Demands Congressional Action
Mass-murderer Bin Laden Unwanted by the U.S. Government
Many of you might recall comments made by a field General during the Afghan war saying, in so many words, that they were not there to go after Osama Bin Laden...or reports by Seymour Hersch aired on Bill Moyers' NOW on PBS that, on orders from the Department of Defense, thousands of Taliban forces and even Al-Qeada operatives were airlifted to Pakistan in a break during the bombing of Kunduz. Now it appears the US military is saying that the man the US government maintains was behind the largest mass murder in U.S. history is off the hook because they tell us he's 'taken himself out of the picture"--thus no longer a priority. This according to a recent Reuters story of November 22. (see link below).
This latest policy shift follows a recent controversial White House compromise with 9/11 investigators, deemed unacceptable by victims' families, that provides highly censored and limited review of a Presidential Daily Briefings (PDBs) including one titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike the U.S." What mad farce is going on here? How does America's #1 enemy, a man "wanted dead or alive" for the brutal mass murder of thousands, become irrelevant even as the White House fights tooth and nail to control access and analysis of intelligence warnings about the threat he posed prior to the attacks?
I can imagine how this as yet unexplained new policy might be received by the thousands who lost family members on 9/11 or by the millions around the globe raising serious questions and expressing measured skepticism and doubts about the war on terror, the war on Iraq and the pretext that launched both.
9/11 family members and others have been insisting the Commission keep their word and "leave no stone unturned." Well, now they know that the Administration who created the Commission won't be turning over stones looking for Bin Laden any longer. Of course this will come as no surprise to those who have noted how little effort has been directed at finding Bin Laden especially after the Administration shifted its focus to Saddam Hussein and Iraq.
9/11 Commission's 'conscience' forced to leave
The government's investigation of 9/11 is further compromised and complicated by the curious recent departure of one of the most vocal critics of the 9/11 Commission's recent deal cut with the White House to provide for limited review of over 500 PDBs from the Clinton and Bush Administrations. Max Cleland has called the deal "a national scandal" and accused the President of having “deliberately compromised" the Commission. Cleland, a former Georgia Senator and now a former 9/11 Commissioner had been the Commission's most ardent internal watchdog and outspoken critic.
The President appointed him to serve on the board of the Import-Export Bank and, curiously, he accepted, thus forcing his withdrawal. The law establishing the Commission says Commissioners cannot, concurrent to the Commission's work, hold a federal office. The implications of his having accepted the position and forfeiting his place in the investigation, whose integrity he fought so hard to protect, are deeply disturbing. Especially coming on the heels of his biting criticism of the President and the Commission.
Dissembling of Government's Official Story May Foreshadow National Scandal
These new revelations about the government position on Bin Laden and the Commission record of compromises and softball investigative approach doesn't bode well for the search for the truth and raises serious questions. But this change of mind is indeed telling...perhaps the straw that breaks the people's credulity and ultimately exposing a far more serious national scandal then the one imagined by Senator Cleland.
Richard Bernstein of The New York Times writes in Out of the Blue that the Osama's presumption of guilt is built entirely upon circumstantial evidence. Absent a clear smoking gun and the "White Paper" promised by Secretary of State Powell and Prime Minister Blair, disturbing doubts are being expressed even as much of what we were told about 9/11 and the war on terror has since been retracted, disproved or credibly challenged in recent months. Official explanations and accounts are shifting like sands along a riptide.
We've learned that at least five of the 19 named by the FBI and produced with pictures within 24 hours are alive in Saudi Arabia (BBC), Zaccarias Mousaoui is not the 20th hijacker after all, there was no Iraqi Nuclear program poised for deployment, and Saddam was neither allied with Bin Laden nor responsible for 9/11 or the anthrax attacks. Official 'stories' are dissembling across the board.
