close link between the CIA, big banks, and the brokerage business.” [Business Line, 2/11/2002]
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. [Source: Qatar embassy]Al Jazeera reporter Yosri Fouda recently interviewed 9/11 figures Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), though there are conflicting accounts about whether the interview took place before or after KSM was publicly identified as the 9/11 mastermind (see April, June, or August 2002). Author Ron Suskind will later claim in the book The One Percent Doctrine that on June 14, 2002, Fouda went to his superiors at Al Jazeera’s headquarters in Qatar and told them about the interview. He speaks to Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer al-Thani, the chairman of Al Jazeera and the cousin of the emir of Qatar, and a few others. At this time, the US is intensely pressuring the Qatari government to get Al Jazeera to tone down what the US perceives as anti-American news coverage. In fact, it is widely believed in Qatar that the US deliberately bombed the Al Jazeera office in Kabul, Afghanistan, in November 2001 to send a message. Perhaps as a result of this pressure, a few days after Fouda reveals his interview, the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, tells the CIA all about it. Fouda described some of al-Qaeda’s operational plans and even had a good idea where the apartment was in Karachi, Pakistan, where the interview took place, and what floor he had been on. Suskind claims that “No one, not even Al Jazeera management, knew the emir was making the call” to the CIA. US intelligence begins an intense surveillance of Karachi in an attempt to find KSM and bin al-Shibh (see Before September 11, 2002). Mostly because of this lead, bin al-Shibh will be arrested in Karachi in September 2002, around the time when Fouda’s interview is finally aired in public (see September 11, 2002). [Suskind, 2006, pp. 134-140] Interestingly, in early September 2002, it will be reported that KSM was arrested in an apartment in Karachi on June 16, 2002, which would be right about when the CIA was given this information (see June 16, 2002).
Hatfill holding a press conference on August 11, 2002. [Source: Associated Press / Rick Bowner]Anthrax suspect Steven Hatfill defends himself in a public speech and Washington Post interview. He claims that he is being set up as the “fall guy” for the anthrax attacks. He says his life “has been completely and utterly destroyed,” and he has twice lost a job due to the allegations. His lawyer also accuses the FBI of leaking documents to the press and conducting searches of Hatfill’s residence in a highly visible way when a more discreet method could have been arranged. [Washington Post, 8/11/2002; Fox News, 8/12/2002]
Howard Kurtz. [Source: CNN / ThinkProgress.org]In 2007, Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz will say, “From August 2002 until the war was launched in March of 2003 there were about 140 front page pieces in The Washington Post making the [Bush] administration’s case for war. It was, ‘The President said yesterday.’ ‘The Vice President said yesterday.’ ‘The Pentagon said yesterday.’ Well, that’s part of our job. Those people want to speak. We have to provide them a platform. I don’t have anything wrong with that. But there was only a handful—a handful—of stories that ran on the front page, some more that ran inside the pages of the paper, that made the opposite case. Or, if not making the opposite case, raised questions.” [PBS, 4/25/2007] Kurtz will also write in an August 2004 front page Washington Post story criticizing the newspaper’s pre-war coverage, “An examination of the paper’s coverage, and interviews with more than a dozen of the editors and reporters involved, shows that The Post published a number of pieces challenging the White House, but rarely on the front page. Some reporters who were lobbying for greater prominence for stories that questioned the administration’s evidence complained to senior editors who, in the view of those reporters, were unenthusiastic about such pieces. The result was coverage that, despite flashes of groundbreaking reporting, in hindsight looks strikingly one-sided at times.” At the time, The Post’s editorial page was strongly advocating war with Iraq. For instance, a day after Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN (see February 5, 2003), the Post commented that “it is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction.” [Washington Post, 8/12/2004]
David Albright, a respected nuclear physicist who had investigated Iraq’s nuclear weapons program after the first Gulf War, frequently appears as a commentator on television in the autumn of 2002. In 2004, he will say, “I felt a lot of pressure” from journalists “to stick to the subject, which was Iraq’s bad behavior.… I always felt the administration was setting the agenda for what stories should be covered, and the news media bought into that, rather than take a critical look at the administration’s underlying reasons for war.” On one occasion, Albright appears on an unnamed cable news show and says that he feels UN weapons inspections in Iraq should continue and that the impasse over Iraq is not simply France’s fault. During a commercial break, the host “got really mad and chastised me.” Albright concludes: “The administration created a set of truths, then put up a wall to keep people within it. On the other side of the wall were people saying they didn’t agree. The media were not aggressive enough in challenging this.” [New York Review of Books, 2/26/2004]
Jonathan Landay, a reporter for Knight Ridder Newspapers, watches Vice President Cheney’s speech on August 26, 2002, in which Cheney argues that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and must be confronted soon (see August 26, 2002). Landay is particularly interested in Cheney’s comment, “Many of us are convinced that Saddam Hussein will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon.” Landay will later recall, “I looked at that and I said, ‘What is he talking about?’ Because, to develop a nuclear weapon you need specific infrastructure and in particular the way the Iraqi’s were trying to produce a nuclear weapon was through enrichment of uranium. Now, you need tens of thousands of machines called centrifuges to produce highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon. You’ve gotta house those in a fairly big place, and you’ve gotta provide a huge amount of power to this facility. Could [Saddam Hussein] really have done it with all of these eyes on his country?… So, when Cheney said that, I got on the phone to people, and one person said to me - somebody who watched proliferation as their job - said, ‘The Vice President is lying.’” [PBS, 4/25/2007] Around the same time, John Walcott, chief of Knight Ridder’s Washington bureau, begins hearing from other sources in the military, intelligence community, and foreign service who question the Bush administration’s claims. Most of them are career officials, not political appointees. Walcott will later comment, “These people were better informed about the details of the intelligence than the people higher up in the food chain, and they were deeply troubled by what they regarded as the administration’s deliberate misrepresentation of intelligence, ranging from overstating the case to outright fabrication.” Walcott assigns Landay and Landay’s frequent reporting partner Warren Strobel to talk with these sources. [New York Review of Books, 2/26/2004] On September 6, a story by Landay is published, entitled, “Lack of Hard Evidence of Iraqi Weapons Worries Top US Officials.” It quotes anonymous senior US officials who say that “they have detected no alarming increase in the threat that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein poses to American security and Middle East stability.” While it is well known that Iraq is “aggressively trying to rebuild” its weapons programs, “there is no new intelligence that indicates the Iraqis have made significant advances” in doing so. [Knight Ridder, 9/6/2002] But while Knight Ridder publishes 32 newspapers in the US, it has no outlets in New York or Washington, and so it has little impact on the power elite. Additionally, its story is drowned out by a false claim in the New York Times two days later that Iraq is trying to use aluminum tubes to build a nuclear weapon (see September 8, 2002). [PBS, 4/25/2007]
Abdulaziz Alomari filmed speaking in Afghanistan in early 2001. He stands in front of a large map of the world. [Source: Spiegel TV]Details of an Al Jazeera interview with al-Qaeda leaders Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) and Ramzi bin al-Shibh (see April, June, or August 2002) are widely publicized starting on September 8, 2002. [London Times, 9/8/2002; Australian, 9/9/2002; Guardian, 9/9/2002] But there are numerous doubts about this interview, since there is no video footage and only audio footage from bin al-Shibh. It has further been suggested that the broadcast of bin al-Shibh’s voice in the interview helps in his arrest (see September 11, 2002). [Observer, 9/15/2002; CBS News, 10/9/2002] Bin al-Shibh’s voice is first broadcast on September 9, 2002, as part of uncredited narration on another documentary released that day (see September 9, 2002). His voice is only publicly identified as his on the morning of September 11, 2002, just hours before bin al-Shibh is said to be arrested. [Fouda and Fielding, 2003, pp. 159] Al Jazeera also broadcasts footage of hijacker Abdulaziz Alomari speaking against the US filmed in Afghanistan in early 2001 (see September 9, 2002) and other footage of some other hijackers (see September 9, 2002). [Financial Times, 9/11/2002]
War on Iraq book cover. [Source: Public domain]The book War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn’t Want You to Know is published. It is written by William Rivers Pitt, a journalist, and Scott Ritter, a former US Marine and UN inspector in Iraq. In it, they write: “The case for war against Iraq has not been made. This is a fact. It is doubtful in the extreme that Saddam Hussein has retained any functional aspect of the chemical, nuclear, and biological weapons programs so thoroughly dismantled by the United Nations weapons inspectors who worked tirelessly in Iraq for seven years. This is also a fact. The idea that Hussein has connections to fundamentalist Islamic terrorists is laughable—he is a secular leader who has worked for years to crush fundamentalist Islam within Iraq, and if he were to give weapons of any kind to al-Qaeda, they would use those weapons on him first.… If Bush decides unilaterally to attack, he will be in violation of international law. If Bush does attack Iraq, he will precipitate the exact conflict of cultures between the West and Islam that Osama bin Laden was hoping for when his agents flew three planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. An attack on Iraq could bring about a wider world war America cannot afford, and that a vast majority of Americans do not desire.… The economic sanctions have rendered [Hussein’s] conventional weaponry impotent by denying him access to the spare parts that are essential to any functioning mechanized military. The UNSCOM inspectors destroyed, right to the ground, any and all capabilities he possessed to create weapons of mass destruction. He has no connections whatsoever to the terrorists who struck America on September 11th. Saddam Hussein is not capable of acting upon any of his desires, real or imagined. He does not have the horses.” [Pitt and Ritter, 2002, pp. 9-10]
