Underfunded, time-constrained 9/11 commission begins investigation
- January 3: The 9/11 investigation panel sets to begin a closed door investigation with a mere $3 million dollar budget (later increased to $12 million) and a 16 month time frame. Stephen Push, a leader of the 9/11 victims' families, says the low funding "suggests to me that they see this as a convenient way for allowing the commission to fail. They've never wanted the commission and I feel the White House has always been looking for a way to kill it without having their finger on the murder weapon." (Note that the commission looking into the destruction of the USS Columbia space shuttle was funded with $40 million, and the Whitewater investigation cost over $70 million. A Republican commissioner complains that such a miniscule funding allocation makes it "look like they have something to hide.") Valuable time has already been lost due to the controversy over the appointment of Henry Kissinger as the commission's original chairman. It first meets on January 27. (Washington Times/Killtown, CCR, Eric Alterman and Mark Green)
Conflicts of interest plague Republican chairman of 9/11 commission
- January 22: 9/11 Commission chairman, Thomas Kean, is proven to have a business link to Khalid bin Mahfouz, husband to one of Osama Bin Laden's sisters, a known associate of a number of terrorist groups, a probable financier of al-Qaeda, and a defendant in a lawsuit filed by the families of the 9/11 victims. Kean is a director of petroleum giant Amerada Hess, which in 1998 formed a joint venture, Delta Hess, with Delta Oil, a Saudi Arabian company, to develop oil fields in Azerbaijan. One of Delta's backers is Khalid bin Mahfouz. Mahfouz has shown up in dealings with the Carlyle Group and BCCI, the lender toppled by fraud in 1992. Three weeks before Kean's appointment, Hess quietly severed its ties with Delta. As far as the ten commission members go, at least six of the commissioners have ties to the airline industry, and every one of them has at least one potential conflict of interest. (Fortune/Killtown, CCR. Eric Alterman and Mark Green)
- January 27: The 9/11 commission meets for the first time in a closed session. The commission members "grapple with logistics" and meet with some of the victims' family members. It also named historian Dr. Philip Zelikow as its executive director. Zelikow, a Republican, is a friend and co-author of a book with Condoleezza Rice about the foreign policy of the first Bush administration, and has significant ties to the Bush administration, including serving on Bush's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. (The Nation, Fox News/Killtown, Eric Alterman and Mark Green)
- January 30: Stephen Push, a 9/11 victim's relative, is putting 45,000 pages from the recent German trial of Mounir El Motassadeq onto computer disks for the 9/11 commission. He is one of about 20 victims' relatives who joined that case as co-plaintiffs and got access to evidence that otherwise would be classified. Push has quit his job to devote all his time and $100,000 of his own money investigating 9/11. Originally a Bush supporter, he now says, "Clearly the official government line [on 9/11] is a lie." (CCR/Break On Through)
9/11 planner captured in Pakistan
- March 1: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks, is arrested in Pakistan, in a raid on an apartment building in Rawalpindi by US and Pakistani agents. He is turned over to US authorities and essentially disappears into maximum custody. 9/11 suspect Zacarias Moussaoui will try, and fail, to secure Mohammed's testimony as part of his defense. (CBS/Killtown, Seymour Hersh)
- March 16: On Meet the Press, Vice President Cheney continues to try to shift the blame for 9/11 on the Clinton administration. Citing what he terms insufficient responses to events like the 1993 WTC bombings, the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, the Khobar Towers bombings, and the attack on the USS Cole, Cheney says, "Weakness, vacillation, and unwillingness of the United States to stand with our friends -- that is provocative. It's encouraged people like Osama bin Laden...to launch repeated strikes against the United States, our people overseas and here at home, with the view that he could, in fact, do so with impunity." Of course, the argument is completely specious, and debunked elsewhere in this site. (NBC/Eric Alterman and Mark Green)
- March 26: The Bush administration denies a request made last week by the 9-11 Commission Chairman Tom Kean to boost his budget by $11 million. Kean had sought the funding as part of the $75 billion supplemental spending bill that the president just requested to pay for war with Iraq. Three days later, the administration agrees to allocate $9 million more for the commission. (Time/Killtown)
