Democratic Underground

The Man Behind the Curtain
October 25, 2001
by William Rivers Pitt

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"Every day they tell us that we are a free people fighting to defend freedom. That is the current that has whirled the young airman up into the sky and keeps him circulating there among the clouds. Down here, with a roof to cover us and a gasmask handy, it is our business to puncture gasbags and discover the seeds of truth."

—Virginia Woolf

In the early months of 1962, General Lyman Lemnitzer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs under Kennedy, wanted a war. Part of a cabal of extreme right-wing anti-communist Cold Warriors within the Pentagon, General Lemnitzer believed Kennedy had gone soft on communism and Castro. Kennedy had put any and all provocative action against Cuba on hold, and ordered only the gathering of intelligence data.

For, General Lemnitzer, this was totally unacceptable. Further frustrated by the fact that Castro himself had failed to do anything that would demand an invasion of Cuba, General Lemnitzer and his cabal planned an operation called Northwoods. Bluntly, this operation called for acts of terrorism within the United States perpetrated by agents of the United states loyal to Lemnitzer.

A plan, crafted in exquisite detail, was drafted describing the scope of Operation Northwoods, and was later signed in approval by all of the Joint Chiefs. Citizens would be shot in the streets. Boats of Cuban refugees would be sunk on the high seas. Bombings would be perpetrated within Washington D.C. and Miami. There were even plans to fake the hijacking, and later the destruction, of a civilian aircraft.

Phony evidence would then be provided pointing a finger at Castro. The American people, in their outrage, would demand a full invasion of Cuba. General Lemnitzer would have his war.

Needless to say, Operation Northwoods was never put into effect. When directly asked by Congress whether plans were afoot for the invasion of Cuba, General Lemnitzer swore an oath and said no. Eventually, he was removed from his position. Northwoods became buried under subsequent events, a forgotten idea for more than forty years.

It is an appalling thing to know that such an idea could even be spoken aloud in the Pentagon. It is comforting to believe General Lemnitzer was on the lunatic fringe, a man obsessed with Cuba to such a degree that he would be willing to attack his fellow citizens to create the false pretext for war.

Yet Operation Northwoods was signed off on by all the Joint Chiefs of Staff, leading to the inevitable conclusion that this cavalier and bloodthirsty attitude towards the lives and safety of American citizens and military personnel was not the exception, but the rule.

This is but one story of our government, of the men behind the curtain. It took forty years for this story to be told. The reason why such an insidious plot was hidden so completely and for so long from the eyes of the American people lies within the trust we give to the agencies that are supposed to stand in defense of our country. We give the Pentagon, the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, and to a lesser extent the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the widest possible latitude with vital information, all in the interest of national security.

Today, a war is being fought in Afghanistan and on our own soil. Before the snow flies, it may well expand into a variety of other countries. The purpose of the war is as clear as the twisted rubble at the end of Lower Manhattan, as clear as the smashed and gutted section of the Pentagon. Terrorism has arrived on American shores, and those who perpetrated these acts must be brought to justice.

We have been told that this is a 'new type of war,' where secrecy is paramount. The news media has been cut almost completely out of the information loop, relegated to reporting on grainy green videotapes of nothing highlighted by almost nothing. Those who operate in this new theater do so under the cover of complete darkness.

In light of Operation Northwoods, in light of the legacy of men like General Lemnitzer, and in light of recently revealed information regarding warnings about the September 11th attacks that were received and virtually ignored by the CIA and FBI, the question of whether our government deserves that cloak of secrecy must be voiced in the strongest possible terms.

According to CIA agents interviewed by the Los Angeles Times, who refused to give their names, a warning about two "bin Laden related individuals" was transmitted to the FBI on August 27th, 2001. The information was classified as 'Immediate,' one step below the 'Flash' warning reserved for the outbreak of war.

Somewhere in the translation, according to the CIA, the veneer of urgency was dropped from the document. The FBI failed to apprehend Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, two men named in the CIA warning who later crashed an airplane into the Pentagon, killing 189 people.

What is disquieting is the simple fact that this warning did exist, and was bungled. The INS was not given the information in a timely fashion, and was unable to block the entry of Almihdhar and Alhazmi, which they could well have done.