Washington Post journalist Thomas Ricks turns in a story he calls “Doubts.” It says that senior Pentagon officials are resigned to the fact that the US is going to invade Iraq, but are reluctant and worried that the risks are being underestimated. Most sources in the article are retired military officers or outside experts. Ricks has been reporting on national security issues for fifteen years, and used to be an editor on the topic for the Wall Street Journal. However, Post editor Matthew Vita kills the story and the newspaper never runs it. During this time, the vast majority of the newspaper’s coverage supports the push to war (see August 2002-March 19, 2003). [Washington Post, 8/12/2004]
In the beginning of October 2002, Knight Ridder reporter Jonathan Landay is intrigued to notice that the newly completed National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq (see October 1, 2002) shows some intelligence experts register disagreement that Iraq is intending to use aluminum tubes to build a nuclear weapon. Landay reaches a veteran of the US uranium enrichment program. Landay will later say, “He’d been given data on the tubes, and he said that this wasn’t conclusive evidence.” On October 4, Knight Ridder publishes a story noting that the NIE has “exposed a sharp dispute among US intelligence experts” over Iraq. One expert says he does not believe the tubes are intended for use in nuclear weapons because “their diameters were too small and the aluminum they were made from was too hard.” [Knight Ridder, 10/4/2002; New York Review of Books, 2/26/2004]
A Toronto Star editorial entitled “Pursue the Truth About September 11” strongly criticizes the government and media regarding 9/11: “Getting the truth about 9/11 has seemed impossible. The evasions, the obfuscations, the contradictions and, let’s not put too fine a point on it, the lies have been overwhelming.… The questions are endless. But most are not being asked—still—by most of the media most of the time.… There are many people, and more by the minute, persuaded that, if the Bushies didn’t cause 9/11, they did nothing to stop it.” [Toronto Star, 11/17/2002]
On January 9, 2003, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) publishes preliminary results of the UN’s renewed weapons inspections in Iraq, and finds no evidence at all that Iraq has resumed its nuclear weapons program. It also finds no evidence that Iraq has used aluminum tubes to generate nuclear material (see January 9, 2003). In 2004, the New York Review of Books will comment: “Given the importance the [Bush] administration had attached to this matter, this would have seemed news of the utmost significance. Yet it was largely ignored. The [New York] Times, which had so prominently displayed its initial story about the aluminum tubes, buried its main article about [it] on page A10.” At the time, the Bush administration is arguing that the UN inspections are meaningless (see January 9, 2003). IAEA spokesperson Mark Gwozdecky will later say: “Nobody wanted to challenge the president. Nobody wanted to believe inspections had anything of value to bring to the table. The press bought into that.” [New York Review of Books, 2/26/2004]
Knight Ridder Newspapers reports: “US officials and private analysts said Bush’s suggestion that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein might give such weapons to terrorists—and the implication that the risk of American retaliation can no longer deter him—stretches the analysis of US intelligence agencies to, and perhaps beyond, the limit.” The newspaper’s sources also say that “there was no evidence that Iraq and al-Qaeda had cooperated on terrorist operations and no evidence of any Iraqi role in the Sept. 11 attacks.” [Knight Ridder, 1/28/2003 Sources: Unnamed US official]
Walter Pincus. [Source: Publicity photo]By mid-March 2003, Washington Post journalist Walter Pincus is skeptical of Colin Powell’s speech to the UN (see February 5, 2003) and develops material for an article questioning Powell’s evidence. However, his editors are not interested.
Page A17 - But thanks to pressure from his colleague Bob Woodward, the Post runs his story on March 16, but only on page A17. The article reads, “US intelligence agencies have been unable to give Congress or the Pentagon specific information about the amounts of banned weapons or where they are hidden….” It notes that senior US officials “repeatedly have failed to mention the considerable amount of documented weapons destruction that took place in Iraq between 1991 and 1998.” [New York Review of Books, 2/26/2004] Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. will later say, “In retrospect, that probably should have been on Page 1 instead of A17, even though it wasn’t a definitive story and had to rely on unnamed sources. It was a very prescient story.” [Washington Post, 8/12/2004]
Follow-up - Two days later, the Post publishes another critical story by Pincus, this one co-written with Dana Milbank. It reads, “As the Bush administration prepares to attack Iraq this week, it is doing so on the basis of a number of allegations against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein that have been challenged—and in some cases disproved—by the United Nations, European governments and even US intelligence reports.” However, this story only appears on page A13. [New York Review of Books, 2/26/2004]
Third Story Held Until After Start of War - Around the same time, Post journalists Dana Priest and Karen DeYoung turn in a story that says CIA officials “communicated significant doubts to the administration” about evidence tying Iraq to attempted uranium purchases for nuclear weapons. But the story is held until March 22, three days after the Iraq war begins. [Washington Post, 8/12/2004]
Post's Editors Did Not Want to "Make a Difference" - Pincus will later comment, “The front pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times are very important in shaping what other people think. They’re like writing a memo to the White House.” But the Post’s editors “went through a whole phase in which they didn’t put things on the front page that would make a difference.” [New York Review of Books, 2/26/2004] Downie will later say, “Not enough of those stories were put on the front page. That was a mistake on my part.” [Washington Post, 8/12/2004]
Jamal Mustafa Sultan Tikriti, photographed at Chalabi’s ANC headquarters on April 21, 2003. [Source: Reuters / Corbis]New York Times reporter Judith Miller is embedded with Mobile Exploitation Team Alpha (MET Alpha), a US Army unit charged with trying to find weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq. Miller had written a number of front-page Times stories before the war, strongly suggesting Iraq was pursuing WMD programs; all those stories will later be proven incorrect (see November 6-8, 2001, September 8, 2002, April 20, 2003, September 18, 2002, and July 25, 2003). Miller plays what the press will later call a “highly unusual role” with the unit. One US official will later claim that she turns the unit into a “rogue operation.” [Washington Post, 6/25/2003]
Accepting Military Restrictions - Miller accepted an unusual set of restrictions from the military in order to embed with MET Alpha. Most embedded journalists agreed not to report on forthcoming military tactics and to conceal sensitive information about troop movements and positions. Miller, on the other hand, agreed to allow the military to censor her work, and agreed not to publish items until they were approved by military officials. MET Alpha public affairs officer Eugene Pomeroy, who works closely with her, will later recall the agreement, saying that Miller helped negotiate the terms, and will recall the agreement being so sensitive that Defense Secretary Donal Rumsfeld signed off on it. According to the agreement, Pomeroy will recall: “Any articles going out had to be, well, censored. The mission contained some highly classified elements and people, what we dubbed the ‘Secret Squirrels,’ and their ‘sources and methods’ had to be protected and a war was about to start.” Miller’s copy is censored by a colonel, presumably MET Alpha commander Colonel Richard McPhee, who, according to Pomeroy, often reads her work in his sleeping bag, clutching a small flashlight between his teeth. Sometimes, while traveling with the unit, Miller wears a military uniform. [New York Magazine, 5/21/2005]
Threats and Connections - Miller, who has the reputation of being a “diva,” is friends with powerful neoconservatives such as Rumsfeld, his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, Pentagon adviser Richard Perle, and other figures in the Pentagon and the Bush administration. One military officer will later claim Miller sometimes “intimidated” Army soldiers by mentioning her relationship to Rumsfeld or Feith, saying, “Essentially, she threatened them,” to get the unit to do her bidding. Another officer says Miller “was always issuing threats of either going to the New York Times or to the secretary of defense. There was nothing veiled about that threat.” This officer adds that MET Alpha “was allowed to bend the rules.” [Washington Post, 6/25/2003; New York Magazine, 5/21/2005] In 2005, reporter Franklin Foer will write: “While Miller might not have intended to march in lockstep with these hawks, she was caught up in an almost irresistible cycle. Because she kept printing the neocon party line, the neocons kept coming to her with huge stories and great quotes, constantly expanding her access.” [New York Magazine, 5/21/2005]
Miller Influences Where the Unit Will Go - On April 21, MET Alpha is ordered to withdraw to the southern Iraqi town of Talil, but Miller objects in a handwritten note to two public affairs officers. Her note says: “I see no reason for me to waste time (or MET Alpha, for that matter) in Talil.… Request permission to stay on here with colleagues at the Palestine Hotel till MET Alpha returns or order to return is rescinded. I intend to write about this decision in the [New York] Times to send a successful team back home just as progress on WMD is being made.” Miller challenges the plan to go to Talil, and takes her concerns to Major General David Petraeus, commander of the 101st Airborne. Petraeus does not have direct authority over McPhee, the commander of the 75th Exploitation Task Force, which contains the MET Alpha unit. But McPhee rescinds the withdrawal order after Petraeus advises him to do so. [Washington Post, 6/25/2003; New York Magazine, 5/21/2005]