- March 27: Most of the members of the 9/11 commission are still unable to receive security clearances, sharply hindering their ability to review classified documents. Former senator Slade Gorton has a long background in intelligence matters, leading vice-chairman Lee Hamilton to say, "It's kind of astounding that someone like Senator Gorton can't get immediate clearance. It's a matter we are concerned about." The commission is said to be at a "standstill" because of the security clearance issue, and cannot even read the classified findings of the previous 9/11 Congressional inquiry. Already Hamilton has said that "We will be short of time. It will be very difficult" to meet the deadline of May 2004, when the commission must complete its investigation. (CCR/Break On Through)
- March 31: The first public hearing of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, colloquially known as the 9/11 commission, are held. In a speech to the commission, Mindy Kleinberg, the wife of a WTC victim, blasts the panel by saying that the alleged 9/11 hijackers couldn't have done what they allegedly did just by a matter of luck. "With regard to the 9/11 attacks, it has been said that the intelligence agencies have to be right 100% of the time and the terrorists only have to get lucky once. This explanation for the devastating attacks of September 11th, simple on its face, is wrong in its value. Because the 9/11 terrorists were not just lucky once: they were lucky over and over again. Is it luck that aberrant stock trades were not monitored? Is it luck when 15 visas are awarded based on incomplete forms? Is it luck when Airline Security screenings allow hijackers to board planes with box cutters and pepper spray? Is it luck when Emergency FAA and NORAD protocols are not followed? Is it luck when a national emergency is not reported to top government officials on a timely basis? To me luck is something that happens once. When you have this repeated pattern of broken protocols, broken laws, broken communication, one cannot still call it luck. If at some point we don't look to hold the individuals accountable for not doing their jobs properly then how can we ever expect for terrorists not to get lucky again?" Kleinberg's impassioned statement receives very little coverage in the American press. A number of the relatives strongly disagree with statements from some commissioners that they would not place blame; for example, Stephen Push states, "I think this commission should point fingers.... Some of those people [who failed us] are still in responsible positions in government. Perhaps they shouldn't be." (Killtown, 9-11 Commission/Truthout, CCR/Break On Through)
- April 22: At his pretrial hearing, 9/11 suspect Zacarias Moussaoui stuns the US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia by launching into a barely coherent rant against the US judicial system and his own lawyers. (His team of lawyers, headed by Frank Dunham, had previously expressed concern that their client's mental state was steadily deteriorating under the stress of solitary confinement, and that he was becoming increasingly paranoid; Moussaoui is enraged at their conduct of his case.) He calls for the destruction of the United States and demands to be allowed to fire his lawyers and represent himself. Judge Leonie Brinkema, after extensive and contradictory testimony from psychiatrists, decides to allow Moussaoui to represent himself. Moussaoui is angered by Brinkema's decision to keep his lawyers involved with his defense on a standby basis, and suddenly annouces that he intends to plead guilty. A week later, Brinkema refuses to accept his intention to plead guilty, saying that he will not be allowed to plead guilty and then claim during sentencing that he had nothing to do with the bombings. His lawyers continue to insist that Moussaoui is mentally incompetent to represent himself. (Seymour Hersh)
White House refuses to release Congressional report
- May 5 -- July 24: The Bush administration is refusing to release the almost 900-page report compiled by the joint investigative committee of Congress, which has been available since December 2002. Intelligence officials insist the report contains information that must be kept secret for national security reasons, but some of the information is already broadly available on the Internet or has been revealed in interim reports on the investigation, leading to charges that the administration is simply trying to avoid revealing embarrassing details in the report. Indeed, the administration is trying to reclassify some material already made available to the public. "The White House is continuing a trend of presenting obstacles to us rather than cooperating with us," said Tim Roemer, a former House member who participated in the congressional inquiry and is now a member of the independent commission investigating 9/11. Even GOP senator Porter Goss is frustrated by the administration's refusal to release the report. "It appears the joint intelligence committee did too good of a job," remarks Kristin Breitweiser, who lost her husband on 9/11. "Our intelligence agencies suffered an utter collapse in their duties and responsibilities leading up to and on September 11th. And it goes without saying that the examination of the intelligence agencies by this committee does not detract, discount or dismantle the need for a more thorough examination of all of these other culpable parties."
