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White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says he cannot confirm the extent of the alleged vandalism carried out by Clinton staffers in the last days of the Clinton administration (see January 23, 2001). President Bush intends to change the tone in Washington to a positive one, Fleischer says, and as a result, the White House will not comment on the charges of rampant vandalism and theft. “Whether things were done that were perhaps less gracious than should have been, it is not going to be what President Bush focuses on, nor will it be what his staff focuses on,” he says. “Whatever may have been done, we are going to just put our heads down and look ahead.” [NewsMax, 1/26/2001; Guardian, 1/26/2001]
Hints and Innuendos - However, the White House is “cataloguing” the damage allegedly done by Clinton staffers, Fleischer says. When asked what is being catalogued, Fleischer responds: “I choose not to. I choose not to describe what acts were done that we found upon arrival because I think that’s part of changing the tone in Washington.” Sensing more to the story, reporters hone in, asking why make a catalogue “if you’re going to give them a pass,” what the dollar estimate of damage might be, and other questions. When a reporter says, “You’ve got to blame somebody,” Fleischer cuts him off: “President Bush is not going to come to Washington for the point of blaming somebody in this town. And it’s a different way of governing, it’s a different way of leading.” When asked what he knows of the supposed apology offered to Vice President Cheney’s wife by former Vice President Gore’s wife (see January 24, 2001), Fleischer says, “I know that a phone call was made to the vice president’s office, but I really—I don’t recall who made it.” When asked where the majority of the alleged damage was, Fleischer says, “You know, I really stopped paying attention to all the different places.” Finally, when asked whether some of the damage could actually be the result of renovations and normal repairs, Fleischer says, “I don’t think that the people who were professionals, who make their business to go in and prepare a White House for new arrivals, would cut wires.” Fleischer ends the briefing, having given reporters enough hints and implications of severe, widespread vandalism to whet their appetites. [Salon, 5/23/2001]
Story Fed by Fleischer, White House Officials - The allegations of vandalism and theft will prove to be almost entirely false (see February 14, 2001 and May 18, 2001). Salon will later report that while Fleischer and other White House officials publicly remain above the fray, in private they are feeding the controversy by giving detailed off-the-record interviews to selected reporters, pundits, and talk show hosts. One White House reporter will later admit that the story was pushed by at least two “unnamed Bush aides.” Salon correspondents Kerry Lauerman and Alicia Montgomery add: “Fleischer and the off-the-record Bush staffers, meanwhile, got a lot of help from a press corps eager for early scoops from a new administration. For some reporters and pundits, the White House vandalism story was just too good to pass up.” [Salon, 5/23/2001] A Washington Post report later states: “A high-level Republican who saw some of the damage said the White House was leery about putting information out about this because chief of staff Andrew Card Jr. did not want to appear to be ratting on the Clinton administration. ‘People wanted to talk about this, and Andy said no,’ an official said.” [Washington Post, 1/26/2001]
Stories Debunked - It will not be long before the stories are proven almost entirely false (see February 8, 2001, February 14, 2001, and May 18, 2001).
Fed by stories from unnamed White House officials, the media reports that Air Force One was vandalized and looted by Clinton officials during the aircraft’s last trip with Clinton and former Clinton staffers on board. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell tells viewers, “The Air Force will replace Air Force One glasses and four hand towels, apparently pilfered by passengers traveling with the Clintons on their last plane ride home.” Fox’s Brit Hume says: “The raid that was conducted aboard that Air Force plane, the presidential plane, although it’s not called Air Force One because the president was no longer—Mr. Clinton, Mr. Clinton was no longer president—on the last flight to New York… was stripped bare. The plane’s porcelain, china… and silverware, and salt and pepper shakers, blankets and pillow cases, nearly all items bearing the presidential seal, were taken by Clinton staffers who went along for the ride. The Washington Times quoted a military steward as saying that even a supply of toothpaste was stolen from a compartment under a sink.” CNN’s Kate O’Beirne tells viewers: “During Bill Clinton’s final flight, the plane was stripped bare and not by sentimental staffers seeking mementos. Air Force One souvenirs were quickly posted for auction online. Why not make a final buck off the White House? Outrageous, but not surprising.” [Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, 5/21/2001; Salon, 5/23/2001] Weeks later, the story will be debunked by an Andrews Air Force Base spokesman (see February 8, 2001) and by President Bush himself (see February 14, 2001).
The final paragraph of Mike Allen’s Washington Post report on allegations of systematic White House vandalism carried out in the last days of the Clinton administration (see January 26, 2001) states: “Some GOP officials are portraying the damage as a sordid coda to the Clinton years. A Bush campaign official said the White House staff and Secret Service agents welcomed the Bush entourage especially warmly on Saturday. Some of the kitchen staff hugged members of the Bush family, the official said, adding, ‘You could sense an attitude like, “Thank God you’re here.”’” [Washington Post, 1/26/2001]
Skepticism of Allen's Reporting - Months later, skeptical Salon reporters Kerry Lauerman and Alicia Montgomery will observe of Allen’s report, “As if the portrait of Clinton’s staff members loading their pickups with White House valuables wasn’t enough, readers were treated to the heartwarming image of a service staff grateful that their rightful rulers had returned.”
Desired Effect? - Lauerman and Montgomery will report that Allen’s reporting, and the entire “vandal scandal,” apparently had its desired effect: a rise in positive media approaches to the incoming Bush administration paired with a final slap at the outgoing Clintons. Days after the Allen report, conservative media pundit and publisher William Kristol will tell Fox that the “vandal scandal” worked well for Bush and his conservative supporters: “It’s been really great for Bush to have people—and including many Gore voters, I think—just look up and think, ‘You know what? Maybe I didn’t want Bush to be president, but I am glad that Bill Clinton is gone.’” Lauerman and Alexander will write: “It couldn’t have gone better for members of the incoming Bush administration had they choreographed it themselves. And, in fact, they had” (see January 25, 2001). [Salon, 5/23/2001]
Tony Snow. [Source: Symonsez (.com)]Conservative pundit Tony Snow, who was a speechwriter for the first President Bush, alleges that Clinton aides rampaged through the White House and through Air Force One in the last days of the Clinton administration, leaving wholesale wreckage in both sites—giving Washington “one last White Trash Weekend,” he writes. The White House “was a wreck,” he alleges: “They trashed word processors, left obscene messages on voice-mail machines, cut some phone lines and re-routed others, tinkered with computers, scrawled obscenities on walls, soiled rugs and carpets, tipped over desks, vandalized file cabinets, left nasty messages for their successors—and generally went that extra mile to prove Team Clinton, for all its good and decent public servants, included a record number of punks.” Snow also repeats allegations that Air Force One was subjected to systematic theft, writing that after the presidential plane took former President Clinton and some aides to New York following the inauguration (“loaned graciously by President George W. Bush [after] Clinton insisted on the grand transport because he wanted something befitting his personal grandeur”), the aircraft “looked as if it had been stripped by a skilled band of thieves—or perhaps wrecked by a trailer park twister.” Snow alleges that many items, including silverware, porcelain dishes with the presidential seal, pillows, blankets, and even candy and toothpaste, were stolen from Air Force One by Clinton aides and perhaps the Clintons themselves. “It makes one feel grateful that the seats and carpets are bolted down,” he says. “Nothing better expresses the narcissistic tackiness of the Clinton years than the last-day exit, complete with its kangaroo-court justice, graceless self-celebration, opportunistic abuse of the gift-receiving privilege, and wanton desecration of the nation’s most important political shrine, the White House.” Snow’s assertions are contradicted by officials at Andrews Air Force Base, home of the presidential jets, who tell reporters that nothing is missing from Air Force One. Weeks later, President Bush will acknowledge that nothing was taken from Air Force One (see February 8, 2001 and February 14, 2001). [Jewish World Review, 1/26/2001; Kansas City Star, 5/18/2001] Snow also passes along allegations that the Clintons were given hundreds of thousands of dollars of illicit gifts and contributions, and that First Lady Hillary Clinton posted “a weird variation on a bridal registry, establishing password-protected sites in which contributors could pledge to purchase specific items selected in advance by the Clintons’ design teams for their his ‘n’ hers palazzos.” [Jewish World Review, 1/26/2001] As with the Air Force One allegations, the allegations of vandalism and theft, and the gift registry, will prove to be almost entirely false (see May 18, 2001).
The Bush White House alleges that officials and aides from the outgoing Clinton administration vandalized the White House in the last days before Bush officials took over. Conservative news site NewsMax reports that the “slovenly misfits” of the Clinton administration “left the [White House] in a shambles” in the transition between the outgoing Clinton administration and the incoming Bush administration. Clinton aides engaged in “deliberate vandalism,” the report says, and cites a General Services Administration (GSA) official estimating that it may cost up to $250,000 to repair the damage. NewsMax quotes a report by another conservative publication, the American Spectator, which itself quotes “an inspector… called in to assess the vandalism as saying that several executive desks were damaged to the point that they must be replaced, and several more offices must be repainted because of graffiti.” [Guardian, 1/26/2001; NewsMax, 1/26/2001] Conservative Internet gossip writer Matt Drudge reports that “White House offices [were] left ‘trashed’” and so-called “[p]orn bombs [and] lewd messages” were left behind. No explanation of what Drudge meant by the “porn bomb” allegation is ever given. [Chicago Sun-Times, 1/27/2001] The allegations of vandalism and theft will prove to be almost entirely false (see February 8, 2001, February 14, 2001, and May 18, 2001).
Gore's Staffers Charged with Worst of Vandalism - British newspaper The Guardian repeats earlier claims that the worst of the damage was found in offices once occupied by staffers for former Vice President Al Gore, and that Gore’s wife, Tipper, has phoned Lynne Cheney, the wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, to apologize for the damage. The story is false (see January 24, 2001). [Guardian, 1/26/2001]
Reports: Cut Phone Lines, Extensive Damage, Pornographic Photos - Both the Washington Post and The Guardian report allegations that computer and telephone lines were “sliced,” voice-mail messages were changed to “obscene remarks and lewd greetings,” desks were overturned, and trash strewn throughout the premises. The reports add that filing cabinets were glued shut with Superglue, pornographic photographs displayed in printers, and “filthy graffiti scrawled on at least one hallway wall.” The Spectator’s inspector adds that “[e]ntire computer keyboards will have to be replaced because the damage to them is more extensive than simply missing keys,” referring to allegations that some White House keyboards had the “W” keys pried off. The Spectator also reports tales of former Clinton staffers reportedly “laughing and giggling about the mess their former colleagues left behind.” A Bush White House official calls the White House “a pigsty” in the aftermath of the transition. “The Gore and Clinton people didn’t ‘clean out’ the place because there was nothing clean about what they did before they left.” The GSA will pursue the former Clinton officials for reimbursement and expenses. The Spectator reports that “investigators” conclude the damage was “the result of a carefully organized campaign of vandalism unlike anything ever seen in the aftermath of a presidential transition.” [NewsMax, 1/26/2001; Guardian, 1/26/2001; Washington Post, 1/26/2001] The New York Daily News reports, “The destruction was so vast that a telecommunications staffer with more than a quarter-century of service was seen sobbing near his office one night last week.” [New York Daily News, 1/27/2001] CNN’s Paula Zahn observes: “All right, but this is the White House, for God’s sakes. We’re not talking about people living in a fraternity.” [Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, 5/21/2001] Fox News is particularly vehement in its coverage. “They trash[ed] the place,” says Fox commentator Sean Hannity. ”$200,000 in furniture [was] taken out.” Fellow Fox commentator Oliver North (see May-June, 1989) adds: “We should expect from white trash what they did at the White House.… I recommend that what the Bush White House do is peel the wallpaper off that they defaced with their graffiti and ship it off to the Clinton Library so people can see it.” Fox host Bill O’Reilly says, “I mean, the price tag right now is about $200,000, so that’s a felony right there.” And O’Reilly guest Tom Schatz says, referring to the famous film about fraternity life, “They turned it into Animal House.” [Knight Ridder, 2/8/2001; Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, 5/21/2001]
Air Force One 'Stripped Bare,' Reports Claim - The Guardian also reports that during former President Clinton’s last trip in Air Force One, the presidential jet was subjected to what it calls “an orgy of pilfering” (see January 25-27, 2001). It was “stripped bare” by aides, who reportedly took china, silverware, salt and pepper shakers, and other items, most bearing the presidential seal. [Guardian, 1/26/2001] On Fox, Hannity charges, “They strip[ped] Air Force One of the china and everything else that wasn’t bolted down.” [Knight Ridder, 2/8/2001]
Clinton Officials Admit to 'Pranks,' Bush Officials Allege Attempts at Theft - Clinton and Gore officials deny the reports of vandalism, but admit to carrying out pranks such as removing the “W” keys and affixing satirical signs to office doors that read, “Office of Strategery,” “Office of Subliminable Messages,” and “Division of Uniting.” A former Clinton official says, “It’s childish, but it’s also funny.” However, a senior Bush official accuses Clinton staffers of attempting to steal White House paintings and official seals from doors, and attempting to have those items shipped to themselves; Bush officials have ordered that all packages leaving the White House be X-rayed. [Washington Post, 1/26/2001]
Bush Aide Documenting Damages - A Bush White House aide has been delegated to document the vandalism, videos are being taken of the damages, and White House officials are being interviewed. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer has confirmed that the administration is reviewing reports of the alleged vandalism. [NewsMax, 1/26/2001] Bush himself downplays the reports, saying: “There might have been a prank or two, maybe somebody put a cartoon on the wall, but that’s okay. It’s time now to move forward.” [New York Daily News, 1/27/2001]
Entity Tags: Mary Elizabeth (“Tipper”) Gore, Sean Hannity, Matt Drudge, New York Daily News, Paula Zahn, Oliver North, Lynne Cheney, NewsMax, The Guardian, Fox News, General Services Administration, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., American Spectator, George W. Bush, Ari Fleischer, Bush administration (43), Bill O’Reilly, Tom Schatz, Clinton administration, Washington Post
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Former President Clinton asks aides to investigate reports of vandalism alleged to have been perpetrated by outgoing members of his staff (see January 25-27, 2001 and January 26, 2001). If warranted, Clinton says he and his former officials will “make amends.” Clinton spokesman Jake Siewert says that Bush officials declined to allow Clinton officials to examine the reported damage: “We made an offer to go over and survey what was done—take a look and see if we can make amends. We asked to take a look at the damage and offered to try to sort it out. They said that it was isolated incidents and that that would not be necessary.” [Los Angeles Times, 1/30/2001] The allegations of vandalism and theft will prove to be almost entirely false (see February 8, 2001, February 14, 2001, and May 18, 2001).
Media stories that President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton accepted an inappropriate amount of gifts in the final days of the Clinton administration prove to be false. NBC News reporter Andrea Mitchell led the story, claiming that Clinton supporters gave the first family approximately $190,027 of gifts, mostly to furnish their new homes. Mitchell incorrectly implied that Hillary Clinton accepted much of the gifts after she was elected US Senator for New York, but before she was sworn in, enabling her to duck the Senate’s ban on expensive gifts. The reality is less sensational. Some of the gifts were given as long ago as 1993, but were not listed until 2001, and most of the gifts that supposedly went to decorate the Clintons’ homes actually reside in the White House Museum collections, donated by the Clintons. [Salon, 1/31/2001]
Former CIA director James Woolsey visits Britain to look for evidence tying Saddam Hussein to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. He is looking to support the theory (see Late July or Early August 2001) that Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind behind the 1993 WTC bombing, was actually an Iraqi agent who had assumed the identity of a Pakistani student named Abdul Basit. This theory was proposed in a 2000 book praised by Woolsey (see October 2000). He will also make a visit for the same purpose in the weeks after 9/11 (see Late September 2001). On at least one of the trips, Woolsey visits the Swansea Institute, where Basit studied, to see if Basit’s fingerprints match those of Yousef, who is now serving a life sentence in a Colorado prison. Matching fingerprints would discredit the theory. According to Knight Ridder, “Several of those with knowledge of the trips said they failed to produce any new evidence that Iraq was behind the attacks.” [Knight Ridder, 10/11/2001] But despite a lack of evidence, politicians in Washington interested in the theory will manage to reopen the files into Yousef around August 2001 anyway (see Late July or Early August 2001). An article by Woolsey pushing the theory about Yousef will be published just two days after 9/11 (see September 13, 2001).
President Bush hosts British Prime Minister Tony Blair at Camp David. Iraq is on the agenda. Bush and Blair tell reporters that they want to restructure the sanctions on Iraq through the United Nations, using what the White House calls “smart sanctions”—sanctions that are designed to constrain the Iraqi government without harming the Iraqi citizenry. The new sanctions are primarily aimed at tightening controls on “dual-use” goods, items that can be used for both civilian and military purposes, and to keep the regime from getting illicit funds from oil smuggling. Bush says: “A change in sanctions should not in any way, shape, or form, embolden Saddam Hussein. He has got to understand that we are going to watch him carefully and, if we catch him developing weapons of mass destruction, we’ll take the appropriate action. And if we catch him threatening his neighbors we will take the appropriate action.” In 2008, former Bush press secretary Scott McClellan will write: “Saddam was viewed more as a ‘problem’ to deal with than a ‘grave and gathering danger’ in the early days. Talk centered on if he was developing WMD, not that he was developing them.” [McClellan, 2008, pp. 93-94]
Conservative columnist John Derbyshire writes a column for the National Review claiming that many racial and ethnic stereotypes are not only accurate, they are socially desirable and useful. Derbyshire claims that “[a]nthropology, psychology, sociology, and genetics are all” proving “that human nature is much more like what conservatives have always said it was like than it is like what leftists have believed.” Derbyshire cites a single source, the widely discredited book The Bell Curve, which purported to show that non-whites were genetically and intellectually inferior to whites, to prove his claim, before segueing into the main portion of his column, which focuses on a 1995 book called Stereotype Accuracy: Toward Appreciating Group Differences. Written by three academics and published by the American Psychological Association, Derbyshire claims that the book proves cultural, racial, and ethnic stereotyping is based largely on fact. He writes of the book’s central thesis, “Far from being a loathsome aberration that ought to be purged from our behavior, it turns out that stereotypes are essential life tools, are accurate much more often than not, and that we do not use them as much as, from cold practical considerations, we should.” Derbyshire grants that stereotypes do not always apply to individuals in a group, citing the examples of “lazy Mexicans” and “unwashed French” as sometimes untrue. However, he writes, stereotypes do not usually exaggerate group tendencies. In fact, he claims, “more often the opposite is true.” The negative stereotypes held by white Americans about African-Americans “are generally accurate,” he claims, “and where they are inaccurate, they always under-estimate a negative characteristic.” His proof: a 1978 survey stating that 21 percent of African-American families are headed by a woman, while another survey found that white Americans estimate that number at between 8 and 12 percent. Stereotypes about racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious groups, he writes, are “useful tools for dealing with the world.” Derbyshire cites the single dissenting voice quoted in the book, the University of Maryland’s Charles Stangor, and implies that Stangor’s criticisms are centered in a desire to reshape society to his own preferences as Adolf Hitler and Vladimir Lenin reshaped Germany and Russia, respectively. “It is highly characteristic of political ideologues,” Derbyshire writes, “that they believe ‘improving the social condition’ can have only one possible meaning—theirs.” Derbyshire concludes that “the Left” “hates humanity and seeks to wage war against human nature,” and only leftists would argue that stereotyping others is wrong. [National Review, 2/1/2001] Two weeks later, Derbyshire will “humorously” advocate the murder of Chelsea Clinton, President Clinton’s daughter, in order to eradicate the Clinton bloodline (see February 15, 2001). In late 2003, Derbyshire will describe himself as “a racist, though… a mild and tolerant one” (see November 11-18, 2003).
Stanley Lucas, the International Republican Institute’s (IRI) senior program officer for Haiti, tells an audience on Radio Tropicale that there are three ways to get rid of newly elected Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide: call early elections and vote him out, charge him with corruption and let the courts imprison him, or assassinate him. With the blessing and assistance of the Bush administration, the IRI, a subsection of the US government’s National Endowment for Democracy, will step up its campaign to get rid of Aristide. The IRI, using $3 million in US taxpayer funds, will train and fund anti-Aristide candidates, help unite them into a single anti-Aristide bloc, and, according to a former US ambassador to Haiti, work to block all internationally-proposed power-sharing agreements in order to heighten Haiti’s political crisis and encourage a coup against Aristide. The IRI also will help in the Bush administration’s failed attempt to precipitate a coup against Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez (see April 12, 2002). Lucas himself is a charismatic, wealthy Haitian exile with a history of training Haitian insurgents and deep, murky ties to right-wing organizations and politicians in America, particularly longtime Aristide foe Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) and Bush’s Latin American envoy Otto Reich. [Salon, 7/16/2004]
Knight Ridder is the first newspaper publisher to express public skepticism over White House and media reports of the Clinton “vandal scandal,” which allege that Clinton staffers vandalized and looted the White House and Air Force One in the last days of the Clinton administration (see January 25, 2001 and January 26, 2001). “It was a news story that had a lot going for it,” Knight Ridder correspondent David Goldstein writes, “except on-the-record sources and many hard facts.” Goldstein calls the “vandal scandal” reporting “an example of post-election political warfare waged on a slapstick level” and “clearly a sample of how journalism in Washington is practiced in the age of the 24-hour news cycle and its unceasing demand for information, sometimes regardless of the provenance.” Tom Rosenstiel of the Project for Excellence in Journalism says, “The dirty little secret of the information revolution is often there’s not a lot of verification.” Earlier in the week, US News and World Report printed a story alleging that the White House is spending $10,000 a day repairing the White House telephone system after it was damaged by Clinton staffers, but a White House spokesman responded, “I can’t find any supporting evidence” of that charge. “No one can confirm it.” As for allegations that Clinton staffers looted Air Force One (see January 25-27, 2001), Lieutenant Colonel Dana Carroll of Andrews Air Force Base, which houses the presidential jet, says: “The public was misinformed. There was no china or anything like that missing.” Carroll says the only items missing from Air Force One after the Clintons’ final trip was a tray of 15 glasses, which Clinton staffers say broke during a moment of turbulence; reporters on the aircraft saw the glasses fall and break. Former Clinton strategist James Carville says the reports are little more than efforts to smear Clinton. “It just seems to be like everything else that happens to this president,” he says. Referring to the Whitewater investigations, Carville adds, “Next they’ll be calling for an independent counsel, bring back Ken Starr to investigate this.” House Republican Bob Barr (R-GA) is asking that the General Accounting Office investigate the story (see May 18, 2001). [Knight Ridder, 2/8/2001] In July, Goldstein will call the “vandal scandal” stories “questionable from the beginning.” [American Journalism Review, 7/2001]
President Bush tells reporters that Air Force One was not looted and/or vandalized by Clinton staffers, as reports have alleged (see January 25-27, 2001 and January 26, 2001). “I will tell you one thing, just in terms of the former president,” he says. “All the allegations that they took stuff off of Air Force One is simply not true, for example.” Bush says he was told by Air Force One’s chief steward that the stories were false. [Salon, 2/14/2001] Bush’s statement follows confirmation by an Andrews Air Force Base spokesman that nothing had been stolen from Air Force One (see February 8, 2001).
