Bush 9/11 Scandal, In Plain English
June 5, 2002
By Bernard Weiner
Don't know about you, but all this who-knew-what-when pre-9/11
stuff is mighty confusing. So once again, I head to that all-purpose
reference series for some comprehensible answers.
Q. I've heard all these reports about the government knowing
weeks and months in advance of 9/11 that airliners were going
to be hijacked and flown into buildings, and yet the Bush
Administration apparently did nothing and denied they did
anything wrong. They claimed the fault lay in the intelligence
agencies "not connecting the dots," or that it was the "FBI
culture" that failed. Can you explain?
A. Most of the "it's-the-fault-of-the-system" spin
is designed to deflect attention from the real situation.
Bush and his spokesmen may well be correct in saying they
had no idea as to the specifics -- they may not have known
the exact details of the attacks -- but it is more and more
apparent that they knew a great deal more than they're letting
on, including the possible targets.
Q. You're not just going leave that hanging out there,
are you? Just bash Bush with no evidence to back it up?
A. There's no need to bash anybody. There is more
than enough documentation to establish that the Bush Administration
was fully aware that a major attack was coming from Al-Qaeda,
by air, aimed at symbolic structures on the U.S. mainland,
and that among mentioned targets were the World Trade Center,
the Pentagon, the White House, the Congress, Statue of Liberty.
(According to Richard Clarke, the White House's National Coordinator
for Anti-Terrorism, the intelligence community was convinced
ten weeks before 9/11 that an Al-Qaeda attack on U.S. soil
Q. If they knew in advance that the, or at least an, attack
was coming, why did the Bush Administration do nothing to
prepare the country in advance: get photos of suspected terrorists
out to airlines, have fighter jets put on emergency-standby
status or even in the air as deterents, get word out to the
border police to stop these "watch-list" terrorists, put surface-to-air
missiles around the White House and Pentagon, etc.?
A. The explanation preferred by the government is
to admit, eight months late, to absolute and horrendous incompetence,
up and down the line (although Bush&Co., surprise!, prefer
to focus the blame lower down, letting the FBI be the fall
guy). But let's try an alternate explanation. Think about
it for a moment. If their key goal was to mobilize the country
behind the Bush Administration, get their political/business
agenda through, have a reason to move unliterally around the
globe, and defang the Democrats and other critics at home
-- what better way to do all that than to have Bush be the
take-charge leader after a diabolic "sneak attack"?
Q. You're suggesting the ultimate cynical strategem, purely
for political ends. I can't believe that Bush and his cronies
are that venal. Isn't it possible that the whole intelligence
apparatus just blew it?
A. Possible, but not bloody likely. There certainly
is enough blame to spread around, but the evidence indicates
that Bush and his closest aides knew that bin Laden was planning
a direct attack on the U.S. mainland -- using airplanes headed
for those icon targets -- and, in order to get the country
to move in the direction he wanted, he kept silent.
Q. But if that's true, what you've described is utterly
indefensible, putting policy ahead of American citizens' lives.
A. Now are you beginning to understand why Bush&Co.
are fighting so tenaciously against a blue-ribbon commission
of inquiry, and why Bush and Cheney went to Congressional
leaders and asked them not to investigate the pre-9/11 period?
Now do you understand why they are trying so desperately to
keep everything secret, tightly locked up in the White House,
only letting drips and drabs get out when there is no other
way to avoid Congressional subpoenas or court-ordered disclosures?
They know that if one thread of the coverup unravels, more
of their darkest secrets will follow.
Q. You're sounding like a conspiracy nut.
A. For years, we've avoided thinking in those terms,
because so many so-called "conspiracies" exist only in someone's
fevered imagination. Plus, to think along these lines in this
case is depressing, suggesting that American democracy can
be so easily manipulated and distorted by a cabal of the greedy
and power-hungry. But I'm afraid that's where the evidence
Q. You mean there's proof of Bush complicity in 9/11 locked
up in the White House?
A. We wouldn't use the term complicity. So far as
we now know, Bush did not order or otherwise arrange for Al-Qaeda's
attacks on September 11. But once the attacks happened, the
plans Bush&Co. already had drawn up for taking advantage of
the tragedy were implemented. A frightened, terrorist-obsessed
nation did not realize they'd been the object of another assault,
this time by those occupying the White House.
Q. This is startling, and revolting. But I refuse to jump
on the conspiracy bandwagon until I see some proof. Bush says
he first heard about a "lone" pre-9/11 warning on August 6,
and that it was vague and dealt with possible attacks outside
the U.S. Why can't we believe him? After all, the FBI and
CIA are notorious for their incompetence and bungling. You
got a better version that makes sense, I'd love to hear it.
