Editor’s note: The views expressed herein are the personal views of Larry Klayman.
In recent days, new but predictable revelations about government incompetence and recklessness in the weeks leading up to Sept. 11 have emerged. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Central Intelligence Agency had gathered intelligence that Islamic radicals were not only training at American flight schools – with the forecast aim of crashing airliners into the World Trade Center – but general warnings were also picked up, through electronic intercepts, that Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida was planning a major attack on the United States.
In addition, Zacarias Moussaoui, an al-Qaida operative, who it would later turn out was a conspirator in Sept. 11, would be taken into custody by the field office of the FBI in Minnesota. His laptop computer, which contained clues of the Sept. 11 attack, would never be searched.
Last but not least, a Judicial Watch client, Special Agent Robert Wright of the Chicago field office of the FBI, had gathered crucial information about Islamic terrorist money laundering which his superiors would ignore. When Special Agent Wright’s information was forwarded by me to Attorney General Ashcroft, I was told, in Clintonesque parlance, that the Bush administration was tired of Judicial Watch’s “conspiracy theories.” This squares with news just published this week that Ashcroft was told about FBI neglect of the Sept. 11 warnings just after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, but sat on this information and covered it up.
In short, most of this information was available to high officials in the Bush administration and, in particular, the Bush White House before Sept. 11. Indeed, recent admissions show that presidential intelligence briefings contained warnings that bin Laden-induced hijackings were about to occur as early as the weeks in August leading up to Sept. 11. President Bush, despite these warnings, did not keep the United States on high alert during the period leading up the World Trade Towers and Pentagon attacks. The result is now clear: About 3,000 Americans lost their lives and American prestige and invincibility has been forever tarnished.
But, despite this, in the months before these recent leaks occurred, President Bush, enjoying sky-high popularity poll ratings in the wake of the Afghanistan war, has been strutting around like a peacock, pleased with his performance and his political standing. Perhaps he had begun to believe his administration’s own spin – that he saved the country from the grips of Osama bin Laden and is well on his way to re-election in 2004.
Unfortunately, bin Laden has not been captured or killed, despite the president’s early predictions to take him “dead or alive,” and recent revelations about Arab terrorists jumping ships in U.S. ports, with the likely aim of commencing suicide bombings or some other atrocity, do not square with the president’s cocky attitude.
Why has this information about the Bush administration bungling just come to light, despite calls by Judicial Watch and others, following Sept. 11, for the government to own up to its failures, in a crash, all-out effort to shore up national security weaknesses before another major terrorist attack(s) occurs? For the same reason that Vice President Cheney’s Energy Task Force refuses to release records about its secret meetings with Enron and other lobbyists in the wake of the biggest corporate, legal and political scandal to hit Washington since the sordid days of the Clinton administration.
This Bush administration believes that it is not accountable to the American people, and that it is above scrutiny if not the law. It has a “Father Knows Best” (and lets hope the father is not Bush Sr.) view of government. And, for political reasons, not the least of which deals with the congressional elections this fall – where Republicans hope to re-capture control of the Senate and retain control of the House – Bush and his colleagues do not want the full truth to be known.
While, from all reports, George W. Bush is not an avid historian, much less reader, perhaps Dick Cheney has studied Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Papers, where Hamilton, contrary to James Madison, espouses his view that “the people are a great beast” and are not to be kept informed, much less consulted. This Tory view was, not coincidentally, held by King George III in revolutionary times, and is not only contrary to our Constitution, which furthers a government by and for the people, but is dangerous to the survival of liberty and the nation. Because if the masses are not kept informed for whatever reason, they will not be able to demand accountability of their government.
But what is even more disturbing about the conduct of the Bush administration following the recent revelations of its “blown” response to intelligence briefings, is its dissembling to try to justify its mess-up. Rather than accepting responsibility for having not taken sufficient action following the FBI-CIA alerts, it has sought to justify its own reckless incompetence by stating that how could one have known, with specificity, that the terrorists would strike on Sept. 11 against the World Trade Towers and Pentagon with airplanes? (Ironically, this same administration has said that general threat warnings are more credible than specific ones, since terrorists rarely are prone to discuss their exact plans over wires, cellular phones and the internet).
To add insult to injury, Vice President Cheney, who heads the Bush administration’s counterterrorism braintrust, intimated on Tim Russert’s “Meet the Press” last Sunday, that neither he nor the administration, including President Bush, would do anything different in the future. (To the contrary, they suggested that perhaps more devastating attacks would soon be on the way, and that they were effectively powerless to head them off). If this is true, what, if anything, has this administration learned from Sept. 11?
Sherlock Homes did not invent deductive reasoning. And, contrary to previous popular belief, the country would appear to be in more jeopardy than even I – a hardened government skeptic – have thought. Because the first, if not cardinal rule of correcting a bad situation, is to admit where one went wrong – not to make excuses. Continued denial, to save one’s own political skin, will not “cut it” when the future and the lives of millions of Americans are at stake.
What is wrong with a little honest humility, particularly in the face of one of the biggest attacks on U.S. soil since the birth of the nation? Did George Washington deny the obvious as he and his hapless and untrained soldiers were beaten badly by British troops in the early stages of the Revolutionary War? No, they did not. Instead, Washington and other colonial leaders admitted their failures, relieved incompetent military commanders, “sucked it in,” redoubled their efforts and resolve, asked France for help, and went on to win the war and form the greatest nation on earth.
I am disheartened, as well, by some in the conservative media who, rather than acting on their instincts to strengthen national security by exerting strong constructive criticism on this administration, have become, perhaps out of loyalty or fear of being retaliated against (i.e., White House party invitations are a difficult thing to lose), the “yes men” of the Bush political spin machine.
The war against terrorism is not a war by Republicans (even assuming that they represent conservatives, which they do not in large part) against Democrats. It is a war on behalf of the people of this country, and should have no political persuasion.
While Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is a criminal who should be in San Quentin, rather than regrettably occupying a seat in the greatest parliamentary chamber on earth, ironically it is this Bush administration which created its own present day Clinton monster by failing to do its duty and prosecute her for offenses ranging from Chinagate to Pardongate. Now that she has the “audacity” to ask questions – from a position of power as the de facto head of her party and likely vice presidential candidate in 2004, and presidential candidate in 2008 – about the knowledge and reaction of the president to intelligence briefings prior to Sept. 11, the Bush administration squeals like a “stuck pig.” They, and we, may not like the messenger or her insincere motivation, but she “doth ask the right questions.”
The hypocritical lack of accountability of the Bush administration, and its penchant for secrecy, if not political “derriere covering,” is unparalleled for a regime that claims to be different from its criminal predecessor, which explained each successive scandal as “an innocent bureaucratic SNAFU. “Certainly, it is different from the Truman administration. As under Clinton, one will not find on the president’s desk these days the motto, “The Buck Stops Here.” A more apt signage might be “Hear no evil. See no evil. Do no evil.”
In his column last Monday, conservative, but non-partisan columnist William Safire correctly wrote:
I say: Finger-pointing away at the entire intelligence flop. That means investigate both Clinton and Bush administration nonfeasance …”
– Safire, “Independent Look At Intelligence Failures,” New York Times, May 21, 2002.
Well, if the Bush administration – and its predecessor – will not come clean and accept responsibility, then the people will have to legally take matters into their own hands and force openness and responsibility in government. I aim to help do just that.
No one is above the law, and I am fed up with politicians who think they are, no matter what their poll ratings and standing may be! I don’t even care if they call themselves (compassionate) conservatives. The issues are not academic and trivial – they concern the survival of each American, his or her family, and the nation as a whole.