Redirecting the Unit's Mission - Miller is also friends with Iraqi National Congress (INC) leader Ahmed Chalabi, who gave her leads for many later-debunked stories. More than half a dozen military officers will later claim that Miller acts as a go-between between Chalabi and the unit. On one occasion in April she takes some unit leaders to Chalabi’s headquarters, where the unit takes custody of Jamal Mustafa Sultan Tikriti, Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law, number 40 on the US’s most wanted list. She also sits in on his debriefing. None of the members of the unit have any experience in interrogation. Several US military officials will say they are upset that completely untrained officers led the debriefing of Tikriti. One Chalabi aide will explain why they turned Tikriti over to the MET Alpha unit instead of using the ANC’s usual contacts with the US miliary, saying, “We told Judy because we thought it was a good story.” When Miller later writes a story about Tikriti’s capture, she will claim that the handover was pure coincidence, as leaders of the unit “happened to be meeting” with Chalabi to “discuss nonproliferation issues.” One official will later complain that the unit became the “Judith Miller team” when she effectively redirected it from finding WMDs to holding and interrogating high-ranking prisoners. A military officer will later say: “This was totally out of their lane, getting involved with human intelligence.… [Miller] came in with a plan. She was leading them.… She ended up almost hijacking the mission.” A senior staff officer of the 75th Exploitation Task Force will similarly complain, “It’s impossible to exaggerate the impact she had on the mission of this unit, and not for the better.” [Washington Post, 6/25/2003]
Guarding Her Access - Pomeroy and another witness will recall Miller jealously guarding her access from other reporters. In one instance, when Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman travels with the unit for a day, Miller orders the unit’s troops not to speak to him. According to Pomeroy, “She told people that she had clearance to be there and Bart didn’t.” [New York Magazine, 5/21/2005]
Miller Has Unit Investigate Dubious Tips from Chalabi - In other cases, the unit apparently follows leads given to Miller by Chalabi or his aides. For instance, it discovers Iraqi intelligence documents and maps related to Israel, and Miller writes a story about this. Chalabi aide Zaab Sethna will later say: “We thought this was a great story for the New York Times.… That came from us.” While embedded with the unit, Miller writes stories for the Times strongly suggesting the unit has discovered WMDs. For instance, one of her headlines is “US Analysts Link Iraq Labs to Germ Arms,” and another is “US Experts Find Radioactive Material in Iraq.” But like her pre-war stories about WMDs in Iraq, these stories also will be completely discredited. It is unclear how long Miller hijacks the MET Alpha unit for, but the Washington Post will publish an expose about these connections in late June 2003. [Washington Post, 6/25/2003] In late 2003, Miller will say that her reliance on Chalabi’s information is “exaggerated.” [New York Review of Books, 2/26/2004] In 2005, Foer will call Miller one of “Chalabi’s credulous allies” along with a number of Bush administration officials. The Times will not acknowledge the breadth of Chalabi’s influence on the reports it published by Miller until May 2005, but will refuse to connect Chalabi and Miller. Foer will note that although Miller had more access to MET Alpha than any other reporter, “she was the only major reporter on the WMD beat to miss the story so completely.” [New York Magazine, 5/21/2005]
A Mouthpiece for the Administration? - In 2004, Miller tells columnist and media expert Michael Massing that as an investigative reporter in the intelligence area, “my job isn’t to assess the government’s information and be an independent intelligence analyst myself. My job is to tell readers of the New York Times what the government thought about Iraq’s arsenal.” Massing will write, “Many journalists would disagree with this; instead, they would consider offering an independent evaluation of official claims one of their chief responsibilities.” [New York Review of Books, 2/26/2004]
Admission of Error - In late 2005, Miller will admit that her reporting on Iraqi WMD issues was almost “entirely wrong” (see October 16, 2005).
Entity Tags: Mobile Exploitation Team Alpha, Richard McPhee, Michael Massing, Ahmed Chalabi, Jamal Mustafa Sultan Tikriti, Iraqi National Congress, David Petraeus, Donald Rumsfeld, Douglas Feith, Judith Miller, Franklin Foer
Timeline Tags: US Military, Iraq under US Occupation, Domestic Propaganda
On CNN’s Larry King Live, CBS news anchor Dan Rather says: “Look, I’m an American. I never tried to kid anybody that I’m some internationalist or something. And when my country is at war, I want my country to win, whatever the definition of ‘win’ may be. Now, I can’t and don’t argue that that is coverage without a prejudice. About that I am prejudiced.” [Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, 5/2003] On September 17, 2001, Rather said he would “line up” with the president (see September 17-22, 2001). In May 2002, he said that fear of being seen as unpatriotic was affecting news coverage (see May 17, 2002). In 2007, Rather will admit to not staying objective after 9/11 (see April 25, 2007).
In May 2003, the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) reports the results of an analysis of media coverage of the start of the Iraq war. The study looked at the main news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and PBS between March 20, 2003, one day after the Iraq war began, through April 9, three weeks later. The study found that 1,617 on-camera sources appeared in stories about Iraq. Sixty-four percent of all sources were pro-war, while ten percent were anti-war. Current and former US or British officials made up 57 percent of all sources. Pro-war sources tended to be interviewed at length in the studio. Whereas, the study’s authors note: “Guests with anti-war viewpoints were almost universally allowed one-sentence soundbites taken from interviews conducted on the street. Not a single show in the study conducted a sit-down interview with a person identified as being against the war.” [Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, 5/2003]
Peter Jennings. [Source: Washington State University]ABC News anchor Peter Jennings says in an interview: “We have been criticized, a little bit to my surprise, by people who think I was not enough pro-war. That is simply not the way I think of this role. This role is designed to question the behavior of government officials on behalf of the public. I think people who have done this and all jobs in journalism have believed that.… Are we out of step with the administration because we do not comport completely to their political point of view? So they criticize us for it. It goes with the territory, and if we get a groundswell we begin to look at ourselves. ‘Are we? Are we not?’ I don’t think the public realizes how much soul-searching goes on in news organizations about what is the right thing to do.” [USA Today, 9/8/2003]
Christiane Amanpour. [Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]Well-known CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour is asked on a talk show if “we in the media, as much as in the administration, drank the Kool-Aid when it came to the [Iraq] war.” Amanpour replies, “I think the press was muzzled, and I think the press self-muzzled. I’m sorry to say, but certainly television and, perhaps, to a certain extent, my station was intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News. And it did, in fact, put a climate of fear and self-censorship, in my view, in terms of the kind of broadcast work we did.” Asked if there were stories not reported, she replies, “It’s not a question of couldn’t do it, it’s a question of tone. It’s a question of being rigorous. It’s really a question of really asking the questions. All of the entire body politic in my view, whether it’s the administration, the intelligence, the journalists, whoever, did not ask enough questions, for instance, about weapons of mass destruction. I mean, it looks like this was disinformation at the highest levels.” A Fox News spokeswoman says of Amanpour’s comments, “Given the choice, it’s better to be viewed as a foot soldier for Bush than a spokeswoman for al-Qaeda.” [USA Today, 9/14/2003]
“Case Closed” magazine cover. [Source: Slate]On November 14, 2003, the neoconservative magazine the Weekly Standard prints a cover story by Stephen Hayes entitled “Case Closed” that attempts to revive allegations that there was a link between the Iraqi government and al-Qaeda. It claims to have new evidence of the link, based on a “top secret US government memorandum obtained by The Weekly Standard.” It quotes extensively from a classified October 27, 2003, 16-page memo written by Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith. [Weekly Standard, 11/14/2003] But the story is immediately discredited. The next day, the Defense Department issues a press release stating, “news reports that the Defense Department recently confirmed new information with respect to contacts between al-Qaeda and Iraq… are inaccurate.” But several conservative media outlets, including the New York Post, the Washington Times, and Fox News, run with the story anyway. Conservative New York Times columnist William Safire also endorses the story. Most of the outlets that report on the story are owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns the Weekly Standard. However, most other outlets either ignore the story or write articles completely dismissing it. [Slate, 11/18/2003; Editor & Publisher, 11/18/2003] For instance, on November 19, Newsweek posts an article called “Case Decidedly Not Closed.” It notes that the Feith memo “is mostly based on unverified claims that were first advanced by some top Bush administration officials more than a year ago—and were largely discounted at the time by the US intelligence community (see August 2002), according to current and former US intelligence officials.” [Newsweek, 11/19/2003] The New York Times and Washington Post also print stories largely discrediting the Weekly Standard piece. [Slate, 11/18/2003] But nonetheless, in January 2004, Vice President Cheney will cite the article and call it the “best source of information” about the supposed pre-war Iraq-al-Qaeda link (see January 9, 2004).