A. Bush and his spinners want us to concentrate on
who knew what detail when; it's the old magician's trick of
getting you to look elsewhere while he's doing his prestidigitation.
We're not talking about a little clue here and another little
clue there, or an FBI memo that wasn't shared. We're talking
about long-range planning and analysis of what strategic-intelligence
agencies and high-level commissions and geopolitical thinkers
around the globe -- including those inside the U.S. -- saw
for years before 9/11 as likely scenarios in an age of terrorist
The conclusion about Al-Qaeda, stated again and again for
years by government analysts, was basically: "They're coming,
by air. Get prepared. They're well-organized, determined,
and technically adept. And they want to hit big targets, well-known
symbols of America." (There was a 1999 U.S. government study,
for example, that pointed out that Al-Qaeda suicide-bombers
wanted to crash aircraft into a number of significant Washington
targets; during the 1995 trial of Ramsi Yousef, the mastermind
of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, he revealed plans
to divebomb a plane into CIA headquarters, and earlier he
had told FBI agents that the list was expanded to include
the Pentagon and other D.C. targets.)
Elements in the FBI, all over the country, who suspected
what was coming, were clamoring, begging, for more agents
to be used for counter-terrorism investigations, but were
turned down by Attorney General Ashcroft; Ashcroft also gave
counter-terrorism short shrift in his budget plans, not even
placing anti-terrorism on his priority list; John O'Neill,
the FBI's NYC anti-terrorism director, resigned, asserting
that his attempts at full-scale investigating were being thwarted
by higher-ups; someone in the FBI, perhaps on orders of someone
higher-up, made sure that the local FBI investigation in Minneapolis
of Zacaria Moussauoi was compromised. All this while Ashcroft
was shredding the Constitution in his martial law-like desire
to amass information, and continues even now to further expand
his police-state powers.
(Note: An FBI agent has filed official complaints over the
bureau's interfering with anti-terrorism investigations; his
lawyers include David Schippers, who worked for the GOP side
in the Clinton impeachment effort; Schippers says the agent
knew in May 2001 that "an attack on lower Manhattan was imminent."
A former FBI official said: "I don't buy the idea that we
didn't know what was coming...Within 24 hours [of the attack],
the Bureau had about 20 people identified, and photos were
sent out to the news media. Obviously this information was
available in the files and someone was sitting on it.")
One can accept the usual incompetency in intelligence collection
and analysis from, say, an anti-terrorist desk officer at
the FBI, but not from the highest levels of national defense
and intelligence in and around the President, where his spokesman,
in a bald-faced lie, told the world that the 9/11 attacks
came with "no warning." More recently, National Security Advisor
Condoleezza Rice, in a quavering voice, tried to characterize
the many warnings as mere "chatter," and concerned attacks
"outside the U.S." But the many warning-reports focused on
terrorist attacks both inside and outside the United States;
the August 6th briefing dealt with planned attacks IN the
Not only were there clear warnings from allies abroad, but
the U.S., through its ECHELON and other electronic-intercept
programs, may well have broken bin Laden's encryption code;
for example, the U.S. knew that he told his mother on September
9: "In two days you're going to hear big news, and you're
not going to hear from me for a while".
And, the word of an impending attack was getting out: put
options (hedges that a stock's price is going to fall) in
enormous quantities were being bought on United Airlines and
American Airlines stock, the two carriers of the hijackers,
as early as September 7; San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown
was warned by "an airport security man" on September 10 to
rethink his flight to New York for the next day; Newsweek
reported that on September 10, "a group of top Pentagon officials
suddenly canceled travel plans for the next morning, apparently
because of security concerns"; many members of a Bronx mosque
were also warned to stay out of lower Manhattan on September
11, etc. etc.
Q. You're giving me intriguing bits and pieces. Can't
you tie it all together and make it make sense?
A. OK, you asked for it, so we're going to provide
you with a kind of shorthand scenario of what may well have
gone down, a kind of narrative that attempts to tie a lot
of disparate-seeming events together. There is voluminous,
multi-sourced evidence that establishes this scenario. It's
scary, so prepare yourself.
We believe that the HardRight began serious planning for
a 2000 electoral victory -- and then implementation of a HardRight
agenda, and the destruction of a liberal opposition -- a year
or two after Clinton's 1996 victory. (The impeachment of Clinton
was a key ingredient to sully Democrat opposition.) The GOP
HardRight leaders decided early to select George W. Bush,
a none-too-bright and easily malleable young man with the
right name and pedigree. They ran into a speed-bump when John
McCain began to take off in the public imagination, and so
with dirty tricks they wrecked his campaign in the South and
elsewhere, and continued on their merry course.