- In late 2002 the New York Times reported that "the findings of a joint committee have been far more damaging than most officials at either agency expected when the panel's inquiry began [in early 2002]." The report is expected to detail disturbing lapses in counterterrorism at the CIA and FBI, where warnings about the attacks went unheeded. They are revelations that are sure to be uncomfortable for the administration. "I understand when you have national security issues, that's fine," says Breitweiser, "but I hope [the delay] is about national security issues and it's not about embarrassment. Because for people to be holding up making this nation safe because they fear embarrassment, I don't have any time for that. We need to fix the egregious errors of 9/11." Family advocates complain the commission was created "in spite of the White House; they point to the extraordinary game of hardball the administration practiced right on the eve of last year's midterm elections when it derailed a bipartisan congressional deal to form the commission, citing concerns with its potential scope and subpoena power. Members of both parties who had already scheduled a press conference to announce the panel were stunned by the turn of events. Weeks after the 2002 election, and following a candlelight vigil by 9/11 victim families held in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House, the independent commission was finally formed, more than a year after the terrorists attacked." One family advocate says, "Bush begrudgingly signed [the commission] into law. Since it was created, he's done everything to take the teeth out of it. His fingerprints and Karl Rove's are all over this." (MSNBC, PBS, The Nation, MSNBC/Killtown)
- May 23: Federal Aviation Administration security expert Bogdan Dzakovic testifies before the 9/11 commission. Dzakovic's "Red Team" was charged with running simulations of mock terrorist attacks at actual airports, often without the knowledge of airport security or administrators. "We were extraordinarily successful in killing large numbers of innocent people in those simulated attacks," Dzakovic testifies. "We breached security up to 90% of the time. The FAA suppressed these warnings. Instead, we were ordered not to write up our reports and not to retest airports where we found particularly egregrious vulnerabilities, to see if the problems had been fixed. Finally, the agency started providing advance notification of when we would be conducting our 'undercover' tests and what we would be checking." The commission refuses to include Dzakovic's testimony in its final report, relegating him to a single footnote on page 441.
- Several days after 9/11, the FAA grounded Dzakovic's Red Team. "The FAA knew that the information we had within the Red Team was very damning to them," Dzakovic recalls. "The last thing they wanted to do was have us continue flying after 9/11 and continue doing work documenting that security is still as screwed up as it was before 9/11." In October 2001, Dzakovic filed a whistleblower disclosure with the Office of Special Counsel, but the report went essentially nowhere. As Dzakovic reminds the commissioners, no one at the FAA has ever been fired or disciplined for mismanagement; in fact, many top FAA officials were promoted within the newly formed Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that took over many of the FAA's security responsibilities. Dzakovic, one of the FAA's most effective security experts, was punished by being given meaningless desk duties, punching holes in paper and assembling training binders for TSA employees. Dzakovic now says he will not fly -- US airports and airlines are just too vulnerable. "Terrorists follow their own schedules, not ours," he says. "If I were a terrorist mastermind plotting another big attack and I could muster up another twenty guys, I would give each one of them three bomgs and three different sets of luggage. Some of those bomgs will make it onto flights." To the commission, he says, "What happened on 9/11 was not a failure in the system. It was a system designed for failure. Our airports are not safer now than before 9/11. The main difference between then and now is that life is now more miserable for passengers."
- Dzakovic is a strong advocate of placing armed air marshals on all major flights, a position he has held for decades. (Dzakovic is a former air marshal himself.) "If there was a group of these air marshals on any of these plane on 9/11, the incident would have been over in one or two seconds," he says. "As soon as the terrorists initiated any action, they would have been dead." Prior to 9/11, air marshals were only allowed to fly on international flights. "Just another stupid decision the FAA made," he recalls. "They supposedly didn't perceive the terrorism threat domestically. But that's pretty much bullsh*t. The main reason was that the airlines did not want to give up revenue seats for air marshals because they flew free."