For the two-month duration of a strike in Venezuela (see February 3, 2003), the only commercials on Venezuelan TV are pieces by the opposition attacking President Hugo Chavez. [Adage, 2/10/2003]
The BBC current affairs program Panorama runs a documentary entitled “Father and Son” about Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and his son Jason, a football players’ agent. The documentary alleges that Jason has exploited his father’s position to set up transfer deals and make financial gain from them. Jason will not be found guilty of any wrongdoing, but Sir Alex will refuse to speak to the BBC for a number of years. [Guardian, 11/30/2010]
David Ray Griffin.
[Source: Public domain]The book “The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush administration and 9/11,” written by theology professor David Ray Griffin, is released. The Daily Mail calls it “explosive.” Well known historian Howard Zinn calls the book: “the most persuasive argument I have seen for further investigation of the Bush administration’s relationship to that historic and troubling event.” The book suggests there is evidence that the Bush administration may have arranged the 9/11 attacks or deliberately allowed them to happen. It questions why no military fighter jets were sent up to intercept the hijacked planes after the terrorists first struck. It also explores the question of whether the Pentagon was really hit by Flight 77, and suggests that explosives could have assisted the collapse of the World Trade Center. [Democracy Now!, 5/26/2004; Daily Mail, 6/5/2004] The book sells well, but is virtually ignored by the mainstream US news media. Those who do report on the book generally deride it. For example, Publishers Weekly states, “Even many Bush opponents will find these charges ridiculous, though conspiracy theorists may be haunted by the suspicion that we know less than we think we do about that fateful day.” [Publishers Weekly, 3/22/2004]
At a conference in Berkeley, California, examining the media’s approach to the Iraq war, New York Times Baghdad Bureau chief John Burns says, “We failed the American public by being insufficiently critical about elements of the administration’s plan to go to war.” Other journalists at the conference concur. For instance, Los Angeles Times syndicated columnist Robert Scheer says: “This has been the most shameful era of American media. The media has been sucker-punched completely by this administration.” [Daily Californian, 3/18/2004] However, such sentiments are rarely covered in major newspapers. For instance, Burns makes no similar comments in the New York Times.
In November 2005, columnist Fareed Zakaria will write in Newsweek, “Ask any soldier in Iraq when the general population really turned against the United States and he will say, ‘Abu Ghraib.’ A few months before the scandal broke, Coalition Provisional Authority polls showed Iraqi support for the occupation at 63 percent. A month after Abu Ghraib, the number was 9 percent. Polls showed that 71 percent of Iraqis were surprised by the revelations. Most telling, 61 percent of Iraqis polled believed that no one would be punished for the torture at Abu Ghraib. Of the 29 percent who said they believed someone would be punished, 52 percent said that such punishment would extend only to ‘the little people.’” [Newsweek, 11/14/2005]
9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick is attacked for her role in extending the ‘wall’. [Source: Associated Press / Charles Dharapak]Attorney General John Ashcroft’s testimony before the 9/11 Commission (see April 13, 2004) sparks a wave of attacks against 9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick, who was Deputy Attorney General during the Clinton administration. In 1995 Gorelick played a leading role in extending the “wall,” a set of procedures that regulated the passage of information from FBI intelligence agents to FBI criminal agents and prosecutors (see March 4, 1995 and July 19, 1995). Ashcroft calls the wall “the single greatest structural cause for September 11.” The attacks include:
On April 14 James Sensenbrenner, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, calls on Gorelick to resign because of her “crippling conflict of interest.” He says “the public cannot help but ask legitimate questions about her motives” and argues that the commission will be “fatally damaged” if she continues. Other Republican congresspersons repeat this call;
On April 16 House Majority Leader Tom Delay writes to Commission Chairman Tom Kean saying Gorelick has a conflict of interest and accusing the commission of “partisan mudslinging, circus-atmosphere pyrotechnics, and gotcha-style questioning,” as well as undermining the war effort and endangering the troops;
Criticism of Gorelick also appears in several media publications, including the New York Times, New York Post, National Review, Washington Times, and Wall Street Journal. For example, an op-ed piece published in the New York Times by former terrorism commissioners Juliette Kayyem and Wayne Downing says the commissioners are talking too much and should “shut up.” [National Review, 4/13/2004; National Review, 4/19/2004; Kean and Hamilton, 2006, pp. 200-203]
On April 22 Senator Christopher Boyd and ten other Republican senators write to the commission calling on Gorelick to testify in public;
On April 26 Congressman Lamar Smith and 74 other Republicans write to Gorelick demanding answers to five questions about her time as deputy attorney general;
On April 28 the Justice Department declassifies other memos signed by Gorelick;
In addition to hate mail, Gorelick receives a bomb threat, requiring a bomb disposal squad to search her home.
Commission Chairmen Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton will call this an “onslaught” and say her critics used the wall “as a tool to bludgeon Jamie Gorelick, implicate the Clinton administration, and undermine the credibility of the commission before we had even issued our report.” Gorelick offers to resign, but the other commissioners support her and she writes a piece for the Washington Post defending herself. [Washington Post, 4/18/2004; Kean and Hamilton, 2006, pp. 200-205] When the commission meets President Bush and Vice President Cheney at the end of the month (see April 29, 2004), Bush tells Kean and Hamilton he does not approve of memos being declassified and posted on the Justice Department’s website. At this point, the commissioners realize “the controversy over Jamie Gorelick’s service on the commission was largely behind us.” That afternoon, the White House publicly expresses the president’s disappointment over the memos and the effort to discredit Gorelick loses momentum. [Kean and Hamilton, 2006, pp. 208, 210]
Entity Tags: Lee Hamilton, Wayne Downing, Lamar Smith, Thomas Kean, Juliette Kayyem, Jamie Gorelick, James Sensenbrenner, Andrew McCarthy, John Ashcroft, Christopher Boyd, George W. Bush, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Tom DeLay
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
A deranged Abu Ghraib detainee wanders the halls covered in human feces on December 12, 2003. MP Ivan Frederick stands behind him with a stick. [Source: Public domain]The Abu Ghraib prison photos are leaked to CBS. The network informs the Pentagon that it will broadcast a story on the prison abuses and include the photos. But the network delays broadcasting the story at the request of Gen. Richard Myers. [Guardian, 4/30/2004; CBS News, 5/6/2004; Los Angeles Times, 5/6/2004; CNS News, 5/7/2004]
Lynndie England dragging a prisoner nicknamed Gus on October 24, 2003. [Source: Public domain]CBS’s “60 Minutes II” airs the Abu Ghraib prison photos (see March 23, 2004) having learned that the New Yorker is about to publish a piece on abuses at Abu Ghraib. Bush reportedly first learns about these photos from the television report. [CBS News, 5/6/2004; Los Angeles Times, 5/6/2004; Baltimore Sun, 5/6/2004; St. Petersburg Times, 5/9/2004] Most of the photos show prisoners being forced to engage in humiliating sexual acts. For example in one photo a hooded naked man is forced to masturbate as a grinning female MP, Lynndie England, looks on, giving a thumbs-up. Another photo shows two naked hooded men, one standing, while the other is kneeling in front of him, simulating oral sex. The Bush administration will portray these forced acts of humiliation as the immature pranks of low ranking soldiers. But others will argue that the acts were ordered from above with the intent to exploit Arab culture’s conservative views with regard to sex and homosexuality (see 2002-March 2003). [New Yorker, 5/10/2004; New Yorker, 5/17/2004] A different picture shows a hooded-man with his arms spread and wires dangling from his fingers, toes, and penis. He was apparently told that if he fell off the box he would be electricuted. The tactic is known as the “The Vietnam,” an “arcane torture method known only to veterans of the interrogation trade” that had been first used by Brazilians in the 1970s. [Seattle Times, 5/14/2004; Newsweek, 5/24/2004 Sources: Darius Rejali] Another picture is of Manadel al-Jamadi who was killed after being “stressed” too much (see (7:00 a.m.) November 4, 2003). [New Yorker, 5/10/2004; New Yorker, 5/17/2004] “A generation from now,” one observer notes, “historians may look back to April 28, 2004, as the day the United States lost the war in Iraq.” [Washington Monthly, 11/2004]
In Iraq, this photo is commonly called “The Statue of Liberty.” [Source: Public domain]Media outlets in the US, other than CBS, appear less interested in the Abu Ghraib scandal than elsewhere. The Guardian of London notes, “[I]t was no surprise that newspapers around the world made huge, horrified play of the events at the Abu Ghraib prison. It was more of a surprise, however, that the story did not receive the same level of coverage in the US papers.” [Guardian, 4/30/2004] People in the Middle East are generally outraged. For instance, Abdel-Bari Atwan, editor of the influential Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, says in response, “The liberators are worse than the dictators.” He adds, “This is the straw that broke the camel’s back for America.” [Reuters, 4/30/2004] The scandal also causes outrage in Iraq, and polls show it turns most of the population against the US-led occupation (see April-May 2004). For many in Iraq, the iconic photo of a detainee standing on a box and threatened with electrocution becomes derisively known as “The Statue of Liberty.” [Newsweek, 7/19/2004]
Newsweek reveals the existence of the January 9, 2002 draft memo written by Justice Department lawyers John Yoo and Robert Delahunty (see January 9, 2002). [Newsweek, 5/21/2004]
Fahrenheit 9/11 movie poster.
