The 9/11 Commission Report
By The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon The United States
W.W. Norton, 516 Pages, $10
In the recent documentary Outfoxed, media critic Robert McChesney suggests right-leaning news outlets like Fox News are worse than the Stalinist-era propaganda. At least in Soviet Russia, he says, people knew they were getting the official party line.
The problem of the 9/11 Commission Report is similar. Instead of being printed by the government that wrote it, the Report is published by the employee-owned, independent press W. W. Norton & Co. The writing style goes out of its way to appear informal, with occasional references to Hollywood films or rhetoric about the importance of civil liberties. Norton's first printing of 500,000 has already been snapped up, leaving bookstores nation-wide out of it, in more ways than one.
The only way to explain the best-seller status of this dry, stiff and cynical book is to understand the 9/11 disaster as a national trauma so intense that the co-dependent American family is still reaching for anything that will assure it. The Saudi-Pakistani-Bush Family-CIA connections aren't as incestuous as they seem, right? Everybody in the government did everything in their power to stop it, didn't they? Surely they couldn't have known about 9/11 and allowed it to happen to justify their agenda, right?
The Report may be the most literary work ever authored by a group of 10. "Tuesday, September 11, 2001, dawned temperate and nearly cloudless in the eastern United States" is the opener. It's that undergraduate formula: Start with the weather. The Report then moves on to tell a selective conspiracy theory. The authors' motto: Do what Kissinger would have done. Protect the White House. This Commission is as determined as the kooks who shouted objections and were tackled by cops at their hearings.
While the Report pays lip service to the value of the "investigative journalists and watchdog organizations" who initiate government inquiries, the Commission refused to call any 9/11 watchdogs or investigative journalists to testify. Instead, they brought in fellow bureaucrats, politicians, spies and policy wonks who provided a parade of mind-blowingly dull chatter.
The 10 D.C. insiders that make up the Commission did their best not to look at any of the strange anomalies that abound around 9/11. On page 20, for example, the Commission reports that an air defense controller at the Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) reacted to the hijackings by asking, "Is this real-world, or exercise?" The terrorists somehow knew to strike on the morning that NORAD, NEADS and the Joint Chiefs of Staff were preoccupied with three different air defense drills (operations named things like "Vigilant Guardian," etc.) Although victim family member Mindy Kleinberg brought up this coincidence to them on the first day of hearings, the Commission only mentioned it as an afterthought, buried in the notes section in the back of the book.
Regarding the background of Osama bin Laden, the Commission dives head-on into the history of the terrorist ringleader's training as a mujahedeen by the CIA: They deny it.
Bin Laden was the CIA's point man in Afghanistan in the 80s; he ran the Maktab al-Khidamar. The MAK was the "primary conduit," according to MSNBC, for cash, weapons and CIA intelligence to flow through Pakistan's mini-CIA, the ISI. Three weeks after 9/11, the CIA's Bill Harlowe tried to spin that the CIA never had "any relationship whatsoever" with Bin Laden. And the 9/11 Commission shows its cards by trying to repeat the claim: Bin Laden received "little or no assistance from the United States" in Afghanistan. It's no surprise then to learn that a Commission panelist, Democrat Richard Ben-Veniste, was also once the attorney for CIA drug-runner Barry Seal, or that Democratic panelist Jamie Gorelick is on the CIA's National Security Advisory Panel.
Although the Bush Administration fought long and hard against its release, the Report publishes an edited version of the famous August 6, 2001 presidential intelligence briefing. Here we learn the "FBI is conducting approximately 70 full field investigations throughout the U.S. that it considers Bin Laden-related." Seventy different investigations? Then let's hear about them. But the Report doesn't go there, let alone discuss FBI whistle-blowers who tried to investigate Bin Laden-related terrorists but were smacked down. On page 247, we meet Minneapolis terrorist-to-be Zacarias Moussaoui, but not Time Person of the Year Coleen Rowley, the FBI whistle-blower who couldn't get a warrant from headquarters on him.
