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Media Protect Bush On 9/11 Security Failure

by rwwatch Saturday, Jun. 08, 2002 at 5:26 PM

Once again the neoConservative media is the problem.

Subject: [RWWATCH] Media Protect Bush On 9/11 Security Failure

RWWATCH Readers:

I thought that this story pretty well 'connected the dots' of the Bush

failures in the 9/11 tragedy, as well as highlighted the complicity of

the 'liberal' US media in keeping this news from the American




Today's commentary:


ZNet Commentary

Media Protect Bush On 9/11 Security Failure

May 29, 2002

By Edward Herman

The successful terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, represented

a spectacular failure of the U.S. national security establishment.

But from the very beginning there was very little media interest in

examining that failure, although the attack involved extensive

terrorist preparations within the United States and although the

federal government (and taxpayers) are paying some billion a

year on security services, not including the armed forces. > > There

was a rush to give "security" more money, without a detailed

investigation of the failure and its implications for the efficiency in

use of the existing vast sums. Little attention was given to locating

responsibility for this security debacle.

There was even a tendency, insofar as any pointing the finger of

blame was concerned, to find CLINTON guilty for having allegedly

stinted in pursuing terrorism. This was the main theme of a front

page article in the Philadelphia Inquirer of January 14 that referred

only to Clinton's inattention to the subject (Dick Polman, "Sept. 11

may taint Clinton's legacy").

There was no mention that the Clintonites had warned Bush

representatives in January 2001 that Al Qaeda was a real threat

and should be a priority concern, and there was no suggestion in

this article, or others castigating Clinton, that maybe Bush, in office

for eight months at 9/11, was in any way responsible for the

security failure during his watch.

Part of the reason for this is that the Bush team, after having failed

the country before 9/11, engaged in frenzied overkill after 9/11,

rushing warships and airplanes to deal with the terror threat in New

York harbor and elsewhere, engaging in a dragnet operation

incarcerating and interrogating thousands of alleged suspects or

potential suspects, declaring a "war on terrorism," calling for more

arms, etc. > > The mainstream media never pointed out that this

feverish activity was not only after-the-fact, but possibly designed

to distract attention from the huge before-the-fact failure.

Another reason for the failure to ask questions and investigate is

that Bush immediately declared himself a "war president," and

successfully mobilized media and populace to a high yellow-ribbon

patriotic pitch. This made any criticism of our leader unthinkable for

many, including the media, and gave Bush a free ride, for a while.

After the pre-9/11 virtual silence on the terror threat, the Bush team

was finding threats worth publicizing on a weekly basis, perhaps

aiming to keep war fever high and the possibility of critical

investigation low.

Still another reason for media quiescence is that Bush is a

Republican president, prized by the business community,

and by the numerous rightwing pundits (Will, Charen, et al.),

talk-show hosts (Limbaugh, North, O'Reilly et al.), and media (Wall

Street Journal, Weekly Standard, Fox Network et al.), so that he is

a protected person at this point in U.S. history.

If the media criticize him severely, even on the basis of serious

evidence of behavior harmful to the public welfare, the media will

be assailed by the rightwing echo chamber and by many

Republicans for "playing politics" and "liberal bias."

In the case of Democratic President Clinton, by contrast, it was

possible to play the policy-irrelevant Whitewater and Lewinski

scandals for years on end, because the echo chamber and

Republicans were pleased to attack him, and the "liberal

media" happily joined the fray. This could not happen to a Bush,

even on issues important to policy and public well-being (e.g., his

link to the Enron scandal, his tainted election by black exclusion

and a Republican Supreme Court gift, each treated cursorily by the

media)--and now, his and his administration's responsibility for the

9/11 security failure.

It took the mainstream media many months to pick up the story of

the Bush connection to this security failure, although most of its

elements have been common knowledge for interested web

browsers for quite a while. And finally having picked it up, the

mainstream media are not tying together its various pieces

and they are showing signs of abandoning the story as no longer of

any interest, in accord with the election abuse model (see Greg

Palast's chapter in _The Best Democracy Money Can Buy_ on "Jim

Crow in Cyberspace: The Unreported Story of How They Fixed the

Vote in Florida").

The key elements in this story can be divided into three parts. First,

is the story of the warnings to the Bush administration that Bin

Laden and Al Qaeda were planning a terrorist act, possibly

including the use of hijacked aircraft to attack facilities like the

Pentagon and White House. These warnings date back at least to

1996, but became acute and difficult to ignore in the six months

before 9/11--that is, during Bush II's tenure.

They included explicit warnings from foreign governments including

Israel, Britain, Russia, Germany, France, Jordan, and Morocco, all

advising of a serious imminent terrorist attack on the United States.

These even included explicit warnings of plans "to hijack

commercial aircraft and use them as weapons to attack important

symbols of American and Israeli culture" (a Mossad message of

August 24).