The US House Committee on Energy and Commerce holds a hearing on the news networks’ election night decision to project George W. Bush the winner of the Florida election, and thereby the winner of the US presidential election (see November 7-8, 2000). One of the matters at hand is Fox News’s choice to have its election night coverage anchored by John Prescott Ellis, President Bush’s cousin and an intensely partisan Bush supporter (see October-November 2000). The chairman of the committee is W.J. “Billy” Tauzin (R-LA).
Opening Statements - In his opening statement, Tauzin tells the assemblage that the hearing is to “give us a real sense of what went wrong in terms of the election night coverage of the presidential election of November 2000.” He notes that news coverage issues have been raised in every election since the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon election. Early calls—the practice of news outlets to “call,” or project, winners in states before elections in other states have closed—have long been acknowledged as having a “deletorious” effect on voting, and the use of “exit polling”—polls of voters taken outside polling booths—have proven both “valuable” and “dangerous.” Voter News Service (VNS), the independent consortium that provided polling and other data to the networks and press agencies for their use during their election coverage, uses exit polling to help those news outlets “project” winners in races. Tauzin spends much of his opening statement attacking VNS and the use of exit polling as the “source” of the election night dissension, and says that on the whole, VNS data “produces statistical biases in favor of Democrats in this case today and against Republicans, that the statistical flaws tend to overstate the Democratic vote in the exit poll and understate the Republican vote.” Tauzin says that investigations have “discovered no evidence of intentional bias, no evidence of intentional slanting of this information,” and instead says the entire problem rests with VNS and its use of exit polling data. In their opening statements, many Republicans echo Tauzin’s remarks. Ranking minority member John Dingell (D-MI) calls the election night coverage “a monumental screw-up which I think has embarrassed an awful lot of people.” Dingell repeats Tauzin’s claim that no evidence of intentional bias has been found—calling such allegations “inflammatory”—and says that the focus of future hearings should be on the issue of voter disenfranchisement. Having said all that, he goes on to say that the networks’ decision to call Florida for Bush in the early hours of November 8, 2000 was premature, and lent itself to later allegations that attempts by Democratic challenger Al Gore were baseless and troublesome. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) accuses the networks of trying to influence Florida voters in the Panhandle, a traditionally Republican stronghold, by prematurely calling the state for Gore eight minutes before polls closed in that region. In questioning, Sherrod Brown (D-OH) notes the almost-immediate appearance of the “Sore Loserman” campaign (derived from the names of the Democratic candidates, Gore and Joe Lieberman), which attempted, successfully, to paint attempts by the Gore campaign to force vote recounts as attempts to “steal” the election.
Focus on Fox - Henry Waxman (D-CA) is the first to mention Fox News. He reads from a Los Angeles Times editorial, quoting: “Suppose that a first cousin of Al Gore had been running one of the network news teams issuing election night projections. Suppose that having previously recused himself from a columnist job saying his objectivity would suffer from family loyalty, this cousin had chatted with Gore six times on Election Day. Suppose the same cousin had been the first to declare Gore as the winner in Florida on election night, helping coax the rival networks to follow suit, leading George W. Bush to call up Gore in order to concede, thereby helping to create that Gore was the duly elected president of the United States long before all the votes had been counted. Can anybody reasonably doubt that the pundits would be working themselves into a nonstop lather charging the liberal media as accessories to grand larceny? Can we imagine, say, Rupert Murdoch’s Fox news channel right-leaning heads dropping the subject?” Waxman says this was absolutely the case, but with Fox News and John Ellis, not Gore and an imaginary Gore cousin at another network. “[O]f everything that happened on election night this was the most important in impact. It created a presumption that George Bush won the election. It set in motion a chain of events that were devastating to Al Gore’s chances and it immeasurably helped George Bush maintain the idea in people’s minds than he was the man who won the election.” Several other Democrats echo Waxman’s statements.
Issues with Florida Election Practices - Peter Deutsch (D-FL) cites issues of rampant voter disenfranchisement of African-Americans, a traditionally Democratic voting bloc, with over 100,000 ballots, mostly from African-American voters, apparently not counted. Deutsch says flatly that “there is no question, it is no longer debatable that if the vote in Florida were counted, Al Gore would be president of the United States.” Bobby Rush (D-IL) cites a large number of incidents where minority group voters were “harassed by police departments” in Florida and in other states besides. In many instances these voters were stopped from voting entirely; in others, their votes were not counted. Other Democrats, such as Eliot Engel (D-NY), echo Deutsch’s and Rush’s concerns; Engel says: “Al Gore was not the only one who lost that night. The American people lost that night, and the news media also lost that night.”
Testimony regarding Independent Review of Election Night Coverage - The first witness is Joan Konner, a professor of journalism at Columbia. Konner led a panel commissioned by CNN “to look at what went wrong in [CNN’s] television coverage of the presidential election 2000.” Her panel submitted a report on the election night coverage to CNN, and CNN provided that report to the committee. “[S]omething went terribly wrong,” she says. “CNN executives, correspondents, and producers themselves describe election night coverage as a debacle, a disaster, and a fiasco; and in our report we agree.” She blames the problems with CNN’s coverage on “excessive speed and hypercompetition, combined with overconfidence in experts and a reliance on increasingly dubious polls. We have stated that the desire to be first or at least not to be consistently behind the others led the networks to make calls unwisely based on sketchy and sometimes mistaken information.” The choice to create, fund, and use VNS by all the networks was primarily a cost-cutting decision, she says, but that choice was a mistake: “Relying on a single source eliminates the checks and balances built into a competitive vote-gathering and vote system. It eliminates the possibility of a second source for validating key and possible conflicting information.” Another member of the panel, James Risser of Stanford University, notes that the report’s findings apply equally to other networks along with CNN.
Media Panel - After much questioning of the CNN panel, a second panel is sworn in. This panel includes: Fox News chairman Roger Ailes; CBS president Andrew Heyward; CNN chairman Tom Johnson; NBC president Andrew Lack; ABC president David Westin; VNS director Ted Savaglio; VNS editorial director Murray Edelman; and the Associated Press’s president, Louis Boccardi. In an opening statement, Savaglio admits that VNS made “errors” in vote tabulation and predictives based on “flaws” in the statistical analyses. Two major errors were made on election night, Savaglio says, the first leading to the incorrect awarding of Florida to Gore early in the evening, and the second provision of data that indicated Bush had a statistically insurmountable lead in Florida that did not include an accurate tabulation of votes cast in Volusia County as well as errors in other county tabulations and estimates. Boccardi says that the Associated Press used VNS-provided data in the erroneous Gore projection, but “takes full responsibility” for the error. The Associated Press did not join in with the second, Fox News-led projection of Bush’s victory. “[T]he race was too close to call” at that point, he says. “It would be right to surmise that the pressure on AP at that moment [to join the networks in calling the election for Bush] was enormous.” Heyward testifies that CBS, like CNN, hired an independent panel to assess its election coverage, and has a number of improvements to be made for future coverage. “Our method of projecting winners, one that, as you have heard, has produced only six bad calls in over 2,000 races since the 1960s, failed us this time; and as a well-known candidate would say, failed us big time in the very state that held the key to this election,” he says. He also notes that charges by Republican committee members that there is an inherent bias in the statistical models against Republicans “has been rejected by every single outside expert who examined each of the networks, even those experts, and you heard from them today, who are the most highly critical of us.” Lack asks why there was not more media coverage and examination of other voting-related problems, from “ineffective voting machines” and “confusing ballots” to allowing felons to vote.
Ailes's Statement - Ailes blames VNS for Fox’s “mistakes” in its reporting, saying: “As everyone knows, Voter News Service, a consortium with a good track record, gave out bad numbers that night. In the closest race in history the wheels apparently came off a rattle trap computer system which we relied on and paid millions for.” He claims, “Through our self-examination and investigation we have determined that there was no intentional political favoritism in play on election night on the part of Fox News.” Ailes does not mention his choice to use Ellis as Fox’s election night anchor in his verbal statement, but in a written statement he submits to the committee, he says that Ellis was not the person who made the final decision to declare Florida for Bush. The news division’s vice president, John Moody, made the final call. As for hiring Ellis, he praises Ellis’s professionalism and experience, and writes: “We at Fox News do not discriminate against people because of their family connections. I am more than happy to give you examples of offspring of famous politicians who are employed at Fox News.” He also says that he was aware that Ellis was speaking to both George W. and Jeb Bush throughout the night, and writes: “Obviously, through his family connections, Mr. Ellis has very good sources. I do not see this as a fault or shortcoming of Mr. Ellis. Quite the contrary, I see this as a good journalist talking to his very high level sources on election night.” Though Ellis has freely admitted to sharing VNS data with both Bushes, Ailes writes, “Our investigation of election night 2000 found not one shred of evidence that Mr. Ellis revealed information to either or both of the Bush brothers which he should not have, or that he acted improperly or broke any rules or policies of either Fox News or VNS.” He concludes: “[I]n my heart I do believe that democracy was harmed by my network and others on November 7, 2000. I do believe that the great profession of journalism took many steps backward.”
Questioning the Media Representatives - Almost immediately, Ailes raises the question of skewed exit polling that appears to favor Democrats, though experts have refuted these claims in just-given testimony, and Savaglio has just said that exit polls exhibit no such bias. Ailes tells the panel: “I do know that when Republicans come out of polls and you ask them a question they tend to think it’s none of your business and Democrats want to share their feelings. So you may get some bias there that is inadvertent, just because it’s a cultural thing and unless you send the Republicans to sensitivity training you’re not going to get them to do that.” Tauzin says that a study of VNS results tends to bear out Ailes’s claim. Westin says if there is bias in exit polling, it cuts both ways, an observation with which Tauzin also agrees. Savaglio admits that after midnight, VNS provided substantially inaccurate information to the networks that led them to conclude Bush had a slight but insurmountable lead in Florida. Lack denies the rumor that Jack Welch, the CEO of NBC’s parent company General Electric, made the decision for NBC News to follow Fox’s lead in declaring Bush the presumptive winner in Florida. Waxman accepts Lack’s denial, but notes that he has been told Welch’s command to declare Bush the winner is preserved on videotape, “filmed by NBC’s advertising and promotions department.” Lack says if the tape exists, he will provide it to the committee. Bart Stupak (D-MI) asks the representatives directly if they believe any bias towards one party or another exists in their networks’ coverage, and all answer strongly in the negative. Heyward says that rumors of networks such as his trying to “slant” their coverage to give the idea of an “inevitable” Gore victory are entirely negative, and says: “[C]ertainly we displayed the popular vote graphic 15 times between 7 and 11. President Bush was ahead every single time; on the electoral count, 75 out of
100 times.… The video [shown by the commission at the beginning of the hearing] that gave the impression that the networks were saying Gore’s got it in the bag I believe was misleading, yes.” Westin agrees with Heyward, and says the networks generally gave the impression of “a much more balanced, much closer race throughout the night.” Under questioning by Gene Green (D-TX), Ailes contradicts previously presented evidence and says no one at the election desk, Ellis or anyone else, was in contact with “Austin” (meaning the Bush campaign and George W. Bush personally) at all that night. [House of Representatives, Committee on Energy and Commerce, 2/14/2001]
Entity Tags: CBS News, Sherrod Brown, Bobby Lee Rush, Roger Ailes, Raymond Eugene (“Gene”) Green, Ted Savaglio, Tom Johnson, US House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Voter News Service, ABC News, Andrew Heyward, Andrew Lack, Associated Press, W.J. (“Billy”) Tauzin, Peter R. Deutsch, NBC News, Rupert Murdoch, Louis Boccardi, Fox News, Eliot L. Engel, David Westin, Clifford Bundy (“Cliff”) Stearns, CNN, Murray Edelman, George W. Bush, John Prescott Ellis, Jack Welch, Joan Konner, John Dingell, John Ellis (“Jeb”) Bush, Joseph Lieberman, James Risser, Henry A. Waxman, Bart Stupak
Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections, Domestic Propaganda
John Derbyshire. [Source: John Derbyshire]National Review columnist John Derbyshire “satirically” advocates the murder of Chelsea Clinton, the only daughter of Bill and Hillary Clinton, in order to stamp out the Clinton bloodline once and for all. Former President Clinton has left the White House, to spend the rest of his life “goosing waitresses [and] defending himself in court.” Hillary “has no future beyond the US Senate… [she is] maxed out.” But, he warns, “Clintonism may yet rise again.… On February 27th, Chelsea Clinton will turn 21.”
'I Hate Chelsea Clinton' - Derbyshire confesses: “I hate Chelsea Clinton. I admit it’s not easy to justify my loathing of this person. I can pick out causes, but none of them is one hundred per cent rational.… I admit, I hate Chelsea because she is a Clinton.” After noting the negative reactions to his previous attack on the younger Clinton’s physical appearance, he acknowledges that she hasn’t committed the “array of crimes” her father is allegedly responsible for, but “she doesn’t deserve any credit for not having done these things; she just hasn’t had time yet.” He writes that since she was 18, she has “sign[ed] on to the Great Clinton Project. Which is, has always been, and forever will be, to enrich the family from the public fisc, and to lie, bomb, bribe, and intimidate your way out of trouble when necessary.”
'Sippenhaft' - Derbyshire notes that in totalitarian societies of the past, many people were executed merely because of their family connections, and says the same should be considered for Chelsea Clinton. “Chelsea is a Clinton,” he writes. “She bears the taint; and though not prosecutable in law, in custom and nature the taint cannot be ignored. All the great despotisms of the past—I’m not arguing for despotism as a principle, but they sure knew how to deal with potential trouble—recognized that the families of objectionable citizens were a continuing threat. In Stalin’s penal code it was a crime to be the wife or child of an ‘enemy of the people.’ The Nazis used the same principle, which they called Sippenhaft, ‘clan liability.’ In Imperial China, enemies of the state were punished ‘to the ninth degree’: that is, everyone in the offender’s own generation would be killed, and everyone related via four generations up, to the great-great-grandparents, and four generations down, to the great-great-grandchildren, would also be killed.… We don’t, of course, institutionalize such principles in our society, and a good thing too. Our humanity and forbearance, however, has a cost. The cost is that the vile genetic inheritance of Bill and Hillary Clinton may live on to plague us in the future. It isn’t over, folks.” [National Review, 2/15/2001]
'Hysterical Idiots' - After a week of angry criticism, Derbyshire will write a column defending his original column as “satire,” blaming “liberals” for “missing the joke,” and admitting his column “wasn’t meant to be a thigh-slapper. I had a point to make: There could be another Clinton in our future, and on present evidence (admittedly rather scant), it would be a chip off the old block. That’s fair comment. However, my tone was partly tongue in cheek.… Humor and irony are especially tricky.” He asks, rhetorically, if he intends to apologize, and answers himself: “In your dreams. I make it a point of principle never to apologize to hysterical idiots.” [National Review, 2/22/2001]
Richard Humphreys, a self-proclaimed prophet from Oregon who is described in media reports as “delusional,” is arrested in Watertown, South Dakota, for making a joke about a “burning bush.” Humphreys, who sometimes calls himself “Israel Humphreys,” gets into a barroom discussion with a truck driver; the bartender overhears the conversation and alerts the police, telling them that Humphreys discussed a “burning Bush” and the possibility of someone pouring flammable liquid on President Bush and lighting it. Bush is slated to visit Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the day after Humphreys’s barroom conversation. Humphreys is charged with threatening to kill or harm the president. During his trial, Humphreys will explain: “I said God might speak to the world through a ‘burning Bush.’ I had said that before and I thought it was funny. It was prophetizing.” The court will learn that Humphreys had made similar statements in Internet chat rooms, including the following: “If you hear that a man runs up and throws gasoline and a match to Bush you will know that God did speak through the burning Bush.” He has also sent similar statements to the Bush White House via fax machines, and during the Clinton administration expressed the desire that President Clinton and his wife Hillary Clinton would commit suicide. Humphreys will be convicted and sentenced to 37 months in prison. He will appeal his conviction, saying his comment is a prophecy protected under his right to free speech. His appeal is denied, but the appellate court will find that he suffers from a bipolar disorder and order that he serve his sentence in a federal medical center. “Hopefully, medication over a significant period of years will result in his being able to live outside the prison confines, free of delusions and the type of behavior he exhibited here,” the court will rule. [Associated Press, 12/6/2002; Associated Press, 12/23/2003]
The Daily Californian, the newspaper for the University of California at Berkeley, runs a full-page ad from conservative pundit David Horowitz calling the idea of “reparations” for the African-American descendants of slaves “racist.” Horowitz, a UC-Berkeley graduate, had attempted to persuade a number of college newspapers to run the ad on February 28, the last day of Black History Month. The ad, entitled “Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Slavery is a Bad Idea—and Racist, Too,” says that reparations to African-Americans “have already been paid,” and asks, “What about the debt blacks owe to America?” The ad claims that blacks are themselves responsible for slavery and should accept this “fact.” The day after publishing the ad, the Daily Californian, responding to a harsh public outcry, apologizes for running the advertisement and writes that it allowed itself to “become an inadvertent vehicle for bigotry.” The UC-Davis newspaper also runs the ad, and also issues an apology. Many other California and Ivy League universities also receive the ad, but refuse to run it. [Daily Californian, 3/2/2001; Media Matters, 12/1/2004] Robert Chrisman, editor in chief of the journal Black Scholar, and Ernest Allen Jr., a professor of African-American studies at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, respond to Horowitz’s ad in an essay published by the university’s African-American Studies department. They write in part: “While Horowitz’s article pretends to address the issues of reparations, it is not about reparations at all. It is, rather, a well-heeled, coordinated attack on black Americans, which is calculated to elicit division and strife.… As one examines the text of Horowitz’s article, it becomes apparent that it is not a reasoned essay addressed to the topic of reparations: it is, rather, a racist polemic against African-Americans and Africans that is neither responsible nor informed, relying heavily upon sophistry and a Hitlerian ‘Big Lie’ technique.” [University of Massachusetts-Amherst, 3/1/2001] Horowitz publishes the ad on his Web publication Front Page Magazine, but will later delete it. It will be chronicled in a 2004 article by progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters. [Media Matters, 12/1/2004]
Conservative radio talk show host Glenn Beck tells his listeners that he would like to beat Democratic Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY) to death with a shovel. Apparently the segment is intended to be comedic; it is backed with loud heavy metal music and at the beginning Beck pretends to be screaming irrationally into the microphone. “I’ve been sitting here for the last few minutes trying to come up with a list of people I want to kill with a shovel,” he says. “People I’d like to whack over the head with a shovel.… How many people have I said, ‘Let’s kill with a shovel,’ huh? How many people have I said, ‘Let’s line ‘em up and shoot ‘em in the head!’ I think quite a few.” Beck says it seems to him like only “extremists” who say outrageous and controversial things “can get any face time on television,” and goes on to list liberals such as Rangel and civil rights leader Jesse Jackson. “There’s where we start. Charles Rangel.” He goes on to play a previously prepared voiceover by a narrator, saying, “And now, ‘People we’d like to beat to death with a shovel.’” Beck says, “Charlie Rangel.” After a moment, a “clanging” sound effect plays, and Beck continues: “See, I feel better already. There is a time for everything, for every season there is a purpose. And let me tell you baby, today, the season is, clubbing people over the head with shovels.” [Media Matters, 3/9/2001]
The Christian Defense Coalition (CDC) urges the Bush administration to show “restraint” in its handling of the arrest of accused murderer James Kopp, whose anti-abortion beliefs triggered his shooting of Dr. Barnett Slepian (see March 29, 2001). The CDC says that the “vast majority of the pro-life community” condemns violence against abortion doctors such as Slepian, and urges Attorney General John Ashcroft and the Department of Justice “not to use this episode to harass and intimidate the pro-life movement as the Clinton administration did” (see May 1994 and January 1996), and makes the same request of pro-choice organizations. The CDC also urges the general public to remember that Kopp is “innocent until proven guilty.” [Christian Defense Coalition, 3/29/2001]
DVD cover illustration of the film ‘Soldiers in the Army of God.’ [Source: HBO / St. Pete for Peace]Cable movie provider HBO airs a documentary, Soldiers in the Army of God, focusing on the violent anti-abortion movement (see 1982, Early 1980s, August 1982, and July 1988) and three of its leaders. National Public Radio airs a profile of the documentary, featuring an interview with the film’s producers, Marc Levin, Daphne Pinkerson, and Daniel Voll. According to Voll, the film focuses on three members of the “Army of God”: young recruit Jonathan O’Toole, who says he was looking for the most “radical” and “terroristic” anti-abortion group he could find; Neal Horsley, who runs an anti-abortion Web site; and long-haul trucker Bob Lokey, who recruits new members.
'Violent Fringe' of Anti-Abortion Opposition - Voll describes the three as part of the “violent fringe” of anti-abortion opposition: “These are the guys on the ground who are—whatever the words that politicians and other leaders of these cultural wars can put out there, these are the men who hear them and feel emboldened by them, who feel encouraged by each other, and they are every day praying for God’s will in their life.” Another unidentified man says: “Anybody who raises a weapon up against these people who are slaughtering these babies, before God and the entire world, right now I say you are doing God’s own work. And may the power of God be with you as you aim that rifle. You’re squeezing that trigger for Almighty God.” In the documentary, an unidentified anti-abortion activist says: “There are people in this world right now who are looking for directions on what do we do. Well, we end abortion on demand by the most direct means available to us. So stop the abortion with a bullet, if that’s what it takes. Stop it with a bomb, if that’ s what it takes. You stop abortion on demand. Don’t let it go any farther.” O’Toole says that the “next step is to arm ourselves in a militia, a real militia that has the power to resist the federal government.” Pinkerson says that O’Toole, who was 19 when he joined the Army of God, found Horsley on the Internet through Horsley’s Web site, “The Nuremberg Files,” which lists doctors who perform abortions (see January 1997). O’Toole became Horsley’s assistant, and through him met Lokey, who runs a Web site called “Save the Babies.” In the film, O’Toole, whom the producers speculate may eventually become an assassin of abortion providers, says that because of America’s legalization of abortion, the country has become like “Nazi Germany. It’s like you’ve got concentration camps around you.” Levin notes that filmed conversations between Horsley and Lokey show that many in the movement feel threatened by the concept of women’s equality, and blame men’s failure to exert “dominion” over women as part of the reason why the US legalized abortion. [National Public Radio, 3/30/2001; Womens eNews, 3/30/2001]
Opposition to Homosexuality - Horsley draws a connection between the organization’s opposition to abortion and the American citizenry’s supposed opposition to homosexuality, saying: “If the American people woke up, and realized that they had to choose between legalized abortion, legalized homosexuality, and legalized all the rest of the desecration or civil war which would cause the rivers to run red with blood—hey, you know we will see legalized abortion go like that! We’ll see legalized homosexuality go like that! Because the American people are not willing to die for homosexuals.”