[Source: Lions Gate Films]Fahrenheit 9/11, a film by well-known documentarian and author Michael Moore, is released in the US. Amongst other things, this film reveals connections between the Bush family and prominent Saudis including the bin Laden family. [New York Times, 5/6/2004; New York Times, 5/17/2004; Toronto Star, 6/13/2004] It reviews evidence the White House helped members of Osama bin Laden’s family and other Saudis fly out of the US in the days soon after 9/11. [New York Times, 5/17/2004; Toronto Star, 6/13/2004; New York Times, 6/18/2004; Los Angeles Times, 6/23/2004; Newsweek, 6/30/2004] It introduces to the mainstream damning footage of President Bush continuing with a photo-op for seven minutes (see (9:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001) after being told of the second plane hitting the WTC on 9/11. [New York Times, 6/18/2004; Washington Post, 6/19/2004; Newsweek, 6/20/2004; Los Angeles Times, 6/23/2004] Disney refused to let its Miramax division distribute the movie in the United States, supposedly because the film was thought too partisan. [New York Times, 5/6/2004; Guardian, 6/2/2004; Los Angeles Times, 6/11/2004; Agence France-Presse, 6/23/2004] The film won the top award at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival—the first documentary to do so in nearly 50 years. [BBC, 5/24/2004; Guardian, 5/24/2004; Agence France-Presse, 6/23/2004] It is generally very well received, with most US newspapers rating it favorably. [Agence France-Presse, 6/23/2004; Editor & Publisher, 6/27/2004] The film is an instant hit and is seen by tens of millions. [Associated Press, 6/27/2004; BBC, 6/28/2004; Associated Press, 6/28/2004; CBS News, 6/28/2004] There are some criticisms that it distorts certain facts, such as exaggerating the possible significance of Bush and bin Laden family connections, and gripes about a $1.4 billion number representing the money flowing from Saudi companies to the Bush family. However, the New York Times claims that the public record corroborates the film’s main assertions. [New York Times, 5/17/2004; New York Times, 6/18/2004; Newsweek, 6/30/2004] Shortly before the film’s release, the conservative organization Citizens United tried to block the film’s distribution (see June 27, 2004). The effort failed (see August 6, 2004).
Shortly before the 9/11 Commission is due to release its final report (see July 22, 2004), Commission Chairman Thomas Kean says, “We believe.… that there were a lot more active contacts, frankly, [between al-Qaeda and] Iran and with Pakistan than there were with Iraq.” [Time, 7/16/2004] This is based on a review of NSA material performed by one commission staffer (see January-June 2004) and a day trip to NSA headquarters by a group of staffers to examine material there (see Between July 1 and July 17, 2004). [Shenon, 2008, pp. 155-7, 370-373] The US media immediately runs prominent stories on the Commission’s evidence regarding Iran and nearly completely ignores evidence regarding Pakistan. The Commission’s final report mentions that around ten of the hijackers passed through Iran in late 2000 and early 2001. At least some Iranian officials turned a blind eye to the passage of al-Qaeda agents, but there was no evidence that the Iranian government had any foreknowledge or involvement in the 9/11 plot (see Mid-July 2004). [Time, 7/16/2004; Reuters, 7/18/2004] In the wake of these findings, President Bush states of Iran, “As to direct connections with September 11, we’re digging into the facts to determine if there was one.” This puts Bush at odds with his own CIA, which has seen no Iran-9/11 ties. [Los Angeles Times, 7/20/2004] Bush has long considered Iran part of his “axis of evil,” and there has been talk of the US attacking or overthrowing the Iranian government. [Reuters, 7/18/2004] Provocative articles appear, such as one in the Daily Telegraph titled, “Now America Accuses Iran of Complicity in World Trade Center Attack.” [Daily Telegraph, 7/18/2004] Yet, while this information on Iran makes front page news in most major newspapers, evidence of a much stronger connection between Pakistan and 9/11 is nearly completely ignored. For instance, only UPI reports on a document suggesting high-level Pakistani involvement in the 9/11 attacks that is revealed this same week. [United Press International, 7/22/2004] Furthermore, the 9/11 Commission’s final report will contain almost nothing on Pakistan’s ties to al-Qaeda, despite evidence given to the Commission that, according to one commissioner speaking to the Los Angeles Times, showed that Pakistan was “up to their eyeballs” in intrigue with al-Qaeda. [Los Angeles Times, 7/16/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004]
A recently conducted Zogby poll shows that “half (49.3 percent) of New York City residents and 41 percent of New York citizens overall say that some [US] leaders ‘knew in advance that attacks were planned on or around September 11, 2001, and that they consciously failed to act.’” Further, despite the recent completion of the 9/11 Commission investigation, 66 percent of New York City residents and 56 percent of New Yorkers want to see another full investigation of the “still unanswered questions” regarding 9/11. [Zogby, 8/30/2004] The poll is commissioned by the activist group 911Truth.org and is the first US poll to ask such a question. The Washington Post is the only major US newspaper to mention the poll results, and only mentions them as an aside in a longer article. No New York newspapers mention the results. [Washington Post, 9/1/2004]
Leo Strauss. [Source: Publicity photo]The BBC airs a three-part documentary entitled “The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear.” It is directed by Adam Curtis, who the Guardian calls “perhaps the most acclaimed maker of serious television programs in Britain.” The documentary argues that much of what we have been told about the threat of international terrorism “is a fantasy that has been exaggerated and distorted by politicians. It is a dark illusion that has spread unquestioned through governments around the world, the security services, and the international media.” The documentary begins by focusing on Sayyid Qutb in Egypt and Leo Strauss in the US. Both developed theories in the 1950’s and 1960’s that liberalism and individualism was weakening the moral certainties of their societies. Qutb has a strong influence on Islamic Jihad leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, and then through him, Osama bin Laden. Strauss meanwhile has a strong effect on neoconservatives such as Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and Paul Wolfowitz, who all eventually gain prominent positions in George W. Bush’s administration. The documentary follows the rise of Islamic radicals and compares and contrasts this with the rise of the neoconservatives. Curtis argues that both groups have greatly benefited from 9/11, because both have been able to use fear of terrorism to gain widespread popular support. Curtis claims that al-Qaeda is not the highly centralized, widespread, and powerful organization that it is frequently depicted to be. Rather, it is more of a concept and loose alliance of groups with coinciding interests. He says, “Almost no one questions this myth about al-Qaeda because so many people have got an interest in keeping it alive.” The documentary gains favorable reviews in newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, and the Guardian. [Christian Science Monitor, 10/18/2004; BBC 2, 10/20/2004; BBC 2, 10/27/2004; BBC 2, 11/3/2004; BBC 2, 11/3/2004; Los Angeles Times, 1/11/2005]
The Wall Street Journal reports that a government investigation into activities at Riggs Bank may be hampered because of its “longstanding relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency” (see July 2003). [Wall Street Journal, 12/31/2004] Yet this story attracts almost no mention or follow up in the US media. For instance, the Washington Post, which covers Riggs Bank more than other newspapers because the bank is based in Washington, mentions the CIA connection only in one paragraph near the end of article in the newspaper’s business section two months after the Wall Street Journal article: “Another potential cloud for any acquirer is the bank’s long-standing relationship with the CIA. Sources familiar with the bank’s operations and sources in the intelligence community say that since the 1960s Riggs at least held funds related to CIA operations or agents, and several officers of Riggs had high-level security clearances. However, law enforcement authorities say Riggs’s CIA connections had nothing to do with the bank’s violations of anti-money-laundering laws. And the subject did not arise in the bank’s negotiations with the US attorney for the District over Riggs’s guilty plea, the sources said.” [Washington Post, 2/9/2005] Only Slate appears interested, publishing two stories highlighting the Riggs-CIA connection. In one, it is noted that the connection “invites speculation that the Justice Department might abort the prosecutions lest courtroom brawls reveal more about Riggs and the CIA than the government wants made public.” [Slate, 1/10/2005] The other Slate article will lament, “Where is the rest of the press on the Riggs-CIA connection? Spooks, sheiks, dictators, millions in laundered money, and a $766 million merger in the balance! What does it take to entice an assignment editor these days, a tsunami or something?” [Slate, 1/7/2005]
A front page article in the New York Times reveals the existence of a highly classified military intelligence unit called Able Danger, which had identified Mohamed Atta and three other 9/11 hijackers as likely members of an al-Qaeda cell operating in the United States more than a year before the attacks. [New York Times, 8/9/2005] Members of the unit had recommended that the FBI be called in to take out the cell, but Pentagon lawyers had blocked their request (see September 2000). The incident was first described in a June 2005 speech on the House floor by Representative Curt Weldon (R-PA), and in an interview with Weldon around the same time in the Norristown Times Herald, neither of which had garnered much attention. [Norristown Times Herald, 6/19/2005; US Congress. House, 6/27/2005] Weldon, who is vice chairman of both the House Armed Services Committee and the House Homeland Security Committee, claims he only recognized the significance of the incident after contacting members of the Able Danger unit during research for a book about terrorism. [New York Times, 8/10/2005]
Christiane Amanpour narrated The Journalist and the Jihadi. [Source: CNN]HBO produces a documentary film entitled The Journalist and the Jihadi about Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and one of the extremists involved in his kidnap and murder, Saeed Sheikh. The film, directed and produced by Ahmed Jamal and Ramesh Sharma, and narrated by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, portrays the two men as “a passionate journalist and a shrewd terrorist” representing the best and worst of their respective cultures. The film climaxes with Pearl’s kidnap and murder, while he was investigating the 9/11 money trail in Pakistan. It suggests that, had it not been for complicity between al-Qaeda and certain factions inside Pakistan’s ISI, Pearl may have survived. [Salon, 4/28/2006; New York Times, 10/10/2006]
A poll released by Zogby International shows widespread skepticism towards the official 9/11 story. The nationwide telephone survey of 1,200 adults finds that 42 percent of respondents agreed that “the US government and its 9/11 Commission concealed or refused to investigate critical evidence that contradicts their official explanation of the September 11th attacks,” and that “there has been a cover-up.” Ten percent of respondents said they were unsure, while less than half said the government and 9/11 Commission were not covering up. Forty-five percent of respondents felt the 9/11 attacks should be reinvestigated. Forty-four percent believed that President Bush exploited the attacks to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The survey also found that 43 percent of respondents were unaware of the collapse of WTC 7 on 9/11. [Zogby International, 5/24/2006; New York Times, 6/5/2006; Newsday, 9/1/2006] When Lee Hamilton, the former co-chair of the 9/11 Commission, is later questioned about this poll, he will say the figure of 42 percent of Americans believing there has been a cover up is “dispiriting, it’s an unusually high number” (see August 21, 2006). [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 8/21/2006] A previous Zogby poll found 49 percent of New York City residents agreed that some leaders “knew in advance” of the 9/11 attacks and “consciously failed to act” (see August 30, 2004).