There was the now well-publicized message from FBI agent

Kenneth Williams in Phoenix warning that suspicious persons were

taking air flight training; the finding in early August 2001 that

Zacarias Moussaoui was taking such training but showing a

disinterest in taking off and landing; and the disclosure that the FBI

had been aware for several years that Al Qaeda was using U.S.

flying schools to train its cadres.

These and several other warnings were sufficient to cause

Attorney-General John Ashcroft to avoid commercial airlines from

late July. A minimally alert and competent security service

concerned with terrorism and the public welfare would have

invested serious resources in tracking down this threat, trying to

prevent it, and preparing the airlines and public.

A second element in the story is the revelation that the Bush

administration had actually carried out negotiations with the

Taliban into August 2001, attempting to get agreement to a pipeline

through Afghanistan. Only then did the administration break off

relations and threaten an attack and invasion. What is more, the

Bush family had links to the Bin Laden family through the Carlyle

group, with the Bin Ladens investors in that group until sometime in


The book _Bin Laden: The Forbidden Truth_, published in France


November 2001, by Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie,

not only describes the Bush II dealings with and willingness to

accept the Taliban if it would cooperate with oil industry plans, it

cites John O'Neill, the principal FBI official working on the pursuit of

Bin Laden, who claimed to have resigned in disgust in August

2001, because his pursuit of Bin Laden had been hamstrung by the

Bush administration, in his view because of their links to Saudi


Such constraints and tendency to appease both Saudi Arabia and


Taliban are supported by other evidence. Other FBI agents and

officials have come forward to describe the FBI's foot-dragging and

unwillingness to act (notable is the Minneapolis office's inability to

get the FBI to obtain a warrant to examine Moussaoie's apartment

and computer).

FBI and military intelligence claimed that "there were always

constraints in investigating the Saudis" and that "the restrictions

became worse after the Bush administration took over" (Palast and

Pallister, Guardian, Nov. 7, 2001).

It is interesting also that, with the approval of the FBI, several

dozen U.S.-based members of the Bin Laden family were permitted

to leave the United states shortly after 9/11, even as many

hundreds of Arabs were being picked up for interrogation on

possible links to Bin Laden. In short, it is possible that the lack of

even modest initiative in examining the Bin Laden terror threat was

rooted in Bush family and Bush II policy conflict of interest.

The third element in the case is that the Bush administration's

budget request submitted on September 10, 2001, cut million

from the FBI's request for money to hire more counter-intelligence

agents. This points up the fact that, despite all the warnings of a

serious terrorist threat, and despite the need for personnel to

penetrate organizations like Al Qaeda, the Bush administraion still

"didn't get it" one day before 9/11.

The media's treatment of this serious failure that cost some 3,000

U.S. lives has been Bush-protective and irresponsible.

Not only were the media late in coming to the story, when they got

there, after giving some important facts on the Phoenix memo, the

earlier warnings of Al Qaeda flight training, the Minneapolis fiasco,

they quickly allowed the Bush administration to get away with

claims that the warnings "weren't specific," the Democrats were

"politicizing" the question (by asking questions!), and that the

important thing was to stop this politicking and focusing on "what

really matters, which is preventing another assault by Osama Bin

Laden" (NYT ed., May 21, 2002)

The New York Times had another editorial on "The Blame Game"

(May 21), Thomas Friedman urged "Cool It!" (May 22), and R. J.

Apple, Jr. did the same ("Gotcha! One Cheer for Politics as Usual",

May 19).

The Philadelphia Inquirer gave a front-page feature story to the

blowing over of this unfortunate fuss ("One storm over 9/11 that

quickly blew over," May 21), and it played down the story editorially

as well.

This is the same paper that not only exploited the Lewinski story to

the hilt, and even called for Clinton's resignation over that incident,

it also gave more attention and indignation to Clinton's pardons

than to the Bush-Supreme Court election coup d'etat. The New

York Times also featured Lewinski at great length, and while

acknowledging its political component, still treated that purely

political vendetta with rather more seriousness than the present

Bush scandal of substance.

Perhaps more important, the media have not examined and tied

together all the elements of the story. They have failed to look at

the charges that the Bush administration was trying to do business

with the Taliban until into August, and that it's (and the Bush

family's) links to the Saudis constrained investigations into terrorist


Paula Zahn mentioned the Brisard-Dasquie book on Bin Laden in

an interview with Richard Butler on January 8, 2002, and its theme

of Bush dealings with the Taliban and John O'Neill's resignation

because of investigatory constraints, but she didn't push it far at all,

and the story was not picked up in the mainstream elsewhere. The

media have also failed to tie the Bush failure with his budget action

of sharply cutting the FBI counter- intelligence budget on

September 10.

In sum, there was a three-pronged security failure of great

seriousness: a failure to take obvious leads and do something


them; a possible conflict of interest that may explain this foot-

dragging; and a day-before-9/11 budget decision that shows a

degree of incompetence and misplaced priorities that is staggering.

The media have failed to discuss two of the three prongs in the

story, which has helped them minimize the seriousness of this Bush

failure, just as they downplayed his election theft and dealings with


The system works, but not in the public interest.


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