Bringing Bomb-Making Materials to Washington - The film also shows Lokey bragging to convicted clinic bomber Michael Bray (see September 1994) that he has just trucked 45,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate, a substance that can be used to make “fertilizer bombs” similar to the one that destroyed an Oklahoma City federal building (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), into Washington, DC.
Anti-Abortion Opposition Part of an 'Apocalyptic' Death Struggle - Author and reporter Frederick Clarkson writes: “At once shocking, compelling, and beautifully made, the film is essentially the national television debut for the aboveground spokesmen and spokeswomen of the Army of God.… Horsley and others are quite clear in their public statements and their writings that the attacks on clinics and the murders of doctors are but warning shots in what they envision as an epochal, even an apocalyptic struggle at hand. Either Americans conform to their view of God’s laws, or there will be a blood bath, they say. And there is no evidence that they are anything but dead serious.” [Womens eNews, 3/30/2001]
Entity Tags: Michael Bray, Frederick Clarkson, Daphne Pinkerson, Daniel Voll, Bob Lokey, Army of God, Home Box Office, Marc Levin, Neal Horsley, National Public Radio, Jonathan O’Toole
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, US Domestic Terrorism
In a column exploring the idea of US-led regime change in Iraq and advocating the support of Iraqi opposition groups to overthrow Saddam Hussein, Washington Post columnist Jim Hoagland calls Iraqi opposition leader Ahmed Chalabi (see 1992-1996) “a dedicated advocate of democracy” in Iraq. (Hoagland lauds Chalabi’s advanced college degrees, his success as a Jordanian banker (see August 2, 1989), and what he calls Chalabi’s exposure of the CIA’s “gross failures” in Iraq (see (1994)). Hoagland decries “15 years of failed US policy toward Saddam,” and writes that Chalabi is a fine choice to lead Iraq in the place of Hussein. “Mr. Chalabi is a dedicated advocate of democracy who does fight against enormous military odds and deep religious and social divisions in the Arab world,” he writes. Lambasting those in the CIA and State Department who are determined to prove that Chalabi is a fraud (see January 1996), Hoagland writes, “A policy review dedicated to trashing him and other exiles is a shameful and self-defeating way to begin anew on Iraq. It is a phony way to argue that nothing can or should be done to oust the predatory psychopath who holds Iraq hostage.” [Washington Post, 4/9/2001; Unger, 2007, pp. 206]
The White House fails to produce the documentation it says it has compiled on the so-called Clinton “vandal scandal,” the allegations that Clinton staffers looted and vandalized the White House, Air Force One, and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House, in the last days of the Clinton administration (see January 26, 2001). As a result, the General Accounting Office (GAO) is unable to pursue an investigation of the allegations as requested by Bush officials. In January, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters that the White House was compiling a “catalogue” of damages and missing items; in recent days, Fleischer has said that no actual list was being documented, but instead White House staffers (or a single staffer, Fleischer is unclear) were keeping track of the damages “in their heads.” In a letter responding to the GAO’s March request for details about “damage that may have been deliberately caused” by the Clinton administration, Phillip Larsen, a special assistant to the president, tells GAO official Bernard Ungar: “After investigation, we have located no such record. And our repair records do not contain information that would allow someone to determine the cause of the damage that is being repaired.” [Knight Ridder, 6/4/2001]
Victoria “Torie” Clarke joins the Defense Department. She is a public relations specialist who served as press secretary for President George H. W. Bush’s 1992 re-election campaign, worked closely with Senator John McCain (R-AZ), and was an Assistant US Trade Representative during the first Bush’s presidency. In the private sector, she was president of Bozell Eskew Advertising, Vice President of the National Cable Telecommunications Association, and the Washington director for the PR firm of Hill & Knowlton, the firm so heavily involved in promoting and selling the 1991 Gulf War (see January 16, 1991 and After). She brings strong ideas to her new position about achieving what she calls “information dominance” in both the domestic and foreign “markets” (see February 2003). She directs what John Stauber, the executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, calls the “twin towers of propaganda” for the Pentagon: “embedding news media with the troops, and embedding military propagandists into the TV media” (see April 20, 2008 and Early 2002 and Beyond). [Stennis Center for Public Service, 8/17/2007; New York Times, 4/20/2008; Bill Berkowitz, 5/10/2008]
An investigative report commissioned by Charles Key (R-OK), a former Oklahoma legislator with ties to regional militia organizations, will conclude that the government’s investigation into the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) was riddled with omissions and errors. Key informs WorldNetDaily (WND), a conservative news Web site, of the upcoming report’s conclusions. Key helped convene a grand jury investigation in 1998 to look into questions surrounding the bombing; when the jury found no evidence of a larger conspiracy, as Key had hoped it would (see December 30, 1998), he denounced the jury’s findings and created the Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee, an independent body that conducted the investigation and wrote the report. Key says he hopes the report will help Americans finally “get to the truth” behind the bombing conspiracy. “The purpose of our report is to document the truth,” Key tells WND. “We, as so many others do, believe that facts regarding other perpetrators, prior knowledge, and the number of explosive devices used to damage the Murrah Building has been concealed.” Key says the committee found “substantial evidence” proving that federal law enforcement officials and court officials knew of the attack well beforehand, but either ignored those warnings or deliberately allowed the attack to go forward. One of those warnings came from a government informant, Carole Howe, whose credibility was questioned by her handlers at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF—see August 1994 - March 1995). Other warnings came from two informants affiliated with organizations in foreign countries, Key says. Four government agencies, including the BATF and the US Marshals, received a notification “to be on the alert for possible attacks against individuals, federal institutions, or the public at large.” Key also says that Federal Judge Wayne Alley, who originally handled the case against convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997), told a reporter that the day of the bombing he had been warned to be on the alert for a possible bombing. Key also says he has statements from five witnesses who claim that no BATF agents were in the building at the time of the attack (this is false; a BATF agent documented his experiences in trying to escape from the building; see 9:02 a.m. and After, April 19, 1995). Other witnesses have told Key that they saw bomb squad vehicles in downtown Oklahoma City before the bomb went off. Key says “over 70 witnesses” saw McVeigh “and one or more John Does” in the days before, and on the day of, the bombing. After the bombing, Key says, around 40 witnesses identified the now-infamous “John Doe No. 2” (see April 20, 1995, April 21, 1995, April 29, 1995, and June 14, 1995) as a man of Middle Eastern descent (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After). Federal authorities ignored those witnesses, Key claims. Key also says that several witnesses in the building told of a “second bomb” going off before (not after) McVeigh’s truck bomb exploded. (Claims that a second bomb went off after the truck bomb detonated have been disputed—see After 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and 9:22 a.m. April 19, 1995). Some of the witnesses say that the first, smaller detonation drove them to hide under their desks just before the larger bomb detonated, thus giving them the chance to save themselves. Key says the committee obtained seismological evidence from what he calls an expert source that, he says, “supports the fact that there were multiple explosions” that morning. But, as was the case with other witnesses, the expert “was not allowed to testify at the federal trials,” the report says. And, Key says, witnesses claim to have actually seen a number of bombs in the building that morning, reports that caused rescue personnel to evacuate the building while people were still trapped inside (see 10:00 a.m. and After, April 19, 1995 and 10:28 a.m. April 19, 1995). The report questions the size of McVeigh’s bomb, which was estimated at a number of different sizes but was eventually concluded by government experts to be somewhere around 4,800 pounds; the report says that estimate is incorrect. The damage suffered by the Murrah Building could not have been caused by a bomb of that size, according to “experts” quoted by the report. Key also says that the government deliberately prevented evidence of others’ involvement in the bombing to be used in McVeigh’s and Nichols’s trials, and says that indictments against the two named those persons (this is false—see August 10, 1995). Key says allegations by Jayna Davis that Osama bin Laden masterminded the bomb conspiracy (see March 20, 2001) support the report’s contentions. The report contains other allegations, including possible involvement by federal law enforcement and court officials, FBI officials refusing to allow Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) personnel to investigate the building, FBI officials refusing to run fingerprint checks of over 1,000 prints obtained in the investigation, what the report calls “blatant bias” exhibited towards “anyone asking questions or probing into facts,” and of breaking “[v]irtually all of the rules governing grand juries.” Key’s committee concludes that the Clinton administration “had prior knowledge of the bombing,” and that “McVeigh and Nichols did not act alone.” Key tells WND: “The final report represents years of extensive investigation and countless interviews. It contains information never reported before in any forum.” [WorldNetDaily, 5/4/2001]
New York Times reporter David Stout observes that the FBI’s admitted failure to turn over documents to convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, June 2, 1997, and May 10-11, 2001) will fuel conspiracy theories that will last for years. Attorney General John Ashcroft admitted as much when he ordered a delay in McVeigh’s scheduled execution to review the incident, saying, “If any questions or doubts remain about this case, it would cast a permanent cloud over justice.” Stout writes: “But for some people the cloud has been there all along, and always will be. They will never accept the government’s assertion that the withholding of the documents was simple human, bureaucratic error. And so the 1995 bombing of a federal office building in Oklahoma City seems likely to join the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as events whose truth—in the eyes of some Americans—is forever untold.” Charles Key, a former Oklahoma state legislator who has recently released a statement packed with assertions of a larger conspiracy and government malfeasance surrounding the bombing (see May 4, 2001), has been particularly vocal in his scorn over the document incident, and his contention that it is just part of a larger conspiracy by the government to cover up the truth behind the bombing. McVeigh’s former lawyer Stephen Jones seems to agree with Key; in his recent book (see August 14-27, 1997) Others Unknown: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma Bombing Conspiracy, Jones asserts: “The real story of the bombing, as the McVeigh defense pursued it, is complex, shadowy, and sinister. McVeigh, like the government, had its own reasons to keep it so. It stretches, web-like, from America’s heartland to the nation’s capital, the Far East, Europe, and the Middle East, and much of it remains a mystery.” Others go even farther in their beliefs. Charles Baldridge of Terre Haute, Indiana, where McVeigh is incarcerated awaiting execution, says, “I won’t say that McVeigh didn’t do it, but he wasn’t the brains, he wasn’t the one who orchestrated it.” Asked who orchestrated the bombing, Baldridge replies, “The government.” Many people believe that if the government did not actually plan and execute the bombing, it allowed it to happen, in order to use it as an excuse for passing anti-terrorism laws and curbing basic freedoms. Many of the same conspiracy theories that sprouted in the aftermath of the Branch Davidian tragedy (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After) are now appearing in the public discourse about the Oklahoma City bombing, Stout notes. [New York Times, 5/13/2001]
The General Services Administration (GSA) reports that there was no truth to assertions that Clinton White House officials had vandalized the White House before departing in January 2001. Bush White House officials made those assertions in January (see January 25, 2001), claims which were picked up on and embellished by conservative talk radio hosts and other media reporters (see January 25-27, 2001 and January 26, 2001). The GSA investigated the claims at the request of House Representative Bob Barr (R-GA).
Normal Wear and Tear, Pranks Found - The GSA report finds that nothing unusual had occurred during the transition from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration. “The condition of the real property was consistent with what we would expect to encounter when tenants vacate office space after an extended occupancy,” the GSA report finds. Although some pranks were found to have taken place—“W” keys removed from computer keyboards and signs reading “Office of Strategery” placed on office doors, for example—none of the other alleged actions took place.
No Evidence for Allegations of Vandalism - No computers, copiers, or telephones were destroyed; no lewd graffiti or pornographic images were pasted to walls or displayed on computer monitors. Nothing was stolen either from the White House or from Air Force One, as many reports had insisted (see February 8, 2001 and February 14, 2001).
Attempt to Smear Clinton Administration? - Harvard University’s Alex Jones says: “I think it was this calculated effort to plant a damaging story. There was a sort of fertile ground for believing anything bad.” The General Accounting Office’s Bernard Unger, director for physical infrastructure, says of the GSA investigation, “They told me that there were papers that were not organized lying on the floor and on desks; there were some scratches here and there, but the bottom line was they didn’t see anything really in their view that was significant and that would appear to some as real extensive damage.” Clinton aide Mark Lindsay, who oversaw the transition between the Clinton and Bush administration, says he is pleased that the GSA has set the record straight. “Because of President Clinton, this was one of the smoothest transitions in the history of the presidency,” he says. “This was nothing more than just lies.” Conservative pundit Tony Snow, one of the harshest critics of the Clinton administration over the so-called “vandal scandal” (see January 26, 2001), says, “I’m perfectly willing to admit my error on the aircraft,” but insists that the information he disseminated about vandalism and wholesale theft at the White House was true. “What often happens in Washington is gossip becomes news,” he notes. “That’s not a good thing.” [Kansas City Star, 5/18/2001; New York Times, 5/19/2001] Former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta says: “Certainly people inside the [Bush] administration fed this story. At least they got what they wanted out of it.” [Salon, 5/23/2001]
Of all the media outlets that pushed the false Clinton “vandal scandal” story (see January 26, 2001), only Fox News immediately offers a true retraction. Fox had been at the forefront of repeating, and embellishing, reports of vandalism and theft carried out by Clinton staffers in the last days of their administration. After the General Services Administration (GSA) reports that none of the reports were true (see May 18, 2001), Fox acknowledges on the air that its reporting had been false. Two days later, Fox News Sunday host Tony Snow, who had accused the Clinton staffers of vandalizing and looting Air Force One (see January 26, 2001), admits his error. “OK, I’m sorry,” Snow says. “The ex-president’s pals have a legitimate beef.” Other media outlets, including NBC News, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, fail to report on the GSA report, or to acknowledge their own errors in spreading the tales. [Salon, 5/23/2001] The Washington Post does eventually report, briefly, on the GSA findings, as do some other newspapers, and Post ombudsman Michael Getler will later write, “The use of a brief news service account rather than a well-displayed, staff-written story about the GSA findings tells me that the readers who complained have better news judgment than the editors.” [American Journalism Review, 7/2001]
White House press secretary Ari Fleischer backs off of previous claims that Clinton administration officials vandalized the White House, and stole all manner of items, during the January 2001 transition between the Clinton and Bush administrations (see January 26, 2001). A General Services Administration report found the allegations virtually without merit (see May 18, 2001). Fleischer is asked about the report, and about his allegations that Bush officials had made a “catalogue” of the vandalism and theft that apparently does not exist. Fleischer now says that he had attempted to “knock… down” reports of alleged vandalism “and draw everybody back and away from this story because it was not something the White House was pursuing.” Fleischer continues: “And I indicated that there was no investigation going on, because there wasn’t. I said, if anything, somebody is cataloguing this. And the next day I further explained that meant that somebody was just keeping mental track of what was taking place. There were no written records about it all. But they were keeping on eye on and noting what did take place as this administration came into office.… The General Services Administration contacted the White House recently and asked if there were any written records of what took place. And just as I indicated, because there were no written records, the White House informed the General Services Administration that we had no written records to provide them. And I think that’s what their report indicated, the White House did not provide them any written records because there were none. Which is what I indicated at the time.” Fleischer says the White House intends “not to live in the past” and focus on “things that took place as this administration entered office…” [White House, 5/22/2001] Fleischer fails to acknowledge that it was his hints and innuendos to the White House press corps that encouraged the story to spread (see January 25, 2001).
In the aftermath of the General Services Administration’s report that the Clinton “vandal scandal” never happened (see May 18, 2001), some wonder how involved the Bush administration was in pushing the falsehoods onto the press—and how willing the press was to run with the juicy, but baseless, allegations. Former Clinton press secretary Jake Siewert says: “The media left a very damaging and false impression. I’d hope the reporters [would] go back and try to figure out what went wrong.” Siewert is less critical of the Bush administration’s role in the scandal, saying that “it’s hard to put any blame on the administration.” Siewert also declines to lay blame on Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer, “especially,” Siewert says, “if the guidance he got on the story was wrong” (see May 22, 2001). Washington Post reporter Lloyd Grove, whose short report sparked the entire controversy (see January 23, 2001), says Fleischer is at the heart of the story. “The person who really needs to explain what he was doing was Ari, why he let the story percolate, and why he juiced it with his coy responses,” Grove says. “I think it’s a fair point to ask to what extent Mr. Fleischer’s credibility has been damaged by this.” Washington Post reporter Mike Allen, who contributed much of the Post’s reporting of the alleged vandalism (see January 26, 2001), says Fleischer’s allegation that Clinton staffers “cut [the] wires” of telephones and computers sparked so much coverage (see January 25, 2001). “That seems tough to ignore,” Allen says. Journalism professor Geneva Overholser pins much of the blame on the press: “We wouldn’t have had to go through all this if we had done our job right in the first place.” The media should have pressed harder for documentation and should not have allowed White House sources to remain anonymous, she says. “It’s just amazing what we let people get away with saying.” One White House reporter says that Fleischer did not have to do much more than start the story rolling. “We’re often such willing co-conspirators,” the reporter says. “They don’t have to hatch anything.” [Salon, 5/23/2001; American Journalism Review, 7/2001]
Newly hired Defense Department public relations chief Victoria Clarke (see May 2001) begins a series of regular meetings with a number of Washington’s top private PR specialists and lobbyists. The group is tasked with developing a marketing plan for the upcoming war in Iraq. It is remarkably successful in securing press cooperation to spread its message (see August 13, 2003 and After May 31, 2001).
Bipartisan Makeup - Reporter Jeffrey St. Clair will later write, “The group was filled with heavy-hitters and was strikingly bipartisan in composition.” The group, later informally dubbed “the Rumsfeld Group,” is made up of, among others, PR executives John Rendon and Sheila Tate, Republican political consultant Rich Galen, and Democratic operative Tommy Boggs (brother of NPR’s Cokie Roberts and a PR consultant for the Saudi royal family; St. Clair believes Boggs may have had a hand in the decision to redact 20+ pages concerning the Saudis from Congress’s report on the intelligence failures leading to the 9/11 attacks—see April 2003 and August 1-3, 2003). The direct involvement, if any, of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is unclear.
Rendon's Involvement - John Rendon, the head of the Rendon Group, is a noteworthy veteran of the 1990-91 PR efforts to market the Gulf War (see August 11, 1990), has worked for both Democratic and Republican politicians and lobbying groups, and was instrumental in creating Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress (see May 1991). Rendon, already under contract with the Pentagon to help market the US bombing of Afghanistan, is one of the key players in marketing the upcoming Iraq invasion. Though Rendon refuses to discuss his work for the Pentagon, St. Clair believes he will be partially or completely responsible for some of the invasion’s signature events, including the toppling of the statue of Hussein in Firdos Square by US troops and Chalabi associates (see April 9, 2003), and video-friendly Iraqi crowds waving American flags as US Army vehicles roll by. Rendon explains his role like this: “I am not a national security strategist or a military tactician. I am a politician, and a person who uses communication to meet public policy or corporate policy objectives. In fact, I am an information warrior and a perception manager.” The Pentagon defines “perception management” as “actions to convey and/or deny selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning.” St. Clair adds, “In other words, lying about the intentions of the US government.” One of the biggest instances of Pentagon “perception management” is the Office of Strategic Influence (see Shortly after September 11, 2001), also developed by Rendon. [CounterPunch, 8/13/2003]
Entity Tags: Tommy Boggs, Iraqi National Congress, Donald Rumsfeld, Bush administration (43), “The Rumsfeld Group”, Jeffrey St. Clair, Sheila Tate, John Rendon, US Department of Defense, Rich Galen, Victoria (“Torie”) Clarke, Office of Strategic Influence
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion
A compendium of documents both real and forged is given to US intelligence by Italy’s military intelligence agency, SISMI. It is doubtful that the US receives the key documents themselves—it is standard practice among intelligence agencies to share reports, but not original materials, with allies. The dossier includes materials purloined from the Nigerien embassy in Rome (see January 2, 2001). According to document peddler Rocco Martino (see Early 2000), SISMI later added more documents to the ones he originally obtained from the Nigerien embassy, including a codebook and a dossier filled with documents both genuine and forged. The dossier includes an authentic telex dated February 1, 1999, in which Nigerien ambassador Adamou Chekou wrote to another official about a forthcoming visit from Wissam al-Zahawie, Iraq’s ambassador to the Vatican (see February 1999).
Forged Document Asserting Sale of Uranium to Iraq Included - The last and most important document the US receives is a forged memo dated July 7, 2000. This forgery is supposedly a report on the sale of 500 tons of pure “yellowcake” uranium per year by Niger to Iraq (see Between 1999 and 2000 and Summer 2001). Such uranium is useful in making nuclear weapons.
Documents for Money - For Martino’s part, it seems that his only motivation in disseminating the forged documents is money. Italian reporter Carla Bonini later says, “He was not looking for great amounts of money—$10,000, $20,000, maybe $40,000.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 236]
CIA Analysts Disbelieving of Claims - The initial reaction of the CIA analysts reading over the documents is to dismiss the reports of an Iraqi attempt to buy huge quantities of Nigerien uranium as ridiculous. In September 2006, veteran CIA analyst Ray McGovern will say: “The reports made no sense on the face of it. Most of us knew the Iraqis already had yellowcake. It is a sophisticated process to change it into a very refined state and they didn’t have the technology.” In October 2006, Larry Wilkerson, the chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, will say, “The idea that you could get that much yellowcake out of Niger without the French knowing, that you could have a train big enough to carry it, is absurd.” Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, who will serve in the Pentagon’s Near East and South Asia Division in 2002 and 2003, will note in October 2005: “Yellowcake is unprocessed bulk ore. If Saddam [Hussein] wanted to make nuclear bombs, why would he want unprocessed ore, when the best thing to do would be to get processed stuff in the Congo?” McGovern will add that it is routine for “all manner of crap” to come “out of the field.” The CIA’s experienced analysts “are qualified to see if these reports made sense. For some reason, perhaps cowardice, these reports were judged to be of such significance that no one wanted to sit on it.” [London Times, 8/1/2004; Unger, 2007, pp. 207-208]
Difference in Dates - Other sources say that SISMI waits until October 2001 to provide the documents to the US (see October 15, 2001).
Anthony Weiner. [Source: Anthony Weiner]A Democratic House member and four former Clinton administration staff members demand an apology from President Bush over the disproven Clinton “vandal scandal” stories from January 2001 (see January 25, 2001 and January 26, 2001). Two weeks ago, the General Services Administration (GSA) released a report debunking the stories (see May 18, 2001). In response, the White House leaks a hastily compiled “list” of damages that Bush staffers allege was done during the transition period (see June 2-3, 2001).
Demand for Apology - Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY) is joined by former White House officials Rob Housman, Jeff Gulko, Bridger McGaw, and Matthew Donoghue in demanding that Bush apologize for besmirching Clinton officials’ reputations with the false allegations. Weiner calls White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who was at the center of much of the rumors, “shameless,” and adds, “A GAO [General Accounting Office] study has confirmed there was no destruction of keyboards, no graffiti, there was no vandalism.” (The GAO found that because the White House had no records of the damages, it could not begin an investigation of the charges.)
