Dereliction Of Duty

I had intended to write about the Able Danger scandal last week, but held off on it due to the questions surrounding Rep. Curt Weldon’s charges. However, now it appears that the 9/11 Commission missed vital leads that indicated that the terrorist plot could have been stopped well before those 19 hijackers got on board those aircraft.

Judicial Watch has filed a FOIA request and located key documents that show that the State Department warned the Clinton Administration about allowing Osama bin Laden to escape to Afghanistan:

According to the declassified documents, bin Laden’s many passports and his private plane allow him considerable freedom to travel “with little fear of being intercepted or tracked.” Bin Laden reportedly even traveled to London where he gave a press interview subsequent to his departure from Sudan. The report also warns that bin Laden’s prolonged stay in Afghanistan “could prove more dangerous to U.S. interests in the long run than his three-year liaison with Khartoum.” One analysis document, dated July 18, 1996, asks the provocative question: “Terrorism/Usama bin Ladin: Who’s Chasing Whom.”

The documents predict that even if bin Laden were forced to keep on the move, it would prove no more than an inconvenience since, “. . . his informal and transnational network of businesses and associates remains resilient.” The report goes on to explain that bin Ladin on the move, “. . .can retain the capability to support individuals and groups who have the motive and wherewithal to attack U.S. interests almost worldwide.”

“This is not a case of hindsight being 20/20,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “These documents prove the Clinton administration knew the danger Osama bin Laden posed to the United States back in 1996 and yet failed to take any meaningful action to stop him.”

As blogger TigerHawk notes, this memo disproves former terrorism czar Richard Clarke’s argument that Clinton was serious about terrorism. Throughout the 1990s, the Clinton Administration systematically failed to address the rising threat of al-Qaeda’s terrorist campaign against the United States. Former President Clinton even went as far as to say this:

“I also wish,” he continues, “I desperately wish, that I had been president when the FBI and CIA finally confirmed, officially, that bin Laden was responsible for the attack on the U.S.S. Cole. Then we could have launched an attack on Afghanistan early. I don’t know if it would have prevented 9/11, but it certainly would have complicated it.”

Except that argument is ridiculous on its face. It was quite clear that al-Qaeda was responsible for the Cole attack – bin Laden himself was bragging about it. Waiting for the FBI and the CIA to official confirm al-Qaeda involvement would have taken months – which is why nothing was done. That sort of attitude is precisely why the 9/11 attacks happened – an attitude towards terrorism that treats Osama bin Laden as a Middle Eastern Tony Soprano rather than a hostile military leader is doomed to failure.

Compounding this evidence is the Able Danger information. A credible source is confirming the veracity of the Able Danger information which states that the Department of Defense had flagged several of the 9/11 hijackers in 2000, but were not allowed to share that information with the FBI for fear of breaching “the wall” between military intelligence and law enforcement created by the Clinton Administration Justice Department. Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer has a long and distinguished career with the DoD and would have been in a position to know about the Able Danger information.

Federal prosecutor Mary Jo White warned the Justice Department that this artificial separation was harming our counter-terrorism efforts, but her warnings fell on deaf ears. White was involved in the prosecutions of the terrorists responsible for the first World Trade Center attacks in 1993. This was the first attack by what would later become al-Qaeda and should have been a wake-up call to inform us of the danger of Islamic extremist terrorism. Yet it would be just 8 years later that the World Trade Center would be attacked again, and this time the terrorists would be successful in destroying the Twin Towers.

The person responsible for creating “the well” was none other than 9/11 Commissioner Jaime Gorelick herself. Gorelick should have recused herself from the Commission due to her clear and obvious conflict of interest. She did not do so, and that choice continues to haunt her and the Commission.

As it stands, the Commission is now claiming that they never received the Able Danger materials despite the fact that Lt. Col. Shaffer makes it clear that they were briefed on the material. Given that the 9/11 Commission has changed its tune on Able Danger several times in the course of the last week, it’s not difficult to believe that Shaffer is correct. The 9/11 Commission initially regarded the Able Danger information as “not historically significant” when it now seems clear that Able Danger’s information could have made a vital difference in preventing the worst assault on American soil since the War of 1812.

It is becoming quite clear that the 9/11 Commission utterly failed to do its job and fully and completely investigate the lapses of intelligence that led up to the September 11 attacks. If the Commission ignored the Able Danger information, what other crucial pieces did they miss? Was the fact that Mohammad Atta’s cellphone was used in Florida enough to dismiss the Czech government’s official stance that Mohammad Atta was in Prague in April of 2001? What of information that would seem to connect the German cells of al-Qaeda that spawned Mohammad Atta with Iraqi intelligence? What was in the classified documents deliberately destroyed by former Clinton Administration National Security Advisor Sandy Berger? Berger took and destroyed documents relating to the thwarted attempt by al-Qaeda agents to attack millennium celebrations across the West Coast – and the documents that Berger illegally removed from the National Archives and destroyed contained hand-written notes that may have provided damning indictments of the Clinton Administration’s handling of counter-terrorism.

These questions all deserve serious answers, and the efforts of the career bureaucrats to sweep all of this under the rug have failed. If the Able Danger information is correct, it means that the last 5 years of history must be completely reevaluated. It means that our government utterly failed us due to an excessively legalist approach to counter-terrorism that prevented key information to reach the right policymakers.

George Satayana once wrote that those who failed to remember history are doomed to repeat it – when our history contains the death of 3,000 people in a horrific terrorist attack, we cannot fail to learn the truth about what happened before 9/11 and how to prevent another one. Yet thanks to the combination of conflict of interest and ideological blindness we’re learning that the truth has been obscured. That is unacceptable, it is time that a full, thorough, and pointed investigation occur to ensure that this country does not make the mistakes that led to the death of so many again.

2 thoughts on “Dereliction Of Duty

  1. It is time that Sandy Burglar be given immunity from prosecution, and then grilled within an inch of his life.

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