The State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs was likewise kept uninformed of the threat and warning. This Bureau is responsible for giving out visas to foreign visitors, and in fact gave one to suspected terrorist Mohamed Atta, because the information was not shared. The head of the Consular Affairs Bureau, Mary Ryan, commented angrily before Congress that she was "surprised how much we learned in the immediate aftermath" of September 11th.

Likewise, the airline industry could have been warned to stop passengers with names matching those on the alert from boarding any aircraft, had they been provided the information. None of this happened. The terrorists managed to walk through a wide variety of governmental firewalls, up the ramps to those aircraft, and into the cockpits unmolested.

At this point, the questions must turn to dark corners, places from whence monstrous plots like Operation Northwoods have sprung.

A former Los Angeles Police Department field officer and narcotics agent named Michael C. Ruppert, who twice turned down recruitment overtures from the CIA before being forced out of the department for questioning CIA involvement in civil police affairs, has leveled some disturbing accusations.

Some very strange transactions regarding United and American Airlines took place in the days before the September 11th attacks. Similarly odd transactions took place regarding Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, and a variety of other prominent companies who made their homes in the World Trade Center towers. These transactions, made in astoundingly large volume, were essentially betting that stocks for those companies would lose an enormous amount of value.

On September 11th, planes from United Airlines and American Airlines crashed into the World Trade Towers, obliterating the offices of Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, and others associated with the above-described transactions. The stocks for those companies immediately sank. Whomever made the transactions reaped an enormous profit: $16 million alone for trades on the airline stocks, and the stocks for Morgan Stanley.

Mr. Ruppert was interviewed recently by a Berkeley, CA radio show on the subject of the CIA's involvement with Wall Street. He provided the following information:

"One of the primary functions of the Central Intelligence Agency by virtue of its long and very close history of relationships with Wall Street, I mean to the point where the current executive vice president of the New York Stock Exchange is a retired CIA general counsel, has had a mandate to track, monitor, all financial markets worldwide, to look for anomalous trades, indicative of either economic warfare, or insider currency trading or speculation which might affect the US Treasury, or , as in the case of the September 11 attacks, to look for trades which indicated foreknowledge of attacks like we saw.

"One of the vehicles that they use to do this is a software called Promis software, which was developed in 1979...and Promis is very unique for two reasons: first of all, it had the ability to integrate a wide range of databases using different computer languages and to make them all into one readable format. And secondly, in the years since, Promis has been mated with artificial intelligence to even predict moves in markets and to detect trades that are anomalous, as a result of those projections."

Mr. Ruppert asserts that the CIA, with all of its abilities and with its careful observation of financial transactions, should have seen the September 11th attacks coming a mile away. He further asserts that the CIA let the attacks happen to further the economic and military agenda of the current administration.

The first assertion, that the CIA should have been able to detect a pattern in the financial trades and been able to act in the defense of the country, connects nicely with the botched warning of August 27th. The terrible scenario that develops is that the CIA, with its budget declared a state secret and with all of the trust given in the name of national security, failed in spectacular fashion to do its job.

The second assertion, that the CIA knew of the attacks and allowed them to happen in order to provide inertia for a variety of governmental agendas, is almost blasphemous in its implications. Only the existence of plans like those delineated in Operation Northwoods makes the accusation even worth consideration.

The first assertion gives birth to the second. How could such a powerful and far-seeing agency like the CIA have so thoroughly failed to perceive and thwart such a monstrous threat, unless that ignorance was deliberate?

One thing is certain. Every agency tasked with the care and protection of this nation failed in their duty on September 11th, and thousands of Americans died as a result. The justification for the billions of dollars in budgetary allocations these agencies receive from our tax dollars has disappeared in a ball of flaming dust. Unless and until this catastrophe is set right, these agencies will no longer deserve our trust or our money.

As for the assertions raised above, assertions that use words like 'complicity' and 'foreknowledge,' they will not go away. Northwoods makes anything and everything possible. Until this matter is settled appropriately, the CIA stands in taint of high treason and murder. It's time to pay attention to the man behind the curtain.

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Information regarding Operation Northwoods was provided by James Bamford's book, 'Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency,' pp. 82-91

CIA, FBI Disagree on Urgency of Warning (Los Angeles Times)

Cheney Says War Will Enter Covert Phase (Reuters)

The CIA's Wall Street connections (Online Journal)