Semi-Denial - Fleischer’s deputy, Scott McClellan, notes that “there is no actual GAO ‘report,’ which the congressman refers to in his letter. There’s just a letter from GAO.” McClellan’s odd denial is, according to some Bush officials, an attempt to imply that there was actual damage done by Clinton staffers, but the Bush White House chose not to participate in the GAO’s proposed investigation because it wanted to “move forward” and keep a “positive tone.” One White House aide says: “We never kept a list of all the incidents, and therefore did not have anything to turn over. That doesn’t mean the incidents didn’t happen. We just were pleased to let the matter fade so that people could return to the focus on policy.”
Response to Semi-Denial - Weiner says that the Bush White House claims are disingenuous. “I believe that the responsibility for this largely lies with the White House,” he says. “They fed this story, they nurtured this story, they spread this story.” The “vandal scandal” story was, Weiner says, part of a “strategy by the nascent Bush administration to toss up as much dust and smoke about the Clinton administration to give themselves a soft landing. It makes good copy to say ‘Well, there’s a new sheriff in town, and we don’t vandalize offices.’ Well, neither did the preceding administration.” Clinton staffers were made into “cannon fodder” for Bush administration propaganda, Weiner says. Donoghue calls the tales “a uniquely Capitol punishment, and that is the besmirching of our reputations. Standing here, all I can think of is what Ray Donovan said years ago, which is ‘Where do I go to get my reputation back?’ And that’s why we’re here today.” (Donovan is a former Reagan administration Cabinet official acquitted of bribery charges in 1987.) Donoghue says that he, McGaw, and Gulko have had problems finding jobs after their White House stints in part because of the vandalism allegations. [Salon, 6/2/2001]
Entity Tags: Clinton administration, Ari Fleischer, Anthony D. Weiner, Bush administration (43), Scott McClellan, Jeff Gulko, Matthew Donoghue, General Services Administration, General Accounting Office, Bridger McGaw, George W. Bush, Rob Housman
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
According to the trade publication PR Week, the ad hoc government public relations organization dubbed “The Rumsfeld Group” (see Late May 2001) is quite successful at sending what the publication calls “messaging advice” to the Pentagon.
Marketing a Link between Iraq, Islamist Radicals - The group tells Pentagon PR chief Victoria Clarke and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that to get the American public’s support for the war on terror, and particularly the invasion of Iraq, they need to fix in the public mind a link between terror and nation-states, not just fluid and ad hoc groups such as al-Qaeda. Reporter Jeffrey St. Clair will write, “In other words, there needed to be a fixed target for the military campaigns, some distant place to drop cruise missiles and cluster bombs.” The Rumsfeld Group comes up with the idea of labeling Iraq and certain other nations “rogue states,” an idea already extant in Rumsfeld’s mind, and the genesis of the so-called “axis of evil” (see January 29, 2002 and After January 29, 2002).
Veterans of the Gulf War - The government allocates tens of millions of dollars, most of which is handed out to private public relations and media firms hired to spread the Bush administration’s message that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein must be taken out before he can use his arsenal of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons on US targets. Many of the PR and media executives are old friends of senior Bush officials, and many had worked on selling the 1991 Gulf War to the public (see October 10, 1990).
Media Complicity Ensures Success - St. Clair will later note that while the PR efforts are, largely, failures with US allies, they are far more successful with the American population (see August 13, 2003). He will write: “A population traumatized by terror threats and shattered economy became easy prey for the saturation bombing of the Bush message that Iraq was a terrorist state linked to al-Qaeda that was only minutes away from launching attacks on America with weapons of mass destruction. Americans were the victims of an elaborate con job, pelted with a daily barrage of threat inflation, distortions, deceptions, and lies. Not about tactics or strategy or war plans. But about justifications for war. The lies were aimed not at confusing Saddam’s regime, but the American people.” St. Clair places as much blame on the “gullible [and] complicit press corps,” so easily managed by Clarke (see February 2003). “During the Vietnam war, TV images of maimed GIs and napalmed villages suburbanized opposition to the war and helped hasten the US withdrawal,” St. Clair writes. “The Bush gang meant to turn the Vietnam phenomenon on its head by using TV as a force to propel the US into a war that no one really wanted. What the Pentagon sought was a new kind of living room war, where instead of photos of mangled soldiers and dead Iraqi kids, they could control the images Americans viewed and to a large extent the content of the stories. By embedding reporters inside selected divisions, Clarke believed the Pentagon could count on the reporters to build relationships with the troops and to feel dependent on them for their own safety. It worked, naturally.” St. Clair notes the instance of one reporter on national television calling the US Army “our protectors,” and NBC’s David Bloom’s on-air admission that he is willing to do “anything and everything they can ask of us.” [CounterPunch, 8/13/2003]
Bush officials release this photo as evidence of the ‘systematic vandalism’ performed by outgoing Clinton staffers in January 2001. [Source: White House / Salon]The White House releases a list of damages it says were done by Clinton staffers as part of the Clinton “vandal scandal,” allegations that the White House and Air Force One were vandalized and looted in the final days of the Clinton administration (see January 26, 2001). White House press secretary Ari Fleischer gives the list to Washington Post reporter Mike Allen, but no one else.
Catalogue Based on Bush Staffers' Recollections - For months, White House officials have claimed they were keeping a “catalogue” detailing the damages done, but until now have failed to produce that catalogue; such a listing was not provided to the General Services Administration (GSA) when it reported that the stories of vandalism and looting were almost entirely false (see May 18, 2001). The General Accounting Office (GAO) reported in April that, partly because of the White House’s refusal to release its list of damages, it could confirm none of the often-sensational claims. According to Allen, the damages include “obscene graffiti in six offices, a 20-inch-wide presidential seal ripped off a wall, 10 sliced telephone lines, and 100 inoperable computer keyboards.” Also, pornographic or obscene phone messages were recorded on 15 telephone lines in various offices, requiring the answering machines to be reprogrammed; some printers had pornographic images inserted in stacks of blank copy paper. Doorknobs and nameplates are also listed as “missing.” Most of the alleged vandalism occurred, not in the White House, but in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, adjacent to the White House. Fleischer says the catalogue was not prepared until Friday, and is based on what Allen calls “the recollections of officials and career government employees, in response to Democrats’ ‘suggestion that the Bush White House made things up’” (see June 1, 2001).
Blaming Clinton Officials, Democrats, Press - Fleischer tells Allen: “The White House will defend itself and the career employees. We tried to be gracious, but the last administration would not take graciousness. By getting the information out, we hope to put an end to this, so everyone can go on with the policy and business of the government.” Former Clinton officials note that Fleischer’s catalogue bears little resemblance to the lurid claims of widespread destruction and looting made in January. Former presidential press secretary Joe Lockhart says the vandalism allegations were part of a failed Bush strategy to “make the new administration look good by comparison to the last one.” He adds: “If anyone did anything that harmed government property, that’s wrong. But to have suggested there was an organized effort that ran into hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage is grossly wrong and misleading.” House Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY) says that Fleischer and other Bush officials “deliberately misled the American people and smeared the names of public servants who were guilty of nothing.” Fleischer blames the press for keeping the story alive, saying: “Sometimes, stories just are like water running downhill and you can try to slow down the press, but you can’t stop them. All the White House comments were aimed at moving forward. It was all in the context of drawing reporters back from the story, because that’s what the president wanted.” [Washington Post, 6/3/2001]
The General Accounting Office (GAO) intends to reopen its investigation into the so-called Clinton “vandal scandal,” which alleged that Clinton aides had vandalized and looted both the White House and Air Force One in the final days of the Clinton administration (see January 26, 2001). The General Services Administration has recently found that reports of vandalism and theft are almost wholly false (see May 18, 2001). The GAO wants the list of damages that White House press secretary Ari Fleischer recently gave the Washington Post (see June 2-3, 2001), a list that for months White House officials insisted never existed. “We are going to proceed and do the review,” says Bernard Ungar, the GAO’s director of physical infrastructure. “Now they say there is a list.” In April, the GAO asked for the list, which Fleischer had said in January was being compiled (see January 25, 2001); at that time, White House officials admitted that such a list did not exist except in some officials’ “heads” (see April 18, 2001). White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan says that President Bush and others have been downplaying the “vandal scandal” issue because Bush wanted to “move forward”; however, she says, “when it became clear on Friday that others wanted to pursue this issue, the White House staff reconstructed orally what happened.” Buchan is referring to demands from Anthony Weiner (D-NY) that Bush apologize for smearing Clinton staffers’ reputations with the false allegations (see June 1, 2001). “Nothing has fundamentally changed about this story from the very beginning,” says former Clinton press secretary Jake Siewert. “The White House has been smearing a whole class of people without providing any evidence. Most of us are perfectly willing to accept the fact if it turns out to be that something happened. It’s just been these vague allegations without any proof. If there’s damage, there will be a record. If I wanted to get a phone fixed, there’s a paper trail.” Buchan blames White House service staff, who work at the site regardless of what administration is in office, for the original rumors. [Knight Ridder, 6/4/2001] A year later, the GAO will release a report finding “minor damages” occurred during the Clinton-Bush transition (see June 12, 2002).
Some former Clinton administration officials are furious at the White House’s release of a “list” of alleged vandalism (see January 25, 2001 and January 26, 2001) to a Washington Post reporter (see June 2-3, 2001), and demand that the White House document its charges. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer admitted that the list was only put together a few days before and was entirely based on the recollections of Bush officials. He says the White House will document the charges on the list if asked by the General Accounting Office (see June 4, 2001). Former Clinton press secretary Jake Siewert calls Fleischer’s tactics “incredibly infuriating,” and says documentation of the vandalism allegations should be simple because the government keeps careful records of repairs to phones and computers. “If I needed my keyboard fixed, I had to submit a form,” says Siewert, who worked in the White House for more than six years. “There should have been records of all this stuff.” Bush officials say the existing repair records do not indicate the causes of damage, and therefore cannot validate the vandalism claims. The General Services Administration (GSA) concluded in an investigation that the charges of vandalism and looting were almost completely false (see May 18, 2001); the GAO said it was unable to open its own investigation because of “the lack of records… reported by the White House.” House Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY—see June 1, 2001) says through a spokesman, “The White House’s continuing campaign of disinformation and possible violation of federal law for noncompliance with a GAO investigation calls its credibility—and its list of damaged property—into serious question.” Weiner’s House colleague Bob Barr (R-GA), who has demanded a GAO investigation, has called the failure of the White House to document its vandalism charges “a disservice to the American taxpayers” and asked the GAO “to ensure proper records of federal government property are kept during future presidential transitions.” [Washington Post, 6/4/2001]
Eric D. Hanson, a former Marine, overt racist, and member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance (see 1970-1974), is killed after a 14-hour gun battle and standoff with police in Lindenhurst, Illinois. Police investigtors approach Hanson while he is sitting in his car in front of his house, and attempt to arrest him for illegal weapons possession and gunrunning. Hanson flees, and the officers follow him to a grocery store parking lot. Hanson then opens fire on the officers, shooting one in the neck and thigh and a second in his bulletproof vest. Hanson runs inside the store, exits to again shoot at the officers, enters the store again and tells those inside to leave, and hides inside the now-deserted store. Police descend on the store. At 3:00 a.m., a remote-controlled bomb squad robot searches the store, but does not locate Hanson. A tactical weapons team then enters the store and finds Hanson hiding in a meat locker. Hanson fires at the tactical officers and they return fire, killing him. Hanson was previously convicted of assaulting an interracial couple in 1999, and told the jury during the proceedings: “Whites and blacks should be separate. It made me upset to see them together.” After his release from jail, he worked diligently for the National Alliance, distributing racist and anti-Semitic literature in Chicago and organizing a local unit in that city. According to a friend, Hanson particularly enjoyed “agitat[ing] the Jews,” and the friend tells reporters of an incident where Hanson and two other Alliance friends bought an Israeli flag in a local mall and stomped it in the middle of the mall while screaming anti-Semitic imprecations. Six months before his final standoff, Hanson assaulted an African-American woman after attending a Ku Klux Klan rally (see December 16, 2000). National Alliance members will memorialize Hanson in emails and Internet forum postings, calling him a hero, a “racial leader” and a “brave warrior,” and accusing police of setting up the situation to ensure Hanson’s death. Alliance members will grant Hanson the status of official “martyr” for the “cause.” [Center for New Community, 8/2002 ; Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/2002; Nicole Nichols, 2003] After Hanson’s death, Dave Neesan, who will succeed Hanson as the Alliance chapter leader in Chicago, will write, “His honor, patriotism, and honesty led him to draw an obvious conclusion: America is in deep trouble, and real Americans—White Americans—are being pushed out of their country.” Hanson was a “white patriot” who was merely protecting his rights against an unfair and murderous police presence, Neesan will say. More importantly, according to Neesan, Hanson’s death galvanizes the Chicago chapter, pushing it to more prominent actions in and around Chicago, though nothing to the level of violence in which Hanson engaged. Like many other more modern white supremacists, Neesan believes in moderating the appearance of organizations like the Alliance, eschewing “white sheets” and racial epithets for suits and ties and toned-down language. Still, Neesan will claim, Hanson and his actions, including his assaults on African-Americans and his violent resistance to arrest, make him a role model for newer Alliance members. [Daily Herald (Arlington Heights), 5/2/2004]
William Pierce, the head of the National Alliance (see 1970-1974) and the author of the infamous race-war fantasy The Turner Diaries (see 1978), says that Timothy McVeigh, the convicted Oklahoma City bomber (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) who was inspired by Pierce’s book, is a “man of principle” who is “willing to accept the consequences” for what he did. However, Pierce does not give his blessing to McVeigh’s act of terrorism, saying: “I wouldn’t have chosen to do what he did.… It’s really shameful to kill a lot of people when there’s no hope for accomplishing anything.” He says that while some of his NA members quit after the bombing, new ones joined: “Probably, on the whole, it was helpful,” he says. [New York Times, 6/9/2001; Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
One of a number of semi-official logos for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). [Source: Seventh Generation (.com)]A number of moderate and more radical animal rights groups hold their annual conference at the McLean Hilton in McLean, Virginia. More “mainstream” groups such as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) are represented, as are groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which straddle the divide between mainstream moderate rhetoric and extremism, and frankly extremist organizations such as the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976), its affiliate environmental organization Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997), and Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC—see 1998). PETA’s Bruce Friedrich tells a panel: “If we really believe that animals have the same right to be free from pain and suffering at our hands, then of course we’re going to be blowing things up and smashing windows.… I think it’s a great way to bring about animal liberation, considering the level of suffering, the atrocities. I think it would be great if all of the fast-food outlets, slaughterhouses, these laboratories, and the banks that fund them, exploded tomorrow. I think it’s perfectly appropriate for people to take bricks and toss them through the windows.… Hallelujah to the people who are willing to do it.” The panel members and audience applaud Friedrich’s words. ALF, ELF, and SHAC activists share a table, handing out pamphlets and T-shirts, one of which reads, “Words Mean Nothing… Action is Everything!” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/2002]
The Free Congress Foundation (FCF), an influential organization headed by longtime conservative operator Paul Weyrich and patronized at its weekly lunches by Republican political operatives such as Karl Rove, [Time, 4/22/2001] issues a document entitled “The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement.” It is written by Eric Heubeck. The document is a matter-of-fact overview of the exact tactics that Rove, Weyrich, and the conservative movement will use to keep moderates and liberals out of office and off the media radar. Heubeck writes, in part, “We must, as Mr. Weyrich has suggested, develop a network of parallel cultural institutions existing side-by-side with the dominant leftist cultural institutions. The building and promotion of these institutions will require the development of a movement that will not merely reform the existing post-war conservative movement, but will in fact be forced to supersede it—if it is to succeed at all—because it will pursue a very different strategy and be premised on a very different view of its role in society….” Heubeck writes that the process will take place in three stages: developing a “highly motivated elite able to coordinate future activities,” developing “institutions designed to make an impact on the wider elite and a relatively small minority of the masses,” and transforming “the overall character of American popular culture….” Heubeck says the movement will be “entirely destructive, and entirely constructive. We will not try to reform the existing institutions. We only intend to weaken them, and eventually destroy them. We will endeavor to knock our opponents off-balance and unsettle them at every opportunity. All of our constructive energies will be dedicated to the creation of our own institutions…. We will maintain a constant barrage of criticism against the Left. We will attack the very legitimacy of the Left. We will not give them a moment’s rest. We will endeavor to prove that the Left does not deserve to hold sway over the heart and mind of a single American. We will offer constant reminders that there is an alternative, there is a better way. When people have had enough of the sickness and decay of today’s American culture, they will be embraced by and welcomed into the New Traditionalist movement. The rejection of the existing society by the people will thus be accomplished by pushing them and pulling them simultaneously. We will use guerrilla tactics to undermine the legitimacy of the dominant regime…. We must create a countervailing force that is just as adept as the Left at intimidating people and institutions that are used as tools of left-wing activism but are not ideologically committed, such as Hollywood celebrities, multinational corporations, and university administrators. We must be feared, so that they will think twice before opening their mouths…. We will be results-oriented rather than good intentions-oriented. Making a good-faith effort and being ideologically sound will be less important than advancing the goals of the movement….” Heubeck says that television and video are the most “conducive to propagandistic purposes” of any media, “and our movement must learn to make use of this medium. A skillfully produced motion picture or television documentary has tremendous persuasive power…. Rational arguments simply do not have this power, and all arguments made in print tend to appeal to the rational, critical faculties of the mind to a greater or lesser degree….” He writes that the movement intends to present “all the examples of cultural decadence, irrationality and disingenuousness in public debate, combined with our commentary, selectively edited and arranged for maximum impact….” [Free Congress Foundation, 7/13/2001] The FCF manifesto outlines a part of Rove’s overall strategy of retaining the White House, Congress, and the judicial branch for 2004, 2008, and beyond—which began in the same week that Bush took office in January 2001. [Time, 4/22/2001]
A screenshot from ‘Stormfront for Kids,’ depicting the site’s logo and two Confederate-era flags. [Source: USA Today]USA Today reports on the participation of Derek Black, the 12-year-old son of Don Black, in his father’s Web activities. The elder Black operates Stormfront, the Internet’s first large-scale Web site promoting racial hatred and white supremacy (see March 1995). Black is proud of his son, telling a reporter that he “[c]ouldn’t ask for anything more.” He keeps a framed photo of Derek dressed in a Confederate soldier’s uniform above his desk in his home office. Derek runs the site’s children’s section, Stormfront for Kids, under his father’s supervision. The children’s pages feature puzzles, games, animated Confederate flags, audio files of white-pride songs, what USA Today calls “an inflammatory article about Martin Luther King Jr.,” and a personal statement from Derek asking visitors to stop sending him hate mail. “I get a lot of people who think I’m just a pawn in this horrible game of lies,” says Derek, who has been home-schooled since third grade by his mother, Chloe. “One person said: ‘Don’t listen to what your father says. Go turn on the Discovery Channel. Find out what the real world is like.’ Why would I turn on the TV to find out what the real world is like?” Stormfront for Kids is emblematic of the white supremacist movement’s outreach to younger potential members. Of the estimated 2,500 “hate” Web sites, 44 have sections designed for children, teens, and parents, according to Mark Weitzman of the Wiesenthal Center’s Task Force Against Hate. Though the number of sites may be small, USA Today reports that child psychologists and others monitoring their activity are alarmed about their reach and influence. “If you have a susceptible child who is angry and depressed, the sites could push a child toward certain behavior,” says psychiatrist Sirgay Sanger, director of New York City’s Early Care Center. “It’s the first step toward throwing a rock.” Weitzman says: “The number of people involved in these movements is not the only important factor. Sometimes when the numbers are low, members think the only way they can get their message across is through an act of domestic terrorism or extreme violence.” The most effective way that Stormfront and other groups such as the National Alliance (see 1970-1974) reach young people is through “skinhead” music, says Jordan Kessler, director of an Internet monitoring unit for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). “This is a language kids understand—a band of cool-looking young guys blasting out music.” One label, Resistance Records (see Late 1993 and Summer 1999), sold “close to $1 million” in merchandise last year, mostly online, according to Erich Gliebe, the leader of the National Alliance and the CEO of Resistance Records. That label sells items such as Nazi parade flags and a CD titled “War Songs of the 3rd Reich, Vol. 3.” Black says, “People say, ‘You’re teaching your son Satan.’” But, he says, “I think anyone who is critical of me for instilling in my son my world view has lost track of how a society should function.” [USA Today, 7/16/2001]
Entity Tags: Mark Weitzman, Don Black, Derek Black, Chloe Black, Erich Josef Gliebe, National Alliance, Jordan Kessler, Stormfront (.org), Sirgay Sanger, Resistance Records, USA Today, Stormfront for Kids
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice publicly joins the chorus of Bush administration officials demanding that the US withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (see May 26, 1972, May 1, 2001 and June 2001). Rice, an expert on the former Soviet Union, describes herself as a former “high priestess of arms control” who has changed her thinking. She says there is no longer a reason to discuss respective numbers of ballistic missiles held by the US and Russia, or, as she says, no further reason to debate “how many warheads could dance on the head of an SS-18.” [Chicago Sun-Times, 7/16/2001; Scoblic, 2008, pp. 184]
The rising demand for President Bush to make good on his stated intention to withdraw the United States from the 1972 ABM treaty with Russia (see May 26, 1972, August 3, 2000, May 1, 2001, and June 2001) alarms Yale law professor Bruce Ackerman. Ackerman, a constitutional law expert, writes that Bush lacks the authority to make such a decision. “Presidents don’t have the power to enter into treaties unilaterally,” he writes. “This requires the consent of two-thirds of the Senate, and once a treaty enters into force, the Constitution makes it part of the ‘supreme law of the land’—just like a statute. Presidents can’t terminate statutes they don’t like. They must persuade both houses of Congress to join in a repeal. Should the termination of treaties operate any differently?” Ackerman cites several historical instances, the most recent in 1978, when then-President Carter pulled the US out of a treaty with Taiwan, and was challenged unsuccessfully in a lawsuit that was dismissed by the Supreme Court. “[T]he court did not endorse the doctrine of presidential unilateralism,” Ackerman notes, but felt the issue should be resolved “by the executive and legislative branches.” Congress should not allow Bush to withdraw from the treaty, Ackerman writes. “If President Bush is allowed to terminate the ABM treaty, what is to stop future presidents from unilaterally taking America out of NATO or the United Nations?” he asks. “The question is not whether such steps are wise, but how democratically they should be taken. America does not enter into treaties lightly. They are solemn commitments made after wide-ranging democratic debate. Unilateral action by the president does not measure up to this standard.” Instead, he recommends: “Congress should proceed with a joint resolution declaring that Mr. Bush cannot terminate treaty obligations on his own. And if the president proceeds unilaterally, Congress should take further steps to defend its role in foreign policy.” [New York Times, 8/29/2001; Savage, 2007, pp. 140]
Conservative pundit and author David Horowitz labels the entire United Nations World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance as itself “racist.” Horowitz, in an appearance on Fox News’s Hannity and Colmes, refers to the conference, about to be held in Durban, South Africa, as being “run by Arab and African states… all of them, to a, to a state, practically, maybe there’s one that’s not a dictatorship, it’s racist.” He applauds the Bush administration’s decision not to send a senior representative to the conference. [Media Matters, 12/1/2004]
Part of the opening page of Gore Vidal’s article about Timothy McVeigh in Vanity Fair. [Source: Vanity Fair]Vanity Fair publishes a profile of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 7:14 a.m. June 11, 2001) by author and pundit Gore Vidal, who attended McVeigh’s execution (see May 6, 2001) and who exchanged letters with McVeigh for three years while he awaited execution. McVeigh invited Vidal to attend his execution as a result of their letter exchange.