- Dzakovic says that the FAA, like most other government agencies, cannot hide behind the excuse that no one could have predicted that hijackers would take over planes and fly them into buildings. "Pre-9/11, the FAA's attitude was that terrorists would hijack a plane and then land it and do a big dog-and-pony show in front of the press," he says. "There'd be negotiations and maybe one to two people would get killed. The FAA was simply and completely oblivious to the fact that something nastier could happen -- which is inexcusable, because in 1994 we had the Bojinka operation, which was when terrorists were going to bomb a dozen US civilian airplanes over the Pacific Ocean. What stopped those attacks...was a fire that broke out in the terrorists' apartment in Manila. They were building bombs and something went awry and the apartment caught on fire. The bad guys ran off, but the fire department showed up and found bomb-making equipment. They also found a laptop computer that had information about which planes they were going to bomb and when. So you combine just these two elements right there -- the Bojinka operation and the hijacked French airliner [terrorists hijacked a French aircraft in 1995 with the intention of flying it into the Eiffel Tower] -- and that alone should have told the FAA that we've got to get our act together a little bit. But there's a political agenda at the FAA. It's like, 'We don't want to ruffle any feathers and Congress is breathing down our necks and the airlines are complaining and so we'll just hope that nothing happens and continue doing things the way they are.' In either case, though, these people ought to be held accountable. The FAA used to say, leading up to 9/11 -- I don't know how many times I heard this when I would levy criticism about how they're doing things -- that 'we must be doing something right because there hasn't been a terrorist attack against the US aviation industry since Pam Am 103.' Well, the fact of the matter is the terrorists operate on their own schedule, not on our concept of how they should operate."
- In hindsight, Dzakovic is equally dismissive of the 9/11 commission, calling it a "whitewash." (Bogdan Dzakovic/Bill Katovsky)
- May 24: 9/11 commission members suggest that NORAD and transportation officials should have been aware of the possibility of hijacked planes being used as missiles. They cite an array of previously known incidents, including a failed mid-1990s terrorist plan to fly an Air France plane into the Eiffel Tower, a 1996 plot to hijack a Japanese airliner and crash it in Tel Aviv and even a 1998 threat that unidentified Arabs might try to slam an explosives-laden plane into the World Trade Center. They also noted that a small plane had crashed on the south lawn of the White House in 1994 and U.S. officials had considered the possibility that a plane could be flown into the main stadium during planning for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. The officials maintain that the thought of such a scenario never crossed their minds. "This would seem to be a pretty significant failure of our intelligence system," says committee member John Lehman, a former U.S. Navy secretary. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta says, "I don't think we ever thought of an aircraft being used as a missile. We had no information of that nature at all." Commission members say they are stunned that high-level government officials weren't aware of intelligence reports about a possible terrorist attack, especially in light of previous attempts by hijackers overseas to use airplanes as weapons, including a thwarted plot to fly a plane into the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Commissioner Jamie Gorelick said there were frantic warnings in the months before the attacks that a major act of terror was in the works. (CCR)
Wolfowitz admits 9/11, WMDs used as excuse for invading Iraq
- May 28: In an interview slated for July 2003's issue of Vanity Fair, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz admits that the Bush administration used the allegations of Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction as an excuse to invade that country. The excuse was "politically convenient," says a Pentagon source. Wolfowitz further said that the ability of the US to remove its troops from Saudi Arabia once the Hussein regime was overthrown was reason enough for invading Iraq. "For bureaucratic reasons we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on," Wolfowitz tells the magazine: the allegations of a connection to al-Qaeda caused internal dissension, and humanitarian concerns did not justify risking American lives. Only fear over Iraqi possession of WMDs unified the administration, won the support of allies (particularly Britain) and served as the centerpiece of the administration's case. The real reason the US invaded Iraq, says Wolfowitz, is that "Iraq is swimming on a sea of oil." Wolfowitz, along with other administration hawks, pushed Bush to invade Iraq instead of Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks. He goes on to say that another reason for ousting Hussein was that it would allow the US to base troops in Iraq and remove them from Saudi Arabia. Removing US troops from the Muslim homeland would satisfy one major al-Qaeda demand. (Independent/Truthout, News San Francisco, Consortium News, Defense Department, Christian Science Monitor, Democratic Underground, Kevin Phillips)