A poll by Ohio University and Scripps Howard News Service finds that a significant minority of Americans believe there was US government complicity in the 9/11 attacks. Thirty-six percent of the 1,010 respondents say they believe that US government officials “either assisted in the 9/11 attacks or took no action to stop the attacks because they wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East.” Sixteen percent believe that secretly planted explosives brought down the Twin Towers, and 12 percent believe a military cruise missile, rather than a hijacked aircraft, hit the Pentagon. [Scripps Howard News Service, 8/3/2006; San Francisco Chronicle, 9/3/2006] An earlier poll had found that half of New York City residents believed government officials knew in advance of the attacks and consciously failed to act (see August 30, 2004).
Grand Illusion, by Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins. [Source: HarperCollins]A book is released that questions the conventional heroic image of then New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani on 9/11. Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11 is by investigative reporters Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins. Barrett is a senior writer at the Village Voice, and Collins is a senior producer at CBSNews.com. [Los Angeles Times, 8/22/2006] For their book, they had exclusive access to never before seen 9/11 Commission interviews, and managed to get frank statements from some central figures, though Giuliani himself refused to be interviewed. [Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 363; Newsday, 8/23/2006] The New York Daily News calls the book an “exhaustively researched and unsentimental peek behind the mythology [that] strongly suggests that Giuliani and his top deputies committed many errors that did grave, even fatal, harm to citizens, emergency responders and recovery teams before, on and after that terrible day.” [New York Daily News, 8/22/2006] The book criticizes Giuliani’s claim that, after becoming mayor in 1994, he made preparing New York’s response to a future terrorist attack a priority. According to Barrett and Collins’ research, in the aftermath of the 1993 WTC bombing, he in fact failed to understand the importance of preparing the city for another attack. They write, “The facts—depressing but unavoidable—were that Giuliani had allowed the city to meet the disaster of September 11 unprepared in a myriad of ways.” [Los Angeles Times, 8/22/2006; Newsday, 8/23/2006] The book criticizes Giuliani’s decision to locate New York’s emergency command center on the 23rd floor of World Trade Center Building 7—across the street from an obvious terrorist target—despite the objections of senior fire and police officials. [New York Daily News, 8/22/2006; Newsweek, 9/11/2006; New York Times, 11/12/2006] The inadequacy of fire department radios on 9/11 is examined in detail. These same radios had failed when used at the 1993 WTC bombing. New radios were only provided in March 2001, but these failed in their first week of use and were withdrawn. Also, the fact that the police and fire departments were equipped with incompatible radios meant that many firefighters did not get the mayday call to evacuate the North Tower before it collapsed on 9/11. [Los Angeles Times, 8/22/2006; Newsweek, 9/11/2006; Democracy Now!, 1/3/2007] The book also criticizes the fact that, after 9/11, construction workers and firefighters were permitted to work at Ground Zero without protective respiratory gear. Subsequently, thousands of them became afflicted with upper respiratory illnesses. [New York Daily News, 8/22/2006] Grand Illusion receives much praise, though the New York Times criticizes its “relentlessly hostile tone,” which, it claims, “undermines the authors’ case.” [New York Times, 11/12/2006]
Original cover to Woodward’s ‘State of Denial.’ [Source: Barnes and Noble]Journalist Bob Woodward’s new book State of Denial is released. While the book focuses mainly on politics regarding the Iraq war, it also describes an urgent warning that then-CIA Director George Tenet gave to Condoleezza Rice, National Security Adviser at the time, and other White House officials on July 10, 2001 (see July 10, 2001). [New York Times, 9/29/2006; New York Daily News, 9/29/2006; Washington Post, 10/1/2006] This warning had been mentioned in passing in a 2002 Time magazine article, but it had escaped widespread attention until Woodward’s book. [Time, 8/4/2002] The meeting is particularly controversial because neither the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry nor the 9/11 Commission mentioned in it in their final reports. The 9/11 Commission had learned about it from Tenet in early 2004 (see January 28, 2004). Rice and a number of 9/11 Commissioners deny knowing about the July meeting for several days, until documentation surfaces in the media detailing the meeting and Tenet’s testimony to the commission (see October 1-2, 2006 and September 30-October 3, 2006). Details about the July meeting and surrounding controversies are reported on by the mainstream media for about a week, but there are no articles on it in any prominent newspaper after October 3, 2006. On October 5, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) formally asks Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, for hearings about the revelations in Woodward’s book, including controversies surrounding the July meeting. Kerry says in a letter to Lugar, “It is necessary to understand the mistakes of the past in order to ensure they are not repeated, and having testimony from the parties under oath will help to sharpen recollections and clarify the exact nature of this important meeting.” However, no hearings take place. [Kerry, 10/5/2006]
Rosie O’Donnell. [Source: ABC]TV personality Rosie O’Donnell is heavily criticized after she raises questions about the 9/11 attacks and who was responsible for them. On ABC’s popular morning show The View, which she co-hosts, O’Donnell suggests that a recent confession by alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, where he’d admitted responsibility for 9/11 and other terrorist attacks, was false and had been elicited by using torture. [WorldNetDaily, 3/15/2007; Fox News, 3/16/2007] In a March 15 posting on her Internet blog, she raises questions about World Trade Center Building 7, which collapsed late in the afternoon of 9/11, such as, “The fires in WTC 7 were not evenly distributed, so a perfect collapse was impossible,” and, “Molten steel and partially evaporated steel members were found in the debris.” She lists various official records that were supposedly destroyed when WTC 7 collapsed, including records of investigations of Enron and other companies. [WorldNetDaily, 3/19/2007] Two weeks later, she says on The View, “I do believe… it is impossible for a building to fall the way it fell without explosives being involved, World Trade Center 7.” Asked who she thinks was responsible, she replies, “I have no idea.” [MSNBC, 4/5/2007] O’Donnell is subsequently fiercely attacked by some commentators. Fox News host Bill O’Reilly accuses her of “spitting out the worst propaganda that is fed to [her] by far-left American haters on the net.” [Fox News, 3/30/2007] MSNBC’s conservative host Joe Scarborough calls for her to be fired. Jonah Goldberg writes in the Los Angeles Times that O’Donnell “seems to think that [The View] is the perfect venue to audition as grand marshal for the next tinfoil hat parade.” [Los Angeles Times, 4/3/2007; Chicago Sun-Times, 4/10/2007] At the end of April, O’Donnell announces she is leaving The View, reportedly because she has been unable to come up with a contractual agreement with ABC. [ABC News, 4/25/2007] She plans to address the collapse of WTC 7 in a special segment of the show before departing. [New York Times, 5/16/2007] She also reportedly books the producers of the popular 9/11 conspiracy documentary Loose Change (see April 2005-January 2006) to appear on The View. [New York Post, 5/27/2007] But neither of these plans transpires, and she last appears on the show late in May. [Associated Press, 5/25/2007] Brian Frons, the president of ABC’s daytime television group, says in a statement, “We had hoped that Rosie would be with us until the end of her contract three weeks from now, but Rosie has informed us that she would like an early leave.” [Fox News, 5/25/2007; New York Times, 5/26/2007] In her defense, the Toronto Star writes that O’Donnell “had to go,” because she “messed up the pretty picture that the corporate media present.” [Toronto Star, 5/1/2007]
A Newsweek poll reveals that 41% of Americans believe that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was involved with the planning, financing, or commissioning of the 9/11 attacks. This is a slight increase from a September 2004 poll which showed that 36% believed in the Bush administration’s claims of Iraq’s involvement. These claims formed a cornerstone of the administration’s push to garner public support for the war, which began in the immediate wake of the events of 9/11 (see September 15, 2001-April 6, 2002). Additionally, 20% of respondents believe that the majority of the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqi (when in fact none of them were). The same percent believe that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction at the time of the invasion. [Editor & Publisher, 6/25/2007]