Simplistic Portrayal of McVeigh as Lone 'Mad Bomber' - Vidal is convinced that the government orchestrated McVeigh’s conviction (see June 2, 1997) and the media’s portrayal of McVeigh as a lone mad bomber who “wanted to destroy innocent lives for no reason other than a spontaneous joy in evildoing.” Vidal also asserts that, in the government’s story, McVeigh “had no serious accomplices” (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998). Orchestrating the media response was not particularly difficult, he writes, as few in the mainstream press were particularly interested in why McVeigh carried out the bombing aside from the simple explanation that he was “evil incarnate.” Any explanation of more complexity, Vidal writes, was dismissed as wild conspiracy theories. It was predictable, Vidal writes, that evidence pertinent to McVeigh’s case was not provided until well after his conviction and sentencing (see May 10-11, 2001), and that it would be largely ignored (see June 1-7, 2001). Vidal recounts numerous instances where, when he began to attempt an explanation of McVeigh’s obsession with the 1993 Branch Davidian conflagration (see April 19, 1993) and his belief that he was at war with the US government on a variety of news broadcasts, he was cut short by the hosts.
'Counter-Attack' against US Government - According to Vidal, McVeigh was clear in his letters that the bombing was more than just, McVeigh wrote, “a simple act of ‘revenge’ for Waco,” but “a strike against the US government,” or more precisely, “a ‘counter-attack’ rather than a self-declared war.” In one letter, he quoted pundit H.L. Mencken as writing, “Every normal man must be temped at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.” Vidal recalls that he warned McVeigh that “Mencken often resorted to Swiftian hyperbole and was not to be taken too literally.” He then speculates on the “interesting possibility,” perhaps “the grandest conspiracy of all… that he neither made nor set off the bomb outside the Murrah Building: it was only later, when facing either death or life imprisonment, that he saw to it that would be given sole credit for hoisting the black flag and slitting throats, to the rising fury of various ‘militias’ across the land who are currently outraged that he is getting sole credit for a revolutionary act organized, some say, by many others. At the end, if this scenario is correct, he and the detested Feds were of a single mind.” Regardless of who carried out the bombing, Vidal writes, it is clear that “McVeigh himself was eager to commit what he called ‘federally assisted suicide.’” Vidal quotes an interview with Dr. John Smith, a psychiatrist who interviewed McVeigh in prison and was then released from his oath of confidentiality by McVeigh to discuss his findings with reporters, who concluded that McVeigh was quite sane, and carried out the bombing both in revenge for the Waco assault and because “he also wanted to make a political statement about the role of the federal government and protest the use of force against the citizens.” Smith found that McVeigh was disappointed that the media had refused to discuss what he considered “the misuse of power by the federal government” that impelled him to carry out the bombing.
Limited Contact with Militias - According to Smith, McVeigh told him, “I did not expect a revolution.” He had had numerous discussions with some of the militia groups around Kingman, Arizona, Smith said, about how easy it would be to “cut Interstate 40 in two” and thereby disrupt the transportation between the eastern and western portions of the country, but those discussions, McVeigh told Smith, were “rather grandiose” and never acted upon. Vidal acknowledges that for three years before the bombing, McVeigh lived in the semi-underground world of the American militia movement. During that time, he came to believe, as many militia members did at the time, that the federal government planned on following up its assault weapons ban (see September 13, 1994) with a massive, nationwide raid on gun owners and militia members in the spring of 1995. Vidal writes, “This was all the trigger that McVeigh needed for what he would do—shuffled the deck, as it were.” Vidal claims that McVeigh, unlike many militia members, had “no hang-ups about blacks, Jews, and all the other enemies of the various ‘Aryan’ white nations to be found in the Patriots’ ranks.” He was fascinated with the violently racist novel The Turner Diaries (see 1978) and 1987-1988), he acknowledges, but only for its themes of individual Americans using guns and explosives to overthrow “the System.” Smith bolstered Vidal’s contention by reporting that McVeigh had insisted to him that he was not a racist nor a homophobe—“he made that very clear.”
Rationale for Bombing, and for Killing Civilians, Children - Vidal quotes a 1998 essay McVeigh wrote for the right-wing publication Media Bypass, “Essay on Hypocrisy,” that addressed his choice to blow up the Murrah Building, which contained a daycare center. The US, he wrote, set the precedent for bombing and killing civilians. When US military forces attack Iraqi government buildings with daycare centers or schools in them, McVeigh wrote, the media reported the children were being used as “shields” by the Iraqis. Vidal claims that no evidence exists that proves McVeigh knew about the presence of children in the Murrah Building, and repeats McVeigh’s claims that he had no such foreknowledge. However, Vidal notes, the FBI knew about the children in the Branch Davidian compound, “and managed to kill 27 of them.” In a final set of longhand notes McVeigh sent to Vidal in the weeks before his execution, McVeigh wrote: “I explain herein why I bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. I explain this not for publicity, nor seeking to win an argument of right or wrong, I explain so that the record is clear as to my thinking and motivations in bombing a government installation. I chose to bomb a Federal Building because such an action served more purposes than other options. Foremost, the bombing was a retaliatory strike: a counter-attack, for the cumulative raids (and subsequent violence and damage) that federal agents had participated in over the preceding years (including, but not limited to, Waco). From the formation of such units as the FBI’s ‘Hostage Rescue’ and other assault teams amongst federal agencies during the 80s, culminating in the Waco incident, federal actions grew increasingly militaristic and violent, to the point where at Waco, our government—like the Chinese—was deploying tanks against its own citizens.” The federal government has militarized the police, he wrote, and his bombing was designed as a “pre-emptive (or pro-active) strike against those forces and their command and control centers within the federal building. When an aggressor force continually launches attacks from a particular base of operations, it is sound military strategy to take the flight to the enemy. Additionally, borrowing a page from US foreign policy, I decided to send a message to a government that was becoming increasingly hostile, by bombing a government building and the government employees within that building who represent that government. Bombing the Murrah Federal Building was morally and strategically equivalent to the US hitting a government building in Serbia, Iraq, or other nations. Based on observations of the policies of my own government, I viewed this action as an acceptable option. From this perspective what occurred in Oklahoma City was no different than what Americans rain on the heads of others all the time, and, subsequently, my mindset was and is one of clinical detachment. (The bombing of the Murrah Building was not personal no more than when Air Force, Army, Navy, or Marine personnel bomb or launch cruise missiles against (foreign) government installations and their personnel.)”
'Exaggerated Sense of Justice' - Vidal has previously written that McVeigh suffered from what he called “an exaggerated sense of justice,” outraging many who read his words. He defends that characterization, and writes, “I knew that few Americans seriously believe that anyone is capable of doing anything except out of personal self-interest, while anyone who deliberately risks—and gives—his life to alert his fellow citizens to an onerous government is truly crazy.” McVeigh’s act may not have sparked a rebellion, Vidal writes, but it did presage an explosion of sorts in the number of citizens identifying themselves with the militia movement, many of whom joined local militia groups because they believed the government had orchestrated the bombing and then unjustly blamed McVeigh for it. Others believe that government agents planted bombs inside the Murrah Building set to go off when McVeigh’s truck bomb detonated. Many believe that McVeigh was used by the government to perpetuate “state police power,” similar to instances during the Vietnam War when “bogus Viet Cong units that were sent out to rape and murder Vietnamese to discredit the National Liberation Front,” or when US forces pretended to “find” Communist arms dumps in El Salvador. Vidal repeats the tale that all 17 members of the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) working in their Murrah Building office suspiciously failed to report to work on the day of the bombing, suggesting that they knew of the bombing in advance (see December 30, 1998).
Militia Involvement? - Vidal then engages in a long and detailed attack on the evidence that shows McVeigh and his co-conspirator Terry Nichols built the bomb themselves. He believes that McVeigh and Nichols were involved in a complex and shadowy “plot involving militia types and government infiltrators—who knows?—as prime movers to create panic in order to get” President Clinton to enact the Anti-Terrorism Act, and cites research by journalist and author Joel Dyer, who in his own writings detailed his belief that the government downplayed McVeigh’s militia affiliations to make a case that he was a quintessential and possibly deranged “lone bomber.” Dyer and Vidal both cite the poor defense put on by McVeigh’s trial lawyer, Stephen Jones, who, Dyer contended, “often left the jury more confused and bored than convinced of his client’s innocence. Even when he succeeded in his attempts to demonstrate that a large conspiracy was behind the bombing, he did little to show that McVeigh was not at the center of the conspiracy. Jones’s case led some reporters to speculate that McVeigh himself was limiting his own defense in order to prevent evidence that might implicate others in the bombing from entering the record.” McVeigh did indeed confess to the bombing to his defense lawyers and, later, to Vidal, but, Vidal writes, “I believe that by confessing McVeigh was, once again, playing the soldier, attempting to protect his co-conspirators.” Vidal writes that his own research has unearthed a number of militia members who may have played a part in the April 19 bombing, and a systematic effort by the FBI and the McVeigh prosecution team to quash any evidence of that sort during McVeigh’s trial. He also challenges the government’s assertion that the reports of a third co-conspirator, “John Doe No. 2,” was a US Army private with no connection to McVeigh or the bombing (see January 29, 1997). Instead, he writes, that person was likely a well-known militia member in Shawnee County, Kansas, and possibly a member of the separatist Republic of Texas organization. He cites a book on the bombing by former journalist David Hoffman, who was convicted of trying to tamper with the McVeigh jury (see December 30, 1998), as being “the most thorough of a dozen or two accounts of what did and did not happen on that day in April.” Like Vidal, Hoffman does not believe that McVeigh’s truck bomb could have caused the damage inflicted on the Murrah Building, and cites a number of military and government experts who make the same contentions, even citing one report that claims the “five separate bombs” used in the explosion “have a Middle Eastern ‘signature,’ pointing to either Iraqi or Syrian involvement” (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After). Vidal notes that the search for bodies in the destroyed building was halted after 16 days (see May 4, 1995), against the wishes of those who wanted to continue attempting to search for more evidence in the bomb site. Six days later the building was demolished (see 7:01 a.m. May 23, 1995), leading one critic, retired Air Force Brigadier General Benton K. Partin, to declare that the building was demolished as “a classic cover-up” executed by Communist agents. Vidal writes of Partin’s belief that Communists orchestrated the cover-up, “Well, nobody’s perfect.” (Vidal errs in his “six day” claim; the building was demolished 19 days later.) Vidal writes: “In the end, McVeigh, already condemned to death, decided to take full credit for the bombing. Was he being a good professional soldier, covering up for others? Or did he, perhaps, now see himself in a historic role with his own private Harper’s Ferry, and though his ashes molder in the grave, his spirit is marching on? We may know—one day.” [Vanity Fair, 9/2001]
Entity Tags: Joel Dyer, David Hoffman, Benton K. Partin, Federal Bureau of Investigation, H.L. Mencken, Timothy James McVeigh, Gore Vidal, Stephen Jones, Terry Lynn Nichols, Vanity Fair, John Smith, Murrah Federal Building
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
In the months leading up to the war with Iraq, Bush administration officials manipulate the intelligence provided to them by analysts in order to drum up support for the invasion. Some analysts complain that they are under pressure to write assessments that support the administration’s case for invading Iraq. On March 7, 2002, Knight Ridder reports that various military officials, intelligence employees, and diplomats in the Bush administration have charged “that the administration squelches dissenting views and that intelligence analysts are under intense pressure to produce reports supporting the White House’s argument that Hussein poses such an immediate threat to the United States that preemptive military action is necessary.” [Knight Ridder, 10/7/2002]
Men in the Palestiani Shatila refugee camp, Lebanon, celebrating the 9/11 attacks. [Source: Associated Press / Mohamed Zatari]Television news coverage on 9/11 repeatedly shows images of Palestinians rejoicing over the 9/11 attack. According to Mark Crispin Miller, a professor of media studies at New York University who investigated the issue, the footage was filmed during the funeral of nine people killed the day before by Israeli authorities. He said, “To show it without explaining the background, and to show it over and over again is to make propaganda for the war machine and is irresponsible.” [Agence France-Presse, 9/18/2001; Australian, 9/27/2001]
Two sections from RumsfeldÃ¢Â€Â™s notes, dictated to Stephen Cambone. [Source: Defense Department]Defense Secretary Rumsfeld aide Stephen Cambone is taking notes on behalf of Rumsfeld in the National Military Command Center. These notes will be leaked to the media nearly a year later. According to the notes, although Rumsfeld has already been given information indicating the 9/11 attacks were done by al-Qaeda (see 12:05 p.m. September 11, 2001) and he has been given no evidence so far indicating any Iraqi involvement, he is more interested in blaming the attacks on Iraq. According to his aide’s notes, Rumsfeld wants the “best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at same time. Not only UBL [Osama bin Laden].… Need to move swiftly.… Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.” [CBS News, 9/4/2002; Bamford, 2004, pp. 285] In a 2004 book, author James Moore will write, “Unless Rumsfeld had an inspired moment while the rest of the nation was in shock, the notes are irrefutable proof that the Bush administration had designs on Iraq and Hussein well before the president raised his hand to take the oath of office.” [Moore, 3/15/2004, pp. 18]
Soon after September 11, a concerted effort begins to pin the blame for the attacks on Saddam Hussein. Retired General Wesley Clark will later say on NBC’s Meet the Press in June 2003 and in a letter published by the New York Times that “immediately after 9/11” there was a “concerted effort… to pin 9/11 and the terrorism problem on Saddam Hussein” and use the attacks as an excuse to go after the Iraqi dictator. When asked by NBC’s Tim Russert, who was behind the concerted effort, Clark will respond: “Well, it came from the White House, it came from people around the White House. It came from all over.” Clark also says, “I got a call on 9/11. I was on CNN, and I got a call at my home saying, ‘You got to say this is connected. This is state-sponsored terrorism. This has to be connected to Saddam Hussein.’ I said, ‘But—I’m willing to say it, but what’s your evidence?’ And I never got any evidence.” He says the phone call came from a Middle Eastern think tank outside of the country. [MSNBC, 6/15/2003; Clark, 7/18/2003]
Secretary of State Colin Powell states, “In the first 24 hours of analysis, I have not seen any evidence that there was a specific signal that we missed.… In this case, we did not have intelligence of anything of this scope or magnitude.” [Washington File, 9/12/2001]
Neoconservative academic and author Laurie Mylroie, who has argued that Saddam Hussein was behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombings (see October 2000), publishes an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal blaming Hussein for the 9/11 bombings. Though Mylroie has been thoroughly discredited (one former journalist, Peter Bergen, will call her a “crackpot”—see December 2003), and though US intelligence analysts are already telling journalists and White House officials that Iraq had nothing to do with the bombings, Mylroie’s assertions receive major coverage from many US and British media outlets. In a follow-up interview on CBS News, she says, “In my view, yesterday’s events were the latest in Saddam’s war against the United States.” Author Craig Unger later notes that Mylroie’s baseless charges may be considered harmless eccentricity except for two things:
Her claims perfectly parallel the policy aims of her neoconservative colleagues and associates in the White House; and
while few Americans have ever heard of Osama bin Laden or al-Qaeda, and few find it credible that such devastation could be wrought by a small group of cave-dwelling fanatics, Saddam Hussein is a familiar name to most Americans, “a villain,” Unger will write, “straight out of central casting.” Mylroie’s specious claims will help fix the blame for 9/11 in Americans’ minds directly on Hussein and Iraq, Unger will claim. [Unger, 2007, pp. 215-216]
RaptureReady logo. [Source: RaptureReady (.com)]In the days after the 9/11 attacks, RaptureReady.com, a web site devoted to the study and predictions of Biblical “end times,” hits a new high of 182 on its “Rapture Index.” The site calls this measure the “Dow Jones Industrial Average of end time activity.” A score of 145 is labeled “Fasten Your Seat Belts.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 218]
David Wurmser (left) and Michael Maloof (right). [Source: ThinkProgress.org (left) and PBS (right)]Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith set up a secret intelligence unit, named the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group (CTEG—sometimes called the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group), to sift through raw intelligence reports and look for evidence of a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda. [Risen, 2006, pp. 183-184; Quarterly Journal of Speech, 5/2006 ]
Modeled after "Team B" - The four to five -person unit, a “B Team” commissioned by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and modeled after the “Team B” analysis exercise of 1976 (see November 1976), is designed to study the policy implications of connections between terrorist organizations. CTEG uses powerful computers and software to scan and sort already-analyzed documents and reports from the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and other agencies in an effort to consider possible interpretations and angles of analysis that these agencies may have missed due to deeply ingrained biases. Middle East specialist Harold Rhode recruits David Wurmser to head the project. Wurmser, the director of Middle East studies for the American Enterprise Institute, is a known advocate of regime change in Iraq, having expressed his views in a 1997 op-ed piece published in the Wall Street Journal (see November 12, 1997) and having participated in the drafting of the 1996 policy paper for Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm
(see July 8, 1996). F. Michael Maloof, a former aide to Richard Perle, is also invited to take part in the effort, which becomes known internally as the “Wurmser-Maloof” project. Neither Wurmser nor Maloof are intelligence professionals [Washington Times, 1/14/2002; New York Times, 10/24/2002; Mother Jones, 1/2004; Los Angeles Times, 2/8/2004; Reuters, 2/19/2004; Quarterly Journal of Speech, 5/2006 ] , but both are close friends of Feith’s.
Countering the CIA - Since the days of Team B, neoconservatives have insisted the CIA has done nothing but underestimate and downplay the threats facing the US. “They have a record over 30 years of being wrong,” says Defense Policy Board member Richard Perle, who adds that the CIA refuses to even allow for the possibility of a connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda—one of the topics that most interests Wurmser and Maloof. [Unger, 2007, pp. 226-227]
Finding Facts to Fit Premises - Maloof and Wurmser set up shop in a small room on the third floor of the Pentagon, where they set about developing a “matrix” that charts connections between terrorist organizations and their support infrastructures, including support systems within nations themselves. Both men have security clearances, so they are able to draw data from both raw and finished intelligence products available through the Pentagon’s classified computer system. More highly classified intelligence is secured by Maloof from his previous office. He will later recall, “We scoured what we could get up to the secret level, but we kept getting blocked when we tried to get more sensitive materials. I would go back to my office, do a pull and bring it in.… We discovered tons of raw intelligence. We were stunned that we couldn’t find any mention of it in the CIA’s finished reports.” Each week, Wurmser and Maloof report their findings to Stephen Cambone, a fellow member of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC—see January 26, 1998) neoconservative and Feith’s chief aide. George Packer will later describe their process, writing, “Wurmser and Maloof were working deductively, not inductively: The premise was true; facts would be found to confirm it.” CTEG’s activities cause tension within the intelligence community. Critics claim that its members manipulate and distort intelligence, “cherry-picking” bits of information that support their preconceived conclusions. Although the State Department’s own intelligence outfit, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), is supposed to have access to all intelligence materials circulating through the government, INR chief Greg Thielmann later says, “I didn’t know about its [CTEG’s] existence. They were cherry-picking intelligence and packaging it for [Vice President] Cheney and [Defense Secretary] Donald Rumsfeld to take to the president. That’s the kind of rogue operation that peer review is intended to prevent.” A defense official later adds, “There is a complete breakdown in the relationship between the Defense Department and the intelligence community, to include its own Defense Intelligence Agency. Wolfowitz and company disbelieve any analysis that doesn’t support their own preconceived conclusions. The CIA is enemy territory, as far are they’re concerned.” Wurmser and Maloof’s “matrix” leads them to conclude that Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and other groups with conflicting ideologies and objectives are allowing these differences to fall to the wayside as they discover their shared hatred of the US. The group’s research also leads them to believe that al-Qaeda has a presence in such places as Latin American. For weeks, the unit will attempt to uncover evidence tying Saddam Hussein to the 9/11 attacks, a theory advocated by both Feith and Wolfowitz. [Washington Times, 1/14/2002; New York Times, 10/24/2002; Mother Jones, 1/2004; Los Angeles Times, 2/8/2004; Quarterly Journal of Speech, 5/2006 ; Unger, 2007, pp. 226-227]
Denial - Defending the project, Paul Wolfowitz will tell the New York Times that the team’s purpose is to circumvent the problem “in intelligence work, that people who are pursuing a certain hypothesis will see certain facts that others won’t, and not see other facts that others will.” He insists that the special Pentagon unit is “not making independent intelligence assessments.” [New York Times, 10/24/2002] The rest of the US intelligence community is not impressed with CTEG’s work. “I don’t have any problem with [the Pentagon] bringing in a couple of people to take another look at the intelligence and challenge the assessment,” former DIA analyst Patrick Lang will later say. “But the problem is that they brought in people who were not intelligence professionals, people were brought in because they thought like them. They knew what answers they were going to get.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 226-227]
Dismissing CIA's Findings that Iraq, al-Qaeda are Not Linked - One example is an early CTEG critique of a CIA report, Iraq and al-Qaeda: Interpreting a Murky Relationship. CTEG notes that the CIA included data indicating links between Iraq and al-Qaeda, and then blast the agency for “attempt[ing] to discredit, dismiss, or downgrade much of this reporting, resulting in inconsistent conclusions in many instances.” In CTEG’s view, policy makers should overlook any equivocations and discrepancies and dismiss the CIA’s guarded conclusions: “[T]he CIA report ought to be read for content only—and CIA’s interpretation ought to be ignored.” Their decision is powered by Wolfowitz, who has instructed them to ignore the intelligence community’s view that al-Qaeda and Iraq were doubtful allies. They also embrace the theory that 9/11 hijacker Mohammad Atta met with an Iraqi official in Prague, a theory discredited by intelligence professionals (see December 2001 and Late July 2002). Author Gordon R. Mitchell refers to the original Team B in calling the critique “1976 redux, with the same players deploying competitive intelligence analysis to sweep away policy obstacles presented by inconvenient CIA threat assessments.” In 1976, the Team B members were outsiders; now they are, Mitchell will write, “firmly entrenched in the corridors of power. Control over the levers of White House bureaucracy enabled Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz to embed a Team B entity within the administration itself. The stage was set for a new kind of Team B intelligence exercise—a stealth coup staged by one arm of the government against the other.” [Quarterly Journal of Speech, 5/2006 ; Agence France-Presse, 2/9/2007]
Stovepiping Information Directly to White House - The group is later accused of stovepiping intelligence directly to the White House. Lang later tells the Washington Times: “That unit had meetings with senior White House officials without the CIA or the Senate being aware of them. That is not legal. There has to be oversight.” According to Lang and another US intelligence official, the two men go to the White House several times to brief officials, bypassing CIA analysts whose analyses they disagreed with. They allegedly brief White House staffers Stephen Hadley, the deputy national security adviser, and Lewis “Scooter” Libby, chief of staff for Vice President Richard Cheney, according to congressional staffers. [Washington Times, 7/29/2004] In October 2004, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) will conclude, “[T]he differences between the judgments of the IC [intelligence community] and the DOD [Department of Defense] policy office [CTEG] might have been addressed by a discussion between the IC and DOD of underlying assumptions and the credibility and reliability of sources of raw intelligence reports. However, the IC never had the opportunity to defend its analysis, nor point out problems with DOD’s ‘alternative’ view of the Iraq-al-Qaeda relationship when it was presented to the policymakers at the White House.” Levin will add, “Unbeknownst to the IC, policymakers were getting information that was inconsistent with, and thus undermined, the professional judgments of the IC experts. The changes included information that was dubious, misrepresented, or of unknown import.” [Quarterly Journal of Speech, 5/2006 ]
Passing Intelligence to INC - According to unnamed Pentagon and US intelligence officials, the group is also accused of providing sensitive CIA and Pentagon intercepts to the US-funded Iraqi National Congress, which then pass them on to the government of Iran. [Washington Times, 7/29/2004] “I knew Chalabi from years earlier,” Maloof later recalls, “so I basically asked for help in giving us direction as to where to look for information in our own system in order to be able to get a clear picture of what we were doing. [Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress] were quite helpful.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 226-227]
CTEG Evolves into OSP - By August 2002, CTEG will be absorbed into a much more expansive “alternative intelligence” group, the Office of Special Plans (OSP—see September 2002). Wurmser will later be relocated to the State Department where he will be the senior adviser to Undersecretary Of State for Arms Control John Bolton.(see September 2002). [American Conservative, 12/1/2003; Mother Jones, 1/2004; Quarterly Journal of Speech, 5/2006 ]
Public Finally Learns of CTEG's Existence - Over a year after its formation, Rumsfeld will announce its existence, but only after the media reveals the existence of the OSP (see October 24, 2002).