- Late May: President Bush indirectly answers Wolfowitz's statements by declaring two empty trailers "weapons of mass destruction." The trailers are alleged, wrongly as it turns out, to have been mobile labs used in the creation of biological weapons. It is later determined that the trailers were used to prepare weather balloons. (Independent/Truthout)
- June 1: A made-for-TV movie, "D.C. 9/11," which portrays Bush as a steely-eyed, take-charge leader during the hours after the 9/11 attacks has been completed in Canada and will be aired in the US later in 2003 on Showtime. Timothy Bottoms, who played Bush in the satirical Comedy Central show "That's My Bush!," portrays the President. The film's writer and producer, Lionel Chetwynd, is a solid Bush supporter, and has served on a Bush administration arts commission. Chetwynd has Bush yelling at the pilot of Air Force One, "If some tinhorn terrorist wants me, tell him to come and get me! I'll be at home! Waiting for the bastard!" (As we know, Bush was not flown to Washington, but to Barksdale AFB in Louisiana and later to Offutt AFB in Oklahoma.) In researching his film, Chetwynd reportedly had "lengthy" interviews with Bush and top officials, including Donald Rumsfeld, Andrew Card and Karl Rove. This generous access contrasts with the almost total lack of access the administration has given to attempts to investigate 9/11, including efforts by a joint Congressional inquiry, which was denied access to top officials. The White House is currently blocking publication of most of the inquiry's 800-page report. It is also putting roadblocks in the path of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, which Bush initially resisted establishing, but agreed to establish under pressure from 9/11 families. Chetwynd defends the accurary of the film, saying: "There's nothing here that Bob Woodward would disagree with." Commentator Jim Hightower says the film portrays Bush as "a combination of Harrison Ford and Arnold Schwarzenegger. ...Instead of the doe-eyed, uncertain, worried figure that he was that day, Bush-on-film is transformed into an infallible, John Wayne-ish, Patton-type leader, barking orders to the Secret Service and demanding that the pilots return him immediately to the White House." (Toronto Star/Common Dreams, Washington Post, MSNBC)
- June 16: On NBC's Meet the Press, presidential candidate and former CENTCOM commander General Wesley Clark attacks the Bush administration's failure to investigate the 9/11 attacks. Clark says, "[I]t is a basic principle of military operations [to] conduct an after-action review. When the action's over you bring people together. The commander, the subordinates, the staff members. You ask yourself what happened, why, and how do we fix it the next time?" And yet, Clark says, "this has never been done about the essential failure at 9/11." Clark notes that after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Roosevelt signed an executive order mandating a thorough investigation into the attacks, including any possible "derelictions of duty or errors of judgment on the part of United States Army or Navy personnel." All in all, Clark notes, there were eight separate investigations into Pearl Harbor. Instead, the administration has claimed that any such investigation would be counterproductive and possibly even treasonous. "We don't need to hand the terrorists any after-action report," House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said in April 2003. Then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a Democrat, has told of repeated demands by Dick Cheney "that we not have an investigation into this issue." (NBC/Eric Alterman and Mark Green)
- June 18: Families of the victims of 9/11 are complaining increasingly loudly that the Bush administration is willfully stonewalling and interfering with their efforts to find out exactly what happened to their loved ones. "We've been fighting for nearly 21 months -- fighting the administration, the White House," says Monica Gabrielle, who lost her husband in the WTC attacks. "As soon as we started looking for answers we were blocked, put off and ignored at every stop of the way. We were shocked. The White House is just blocking everything." Another 9/11 family advocate, a former Bush supporter who asked not to be named, says, "Bush has done everything in his power to squelch this [9/11] commission and prevent it from happening." A noted defense expert, John Pike, explains the Bush response: "From the White House's perspective, no good can come of these [9/11] investigations. So I think their approach has been entirely predictable, and easy to understand." Family members are angered by Bush's use of 9/11 to justify his war on Iraq: "I sat and listened to the State of the Union speech [last January] when Bush mentioned 9/11 12 or 13 times," says Kristin Breitweiser, whose husband was killed in the WTC. "At the same time, we were having trouble getting funding for the independent commission." Gabrielle was equally upset: "Bush has never personally met with the [9/11] families to discuss any of this, so for him to use Sept. 11 and its victims to justify his agenda, I myself am disgusted." They hope that the report from the 2002 joint inquiry (currently being held up from release by the administration), and the investigation currently going on under the aegis of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, will provide them with some answers. (CCR)