Conservative columnist Stu Bykofsky writes an editorial in the Philadelphia Daily News entitled, “To Save America, We Need Another 9/11.” In it, he writes: “One month from the [next 9/11] anniversary, I’m thinking another 9/11 would help America. What kind of a sick bastard would write such a thing? A bastard so sick of how splintered we are politically—thanks mainly to our ineptitude in Iraq—that we have forgotten who the enemy is.” He identifies the enemy as “global terrorists who use Islam to justify their hideous sins.” He laments how impatient and fickle many Americans are, and longs for the “community of outrage and national resolve” in the US shortly after 9/11. “America’s fabric is pulling apart like a cheap sweater. What would sew us back together? Another 9/11 attack.… Is there any doubt they are planning to hit us again? If it is to be, then let it be. It will take another attack on the homeland to quell the chattering of chipmunks and to restore America’s righteous rage and singular purpose to prevail.” [Philadelphia Daily News, 8/9/2007] Bykofsky appears on Fox News the next day to discuss his editorial. Host John Gibson is not outraged and in fact agrees with Bykofsky’s central idea. Gibson says, “I think it’s going to take a lot of dead people to wake America up.” [Fox News, 8/10/2007]
Robert Fisk, a reporter for the Independent, writes an article entitled “Even I Question the ‘Truth’ about 9/11.” In it, he complains that he is often hounded by “ravers” who put forward “conspiracy theories” about the 9/11 attacks. He says that “the Bush administration has screwed up everything—militarily, politically, diplomatically—it has tried to do in the Middle East; so how on earth could it successfully bring off [the 9/11 attacks]?” He adds that while he still holds that view, “I am increasingly troubled at the inconsistencies in the official narrative of 9/11.” Fisk points out a number of issues that bother him, including the quick collapse of the World Trade Center towers and the curious collapse of World Trade Center Building 7. He also asks, “[W]hat about the weird letter allegedly written by Mohamed Atta… whose ‘Islamic’ advice to his gruesome comrades—released by the CIA—mystified every Muslim friend I know in the Middle East?” (See September 28, 2001.) He concludes: “I am not a conspiracy theorist. Spare me the ravers. Spare me the plots. But like everyone else, I would like to know the full story of 9/11, not least because it was the trigger for the whole lunatic, meretricious ‘War on Terror’ which has led us to disaster in Iraq and Afghanistan and in much of the Middle East.” [Independent, 8/25/2007] Fisk has been a reporter for the Independent for over 30 years, and in 2005 the New York Times called him “probably the most famous foreign correspondent in Britain.” [New York Times, 11/19/2005] He was the first Western journalist to interview Osama bin Laden, in 1993 (see December 6, 1993).
A New York Post graphic illustrates the numbers of Americans that believe in several possible high-level conspiracies. [Source: New York Post]According to a poll by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University, 62 percent of Americans believe it is possible that some people in the US government had specific advance warnings of the 9/11 attacks, but chose to ignore them. Thirty-two percent of respondents think this is “very likely,” and only 30 percent say it is unlikely. The national survey of 811 adults also inquires about respondents’ opinions on other alleged high-level conspiracies. It finds 42 percent think it likely that some people in the government knew in advance about the plot to assassinate President John F. Kennedy in 1963, 37 percent think it possible that the government is hiding the truth about UFOs, and 81 percent think that oil companies conspire to keep the price of gasoline high. [Scripps Howard News Service, 11/23/2007; Scripps Howard News Service, 11/23/2007; WorldNetDaily, 11/24/2007] The New York Post reports the survey in a story titled, “‘Blame US for 9/11’ Idiots in Majority,” which refers to “the popularity of crackpot conspiracy theories.” [New York Post, 11/24/2007] Ironically, in May 2002 the same newspaper had a prominent front-page story titled, “Bush Knew: Prez Was Warned of Possible Hijackings before Terror Attacks” (see May 15, 2002). [MSNBC, 11/26/2007] A previous Scripps Howard/Ohio University survey in July 2006 found that 36 percent of Americans thought US government officials assisted in the 9/11 attacks or deliberately took no action to stop them (see July 6-24, 2006). [Scripps Howard News Service, 8/3/2006]
The White House protests about a sub-heading in a New York Times story on the destruction of CIA videotapes showing detainee interrogations, and the New York Times admits the subheading was misleading and prints a correction. The subheading is “White House role was wider than it said” (in discussions about what to do with the tapes), but White House spokesperson Dana Perino complains. She issues a statement saying that the subheading is “pernicious and troubling,” as it indicates a conscious effort to mislead by the White House, which has not actually yet officially described its role in the tapes’ destruction except to say that President Bush thinks he was not informed. Even though it corrects the subheading, the paper notes that the White House “had not challenged the content of our story.” [New York Times, 12/19/2007; New York Times, 12/20/2007; Washington Post, 12/20/2007]
Roy Greenslade, a media commentator with The Guardian, wonders why the US media is ignoring revelations by FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, who says that there are links between US officials and the A. Q. Khan nuclear smuggling ring (see January 6, 2008 and After). Greenslade also quotes former Pentagon whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg: “For the second time in two weeks, the entire US press has let itself be scooped by Rupert Murdoch’s London Sunday Times on a dynamite story of criminal activities by corrupt US officials promoting nuclear proliferation. But there is a worse journalistic sin than being scooped, and that is participating in a cover-up of information that demands urgent attention from the public, the US Congress and the courts.” Greenslade calls it a “very hot story” and “world exclusive,” and says it “should surely have been taken up by mainstream newspapers in the United States.” [Guardian, 1/22/2008] One of the few US media outlets that picks up the story initially is Fox News, which reports on one of the claims made in the Sunday Times—that the FBI has denied it has a file on the nuclear smuggling case in response to a Freedom of Information Act, whereas Edmonds says it does have the file, as does a document signed by an FBI official that has been obtained by the Sunday Times (see January 20, 2008). [Fox News, 1/20/2008] The Dallas Morning News will also reprint a section of an article about Edmonds in February. The article was originally written for the American Conservative Magazine by former CIA officer Philip Giraldi. [Dallas Morning News, 2/17/2008]
The Washington Post publishes a front page story promoting the myth that al-Qaeda has never been effectively penetrated by intelligence agencies. The article by Craig Whitlock is titled After a Decade at War With West, Al-Qaeda Still Impervious to Spies. It states that “al-Qaeda’s core organization in Pakistan and Afghanistan has so far proved impervious to damaging leaks.” It quotes Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, who says that from 1992 until November 2004 (when he left the CIA), “[the CIA] worked side by side with the Egyptians, the Jordanians—the very best Arab intelligence services—and they didn’t recruit a single person who could report on al-Qaeda.” The article seems to be a reaction to the case of Abdelkader Belliraj, which was publicly exposed several weeks earlier, when Belliraj was arrested in Morocco (see February 18, 2008 and February 29, 2008). The article notes that Belliraj was a Belgian government informant and important Islamist militant leader who had al-Qaeda links for years and met with al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan (see 2001). Belliraj’s case seemingly undercuts the thrust of the article, but the rest of the article mostly quotes a series of anonymous intelligence officials who say penetrating al-Qaeda would be next to impossible. [Washington Post, 3/20/2008] Whitlock’s article ignores numerous reports that al-Qaeda has repeatedly been penetrated by the CIA and other intelligence agencies. For instance:
In 2002, US News and World Report reported, “Once thought nearly impossible to penetrate, al-Qaeda is proving no tougher a target than the KGB or the Mafia—closed societies that took the US government years to get inside.” An unnamed US intelligence official said: “We’re getting names, the different camps they trained at, the hierarchy, the infighting. It’s very promising” (see September 22, 2002).
In 2004, author Ronald Kessler wrote, “Often, the CIA used operatives from Arab intelligence services like those of Jordan, Syria, Egypt, and other countries to infiltrate bin Laden’s organization.” He quoted a longtime CIA officer who said, “Egyptians, Jordanians, [and] Palestinians penetrated the bin Laden organization for us. It’s B.S. that we didn’t” (see Before September 11, 2001).
In 2006, journalist Ron Suskind reported that by late 2002, the CIA had developed “a source from within Pakistan who was tied tightly into al-Qaeda management.” He also noted that other informants had been recruited since 9/11, and commented, “It has been generally acknowledged that the United States does not have any significant human sources… inside al-Qaeda. That is not true” (see Late 2002).