Terrorist financing is covered, with a guileless, "We don't know exactly where the money came from" manner. There is no mention of FBI Special Agent Robert Wright, who tracked down and seized $1.4 million of Bin Laden-related funds before 9/11. His higher-ups fought him every step of the way. After the carnage of 9/11, Wright understandably broke down and, through tears, apologized on C-SPAN to 9/11 victims' families. "[The FBI] allowed 9/11 to happen," he told the world. "FBI management intentionally and repeatedly thwarted and obstructed my investigations into Middle Eastern terrorist financing."
Both Rowley and Wright point to the FBI's David Frasca, the FBI's Radical Fundamentalist unit chief. After 9/11, Frasca was promoted to #3 in charge of Domestic Terrorism. Frasca is not mentioned in this Report.
Of the many theories about 9/11, some of the best questions involve the mysterious Mohamed Atta, subject of the research of investigative reporter Daniel Hopsicker. For two years, Hopsicker tracked Atta's final moves in Florida, including his cocaine and alcohol binges with temporary girlfriend, Amanda Keller, at the time a pink-haired stripper. The flight school that Atta happened to "choose," Huffman Aviation in Venice, also enjoys a sanitized version of its history. Flight-school president Rudi Dekkers has a long criminal history, while owner Wally Hilliard has ties to GOP Bush family friend Myron DuBain, Reverend Jerry Falwell and Clinton financier Truman Arnold. None of this makes its way into the report. Perhaps because Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste is featured in Hopsicker's 2001 book, Barry and the Boys regarding the CIA's Iran/Contra pilot Barry Seal.
So, 9/11 Commission, let's get this straight: If you're one of the best 9/11 investigative journalists, and you risk your own life, getting death threats in Florida for two years of rubbing elbows with some extremely creepy characters, should all of your research be disqualified just because you found people who call Clinton's friend Richard Ben-Veniste a "mob lawyer" in your last book? The Commission's answer is yes.
The Commission can't ignore the Saudi/Pak/CIA menage-Ó-trois that has been going on since the Afghan civil war. It's just that the most interesting details on this have been reported by the international press, and as a rule, the Commission ignores stories not picked up by the U.S. media. So, the fact that Pakistani ISI director General Ahmed wired $100,000 to Mohamed Atta on September 10 is not covered. The Times of India and Agence France-Presse reported it, and General Ahmed was forced to step down because of it. Stateside, these╩facts languish unused. Instead, it's pointed out that General Ahmed happened to be in D.C. meeting with Porter Goss and Sen. Bob Graham on the morning of 9/11. The Commission does cover how Deputy Sec. of State Dick Armitage (who holds a major decoration from the Pakistani army) used this to force Pakistan to help with the invasion of Afghanistan.
To their credit, the subjects that the Commission does cover are well researched. For instance, their toughest critics, the "9/11 Truth Movement" folks, believe that 9/11 must have been the product of a military stand-down. Earlier in 2001, 67 jets going off course were handled by established protocols, so why couldn't fighter jets be scrambled on 9/11? The Report points out the crucial difference that morning: The terrorist pilots turned their transponders off and the planes were harder to find. The lack of fighter jets on the morning of 9/11 could be explained, technically, by this report. But the Commission indicts itself for laziness by ignoring other anomalies on 9/11.
The Report climaxes in a grand paean to war-without-end. The enemy is dehumanized and depoliticized. You can't "bargain" or "negotiate" with terrorists. There is "no common ground," they can "only be destroyed or isolated." In other words, don't ask yourself how your enemy was created, or what the enemy believes in its heart about its justification. Don't look at Bin Laden's own statements about the U.S.'s backing of Israel, and don't consider the motivating effect when Arab youth in the poorest countries on Earth watch Palestinian houses bulldozed on Al Jazeera.
The 9/11 Commission Report has joined the Warren Report as one of the greatest cover-ups of all time. Even if they did just happen to have been caught off guard on 9/11, high-level personnel at the FBI, CIA and the Department of Justice should have been indicted for incompetence. If some knew about it, they should be indicted for their failure to stop it. Instead, they are all thanked in the preface.