We also have new information about the extent of pre-9/11 warnings thanks to the investigative work of Eleanor Hill and the Congressional Joint Inquiry. Contrary to statements made by Condaleeza Rice on May 16, 2002 that "no one could have imagined" planes being used a weapons, we now know that in fact the intelligence community was well aware of the risk of just such an attack. Warnings were acted upon at the site of the G-8 Summit in Genoa, Italy in July of 2001 where anti-aircraft measures were taken to protect the President from terrorists using planes as weapons.
When I asked Vice-Chair Hamilton at the conclusion of a recent public hearing how the Commission intended to resolve this sharp challenge to the President's National Security Advisor he was vague and evasive even after pressed with a follow-up. The Commission chairs were also asked to confirm whether or not they have sworn in witnesses in private 'interviews' and, if so, if they intended to apply the same investigative practice in their upcoming public hearings. This would be especially important where testimony is germaine to resolving key questions, conflicts or discrepancies that continue to cloud our understanding of 9/11.
Shocking conflict of interest stands -- a slap in the face of 9/11 families
What adds insult to injury here lie in the details of the recent compromise reached between the White House and the 9/11 Commission. The Commission has announced it will send its Executive Director, Dr. Phillip Zelikow, a Universtiy Professor, to be one of only two allowed into the White House to review relavant portions of hundreds of PDBs in question, presumably because the Commissioners themselves won't know exactly what to look for, not having been immersed in the minutae of the investigation as Dr. Zelikow has been.
What fuels the fire of those already deeply skeptical about the compromise is the fact that Dr. Zelikow brings with him the most serious conflict of interest to yet surface in the context of this investigation. Dr. Zelikow's selection is a slap in the face of family members and should be construed as obstruction of justice and one of the most serious compromises to the Commission's integrity. Instead of being sent to the White House to review PDBs Zelikow should be sent packing for his unwillingness to recuse himself.
Dr. Zelikow, is being asked to scrutinize a President he recently served as a member of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and who last year co-authored a book with National Security Advisor, Condaleeza Rice, whose lie, deciept or ignorance regarding the issue of planes as weapons has been directly challenged by the Joint Inquiry Report now in the historical record. Will Zelikow seek her sworn testimony for the record? Given his intimate role in the 'transition team' creating President Bush's National Security Council he clearly has a conflict of interest which could interfere with the pursuit of the truth in this case. The Commission's original chair Henry Kissinger was forced to resign after he refused to expose his client list. Here the conflicts are in plain view and yet the completely justified objections from the family members and others have been entirely dismissed by the Commission.
Furthering muddying the waters is the noticable lack of attention being paid to Commission access to details of the July 5th meeting of the Counterterrorism Security Group called and held by Counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke. Intelligence was discussed regarding an 'imminent' attack, 'spectacular' in nature 'designed to inflict mass casulties". Again, it is reasonable to assume that this has yet to publicly addressed in part from Zelikow's conflict of interest. Even the appearance of conflict of interest, in the most important investigation since the Warren Commission, should be enough for the Commission to excuse Zelikow and appoint a Co-Executive Director to handle these delicate matters with an Executive branch with which he has such close ties.
A Call for Hearings on the Hill
Given hints the Commission may soon ask Congress for an extension of its deadline it is time that all of those concerned with the integrity of the current Commission and its work to call for and help organize full and open hearings on Capitol Hill.
It is time for the Congress in its oversight capacity to take direct issue with the blatant conflict of interest thus far allowed to stand, the presence of minders allowed to sit in on Commission interviews, the lack of sworn testimony in public hearings, and the failure to produce interim findings of fact. These hearings should address this broad range of concerns. Congress should issue an overt challenge to a commission gone soft and failing to live up to a high and consistent investigative standard that must be applied at this perilous moment in history. Failing this urgent remedy and democratic scrutiny, the obvious concern is that the Kean Commission will become as discredited and doubted as the Warren Commission.