- June 27: A UN committee on terrorism announces that it can find no links between the regime of Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. "Nothing has come to our notice that would indicate links," says chief investigator Michael Chandler. "That doesn't mean to say it doesn't exist. But from what we've seen the answer is no." The US stands by its assertions that the Hussein regime and al-Qaeda had connections. (BBC News)
Further White House stonewalling of 9/11 commission
- July 8: The federal 9/11 Commission says that its work is being hindered by the failure of executive branch agencies, especially the Pentagon and the Justice Department, to respond quickly to requests for documents and testimony. Co-chairman Thomas Kean characterizes the presence of Justice Department "minders" who accompany witnesses during their testimony as a form of intimidation. (Using "minders" is the same tactic used by Saddam Hussein to intimidate scientists being interviewed by UN weapons inspectors.) Kean and co-chair Lee Hamilton note that the Pentagon has not responded to a series of requests for evidence from several Defense Department agencies, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, which is responsible for guarding American airspace from terrorist attack. (New York Times, Paul Waldman)
- July 20: The online edition of Newsweek reveals that the upcoming report on 9/11 from Congress "slams" the FBI for failing to investigate al-Qaeda cells in the US, "especially in the San Diego area, where two of the hijackers were living with one of the bureau's own informants." The report also shows evidence that one of the hijackers' closest associates, Omar al-Bayoumi, may have been a Saudi Arabian government agent. "The report is sure to reignite questions about whether some Saudi officials were secretly monitoring the hijackers—or even facilitating their conduct. Questions about the Saudi role arose repeatedly during last year's joint House-Senate intelligence-committees inquiry. But the Bush administration has refused to declassify many key passages of the committees' findings. A 28-page section of the report dealing with the Saudis and other foreign governments will be deleted. 'They are protecting a foreign government,' charged Sen. Bob Graham, who oversaw the inquiry." The report also criticizes the Pentagon for resisting strikes on terrorist attacks in Afghanistan before 9/11, and the CIA for failing to pass along critical intelligence information to other agencies. "The report, one congressional investigator said, 'is a scathing indictment of the FBI as an agency that doesn't have a clue about terrorism.' Furious bureau officials say the report misstates the evidence." (MSNBC)
- July 23: A group of family members of 9/11 victims are told by a senior FBI agent that the agency had no open investigations into any of the people involved in the attacks. The next day, the same family members are told by staff director Eleanor Hill that the FBI had 14 open investigations into individuals who had contact with the hijackers while they were in the United States. (New York Observer)
Congressional investigation report released; pages concerning Saudi ties to 9/11 redacted by White House
- July 24: The joint House and Senate Intelligence Committees release their 900-page report on the 9/11 hijackings. 28 pages of it are redacted as being too sensitive for public consumption; many believe the section refers largely to the Saudi Arabian connections with the terrorist attacks. The report describes a systemwide failure by the FBI, CIA, National Security Agency and others to appreciate the magnitude of the threat Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network posed to the US homeland. By dismissing or forgetting about pieces of intelligence that suggested attacks within the USA were possible, the agencies were woefully outmatched by al-Qaeda, an organized and focused opponent. The report indicates that the attacks may well have been prevented had the US intelligence community been more competent and willing to work with each other; the terrorists had a network of support within the US that could have, and should have, been outed. References to a support network for the hijackers are scattered throughout government files, the report says. Perhaps most alarming was a suggestion in the report that a broader plot than the 9/11 attacks eluded intelligence agents. The day after the attacks, the report says, an al-Qaeda associate told the FBI that a top bin Laden operative had discussed using "multiple cells operating independently in the US that could execute 10 operations simultaneously...that could produce a big impact on the United States."