For a while, they fully expected an easy victory over dull
Al Gore, tainted goods for a lot of conservative Republicans
and others because of his association with Clinton, but, given
the obvious limitations of their candidate, they weren't going
to take a lot of chances. In Florida, for example, where it
looked as if the race might be tight, they early on arranged
things -- through Bush's governor-brother Jeb, and the Bush
campaign's Katherine Harriss, Florida's Secretary of State
-- so that George W. couldn't lose. An example: removing tens
of thousands of eligible African-American voters from the
As it turned out, Gore won the popular vote by more than
a half-million votes nationwide, and, we now know, would have
won Florida's popular vote had all the ballots been counted,
but the U.S. Supreme Court HardRight majority, despite its
longtime support for states' rights, in a bit of ethical contortionism
did a philosophical reverse in midair and ordered the Florida
vote-counting to stop and declared Bush the winner, installing
a President rather than letting the people decide for themselves.
Q. That's ancient history. I'm interested in 9/11, not
tearing at an old scab.
A. OK. We're merely trying to indicate that the HardRight's
campaign to take power was not an overnight, post-9/11 whim
but worked out long in advance. After so many near-chances
to take total control, they would do anything to guarantee
a presidential victory this time around -- which would give
them full control over the reins of power: Legislature (where
HardRightists dominated the House and Senate), the Courts
(where the HardRight dominated the U.S. Supreme Court and
many appelate courts), and the Executive branch, not to mention
the HardRight media control they exerted in so many areas.
They had followed the news, they knew that the Al-Qaeda terrorist
network was engaged in a maniacal jihad against America, and
was quite capable -- as they had demonstrated on many occasions,
from Saudia Arabia to East Africa to the first attempt on
the World Trade Center -- of carrying out their threats. They
also knew, from innumerable intelligence reports from telecommunications
intercepts, and from various commissions, CIA and foreign
agents that Al-Qaeda liked to blow up symbolic icon structures
of countries targeted, and that Al-Qaeda, and its affiliates,
had an affinity for trying to use airplanes as psychologic
or actual weapons. (The French had foiled one such attack
in 1994, where a hijacked commercial airliner would be flown
into the Eiffel Tower.)
By early 2001 and into the Summer, warnings were pouring
in to U.S. intelligence and military agencies from Jordan,
Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, Israel, and other Middle East and
South Asian intelligence sources, along with Russia and Britain
and the Phillipines, saying that a major attack on the U.S.
mainland was in the works, involving the use of airplanes
as weapons of mass destruction.
Indeed, in June and July of 2001, the alerts started to be
explicit that air attacks were about to go down in the U.S.;
even local FBI offices in Phoenix and Minneapolis began passing
warnings up the line about Middle Eastern men acting suspiciously
at flight schools. In July, Ashcroft stopped flying on commercial
airliners and traveled only by private plane, and Bush, after
but a few months in office, announced he was going to ground,
spending the month of August on his ranch in Crawford, Texas.
Cheney disappeared from view, and our guess is that he was
coordinating the overall, post-attack strategy.
Under this scenario, in mid-Summer 2001, Bush&Co. decided
this was it. Bin Laden unknowingly was going to deliver them
the gift of terrorism, and they were going to run with it
as far and as fast and as hard as they could. The various
post-attack scenarios had been worked out, the so-called USA
Patriot Act -- which contained various police-state eviscerations
of the Constitution -- was polished and prepared for a rush-job
(with no hearings) through a post-attack Congress, the war
plans against the Taliban in Afghanistan were readied and
rolled out, the air-base countries around Afghanistan were
brought onboard, and so on. All during the Summer of 2001.
Q. I don't understand how war against Afghanistan could
have been anticipated so early.
A. Follow the money. Various oil/gas/energy companies
had wanted a Central Asian pipeline to run through Afghanistan
(costing much less to build, but also so it wouldn't have
to go through Russia or Iran); that project was put on hold
during the chaos in Afghanistan, but when the Taliban took
over and brought stability to that country, the U.S. began
negotiating with the Taliban about the pipeline deal. Even
after sending them, via the United Nations, $43million dollars
for "poppy-seed eradication," and inviting them to talks in
Texas, the Taliban began to balk. At a later meeting, the
U.S. negotiator threatened them with an attack unless they
handed over bin Laden and reportedly told them, in reference
to the pipeline, that they could accept "a carpet of gold"
or be buried in "a carpet of bombs." (The later U.S. government
spin was that the bin Laden issue and the pipeline issues
were separate, and that the U.S. threats didn't mix the two
and there were misunderstandings of what was said.) Shortly
thereafter, bin Laden, hiding out in Afghanistan, initiated
the September 11th attacks, and the U.S. bombing of that country
began. Oh, by the way, in case you haven't noticed, under
the new U.S.-friendly government in Kabul, the pipeline project
is back on track. Oh, by the way, the pipeline will terminate
reasonably close to the power plant in India built by Enron
that has been lying dormant for years, waiting for cheap energy
Q. You're saying that U.S. war and foreign policy have
been dictated by greed?
