In April, the House and Senate intelligence committees will join forces to hold hearings into how the U.S. government, with its vast resources, could have possibly missed warning signs leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks. Lawmakers say they want to know if the attacks could have been prevented, and what, if anything, can be done to prevent future attacks.
I wish I could get excited about this, but I can't. In Washington-speak, the phrase, "We're not really going to do anything" can be supplanted with, "Let's hold hearings."
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In fact, one of the House Intelligence Committee's senior members, Vice Chairwoman Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has already decided that no one will be blamed for the intelligence and foreign policy failures that cost nearly 3,000 Americans their lives that fateful day.
"It's not about assigning blame, or finger-pointing," Pelosi told reporters this week. "We don't want [the Sept. 11 attacks] to happen again. The value of the inquiry is to see how we can prevent this from happening again."
Keep in mind that Pelosi hasn't deposed a single witness or heard one word of testimony yet, in her mind, the outcome has been pre-ordained – "no one is to be blamed."
Americans should be outraged by this arrogant presumption. Of course, somebody is to be blamed for Sept. 11 – warning signs that such an attack was in the works were all over the place:
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- One report said western intelligence services knew as early as 1995 that Osama bin Laden was planning to use airliners to attack "civilian sites."
"The plan was discovered in January 1995 by Philippine police who were investigating a possible attack against Pope John Paul II on a visit to Manila," Agence France Press reported Dec. 7, 2001.
"They found details of the plan in a computer seized in an apartment used by three men who were part of bin Laden's al-Qaida network," the report said. The plan called for exploding bombs on 11 planes simultaneously, but as a back-up plan, commercial airliners were to be hijacked and flown into civilian targets.
Details of the plot even resurfaced during the trial in New York in 1997 of Pakistani Ramsi Youssef, the mastermind of the attack on the World Trade Center in 1993.
- Another report said French intelligence officials notified the CIA and FBI about Zacarias Moussaoui, who U.S. authorities believe was the 20th Sept. 11 hijacker.
"Suspicious instructors at a Minnesota flight school first tipped off the FBI in August  about Moussaoui, who showed up with lots of cash and no flying skills," ABC News reported Dec. 11.
"FBI agents in the field were immediately convinced Moussaoui was up to no good. That's what they said when they interviewed people at another flight school Moussaoui attended in Oklahoma," ABC said. "But lawyers at FBI headquarters turned down requests for a special wiretap to check Moussaoui's computer."
Also, said ABC, "on Sept. 5-6 in Paris, French intelligence officials reportedly revealed details of Moussaoui's background – including alleged ties to al-Qaida going back to his student days – to FBI and CIA agents."
- One of the 19 hijackers was stopped by a Maryland state trooper before Sept. 11 but was released because the trooper had no way of knowing the man was on a CIA terrorist watch list.
"Officials have said two of the hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, were on the CIA watch list prior to the attacks and were being sought by U.S. authorities who knew they had entered the country but couldn't locate them," ABC News said.
- And the Los Angeles Times reported that Israel's Mossad warned Washington in August 2001 "that as many as 200 terrorists linked to bin Laden were slipping into the country to prepare a major assault in the United States."
It's not only clear that U.S. officials were well aware of bin Laden's plans, it's equally clear that the warnings were ignored. Someone must be held accountable for that, and it's Congress' job to find out who it must be.
Maybe Pelosi's "blame no one" attitude partially explains how the Sept. 11 attacks happened in the first place.