Given the stakes involved here, with nearly 3000 murdered and a global war on terror sacrificing American blood and treasure, it is absolutely imperative that indeed no stone is left unturned by this Commission, that they and the President be held to their word and to the highest investigative standard. Thus far they have failed to keep their word and meet this standard.
Urgent corrective action is required immediately and concerned citizens must act now to insure that Congress holds the Commission fully and transparently accountable to fulfill their mandate. Failing that Congress should launch a full investigation of their own, acting to declassify were necessary, with the deeply probative Committee hearings that Daschle should have encouraged and not limited when asked to do so by the President and Vice-president early in 2002.
The Commission should withdraw from it deal with the White House and issue a subpoena to insure full access to both NSC and Oval Office documents.
[CONTACT DETAILS FOLLOW BELOW]
Osama capture unnecessary, US general says; Reuters -- November 22, 2003
A senior US general said today that al Qa'eda mastermind Osama bin Laden had "taken himself out of the picture" and that his capture was not essential to winning the "war on terror".
"The President Ought to be Ashamed"; Salon -- Eric Boehlert; Friday 21 November 2003; http://truthout.org/docs_03/112303A.shtml
"New job takes Cleland off 9/11 panel"
Cleland bemoans the administration's "Nixonian" love of secrecy and its attempt to "slow walk" the commission into irrelevancy.
A scathing critique of the current Commission was published as a cover story by savvy investigative journalist Kelly Patricia O'Meara in November 23 issue of Insight Magazine. It is titled "A Historical Whitewash?"
I am told each issue of Insight Magazine is delivered to every member of Congress. Now is the right time to begin to raise the issues covered in the Insight article and in my commentary above.
Please take a moment now and again in the coming weeks to contact your representative to express your concerns about the 9/11 Investigation. Specifically ask that the Congress to hold hearings at their earliest opportunity to address these serious problems within the Commission. America's credibility in the world is at stake as is justice for the victims and their families, and ultimately the whether or not we learn the whole truth and secure full accountability. PLEASE ACT NOW.
Please call, fax or write the Commission giving voice to your objection to their recent compromise with the White House and the Executive Director's Conflict of Interest.
National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States
301 7th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20407
Tel: (202) 331-4060
Fax: (202) 296-5545 info@9-11Commission.gov
New York Office
Tel: (212) 264-1505
Fax: (212) 264-1595
9/11 Family Liaison Office
Tel: (212) 264-1505
Fax: (212) 264-1595
Selected quotes from Cleland in an interview with Eric Boehlert:
"...a majority of the commission has agreed to a bad deal."
"It is a national scandal."
"I say that [The President's] decision compromised the mission of the 9/11 commission, pure and simple. Far from the commissioners being able to fulfill their obligation to the Congress and the American people, and far from getting access to all the documents we need, the president of the United States is cherry-picking what information is shown to that minority of commissioners. Now this is ridiculous. That's not full and open access.
"If you trust one commissioner you should trust them all. I don't understand it. You can say, 'I'm not going to show anything to anybody, and take me to court.' At least that's consistent. But it's not consistent at all to say we're going to parse out this information and we determine how many members of the commission get to see it."
"It's all about 9/11. This is not a political witch hunt. This is the most serious independent investigation since the Warren Commission. And after watching History Channel shows on the Warren Commission last night, the Warren Commission blew it. I'm not going to be part of that. I'm not going to be part of looking at information only partially. I'm not going to be part of just coming to quick conclusions. I'm not going to be part of political pressure to do this or not do that. I'm not going to be part of that. This is serious."
"Let's chase this rabbit into the ground here. They had a plan to go to war and when 9/11 happened that's what they did; they went to war. They pulled off their task force in Afghanistan, their Predator assets, and shifted them over to the war in Iraq. They took their eye off the 9/11 ball and transferred it to the Iraq ball. And that's a very strategic question that ultimately has got to be answered. I'm focused on 9/11 and the administration is not focused on it. They don't want to share information, and they didn't agree with the commission in the first place."
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