A. Among other pleasant motivations, such as hunger
for domination and control, domestically and around the globe
-- which always ties in with greed. That's why Bush&Co. play
such political and military hardball. That's why the arrogant,
take-no-prisoners, in-your-face attitude, to bully and frighten
potential opponents into silence and acquiescence, even questioning
their patriotism if they demur or raise embarrassing issues.
Q. But this is a democracy, people are still speaking
their minds, right?
A. Certainly, there are areas of America's democratic
republic that have not yet been shut down. But where there
should be a vibrant opposition party, raising all sorts of
questions about Bush Administration policy and plans, America
receives mostly silence and timidity. However, as more and
more of the ugly truth begins to emerge -- and Enron, Anthrax,
and pre-9/11 knowledge are just the tips of the iceberg --
the Democrats (and moderate Republicans) are beginning to
feel a bit more emboldened. But just a bit, preferring to
run for cover whenever Bush&Co. accuse them of being unpatriotic
when they raise pointed questions.
Q. You're so critical and negative about the Bush Administration.
Can't you say anything good about what they're doing?
A. Yes. They have moved terrorism -- the new face
of warfare in our time -- front and center into the world's
consciousness, and have mobilized a global coalition against
it. They may be making mistakes, which could lead to horrifying
consequences, or acting at times out of impure motives, but
at least the issue is out there and being debated and acted
Now, having said that, we must point out that the institutions
in this country -- the Constitution, the courts, the legislative
bodies, civil liberties, the Bill of Rights, the press, etc.
-- are in as much danger as they've ever been in. And the
U.S.'s bullying attitude abroad may well lead to disastrous
consequences for America down the line.
Q. So, what's to be done?
A. The most important thing at the moment -- even,
or especially when, the inevitable next terrorist attack occurs
-- is to break the illusion of Bush&Co. invulnerability. The
best way to do that, aside from ratcheting up the Enron and
Anthrax and 9/11 investigations (and it may turn out that
those scandals are deeply intertwined), is to defeat GOP candidates
in the upcoming November elections. If the Democrats hang
on to the Senate and can take over the House, the dream of
unchallengable HardRight power will be broken. Bush&Co. will
become even more desperate, overt, nasty, and in their arrogance
and bullying ways, will make more mistakes and alienate more
citizens. The edifice will begin to crumble even more; there
will be more and deeper Congressional and media investigations;
resignations and/or impeachments (of both Bush & Cheney, and
Ashcroft) may well follow.
Q. You're asking me to support ALL Democrats, even though
in a particular race a moderate GOP conservative would be
A. Yes. In some cases, you may have to hold your nose
and send money to, canvass for, and vote for a Democrat; we
can get rid of the bad ones later. The objective right now
-- for the future of the Constitution, and for the lives of
our soldiers in uniform and civilians around the globe --
has to be to break the momentum of the HardRight by taking
the House and keeping the Senate from returning to GOP control.
Doing so would be even more important than what happened when
that courageous senator from Vermont, Jim Jeffords, appalled
by the HardRight nastiness and greed-agenda of the Bush folks,
resigned from the GOP and turned the Senate agenda over to
Q. And you think if the GOP gets its nose bloodied in
the November election, that will convince Bush to resign or
lead to his impeachment? I don't get that.
A. Churchill once told the Brits during World War
II that "this is not the beginning of the end, but it is the
beginning of the beginning of the end." There is a lot of
hard work and organizing and educating to be done, but the
recent exposure of Bush coverup-lies about pre-9/11 knowledge
is "the beginning of the beginning of the end." With a GOP
defeat in November, Democrats will be emboldened to speak
up more, investigate deeper, and those inquiries will unlock
even more awful secrets of this greed-and-powerhungry administration.
And that will be the beginning of the end -- and the beginning
of the beginning of a new era of more humane values for America
and the rest of the world.
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught American politics and
international relations at Western Washington University and
San Diego State University. He was with the San Francisco
Chronicle for nearly 20 years.