- The report also cites lapses by both the Clinton and Bush administrations as being partially responsible for the failure to prevent the attacks, and cites evidence showing the Bush administration knew far more than it has admitted about the possibility of terrorist attacks. The committee was unable to report on how well the Bush administration handled the information provided to it, because the administration refused to cooperate with the committee in revealing what it did and didn't know before 9/11. Among other documents, the administration refused to provide copies of the August 6, 2001 Presidential daily briefing (detailed above), nor would it provide any material from the National Security Council. Senator Charles Schumer says that the White House has "a systematic strategy of coddling and cover-up when it comes to the Saudis.... The Administration's whole policy toward Saudi Arabia is backward and needs to make a 180-degree turn immediately. Declassifying the 28-page section would be a good first step."
- The commission also finds no evidence whatsoever of a link between al-Qaeda and Iraq. Commission member Max Cleland observes, "The administration sold the connection to scare the pants off the American people and justify the war.... What you're seeing here is the manipulation of intelligence for political ends. ...The reason this report was delayed for so long -- deliberately opposed at first, then slow-walked after it was created -- is that the administration wanted to get the war in Iraq in and over...before [the report] came out. Had this report came out in January like it should have done, we would have known these things before the war in Iraq, which would not have suited the administration. (Congressional Reports [the actual report itself], Washington Post, The Nation, Reuters, Charles Schumer, USA Today)
- July 24: Relatives of the victims of the World Trade Center attacks are disappointed and frustrated with the 9/11 report recently released by Congress. Carie Lemack says, "I was hoping we'd gain more information, but it doesn't seem like we're getting much more. ...I feel like, in an era where we're holding CEOs accountable for losing $3 million, I'd hope we'd want to hold people accountable for losing 3,000 lives. But the administration has still chosen to classify the part about who funded the terrorists. And the fact that President Bush has chosen to classify it for what he says is national security makes me question just whose security he is protecting: our nation's or the Saudis'? ...It would be nice to see people stop passing the buck and make some real changes that will protect Americans. We know for a fact that mace was used on a plane and there are reports of a gun on at least one flight. To me, it seems like that would have been the job of airport security to stop it. Also, if one plane had hit a tower already, and the other was bearing down, why were people in the other tower told to go back to their desks? And why weren't [military] planes scrambled before the plane hit the Pentagon? Thousands of lives could have been saved. There are still a lot of questions. To hold no one accountable for any of these mishaps really surprises me. ...We've known since 1995 that they wanted to fly planes into buildings —- specifically, the World Trade Center. They [intelligence officials] had the information. They chose not to respond to it. So, who made that choice? ...It is surprising to us that it has fallen on our shoulders -— the victims' families—to be the ones to pursue the changes to make Americans feel safe." (Newsweek/MSNBC)
- July 24: The trial of Zacarias Moussaoui proceeds at a snail's pace, hampered by a Justice Department prosecution effort that seems bent on denying Moussaoui a fair trial. According to Slate, instead of Attorney General John Ashcroft being able to use this trial to prove the impartiality of the American judiciary, instead the trial is proving just how little faith the department has in the court system. Moussaoui is mounting a surprisingly strong defense (defending himself), and the prosecution has angered the judge, Leonie Brinkema, by offering an indictment "shot through with circumstantial evidence and unsupported speculation." The prosecution has refused since January to comply with Brinkema's Sixth Amendment order to depose captured al-Qaeda commander and alleged 9/11 mastermind Ramzi bin al-Shibh, pushing the judge to impose sanctions on the prosecution that could range from "striking counts from the indictment, removing the possibility of the death penalty, or dismissing the case altogether. (Al-Shibh is expected to testify that Moussaoui was too unreliable to be trusted to work on the plot.) Brinkema's prior orders demonstrate her belief that the federal government shouldn't have brought this case if it didn't intend to afford the defendant his basic constitutional rights." Chances are high that if Brinkema imposes any sanctions, the Justice Department will drop the civil trial and have Moussaoui tried by a closed military tribunal, "where he will be tried and likely executed with limited rights and no appeal."