In a 2007 book, former CIA Director George Tenet claimed that the CIA had over 100 assets in Afghanistan by 9/11 (see Before September 11, 2001). He also claimed that “a group of assets from a Middle Eastern service” sharing information with the CIA penetrated al-Qaeda, and some of them penetrated al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan before 9/11 (see Early September 2001).
In February 2008, the New York Times reported that French intelligence had an informant that penetrated al-Qaeda’s safe haven in Pakistan’s tribal region (see Late January 2008).
ABC hires John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer who gave the network an exclusive interview about waterboarding in late 2007 (see December 10, 2007), as a paid consultant. ABC journalist Brian Ross will say that network officials were concerned about the appearance of a tie between the interview and the job. For that reason, “I felt that we should sort of wait,” he will say. “I didn’t want anyone to think that he was promised something for the interview. He was not.” Kiriakou remains with ABC for eight months, before leaving for the Council on Foreign Relations. Shortly after his departure, the press learns that one of the key claims he made in the interview was false (see April 28, 2009). [New York Times, 4/28/2009]
In the face of pressure after the death of anthrax attacks suspect Bruce Ivins, ABC News responds to criticism of its false stories in October 2001 linking the anthrax attacks to Iraq (see October 26-November 1, 2001). ABC News, particularly its reporter Brian Ross, repeatedly pushed a story claiming that initial analysis of the anthrax used in the attacks showed that it contained bentonite, and that this was a signature of anthrax used by the Iraqi government. In fact, no tests ever showed any signs of bentonite in the anthrax, and bentonite was not a signature of Iraqi anthrax in any case (see October 26-November 1, 2001). Ross responds to questions about his reporting, but to the obscure media outlet TVNewser instead of on ABC News itself. He says: “In the end, you’re only as good as your sources. My sources were good, we just got information that became outdated before they could update. My point of view is viewers of World News knew early that week we had been wrong to say bentonite.” In 2001, Ross claimed his story was backed by four independent sources. Now, he reveals, “Our sources were current and former government scientists who were all involved in analyzing the substance in the letter.” But he says that anthrax suspect Ivins was not one of those sources: “No he was not. If it was Ivins, I would report that in a second.” He continues to maintain that ABC News was not lied to and initial tests had simply given a mistaken result, confusing bentonite for silica. [TVNewser, 8/6/2008]
On August 8, 2008, the Washington Post prints an FBI leak that on September 17, 2001, anthrax attacks suspect Bruce Ivins took administrative leave from his job at USAMRIID (the US Army’s top biological laboratory) in the morning and did not return to a work appointment until about 4 or 5 p.m. later that day. USAMRIID, in Frederick, Maryland, is about three hours away from the Princeton, New Jersey, mailbox where the first batch of anthrax letters are mailed that day. This would give him just enough time to drive to Princeton and then quickly return. The Post says that “government sources” believe “the gap recorded on his time sheet [offers] investigators a key clue into how he could have pulled off” the anthrax attacks. [Washington Post, 8/8/2008]
Debunked - However, Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald soon points out, “But almost immediately after the FBI leaked this theory as to when and how Ivins traveled to New Jersey undetected, it was pointed out in several online venues… that this timeline made no sense whatsoever—that, indeed, the FBI’s own theories were self-contradictory.” In other recently released documents, the FBI defines the “window of opportunity” for mailing that batch of letters as beginning on September 17 at 5 p.m. and ending sometime on September 18, because the last mail pick up is at 5 p.m. and the letters in question have a September 18 postmark. Ivins could not have traveled by day to Princeton and posted the letters after 5 p.m. if he was already back in his Maryland office by 5 p.m. [Salon, 8/18/2008]
FBI Changes Claim - On August 14, 2008, the FBI completely changes its claim. The Post reports: “[G]overnment sources offered more detail about Ivins’s movements on a critical day in the case: when letters were dropped into the postal box on Princeton’s Nassau Street… Investigators now believe that Ivins waited until evening to make the drive to Princeton on Sept. 17, 2001. He showed up at work that day and stayed briefly, then took several hours of administrative leave from the lab, according to partial work logs. Based on information from receipts and interviews, authorities say Ivins filled up his car’s gas tank, attended a meeting outside of the office in the late afternoon, and returned to the lab for a few minutes that evening before moving off the radar screen and presumably driving overnight to Princeton. The letters were postmarked Sept. 18.” [Washington Post, 8/14/2008]
Criticism of FBI - Greenwald comments several days later, “That the FBI is still, to this day, radically changing its story on such a vital issue—namely, how and when Bruce Ivins traveled to New Jersey, twice, without detection and mailed the anthrax letters—is a testament to how precarious the FBI’s case is.… [T]heir own theory as to how and when he sent the letters was squarely negated by their own claims, and so they had to re-leak their theory to the Post once that glaring deficiency, which they apparently overlooked, was pointed out on-line. This isn’t some side issue or small, obscure detail. Being able to link an accused to the scene of the crime is the centerpiece of any case.”
Criticism of Washington Post - Greenwald is also critical of the Post, noting that one Post journalist, Carrie Johnson, wrote or co-wrote the two articles, and yet failed to note the second article presented “a brand new theory that contradicted the one she mindlessly passed on from the FBI the week before.… To the contrary, in touting the FBI’s brand new theory, Johnson wrote that ‘government sources offered more detail about Ivins’s movements on a critical day in the case’—as though the FBI’s abandonment of its prior claim in favor of a new one comprised ‘more detail.’ The FBI didn’t offer ‘more detail’; it offered completely ‘new detail’ because the last ‘detail’ they leaked to Johnson was almost instantaneously disproven…” [Salon, 8/18/2008]
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof apologizes to Steven Hatfill, the person he suggested could be responsible for the anthrax attacks in a series of 2002 columns (see May 24-August 13, 2002): “I owe an apology to Dr. Hatfill. In retrospect, I was right to prod the FBI and to urge tighter scrutiny of Fort Detrick, but the job of the news media is supposed to be to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. Instead, I managed to afflict the afflicted.” He points out that Hatfill sued him and the Times, but the suit was eventually dismissed. “[Y]et even if I don’t have a legal obligation, I do feel a moral one to express regret for any added distress from my columns.” Kristof also comments on the FBI’s recent allegation that Bruce Ivins was responsible for the anthrax attacks: “Some of [Ivins’s] friends and family are convinced of his innocence and believe the FBI hounded him to death. And the evidence against him, while interesting, is circumstantial. Shouldn’t a presumption of innocence continue when a person is dead and can no longer defend himself?” [New York Times, 8/27/2008]
Following the release of a set of Bush administration memos about torture (see April 16, 2009) and the discovery that militant training camp facilitator Abu Zubaida was waterboarded 83 times in one month (see April 18, 2009), some commentators recall comments made by former CIA officer John Kiriakou.
Kiriakou's Media Blitz - In late 2007, shortly after the CIA admitted destroying videos of Zubaida (see November 2005 and December 6, 2007), Kiriakou toured media outlets, saying that Zubaida had only been waterboarded once (see December 10, 2007 and December 11, 2007). New York Times reporter Brian Stelter writes the most comprehensive treatment of Kiriakou’s “media blitz,” in an article entitled “How ‘07 ABC Interview Tilted a Torture Debate.” He points out that Kiriakou’s claim of only one waterboarding was “repeated by dozens of broadcasts, blogs, and newspapers” and “quickly ricocheted around the media.” This despite the fact that Kiriakou was not present at the black site where Zubaida was interrogated, and only learned of his treatment from reading accounts from the field. This injected the claim of one waterboarding into the public debate without the CIA having to make it itself. When asked about the false claim, CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano replies: “This agency did not publicly disclose the frequency with which the waterboard was used, noting only that it was employed with three detainees. If reporters got that wrong, they weren’t misled from here.”
Waterboarding Was Necessary - In addition, Kiriakou said that at the time it did produce results and he had thought it was necessary then, statements that were repeated and amplified around the media. The net effect of his interjection in the debate was to make the torture seem much less harsh than it really was, diverting criticism away from the CIA. [New York Times, 4/28/2009]
CIA Media Plant? - Numerous other commentators will make similar points. For example, in a piece entitled “John Kiriakou: CIA Media Plant?” Foreign Policy magazine commentator Annie Lowery says: “It all seems a bit strange to me, and leads to one obvious possibility: John Kiriakou—telegenic and well-spoken John Kiriakou, who never went to jail for blasting state secrets on television—was told the story to tell and released onto an unsuspecting public. It’s an impression the CIA will have difficulty dulling now.” [Foreign Policy, 4/28/2009]
Kiriakou Admits He Was Wrong - In 2010, Kiriakou will publish a book and in it he will mention in passing that his earlier claims were wrong. He did not take part in Zubaida’s interrogation and he was wrong about Zubaida being only waterboarded one time, and about him freely confessing afterwards. He will claim that he was a dupe used by the CIA to promote disinformation, writing, “In retrospect, it was a valuable lesson in how the CIA uses the fine arts of deception even among its own.” [Foreign Policy, 1/26/2010]
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