Entity Tags: Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group, David Wurmser, Donald Rumsfeld, Douglas Feith, F. Michael Maloof, Harold Rhode, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Gordon R. Mitchell, ’Team B’, Stephen J. Hadley, Paul Wolfowitz, Greg Thielmann, Richard Perle
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Neoconservative Influence
Prominent conservative and former Reagan administration official William Bennett tells CNN that, in light of the 9/11 attacks, the US is locked in “a struggle between good and evil.” Congress must immediately declare war on what he calls “militant Islam,” with “overwhelming force.” Bennett says the US must target Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and China as targets for attack. In 2003, fellow conservative Pat Buchanan will write: “Not, however, Afghanistan, the sanctuary of Osama [bin Laden]‘s terrorists. How did Bennett know which nations must be smashed before he had any idea who attacked us?” [American Conservative, 3/24/2003]
The Pentagon creates a secret office to coordinate military information operations aimed at improving the United States’ image abroad. The office, named the Office of Strategic Influence, or OSI, is headed by Brigadier General Simon P. Wordon [New York Times, 2/19/2002] , an astrophysicist with experience in space operations and missile defense. [Washington Post, 2/20/2002] His assistant is Thomas A. Timmes. [New York Times, 2/19/2002] Worden reports to Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith. [Rich, 2006, pp. 32] OSI is a small, but well-funded operation and there are reportedly plans to provide it with an annual budget of as much as $100 million. [New York Times, 2/19/2002; London Times, 2/20/2002; New York Times, 2/27/2002] Many of OSI’s functions are contracted to private public relations firms such as the Rendon Group, whose client list includes the CIA, the Kuwaiti royal family, and the Iraqi National Congress. [Rich, 2006, pp. 32] Soon after the office is formed, a proposal is floated to produce and disseminate disinformation. The New York Times will report: “[T]he new office has begun circulating classified proposals calling for aggressive campaigns that use not only the foreign media and the Internet, but also covert operations.… One of the office’s proposals calls for planting news items with foreign media organizations through outside concerns that might not have obvious ties to the Pentagon.… General Worden envisions a broad mission ranging from ‘black’ campaigns that use disinformation and other covert activities to ‘white’ public affairs that rely on truthful news releases.… ‘It goes from the blackest of black programs to the whitest of white,’ a senior Pentagon official said.… Another proposal involves sending journalists, civic leaders and foreign leaders e-mail messages that promote American views or attack unfriendly governments.” [New York Times, 2/19/2002] When OSI’s classified proposals are leaked to the press (see February 19, 2002), White House officials say they are “furious” that the use of disinformation is being considered and then a few days later announce that the office has been shut down (see February 26, 2002). [Washington Post, 2/25/2002]
The Wall Street Journal editorial page reacts to the 9/11 attacks by advocating that the US attack “terrorist camps in Syria, Sudan, Libya, and Algeria, and perhaps even in parts of Egypt.” [American Conservative, 3/24/2003]
In the days after the 9/11 attacks, white supremacist William Pierce, the leader of the neo-Nazi National Alliance (see 1970-1974 and 1978), tells a radio audience that the attacks could help fundamentally destabilize the US government: “Things are a bit brittle now. A few dozen more anthrax cases (see September 17-18, 2001 and October 5-November 21, 2001), another truck bomb in a well chosen location (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), and substantial changes could take place in a hurry: a stock market panic, martial law measures by the Bush government, and a sharpening of the debate as to how we got ourselves into this mess in the first place.” On his Web site, Pierce says that “terrorism is not the problem,” and explains that the current terror threat is “the price for letting ourselves, our nation, be used by an alien minority to advance their own interests at the expense of ours.” Pierce, an outspoken anti-Semite, is referring to Jews as an “alien minority.” Many white supremacists have expressed their support for Islamist terrorists, including al-Qaeda, because of their common antipathy towards Jews. [David Neiwert, 6/17/2003]
Paramount’s Sherry Lansing at a 2001 meeting to discuss the media’s role in battling terrorism. She is flanked by Walt Disney CEO Robert Iger, Karl Rove, and CBS owner Sumner Redstone. [Source: Fred Rouser / Reuters]Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, a group of senior media executives meet repeatedly with White House officials, including top political strategist Karl Rove, to discuss ways that the entertainment industry can help improve America’s image in foreign markets. The gathered officials discuss the use of “soft power”—using the influence of American movies and television shows to sway public opinion, especially among Muslim and Arab populations. Television producer Bryce Zabel, the chairman of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, says in a memo that the US must regard itself like a consumer brand: “Products like Coca-Cola are far more effectively branded around the globe than the United States itself. The American entertainment and communications industry has the technological and creative expertise to improve relations between our country and the rest of the world.” Hilary Rosen, the chairwoman of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and a participant in the meetings, recalls in 2008 that Rove and other White House officials wanted support similar to that provided by Hollywood to the US government during World War II. “They wanted the music industry, the movie industry, the TV industry to produce propaganda,” she will recall. “Rove was putting a lot of pressure on us.” A 2008 New York Times report will conclude, “There were few tangible results from the meetings.” Harvard professor Joseph Nye, who coined the term “soft power” in 1989, will observe in 2008: “[W]hat’s interesting about the last eight years is that polls show a decline in American attractiveness.… But then you ask the follow-up questions and you see that American culture remains attractive, that American values remain attractive. Which is the opposite of what the president has said—that they hate us for who we are and what we believe in.” [New York Times, 11/30/2008]
One of the first and most frequently told stories about the 9/11 hijackers is the visit of two hijackers to Shuckums, a sports bar in Hollywood, Florida, on September 7, 2001 (see September 7, 2001). What is particularly interesting about this story is how it changes over time. In the original story, first reported on September 12, 2001 [Associated Press, 9/12/2001] , hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi, and an unidentified man, came into the restaurant already drunk. “They were wasted,” says bartender Patricia Idrissi, who directed them to a nearby Chinese restaurant. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/13/2001] Later they returned and drank—Atta ordered five vodka and orange juices, while Alshehhi ordered five rum and Cokes. [Time, 9/24/2001] According to manager Tony Amos, “The guy Mohamed was drunk, his voice was slurred, and he had a thick accent.” Idrissi says they argued about the bill, and when she asked if there was a problem, “Mohamed said he worked for American Airlines and he could pay his bill.” [Associated Press, 9/12/2001] This story is widely reported through much of September. [New York Times, 9/13/2001; South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/15/2001; Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 9/16/2001; Miami Herald, 9/22/2001; Newsweek, 9/24/2001; Time, 9/24/2001] However, beginning on September 15, a second story appears. [Toronto Star, 9/15/2001] This story is similar to the first, except that here, Atta was playing video games and drinking cranberry juice instead of vodka, and Alshehhi was the one who argued over the bill and paid. After some coexistence, the second story becomes predominant in late September 2001. This new version makes no reference to the fact that alcohol had been mentioned in previous accounts of the incident. [Washington Post, 9/16/2001; Washington Post, 9/22/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/27/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 9/27/2001; Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 11/12/2001; Sunday Times (London), 2/3/2002]
In an op-ed piece published in the New Republic, former CIA director James Woolsey calls on the Bush administration to re-examine evidence that could potentially tie Iraq to the 1993 bombing of the WTC. He cites a theory (see Late July or Early August 2001) that Iraqi intelligence helped bomber Ramzi Yousef steal the identity of a Kuwaiti student studying at a college in Wales. If this theory is correct, he says, “then it was Iraq that went after the World Trade Center last time. Which makes it much more plausible that Iraq has done so again.” In light of this, he argues, US authorities should consider the possibility that Saddam Hussein had a hand in the 9/11 attacks. “[I]ntelligence and law enforcement officials investigating the case would do well to at least consider another possibility: that the attacks—whether perpetrated by bin Laden and his associates or by others—were sponsored, supported, and perhaps even ordered by Saddam Hussein,” he writes. “As yet, there is no evidence of explicit state sponsorship of the September 11 attacks. But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” [New Republic, 9/13/2001] Woolsey went to Britain in February 2001 and failed to find evidence to support this theory (see February 2001). But a few days later, the US Defense Department will send Woolsey to Britain again (see Late September 2001) to investigate the alleged Iraq link to the 1993 bombing.
Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell on the 700 Club. [Source: Tampa Bay Coalition]During a guest appearance on Pat Robertson’s 700 Club, televangelist Jerry Falwell tells listeners who he believes is responsible for the 9/11 attacks: homosexuals, abortionists, and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Falwell: “I fear, as Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense said yesterday, that this is only the beginning. And with biological warfare available to these monsters; the Husseins, the bin Ladens, the Arafats, what we saw on Tuesday, as terrible as it is, could be miniscule if, in fact, if in fact God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve.”
Robertson: “Jerry, that’s my feeling. I think we’ve just seen the antechamber to terror. We haven’t even begun to see what they can do to the major population.”
Falwell: “The ACLU’s got to take a lot of blame for this.”
Robertson: “Well, yes.”
Falwell: “And, I know that I’ll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen.’”
Robertson: “Well, I totally concur, and the problem is we have adopted that agenda at the highest levels of our government. And so we’re responsible as a free society for what the top people do. And, the top people, of course, is the court system.”
Falwell: “Amen. Pat, did you notice yesterday? The ACLU, and all the Christ-haters, the People For the American Way, NOW [the National Organization for Women], etc. were totally disregarded by the Democrats and the Republicans in both houses of Congress as they went out on the steps and called out on to God in prayer and sang ‘God Bless America’ and said ‘let the ACLU be hanged.’” [Washington Post, 9/14/2001; People for the American Way, 9/17/2001; Unger, 2007, pp. 217-218]
In a prayer during the broadcast, Robertson intones: “We have sinned against Almighty God, at the highest level of our government, we’ve stuck our finger in your eye. The Supreme Court has insulted you over and over again, Lord. They’ve taken your Bible away from the schools. They’ve forbidden little children to pray. They’ve taken the knowledge of God as best they can, and organizations have come into court to take the knowledge of God out of the public square of America.” [CNN, 9/14/2001; People for the American Way, 9/17/2001] The next day, after a firestorm of critical response (see September 13-14, 2001), Falwell will retreat somewhat from his remarks (see September 14, 2001), and again three days later (see September 17, 2001). But three years later, he will misrepresent his remarks and once again attack homosexuals (see November 28, 2004).
Bush administration neoconservatives begin blaming Saddam Hussein for the 9/11 attacks (see September 16, 2001). One, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, says at a press briefing that “ending states who sponsor terrorism” is a priority for the administration. Secretary of State Colin Powell is so irate at Wolfowitz’s remarks that he complains to General Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: “What are these guys thinking about? Can’t you get these guys back in the box?” [Unger, 2007, pp. 216-217]
The response to televangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson’s blaming 9/11 on homosexuals, pro-choice believers, and civil liberties groups (see September 13, 2001) is quick and fierce. Even the White House refuses to join Falwell and Robertson in their comments, with a White House spokesman calling the statements “inappropriate” and saying, “The president does not share those views.” Ralph G. Neas, the head of People for the American Way, calls the remarks “absolutely inappropriate and irresponsible.” An American Civil Liberties Union spokeswoman says the organization “will not dignify the Falwell-Robertson remarks with a comment.” [Washington Post, 9/14/2001] Lorri L. Jean, the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, demands an apology from Falwell. “The terrible tragedy that has befallen our nation, and indeed the entire global community, is the sad byproduct of fanaticism,” she says. “It has its roots in the same fanaticism that enables people like Jerry Falwell to preach hate against those who do not think, live, or love in the exact same way he does. The tragedies that have occurred this week did not occur because someone made God mad, as Mr. Falwell asserts. They occurred because of hate, pure and simple. It is time to move beyond a place of hate and to a place of healing. We hope that Mr. Falwell will apologize to the US and world communities.” [CNN, 9/14/2001]
In a speech at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, President Bush says that “our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil.” [Salon, 3/27/2008] Two days later, he says, “This is a new kind of evil, and we understand… this crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while.” [New York Times Magazine, 9/11/2005]
Televangelist Jerry Falwell backs away from his remarks blaming homosexuals, abortionists, and civil liberties groups for the 9/11 attacks (see September 13, 2001). He says his comments were taken “out of context,” explains that he was “making a theological statement, not a legal statement,” and adds: “I put all the blame legally and morally on the actions of the terrorist.… I would never blame any human being except the terrorists, and if I left that impression with gays or lesbians or anyone else, I apologize.” But America’s “secular and anti-Christian environment left us open to our Lord’s [decision] not to protect. When a nation deserts God and expels God from the culture… the result is not good.” [Washington Post, 9/14/2001] Falwell uses the Bible to justify his remarks: “I do believe, as a theologian, based upon many Scriptures and particularly Proverbs 14:23, which says ‘living by God’s principles promotes a nation to greatness, violating those principles brings a nation to shame.’” The ACLU and other civil liberties organizations “have attempted to secularize America, have removed our nation from its relationship with Christ on which it was founded,” he asserts. “I therefore believe that that created an environment which possibly has caused God to lift the veil of protection which has allowed no one to attack America on our soil since 1812.” [CNN, 9/14/2001]
FBI Director Robert Mueller.
[Source: FBI]FBI Director Mueller describes reports that several of the hijackers had received flight training in the US as “news, quite obviously,” adding, “If we had understood that to be the case, we would have—perhaps one could have averted this.” It will later be discovered that contrary to Mueller’s claims, the FBI had interviewed various flight school staffs about Middle Eastern militants on numerous occasions, from 1996 until a few weeks before 9/11. [Boston Globe, 9/18/2001; Washington Post, 9/23/2001] Three days later, he says, “There were no warning signs that I’m aware of that would indicate this type of operation in the country.” [US Department of Justice, 9/17/2001] Slate magazine will contrast this with numerous other contradictory statements and articles, and will award Mueller the “Whopper of the Week.” [Slate, 5/17/2002]
Mark Anthony Stroman, a member of a white supremacist prison gang, murders Dallas store owner Waqar Hasan as he grills hamburgers in his store. Stroman will later tell a prison inmate that his murder of Hasan is his ninth crime against Muslims and Middle Easterners, and says he is murdering them in revenge for the 9/11 attacks (see October 4, 2001 and After). [Push Junction, 7/6/2011] Almost ten years later, Stroman will be executed for a similar murder (see July 20, 2011).
On September 15, 2001, President Bush says of bin Laden: “If he thinks he can hide and run from the United States and our allies, he will be sorely mistaken.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/16/2001] Two days later, he says, “I want justice. And there’s an old poster out West, I recall, that says, ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive.’” [ABC News, 9/17/2001] On December 28, 2001, even as the US was declaring victory in Afghanistan, Bush says, “Our objective is more than bin Laden.” [Associated Press, 8/21/2002] Bush’s January 2002 State of the Union speech describes Iraq as part of an “axis of evil” and fails to mention bin Laden at all. On March 8, 2002, Bush still vows: “We’re going to find him.” [Washington Post, 10/1/2002] Yet, only a few days later on March 13, Bush says, “He’s a person who’s now been marginalized.… I just don’t spend that much time on him.… I truly am not that concerned about him.” Instead, Bush is “deeply concerned about Iraq.” [US President, 3/18/2002] The rhetoric shift is complete when Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers states on April 6, “The goal has never been to get bin Laden.” [Evans, Novak, Hunt & Shields, 4/6/2002] In October 2002, the Washington Post notes that since March 2002, Bush has avoided mentioning bin Laden’s name, even when asked about him directly. Bush sometimes uses questions about bin Laden to talk about Saddam Hussein instead. In late 2001, nearly two-thirds of Americans say the war on terrorism could not be called a success without bin Laden’s death or capture. That number falls to 44 percent in a March 2002 poll, and the question has since been dropped. [Washington Post, 10/1/2002] Charles Heyman, editor of Jane’s World Armies, later points out: “There appears to be a real disconnect” between the US military’s conquest of Afghanistan and “the earlier rhetoric of President Bush, which had focused on getting bin Laden.” [Christian Science Monitor, 3/4/2002]
Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz create a secretive, ad hoc intelligence bureau within the Pentagon that they mockingly dub
“The Cabal.” This small but influential group of neoconservatives is tasked with driving US foreign policy and intelligence reporting towards the goal of promoting the invasion of Iraq. To this end, the group—which later is folded into the slightly more official Office of Special Plans (OSP) (see 2002-2003)—gathers and interprets raw intelligence data for itself, refusing the participation of the experts in the CIA and DIA, and reporting, massaging, manipulating, and sometimes falsifying that information to suit their ends. [New Yorker, 5/12/2003] In October 2005, Larry Wilkerson, Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff, will say of the Cabal and the OSP (see October 2005), “What I saw was a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made. Now it is paying the consequences of making those decisions in secret, but far more telling to me is America is paying the consequences.” [Financial Times, 10/20/2005]
Entity Tags: Thomas Franks, Paul Wolfowitz, Office of Special Plans, “The Cabal”, Central Intelligence Agency, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Colin Powell, Douglas Feith, Lawrence Wilkerson, Defense Intelligence Agency, Donald Rumsfeld
Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Domestic Propaganda
Former CIA Director James Woolsey makes a secret trip to Europe to find evidence that could link the Iraqi government to various terrorist attacks. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz funds and supports his trip. He visits Wales in a fruitless search for evidence to link Iraq to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see Late September 2001). But he also looks for evidence tying Iraq to 9/11 and the anthrax attacks once they become publicly known in early October (see October 5-November 21, 2001). The Village Voice will later report, “Woolsey was also asked to make contact with Iraqi exiles and others who might be able to beef up the case that hijacker Mohamed Atta was working with Iraqi intelligence to plan the September 11 attacks, as well as the subsequent anthrax mailings.” [Village Voice, 11/21/2001] In late October, the Iraqi National Congress (INC), the exile group opposed to Saddam Hussein, says it recently held meetings in London with him. [Daily Telegraph, 10/26/2001] Woolsey is a prominent neoconservative and already has extensive links with the INC (see 2000). It is unknown exactly what Woolsey does in Europe, but his trip has an apparent effect on the media. In addition to numerous articles about Atta’s alleged Prague visit, some articles appear attempting to tie Atta and the Iraqi government to the anthrax attacks as well. For instance, on October 14, 2001, The Observer will report, “According to sources in the Bush administration, investigators are talking to Egyptian authorities who say members of the al-Qaeda network, detained and interrogated in Cairo, had obtained phials of anthrax in the Czech Republic.” [Observer, 10/14/2001] And in late October, the London Times will not only report that Atta was given a vial of anthrax in Prague, but that he met with Iraqi agents numerous times all over Europe (see October 27, 2001). But no hard evidence will emerge supporting any of these allegations pushed by Woolsey.
Vice President Cheney acknowledges that US intelligence officials received threat information during the summer of 2001 “that a big operation was planned” by terrorists, possibly striking the US. But he also says, “No specific threat involving really a domestic operation or involving what happened, obviously—the cities, airliner and so forth.” [Washington File, 9/12/2001]
President Bush says, “Never (in) anybody’s thought processes… about how to protect America did we ever think that the evil doers would fly not one but four commercial aircraft into precious US targets… never.” [US President, 9/24/2001] A month later, Paul Pillar, the former deputy director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, will say, “The idea of commandeering an aircraft and crashing it into the ground and causing high casualties, sure we’ve thought of it.” [Los Angeles Times, 10/14/2001]
When asked on CNN if countries that harbor terrorists should be punished, prominent neoconservative Richard Perle agrees, saying: “Even if we cannot prove to the standards that we enjoy in our own civil society that they were involved. We do know, for example, that Saddam Hussein has ties to Osama bin Laden. That can be documented.” [CNN, 9/16/2001] In 2007, author Craig Unger will write that like other administration neoconservatives (see September 13, 2001), Perle is attempting to create a connection in the public mind between Iraq and 9/11 which will justify an invasion. [Unger, 2007, pp. 217]
Televangelist Jerry Falwell writes an explanation of his recent comments blaming gays, civil libertarians, and pro-choice advocates for the 9/11 attacks (see September 13, 2001). Falwell writes that though people may have gotten the wrong “impression” from “news reports over the past several days,” he blames “no one other than the terrorists, and the people and nations who have enabled and harbored them, responsible for the September 11 attacks on this nation.” He says his comments “were taken out of their context and reported, and that my thoughts—reduced to sound bites—have detracted from the spirit of this time of mourning.” He says that since the afternoon of the attacks, he has led numerous groups in prayer, from his “Liberty University family of thousands” to his church congregation and, on September 14, at a special Day of Prayer held at the National Cathedral with President Bush in attendance. Falwell says that his statements were “called divisive by some whom I mentioned by name. I had no intention of being divisive. I was sharing my burden for revival in America on a Christian TV program, intending to speak to a Christian audience from a theological perspective about the need for national repentance. In retrospect, I should have mentioned the national sins without mentioning the organizations and persons by name.”
Apology, Then Attack - Falwell then launches into a condemnation of the practice of abortion, and accuses the US of “expell[ing] God from the public square and the public schools.” He accuses the nation of “normaliz[ing] an immoral lifestyle [homosexuality] God has condemned,” adding: “American families are falling apart. Because of our national moral and spiritual decline during the past 35 years, I expressed my personal belief that we have displeased the Lord and incurred his displeasure.” He writes that he was asking his “Christian audience” to follow Biblical teachings and “repent,” and for the “church to heed Proverbs 14:34, which says in paraphrase, ‘Living by God’s principles promotes a nation to greatness; violating those principles brings a nation to shame.’ I was blaming no one but the terrorists for the terror, but I was chastising us, the Church, for a generation of departure from God. I was doing what I have done for nearly 50 years in the pulpit—confronting the culture and calling for national revival.”
'Ill-Timed Comments' - Falwell then turns back towards explaining his remarks, saying his mistake was “doing this at the time I did it, on television, where a secular media and audience were also listening.” He adds: “And as I enumerated the sins of an unbelieving culture, because of very limited time on the 700 Club, I failed to point the finger at a sleeping, prayerless and carnal church. We believers must also acknowledge our sins, repent, and fast and pray for national revival.… [If] my statements seemed harsh and ill-timed, I truly regret this and apologize. But, I repeat, I blame no one but the hijackers and terrorists for the horrific happenings of September 11. But I do believe God’s protection of us as individuals and as a nation is dependent upon our obedience to His laws.” [National Liberty Journal, 9/17/2001] Falwell will make essentially the same arguments three years later; then, he will claim to have included his criticisms of the church in his original remarks, criticisms he today admits he failed to make (see November 28, 2004).
William Safire’s New York Times editorial published November 12, 2001, in which he calls the alleged meeting between Atta and an Iraqi agent an “undisputed fact.” [Source: PBS]Media coverage relating to an alleged meeting between hijacker Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi spy named Ahmed al-Ani took place in Prague, Czech Republic, has changed repeatedly over time:
September 18, 2001: It is first reported that 9/11 plotter Mohamed Atta met in Prague, Czech Republic, with an Iraqi diplomat in April 2001. The name of the diplomat, Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, is mentioned in follow up articles. [Associated Press, 9/18/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/19/2001; CNN, 10/11/2001; New York Times, 11/19/2003]
October 20, 2001: The story is denied by some Czech officials (see October 16, 2001). [New York Times, 10/20/2001]
October 26, 2001: The story is confirmed by the Czech interior minister (see October 26, 2001). [New York Times, 10/27/2001]
October 27, 2001: It is claimed Atta met with Iraqi agents four times in Prague, and was given a vial of antrax. Atta is alleged to have had further meetings with Iraqi agents in Germany, Spain, and Italy (see October 27, 2001). [London Times, 10/27/2001]
November 12, 2001: Conservative columnist William Safire calls the meeting an “undisputed fact” in a New York Times editorial (see November 12, 2001). [New York Times, 11/12/2001]
December 9, 2001: Vice President Cheney asserts that the existence of the meeting is “pretty well confirmed” (see December 9, 2001). [Washington Post, 12/9/2001]
December 16, 2001: The identities of both al-Ani and Atta, alleged to have been at the meetings, are disputed by a Czech police chief (see December 16, 2001). [New York Times, 12/16/2001; Associated Press, 12/16/2001]
January 12, 2002: It is claimed at least two meetings took place, including one a year earlier. [Daily Telegraph, 1/12/2002]
February 6, 2002: It is reported that senior US intelligence officials believe the meeting took place, but they believe it is not enough evidence to tie Iraq to the 9/11 attacks (see February 6, 2002). [New York Times, 2/6/2002]
March 15, 2002: Evidence that the meeting took place is considered between “slim” and “none.” [Washington Post, 3/15/2002]
March 18, 2002: William Safire again strongly asserts that the meeting took place. [New York Times, 3/18/2002]
April 28-May 2, 2002: The meeting is largely discredited. For example, the Washington Post quotes FBI Director Mueller stating that, “We ran down literally hundreds of thousands of leads and checked every record we could get our hands on, from flight reservations to car rentals to bank accounts,” yet no evidence that Atta left the country was found. According to the Post, “[a]fter months of investigation, the Czechs [say] they [are] no longer certain that Atta was the person who met al-Ani, saying ‘he may be different from Atta.’” [Washington Post, 5/1/2002] Newsweek cites a US official who contends that, “Neither we nor the Czechs nor anybody else has any information [Atta] was coming or going [to Prague] at that time” (see April 28, 2002). [Newsweek, 4/28/2002; Washington Post, 5/1/2002; New York Times, 5/2/2002]
May 8, 2002: Some Czech officials continue to affirm the meeting took place. [Prague Post, 5/8/2002]
May 9, 2002: William Safire refuses to give up the story, claiming a “protect-Saddam cabal” in the high levels of the US government is burying the evidence. [New York Times, 5/9/2002]
July 15, 2002: The head of Czech foreign intelligence states that reports of the meeting are unproved and implausible. [Prague Post, 7/15/2002]
August 2, 2002: With a war against Iraq growing more likely, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer suggests the meeting did happen, “despite deep doubts by the CIA and FBI.” [Los Angeles Times, 8/2/2002]
August 19, 2002: Newsweek states: “The sole evidence for the alleged meeting is the uncorroborated claim of a Czech informant.” According to Newsweek, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is nonetheless pushing the FBI to have the meeting accepted as fact. [Newsweek, 8/19/2002]
September 10, 2002: The Bush administration is no longer actively asserting that the meeting took place. [Washington Post, 9/10/2002]
September 17, 2002: Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld “accept reports from Czech diplomats” that the meeting took place. [USA Today, 9/17/2002]
September 23, 2002: Newsweek reports that the CIA is resisting Pentagon demands to obtain pictures of the alleged meeting from Iraqi exiles. One official says, “We do not shy away from evidence. But we also don’t make it up.” [Newsweek, 9/23/2002]
October 10, 2002: British officials deny the meeting ever took place (see October 4-10, 2002). [Financial Times, 10/4/2002; Guardian, 10/10/2002]
October 20, 2002: Czech officials, including President Vaclav Havel, emphatically deny that the meeting ever took place. It now appears Atta was not even in the Czech Republic during the month the meeting was supposed to have taken place. President Havel told Bush “quietly some time earlier this year” that the meeting did not happen (see Early 2002, probably May or later). [United Press International, 10/20/2002; New York Times, 10/21/2002]
December 8, 2002: Bush adviser Richard Perle continues to push the story, stating, “To the best of my knowledge that meeting took place.” [CBS News, 9/5/2002] He says this despite the fact that in October 2002, Czech officials told Perle in person that the meeting did not take place (see October 20, 2002).
July 9, 2003: Iraqi intelligence officer Ahmed al-Ani is captured by US forces in Iraq. [Washington Post, 7/9/2003]
July 10, 2003: In a story confirming al-Ani’s capture, ABC News cites US and British intelligence officials who have seen surveillance photos of al-Ani’s meetings in Prague, and who say that there is a man who looks somewhat like Atta, but is not Atta. [ABC News, 7/10/2003]
September 14, 2003: Vice President Cheney repeats the claims that Atta met with al-Ani in Prague on NBC’s Meet the Press. He says “we’ve never been able to develop anymore of that yet, either in terms of confirming it or discrediting” the meeting, but he also cites the when making the claim that Iraq officially supported al-Qaeda (see September 14, 2003 and September 14, 2003). [Washington Post, 9/15/2003]
July 25, 2003: The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry makes public its conclusion that the meeting never took place (see January-July 2003).
December 13, 2003: It is reported that al-Ani told interrogators he did not meet Atta in Prague. [Washington Post, 9/29/2003; Reuters, 12/13/2003]
February 24, 2004: CIA Director George Tenet says of the meeting: “We can’t prove that one way or another.” [New York Times, 7/9/2004]
June 16, 2004: The 9/11 Commission concludes that the meeting never happened. They claim cell phone records and other records show Atta never left Florida during the time in question (see June 16, 2004). [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004]
June 17, 2004: Vice President Cheney says no one has “been able to confirm” the Atta meeting in Prague or to “to knock it down” He calls reports suggesting that the 9/11 Commission has reached a contradictory conclusion “irresponsible,” even though the 9/11 Commission did conclude just that the day before (see June 17, 2004). [CNN, 6/18/2004]
July 1, 2004: CIA Director Tenet says that the CIA is “increasingly skeptical” the meeting ever took place (see July 1, 2004). [New York Times, 7/9/2004]
July 12, 2004: The 9/11 Commission publicly concludes the meeting never took place (see July 12, 2004).
March 29, 2006: Cheney says of the meeting: “And that reporting waxed and waned where the degree of confidence in it, and so forth, has been pretty well knocked down now at this stage, that that meeting ever took place” (see March 29, 2006).
September 8, 2006: A bipartisan Senate report confirms that the meeting never took place (see September 8-10, 2006). [US Senate and Intelligence Committee, 9/8/2006 ]
September 10, 2006: Cheney still breathes life into reports of the meeting, reversing position and refusing to deny that the meeting took place (see September 10, 2006). [Meet the Press, 9/10/2006]
April 2007: In a new book, former CIA Director Tenet claims, “It is my understanding that in 2006, new intelligence was obtained that proved beyond any doubt that the man seen meeting with [a] member of the Iraqi intelligence service in Prague in 2001 was not Mohamed Atta” (see 2006). [Tenet, 2007, pp. 355]
Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, 9/11 Commission, Mohamed Atta, Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Vaclav Havel, William Safire, Robert S. Mueller III
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
In a briefing with CIA Director George Tenet, President Bush tells Tenet, “I want to know about links between Saddam [Hussein] and al-Qaeda. The Vice President knows some things that might be helpful.” He then turns to Cheney, who is participating in the meeting through a secure video link. Unusual for a vice president, Cheney’s office has nearly a dozen national security staffers. Cheney tells Tenet that one of them has picked up a report that hijacker Mohamed Atta met with an Iraqi agent in Prague. This had already been reported in the press the day before (see September 18, 2001), but apparently Cheney has information about it that the CIA does not. Tenet promises to get to the bottom of it right away. [Suskind, 2006, pp. 22-23] Two days later, Tenet will tell Bush that the report “just doesn’t add up” (see September 21, 2001).
The Project for the New American Century (PNAC), an influential neoconservative think tank, publishes a letter addressed to President Bush and signed by magazine publisher William Kristol, Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle (see September 16, 2001), and 38 other neoconservatives and hardliners. It is reprinted by Kristol’s Weekly Standard shortly thereafter. The authors threaten to brand Bush as a “wimp,” guilty of “surrender in the war on international terrorism” if he fails to carry out their demand to make “a determined effort” to overthrow Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, “even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the [9/11] attack[s].” [Project for the New American Century, 9/20/2001; Rich, 2006, pp. 28] Any failure to attack Iraq, the authors say, “will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism.” Invading Iraq is not their only demand. To retain their support, the letter reads, Bush must also target the terror organization Hezbollah for eradication, and retaliate against Syria and Iran if they do not break their ties with Hezbollah. The letter calls Israel “America’s staunchest ally against international terrorism.” Conservative isolationist Pat Buchanan will later write that the real motive for this letter seems to be tied to Israel: “Here was a cabal of intellectuals telling the commander in chief, nine days after an attack on America, that if he did not follow their war plans, he would be charged with surrendering to terror. Yet, Hezbollah had nothing to do with 9/11. What had Hezbollah done? Hezbollah had humiliated Israel by driving its army out of Lebanon. President Bush had been warned. He was to exploit the attack of 9/11 to launch a series of wars on Arab regimes, none of which had attacked us. All, however, were enemies of Israel.… The War Party [Bush administration neoconservatives] seemed desperate to get a Middle East war going before America had second thoughts.” [Project for the New American Century, 9/20/2001; American Conservative, 3/24/2003]
Neoconservative author, ad hoc White House foreign policy adviser, and one-time intelligence asset Michael Ledeen, one of the loudest voices for US military expansionism throughout the Middle East (see February 19, 1998 and October 29, 2001), writes that the US must use Iraq as the first battle of a much larger war.
Must Expand Mission to Destroy Governments, Not Merely Terror Organizations - In his book The War Against the Terror Masters: Why It Happened. Where We Are Now. How We’ll Win, Ledeen writes that the US must destroy the governments of the nations that he claims sponsor Islamist terrorism. “First and foremost, we must bring down the terror regimes, beginning with the Big Three: Iran, Iraq, and Syria,” Ledeen writes. “And then we have to come to grips with Saudi Arabia.… Once the tyrants in Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Saudi Arabia have been brought down, we will remain engaged.… We have to ensure the fulfillment of the democratic revolution.… Stability is an unworthy American mission, and a misleading concept to boot. We do not want stability in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and even Saudi Arabia; we want things to change. The real issue is not whether, but how to destabilize.”
US a Force for 'Creative Destruction' - The US’s current mission of battling Islamist terror is “unworthy” of such a militarily powerful nation, Ledeen asserts, and defines its true “historic mission:” “Creative destruction is our middle name, both within our society and abroad. We tear down the old order every day, from business to science, literature, art, architecture, and cinema to politics and the law. Our enemies have always hated this whirlwind of energy and creativity which menaces their traditions (whatever they may be) and shames them for their inability to keep pace.… [W]e must destroy them to advance our historic mission.” The US must be “imperious, ruthless, and relentless,” he continues, until there has been “total surrender” by the Muslim world. “We must keep our fangs bared, we must remind them daily that we Americans are in a rage, and we will not rest until we have avenged our deed, we will not be sated until we have had the blood of every miserable little tyrant in the Middle East, until every leader of every cell of the terror network is dead or locked securely away, and every last drooling anti-Semitic and anti-American mullah, imam, sheikh, and ayatollah is either singing the praises of the United States of America, or pumping gasoline for a dime a gallon on an American military base near the Arctic Circle.”
Buchanan: Ledeen's Statement Not Truly Conservative - Conservative author and commentator Pat Buchanan will write in 2003, “Passages like this owe more to Leon Trotsky than to Robert Taft and betray a Jacobin streak in neoconservatism that cannot be reconciled with any concept of true conservatism.” [American Conservative, 3/24/2003; Unger, 2007, pp. 231-232]
Voice of America logo. [Source: Voice of America]The publicly funded Voice of America (VOA), which broadcasts its radio signal throughout much of Europe and the Middle East, pulls a 12-minute interview with Taliban leader Mullah Omar after Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and senior National Security Council officials object to the broadcast. [Guardian, 9/26/2001] The VOA has been attempting to exert some editorial independence ever since it was removed from State Department oversight in 1999 and placed under the oversight of a board of governors. [Guardian, 9/25/2001]
'Voice of America is Not ... the Voice of the Taliban' - The VOA’s plan was to run excerpts from the interview as part of a four-minute segment on Afghan reactions to a speech by President Bush. Instead, many in the White House and elsewhere object, arguing that running such a broadcast merely gives a voice to terrorists. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher tells reporters, “We told members of the board of broadcast governors that we didn’t think it was appropriate for the Voice of America to be broadcasting the voice of the Taliban into Afghanistan and we didn’t think it was consistent with their charter.” [Guardian, 9/25/2001; National Public Radio, 7/23/2004] “… Its charter says that they should explain US government policy and present responsible discussion about it. We don’t consider Mullah Omar to be responsible discussion.” Unless Omar is prepared to announce the turnover of Osama bin Laden, currently under the protection of the Taliban, such an interview would provide “no news or anything newsworthy,” Boucher says. “Carrying the interview would be confusing to the millions of listeners to what is essentially a US government broadcast, paid for by the US government.” [CNN, 9/25/2001] Another State Department official says, “Voice of America is not the Voice of Mullah Omar and not the Voice of the Taliban.” One VOA staffer retorts, “If this is an indication of the gag order they’re going to impose on us, we can’t do our jobs.” [Guardian, 9/25/2001; National Public Radio, 7/23/2004]
'We Tell the Whole Story' - VOA’s deputy director for external affairs, Joe O’Connell, says in response, “We were never going to give him an open mike.” A member of VOA’s Board of Governors, Norman Pattiz, chairman of radio conglomerate Westwood One, tells CNN that the decision not to air the broadcast was made by VOA staffers and not by the governors. [CNN, 9/25/2001; Salon, 4/21/2003] (The New York Times reports that Pattiz indicated staffers had discussed the interview but had not decided whether to suppress it.) Pattiz goes on to say: “I happen to believe that any legitimate news organization in the world would do that interview. And if the United States is going to be a proponent of a free press, it has to walk the walk.” [New York Times, 9/26/2001] “A lot of people in the United States are angry and think the Voice of America is not serving their country the way we should,” says VOA spokeswoman Tara King. “They are getting the wrong impression, but we feel we are providing reliable news. The people in Afghanistan are tuning into us because they trust us, and we tell the whole story.” [Reporters' Committee for a Free Press, 9/28/2001]
Mass Resignations Threatened - In a letter to the board, over 100 VOA journalists describe themselves as “deeply distressed to learn of the suppression” of Mullah Omar’s interview. “These comments were legitimate news,” the letter states. “We believe the integrity of the VOA is at stake. This censorship sets a most unfortunate precedent and damages our credibility with our worldwide audience.” [CNN, 9/25/2001; Committee to Protect Journalists, 9/27/2001] Andre DeNesnera, the VOA news director, writes in an e-mail to staff: “The State Department’s decision is a totally unacceptable assault on our editorial independence, a frontal attack on our credibility. This certainly was a dark, dark day for those of us who have—for years—fought to uphold journalist ethics, balance, accuracy and fairness.” [Committee to Protect Journalists, 9/27/2001] The VOA staff threatens a public mass resignation and eventually runs a drastically edited version of the interview—“like 22 seconds” of tape, then-director Myrna Whitworth will later recall. After VOA runs the edited interview, a government spokesperson warns that the station’s “defiance” would be looked into. Whitworth will be relieved of her duties shortly thereafter and replaced, she will recall, “by a gentleman who had strong ties to the National Security Council.” When she leaves, she leaves a memo telling reporters “not to fall under the spell of self-censorship.” She exhorts journalists to “[c]ontinue to interview, anyone, anywhere.” [Guardian, 9/25/2001; Toronto Star, 9/8/2002; National Public Radio, 7/23/2004]
Entity Tags: Myrna Whitworth, Richard Armitage, National Security Council, Osama bin Laden, Norman Pattiz, Joe O’Connell, Mullah Omar, Andre DeNesnera, Taliban, Bush administration (43), Tara King, Richard A. Boucher, Voice of America, US Department of State
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
According to President Bush, al-Qaeda has “targeted our economy” in the 9/11 attacks. Congress has already passed $40 billion in emergency appropriations for security and recovery, and another $15 billion in aid for the airline industry. Bush says the attacks make it paramount that his tax cut plan—largely targeted at wealthy Americans and corporations—be passed as soon as possible. “There ought to be more” tax cuts, Bush will later say, “to make sure that the consumer has got money to spend, money to spend in the short term.” [Roberts, 2008, pp. 89]
On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) says, “As long as Saddam Hussein is in power in Iraq, the United States is in danger.” He says there is evidence that “suggests Saddam Hussein may have had contact with bin Laden and the al-Qaeda network, perhaps [was] even involved in the September 11 attack.” He adds that an even more important factor is that Saddam “has worked on chemical and biological weapons and has used them against his own people and against the Iranians.” He concludes, “Therefore, in my opinion, Saddam is a terrorist—and it should be a centerpiece of our policy, after we’ve finished the business in Afghanistan and bin Laden, to end [the Iraqi] regime.” [Washington Times, 10/26/2001]
Secretary of State Colin Powell is asked in a television interview, “Will you release publicly a white paper which links [bin Laden] and his organization to this attack to put people at ease?” Powell responds, “We are hard at work bringing all the information together, intelligence information, law enforcement information. And I think in the near future we will be able to put out a paper, a document that will describe quite clearly the evidence that we have linking him to this attack.” [MSNBC, 9/23/2001] The next day, the New York Times reports that this report is expected to be published “within days… Officials say they are still arguing over how much information to release…” [New York Times, 9/24/2001] But later that day, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says, “I think that there was just a misinterpretation of the exact words the secretary used on the Sunday shows.… I’m not aware of anybody who said white paper, and the secretary didn’t say anything about a white paper yesterday.” [White House, 9/24/2001] The New Yorker will report a short time later that, according to a senior CIA official, US intelligence had not yet developed enough information about the hijackers. “One day we’ll know, but at the moment we don’t know” (see Late September 2001). [New Yorker, 10/8/2001] But no such paper is ever released.
In an op-ed column for the neoconservative Weekly Standard, writers Thomas Donnelly and Gary Schmitt state that the US’s enemies “want to push the United States out of the Middle East. Our response must be to prevent that.” Donnelly and Schmitt, members of the Project for the New American Century think tank (PNAC—see January 26, 1998 and September 2000), say that such an effort “will require more than a vague, unfocused ‘war on terrorism.‘… Last week’s strikes represent a new and more complex phase of this war. But this is not a new war. This is a ‘theater war’ in the classic sense. Neither [O]sama bin Laden nor Saddam [Hussein] cares much about America’s role in Europe or East Asia. They want us out of their region.”
Reasserting Dominance in Middle East - The US can win this “struggle for power in the Persian Gulf” by “reasserting our role as the region’s dominant power; as the guarantor of regional security; and as the protector of Israel, moderate Arab regimes, and the economic interests of the industrialized world.” Donnelly and Schmitt trace the US’s problems in the region back to the decision not to overthrow Hussein in 1991 (see January 16, 1991 and After). “As Saddam has crawled back from defeat,” they write, “bin Laden has grown increasingly bold. Meanwhile, our regional allies have begun to hedge their bets, not only with the terrorists and Iraq, but with Iran as well.” The US should focus on routing both bin Laden and Hussein from the region, they say. It is unclear if Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks, they say, though they assert that Hussein was “implicated in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993 and October 2000).… But as with bin Laden, we have long known that Saddam is our enemy, and that he would strike us as hard as he could. And if we have learned anything at all from [the] past week, it is that adopting a defensive posture risks attacks with unacceptable consequences. The only reasonable course when faced with such foes is to preempt and to strike first.” Overthrowing Hussein “is the key to restoring our regional dominance and preventing our enemies from achieving their war aims.… When Bush administration officials speak of ‘ending’ regimes that participate in the war against America, they must mean Saddam Hussein’s Iraq” (see Before January 20, 2001).
Cowing Other Nations, Restoring 'Global Credibility' - Overthrowing the Iraqi government will also cow Iran, Syria, and other regional threats, the authors say, and “will restore the global credibility tarnished in the Clinton years. Both our friends and our enemies will be watching to see if we pass this test.” Although attacking Afghanistan is not necessary, toppling the Saddam regime will not be difficult in a military sense, and “the larger challenge will be occupying Iraq after the fighting is over.”
Surpluses Will Pay for Effort - The so-called “lockboxes”—Social Security funds and others—previously kept from being spent on other government programs are, the authors write, “yesterday’s news,” but the sharp increases in defense spending that this war effort will require will not be difficult to fund: “given the surpluses that exist, there is no impediment to such increases.” [Weekly Standard, 9/24/2001]
At the behest of Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, former CIA Director James Woolsey and a team of Justice and Defense Department officials fly to London on a US government plane to look for evidence tying Saddam Hussein to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Woolsey’s trip is in part the idea of neoconservative author Laurie Mylroie (see Late July or Early August 2001). It is the second such mission undertaken by Woolsey this year, as he made a similar trip in February (see February 2001). Woolsey is looking for evidence to support the theory (see Late July or Early August 2001 and Mid-September-October 2001) that Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind behind the 1993 WTC bombing, was actually an Iraqi agent who had assumed the identity of a Pakistani student named Abdul Basit. Woolsey visits the Swansea Institute, where Basit studied, to see if Basit’s fingerprints match those of Yousef, who is now serving a life sentence in a Colorado prison. Matching fingerprints would discredit the theory. [Knight Ridder, 10/11/2001; Observer, 10/14/2001; Daily Telegraph, 10/26/2001; Middle East Policy Council, 6/2004] While in Europe, Woolsey also attempts to link the Iraqi government to 9/11 and the October 2001 anthrax attacks (see Mid-September-October 2001). But according to Knight Ridder, “Several of those with knowledge of the trips said they failed to produce any new evidence that Iraq was behind the attacks.” [Knight Ridder, 10/11/2001] Newsweek will similarly report in 2004 that “the results of the Woolsey mission were exactly what the FBI had predicted: that the fingerprints were in fact identical.” [Newsweek, 4/21/2004] The local police in Swansea are curious about Woolsey’s visit and they call the US embassy in London to clarify if Woolsey is visiting in an official capacity. This alerts the State Department and CIA of Woolsey’s trip for the first time, and apparently both agencies are upset. One intelligence consultant familiar with the trip will say, “It was a stupid, stupid, and just plain wrong thing to do.” [Knight Ridder, 10/11/2001; Village Voice, 11/21/2001] It is through this contact that Secretary of State Colin Powell and CIA Director George Tenet learn of Woolsey’s mission (see September 19-20, 2001). [Middle East Policy Council, 6/2004]
Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, George J. Tenet, James Woolsey, Abdul Basit, Colin Powell, Saddam Hussein, Paul Wolfowitz, Ramzi Yousef
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Neoconservative Influence, 2001 Anthrax Attacks
John Yoo, a deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), issues a legal opinion that says the US can conduct electronic surveillance against its citizens without probable cause or warrants. According to the memo, the opinion was drafted in response to questions about whether it would be constitutional to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to state that searches may be approved when foreign intelligence collection is “a purpose” of the search, rather than “the purpose.” Yoo finds this would be constitutional, but goes further. He asserts that FISA is potentially in conflict with the Constitution, stating, “FISA itself is not required by the Constitution, nor is it necessarily the case that its current standards match exactly to Fourth Amendment standards.” Citing Vernonia School Dist. 47J v. Acton, in which the Supreme Court found that warrantless searches of students were permissible, Yoo argues that “reasonableness” and “special needs” are also the standards according to which warrantless monitoring of the private communications of US persons is permissible. According to Yoo, the Fourth Amendment requirement for probable cause and warrants prior to conducting a search pertain primarily to criminal investigations, and in any case cannot be construed to restrict presidential responsibility and authority concerning national security. Yoo further argues that in the context of the post-9/11 world, with the threat posed by terrorism and the military nature of the fight against terrorism, warrantless monitoring of communications is reasonable. Some information indicates the NSA began a broad program involving domestic surveillance prior to the 9/11 attacks, which contradicts the claim that the program began after, and in response to, the attacks (see Late 1999, February 27, 2000, December 2000, February 2001, February 2001, Spring 2001, and July 2001). [US Department of Justice, 9/25/2001 ; American Civil Liberties Union [PDF], 1/28/2009 ; New York Times, 3/2/2009; Inspectors General, 7/10/2009]
Yoo Memo Used to Support Legality of Warrantless Surveillance - Yoo’s memo will be cited to justify the legality of the warrantless domestic surveillance program authorized by President Bush in October 2001 (see October 4, 2001). NSA Director General Michael Hayden, in public remarks on January 23, 2006, will refer to a presidential authorization for monitoring domestic calls having been given prior to “early October 2001.” Hayden will also say, “The lawfulness of the actual authorization was reviewed by lawyers at the Department of Justice and the White House and was approved by the attorney general.” The various post-9/11 NSA surveillance activities authorized by Bush will come to be referred to as the President’s Surveillance Program (PSP), and the first memo directly supporting the program’s legality will be issued by Yoo on November 2, 2001, after the program has been initiated (see November 2, 2001). Many constitutional authorities will reject Yoo’s legal rationale. [Michael Hayden, 1/23/2006]
Yoo Memo Kept Secret from Bush Officials Who Might Object - According to a report by Barton Gellman and Jo Becker in the Washington Post, the memo’s “authors kept it secret from officials who were likely to object,” including ranking White House national security counsel John Bellinger, who reports to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. Bellinger’s deputy, Bryan Cunningham, will tell the Post that Bellinger would have recommended having the program vetted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees surveillance under FISA. Gellman and Becker quote a “senior government lawyer” as saying that Vice President Dick Cheney’s attorney, David Addington, had “open contempt” for Bellinger, and write that “more than once he accused Bellinger, to his face, of selling out presidential authority for good ‘public relations’ or bureaucratic consensus.” [Washington Post, 6/24/2007]
Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, John Bellinger, National Security Agency, Bryan Cunningham, Condoleezza Rice, David S. Addington, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, Office of Legal Counsel (DOJ), John C. Yoo, George W. Bush, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
Neoconservative commentator and publisher William Kristol writes that the US must implement “regime change where possible” throughout the Middle East, and especially in Iraq. He excoriates Secretary of State Colin Powell for being against such an aggressive policy. The next day, the Washington Times, a right-wing newspaper, prints an editorial agreeing with Kristol about the need for regime change, and adds its voice to Kristol’s in criticizing Powell. [Unger, 2007, pp. 217]
The Voice of America radio station (VOA) prints a transcript of the recently censored interview it did with Taliban leader Mullah Omar. It also airs a short excerpt from the interview. VOA did not air it on its slated broadcast date of September 21 due to objections from the US’s Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, and senior officials on the National Security Council (see September 21-26, 2001). Omar tells the interviewer that his organization is sheltering Osama bin Laden because the issue is not bin Laden, but “Islam’s prestige [and] Afghanistan’s tradition.… If we did, it means we are not Muslims… that Islam is finished.” He says that he sees the US’s war on terrorism as two conflicting promises: “One is the promise of God, the other is that of Bush. The promise of God is that my land is vast. If you start a journey on God’s path, you can reside anywhere on this earth and will be protected.… The promise of Bush is that there is no place on earth where you can hide that I cannot find you. We will see which one of these two promises is fulfilled.… We are confident that no one can harm us if God is with us.” When asked what he means in his repeated statements that “America has taken the Islamic world hostage,” Omar replies: “America controls the governments of the Islamic countries. The people ask to follow Islam, but the governments do not listen because they are in the grip of the United States. If someone follows the path of Islam, the government arrests him, tortures him or kills him. This is the doing of America. If it stops supporting those governments and lets the people deal with them, then such things won’t happen. America has created the evil that is attacking it. The evil will not disappear even if I die and Osama dies and others die. The US should step back and review its policy. It should stop trying to impose its empire on the rest of the world, especially on Islamic countries.” [Guardian, 9/26/2001; Committee to Protect Journalists, 9/27/2001]
Bill Maher. [Source: HBO publicity photo]White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer warns, “There are reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do.” [Associated Press, 9/26/2001] Fleischer was responding to comments made by Bill Maher, the host of the discussion/comedy show Politically Incorrect. Maher said the hijackers were not cowards but that it was cowardly for the US to launch cruise missiles on targets thousands of miles away. [New York Times, 9/28/2001] Many advertisers and affiliate stations pull their support of the show in response. [Washington Post, 9/29/2001] ABC cancels Maher’s show at the end of its season because of the controversy. [Toronto Star, 6/26/2002] Several journalists are fired around the same time for criticizing Bush. Fleischer’s comments and the general chill on free speech are widely criticized by major newspapers (for instance, [New York Times, 9/29/2001; Washington Post, 9/29/2001; Dallas Morning News, 10/4/2001] ).
TIA logo. [Source: Conventions (.net)]At a rally at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, surrounded by politicians and airline executives, President Bush exhorts the American public to begin flying again. The open, and unprecedented, endorsement of commercial airlines and tourist resorts by a sitting president is part of a “pro-consumption publicity blitz” launched by the White House in conjunction with the travel industry. “[O]ne of the great goals of this nation’s war [against terrorism] is to restore public confidence in the airline industry,” Bush says. “It’s to tell the traveling public: Get on board. Do your business around the country. Fly and enjoy America’s great destination spots. Get down to Disney World in Florida. Take your families and enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed.” Bush’s remarks are part of a coordinated advertising campaign by the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA), which hinges on a series of “public service” television ads by Bush himself (see Early 2002). [White House, 9/27/2001; Roberts, 2008, pp. 90]
Osama bin Laden denies his involvement in the 9/11 attacks. In an interview with the Daily Ummat, a Pakistani newspaper, he says: “I have already said that I am not involved in the September 11 attacks in the United States (see September 16, 2001). As a Muslim, I try my best to avoid telling a lie. I had no knowledge of these attacks, nor do I consider the killing of innocent women, children, and other human beings as an appreciable act. Islam strictly forbids causing harm to innocent women, children, and other people. Such a practice is forbidden even in the course of battle.… The United States should try to trace the perpetrators of these attacks within itself; the people who are a part of the US system but are dissenting against it. Or those who are working for some other system; persons who want to make the present century as a century of conflict between Islam and Christianity so that their own civilization, nation, country, or ideology can survive. They may be anyone, from Russia to Israel and from India to Serbia. In the US itself, there are dozens of well-organized and well-equipped groups capable of causing large-scale destruction. Then you cannot forget the American Jews, who have been annoyed with President Bush ever since the Florida elections and who want to avenge him.… Then there are intelligence agencies in the US, which require billions of dollars worth of funds from Congress and the government every year.… They needed an enemy.… Is it not that there exists a government within the government in the United Sates? That secret government must be asked who carried out the attacks.” [Daily Ummat (Karachi), 9/28/2001] The newspaper says it conducted the interview with bin Laden by submittng questions for him to Taliban officials and then receiving written replies. [Ananova, 9/28/2001]
Four prominent Republican officials make alarming comments about terrorism and especially the use of WMDs against the US:
Attorney General John Ashcroft says on CNN: “We believe there are substantial risks of terrorism still in the United States of America. As we as a nation respond to what has happened to us, those risks may in fact go up.”
White House chief of staff Andrew Card says on Fox News, “I’m not trying to be an alarmist, but we know that these terrorist organizations, like al-Qaeda, run by Osama bin Laden and others, have probably found the means to use biological or chemical warfare.”
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says on NBC’s Meet the Press, “There’s always been terrorism, but there’s never really been worldwide terrorism at a time when the weapons have been as powerful as they are today, with chemical and biological and nuclear weapons spreading to countries that harbor terrorists.” He suggests several countries supporting terrorists either have WMDs or are trying to get them. “It doesn’t take a leap of imagination to expect that at some point those nations will work with those terrorist networks and assist them in achieving and obtaining those kinds of capabilities.” He does not name these countries, but the New York Times notes the next day that the US military had recently identified the WMD programs in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Sudan as cause for concern.
Representative Henry Hyde (R-IL), the chairman of the House International Relations Committee, also says on Meet the Press that biological weapons “scare” him more than nuclear weapons because they can be brought into the country “rather easily.”
The New York Times reports that there is no new intelligence behind these alarming comments. By contrast, Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says it is unlikely terrorists are capable of making extremely deadly biological weapons. He says that terrorists might have access to weapons that use anthrax or smallpox, but while “There are those serious things… we can deal with them.” [New York Times, 10/1/2001] Deputy press secretary Scott McClellan will later observe: “Even the Cheney-driven White House effort to provide all Americans with the smallpox vaccine that was being pushed publicly in the latter weeks of 2002 played into the environment of fear about the Iraq WMD threat. It seems to me a little cynical to suggest that its timing was calculated, but it did not hurt the broader campaign to sell the war.” [McClellan, 2008, pp. 138]
British Prime Minister Tony Blair says, “I have seen absolutely powerful incontrovertible evidence of [Osama bin Laden’s] link to the events of the 11th of September.” However, he says that because “much of this evidence comes to us from sensitive sources, from intelligence sources,” there is a question over how much of it can be made public. [BBC, 9/30/2001; Daily Telegraph, 10/1/2001] Three days later, the two British opposition leaders meet for a 45-minute confidential briefing with Blair, where he shows them this evidence. Following this briefing, Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy says he now accepts there is “compelling evidence” of Bin Laden’s guilt. [Daily Telegraph, 10/4/2001; Guardian, 10/4/2001] Blair refers to the evidence he has seen on October 4, 2001, when he presents to Parliament a paper indicating that al-Qaeda is responsible for 9/11 (see October 4, 2001), but again he says that because of sensitivity issues, “It is not possible without compromising people or security to release precise details.” [CNN, 10/4/2001]
Reverend Franklin Graham. [Source: Trinity Broadcasting Network]Reverend Franklin Graham, the son of renowned televangelist Billy Graham, decries Islam as a “wicked religion” that calls for “the killing of non-Muslims or infidels.” Graham says, referring to the 9/11 attacks: “We’re not attacking Islam but Islam has attacked us. The God of Islam is not the same God. He’s not the son of God of the Christian or Judeo-Christian faith. It’s a different God and I believe it is a very evil and wicked religion.” Asked to clarify his statement, Graham reiterates his position, saying: “I don’t believe this is a wonderful, peaceful religion. When you read the Koran and you read the verses from the Koran, it instructs the killing of the infidel, for those that are non-Muslim.… It wasn’t Methodists flying into those buildings, it wasn’t Lutherans. It was an attack on this country by people of the Islamic faith.” American Muslims challenge Graham’s statements. Ali Akber, a North Carolina Muslim who has worked to bring Jews and Muslims together, says Graham’s words are “spreading hatred. It is the same God. We just don’t worship the same way. We all believe in God and charity and worshipping and not doing any evil.” Imam Hassan al-Qazwini of the Islamic Center of America adds, “Islam never teaches hatred, Islam never teaches terrorism.” The White House distances itself from Graham’s remarks, issuing a statement that says the president “views Islam as a religion that preaches peace” and adding that the terrorists do not represent what Islam teaches. Newsweek religion editor Ken Woodward says: “Obviously, Mr. Graham is tone deaf in this respect. He’s certainly not his father’s son in terms of discretion.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 257; Islam Online, 11/27/2007]
Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) says that newsletters printed for decades under his name that racially disparaged black lawmakers such as Representative Barbara Jordan (D-TX) were not actually written by him. He tells reporter S.C. Gwynne: “I could never say this in the campaign, but those words weren’t really written by me. It wasn’t my language at all. Other people help me with my newsletter as I travel around. I think the one on Barbara Jordan was the saddest thing, because Barbara and I served together and actually she was a delightful lady.” (Paul’s newsletter called Jordan “Barbara Morondon” and the “archetypical half-educated victimologist” whose “race and sex protect her from criticism.”) The item slighting Jordan was published, Paul says, because “we wanted to do something on affirmative action, and it ended up in the newsletter and became personalized. I never personalize anything.” He attempts to explain why he never publicized his claimed lack of involvement with his own newsletter, saying: “They were never my words, but I had some moral responsibility for them.… I actually really wanted to try to explain that it doesn’t come from me directly, but they [campaign aides] said that’s too confusing. ‘It appeared in your letter and your name was on that letter and therefore you have to live with it.’” Gwynne writes: “It is a measure of his stubbornness, determination, and ultimately his contrarian nature that, until this surprising volte-face in our interview, he had never shared this secret. It seems, in retrospect, that it would have been far, far easier to have told the truth at the time.” [Texas Monthly, 10/1/2001; Reason, 1/11/2008] In 1996, Paul admitted to writing the newsletters (see May 22 - October 11, 1996). In 2008, a New Republic article (see January 8-15, 2008) will document a raft of crudely racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, and far-right conspiratorial content from years’ worth of Paul’s newsletters (see 1978-1996).
Charlotte Beers. [Source: New York Times]Former advertising executive Charlotte Beers officially assumes her duties as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. Beers, the former head of ad agencies Ogilvy & Mather and J. Walter Thompson, and who is best known for “branding” products like American Express credit cards and Head and Shoulders shampoo, was named to the position days after the 9/11 attacks, in part to help refurbish America’s image overseas. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who met Beers in 1995 when they both worked on the board of Gulf Airstream and who proposed her for the position, defended her selection in the Senate by explaining: “Well, guess what? She got me to buy Uncle Ben’s rice and so there is nothing wrong with getting somebody who knows how to sell something.” Powell says Beers’s job is to focus on what he calls “the branding of US foreign policy.” Time reporter Margaret Carlson will write that Beers’s new job is much different from selling rice or shampoo to American consumers: “Now Beers has to rebrand Osama bin Laden as a mass murderer to millions of Muslims who have never seen a 767 or a skyscraper, much less one flying into the other. She has to do it in languages, like Pashto and Dari, that don’t even have a word for terrorist. And all this without having control over Voice of America or Radio Free Europe.” Congress grants Beers over $500 million for her Brand America campaign. She says: “Public diplomacy is a vital new arm in what will combat terrorism over time. All of a sudden we are in this position of redefining who America is, not only for ourselves, but for the outside world.” Beers has no diplomatic experience. Her first efforts as undersecretary will be to provide a 24-page booklet in 14 languages accusing bin Laden of masterminding the 9/11 attacks, and, with the help of the Ad Council, to create and disseminate a poster throughout Arab countries offering up to $25 million for information leading to the arrest of highly placed terror suspects. Beers says that “sell might not be the operative word” to describe her job, she uses marketing vocabulary to describe her efforts: the US is an “elegant brand,” Powell and President Bush are “symbols of the brand,” and she wants to use athletes such as the NBA’s Hakeem Olajuwon to help market the American “brand.” [Time, 11/14/2001; New York Times, 3/3/2003; CounterPunch, 8/13/2003; Rich, 2006, pp. 31-32] Columnist Jeffrey St. Clair will observe: “Note the rapt attention Beers pays to the manipulation of perception, as opposed, say, to alterations of US policy. Old-fashioned diplomacy involves direct communication between representatives of nations, a conversational give and take, often fraught with deception… but an exchange nonetheless. Public diplomacy, as defined by Beers, is something else entirely. It’s a one-way street, a unilateral broadcast of American propaganda directly to the public, domestic and international—a kind of informational carpet bombing.” [CounterPunch, 8/13/2003]
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]
At a rally in New York City, President Bush is asked whether the federal government will ask the average American to do anything else besides spend money to help battle terrorism and assist the country in recovering from the 9/11 attacks. Bush replies: “Well, I think the average American must not be afraid to travel. We opened Reagan Airport yesterday for a reason—we think it’s safe, and that people ought to feel comfortable about traveling around our country. They ought to take their kids on vacations. They ought to go to ball games.… But people ought to—listen, we ought to be aware in America—we are aware; how can you not be aware that we’ve entered into a new era. The imagery is vivid in people’s minds. But nevertheless, Americans must know that their government is doing everything we can to track down every rumor, every hint, every possible evildoer. And, therefore, Americans ought to go about their business. And they are beginning to do so. The load factors were up on the airlines, which means more people will be going to hotels and restaurants.” [White House, 10/3/2001; Roberts, 2008, pp. 91] Not only has Bush been exhorting Americans to spend their money on airline tickets and amusement parks (see September 27, 2001), he will take part in a marketing campaign designed to boost the travel industry (see Early 2002). New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani adds his voice to Bush’s, asking the rhetorical question, “What can you do to help in this crisis?” and answering, “Spend, spend, spend.” Time magazine columnist Margaret Carlson writes that while consumer spending is indeed essential to the country’s economic recovery, it “strike[s] a sour note” for Bush, Giuliani, and other leaders to tell Americans that they can best help their country by spending money on themselves. “In the aftermath of one awful moment, we’ve finally come to understand what our parents meant by a cause larger than ourselves,” she writes. “We’re hungry for a way to help the war effort, honor the dead, and help the survivors. We’re not shunning the perfect marbled steak at Morton’s for want of a tax break but because it feels wrong with planes being shot at in Afghanistan. The fact is there’s going to be no grand mobilization for which we can sacrifice. It’s not our parents’ war, with its visible monsters, quantifiable victories, and necessary sacrifices. The Greatest Generation got to save old tires, dig a Victory Garden, and forgo sugar. The Richest Generation is being asked to shop.” [Time, 10/15/2001]
Gary Milhollin of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control testifies in Congress before the Subcommittee on the Middle East and the South Asia
Committee on International Relations that Iraq “is still committed to developing weapons of mass destruction.” He states: “Iraq has become self-sufficient in biological weaponry; it possesses the strains, growth media and infrastructure necessary to build a biological arsenal. Iraq also retains stocks of chemical agent from the period of the Gulf War and is known to have all the elements of a workable nuclear weapon except the fissile material needed to fuel it. Iraq’s authorized program for developing short-range missiles will also enable the building of longer-range missiles, and Iraq is showing an interest in cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles, apparently to deliver chemical or biological payloads.” [US Congress, 10/4/2001]
In August 2008, the New York Daily News will report that after Robert Stevens is the first to die in the anthrax attacks on October 5, 2001 (see October 5-November 21, 2001), White House officials repeatedly press FBI Director Robert Mueller to prove the attacks were conducted by al-Qaeda. According to an unnamed retired senior FBI official, Mueller was verbally “beaten up” during President Bush’s daily intelligence briefings for not producing proof linking the attacks to al-Qaeda. “They really wanted to blame somebody in the Middle East,” this FBI official will say. But within days, the FBI learned the anthrax was a difficult to make weapons-grade strain. “Very quickly, [experts at Fort Detrick, Maryland] told us this was not something some guy in a cave could come up with. [Al-Qaeda] couldn’t go from box cutters one week to weapons-grade anthrax the next.” But several days after this conclusion is reached, Bush and Cheney nonetheless make public statements suggesting al-Qaeda was the culprit (see October 15, 2001 and October 12, 2001). [New York Daily News, 8/2/2008]
Neoconservative William Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, says on NBC’s Meet the Press that the first Bush administration erred in 1991: “The biggest mistake we have made—it’s our mistake, it’s not the mistake of the Arabs—was not finishing off Saddam Hussein in 1991.” Kristol garners a tremendous amount of coverage during the months after the 9/11 attacks, relentlessly advocating for the overthrow of Hussein. [PBS, 4/25/2007]
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