- Slate poses the following questions: "[W]hy did Ashcroft bring this criminal case in the first place? Was it misguided optimism, or did he cynically believe that he could provide an open criminal trial without affording the defendant basic rights? Why wasn't Ashcroft content to charge Moussaoui with the crimes he's admitted, such as being a member of al-Qaeda who was training to kill Americans? Why did they prosecute him as the '20th hijacker' when there has never been any evidence that he was? If the feds genuinely believed Moussaoui was a key 9/11 player, wouldn't they have plea-bargained with him for every name and detail of the plot and gone after everyone involved? Wouldn't it make sense to use Moussaoui to convict known mastermind al-Shibh, for example -— land the big fish and free the hapless goof? Perhaps most crucially, why is it that the attorney general has such grievous doubts about the justice system that he refuses to allow Moussaoui to depose al-Shibh?" The article concludes, "The truth behind the utter failure of the Moussaoui trial will not be that the U.S. court system was inadequate to the task of convicting a terrorist but that the attorney general had insufficient faith in the system to let it do its work. By bringing bogus charges, making grandiose claims, and standing in the way of anything resembling a fair trial, the government has proved that you can't stage a mockery of a trial and expect real justice to result." (Slate/MSNBC)
- July 26: Senior Saudi officials have funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to organizations that may have helped finance the September 11 attacks in 2001, according to the New York Times, which cites reports from people who have read a 28-page deleted section of the Congressional report on the hijackings released on Thursday by a joint House and Senate intelligence committee. The Times says the section focuses almost exclusively Saudi Arabia. The Bush administration's refusal to allow the chapter's disclosure has angered many in Congress, where some members have said the administration's desire to protect the ruling Saudi family has prevented the public from learning crucial facts about the attacks. The Saudi government harshly condemns the reports. (Reuters)
- July 27: A media observer points out that on the same day the 9/11 report was released (July 24), so were photos of the slain Hussein sons, the government held a "very videogenic" al-Qaeda attack drill, and Vice-President Dick Cheney made a rare public appearance to praise Bush's attempts to curb terrorism. The obvious conclusion is that the administration did its very best to draw media and public attention away from the report. (Toronto Star)
- August 13: Investigative reports conducted by German journalists prove that German intelligence warned the CIA about one of the 9/11 terrorist pilots as early as March 1999. The pilot, Marwen Alshehhi, was the one who steered a Boeing jetliner into the south tower of the World Trade Center. Apparently Alshehhi was placed under surveillance by the CIA in March 1999 after German intelligence warned the CIA that Alshehhi was in contact with an al-Qaeda contact living in Hamburg. Shortly after, Alshehhi slipped from view, and did not turn up in the agency's view until after 9/11. (Expatica)
- August 14: Germany begins the trial of Abdelghani Mzoudi, an alleged al-Qaeda terrorist who is charged with over 3,000 counts of accessory to murder in relation to his participation in the 9/11 planning. Defense attorneys say they plan to subpoena witnesses currently held incommunicado by the US, and may even float the possibility that the attacks were allowed to happen by American conservative politicians who wanted to exploit the attacks for their own political gain. According to a recent survey by a German newsweekly, one in five Germans believes that the US government had a role in the attacks. (Washington Post)
- August 16: Judge Leonie Brinkema grants a motion by Zacarias Moussaoui's defense lawyers to postpone the trial until January 2003. Moussaoui continues to represent himself, with his lawyers participating against Moussaoui's wishes; before the motion, Moussaoui delivered a letter to Brinkema entitled "Dunham Mind Your Own Pig Buziness" (targeting defense team leader Frank Dunham) and accusing his lawyers of being "blood suckers." Moussaoui has also been uncooperative with the court, refusing to file a series of necessary pretrial motions. Meanwhile, prosecutors continue to insist without evidence that Moussaoui is trying to communicate with his al-Qaeda colleagues through "coded messages" contained in his court documents. (Seymour Hersh)
- August 25: After the 9/11 commission's report, some of the family members of the 9/11 victims complain that more information was hidden by the report than revealed. "We can't get any information about the Port Authority's evacuation procedures or the response of the City of New York," says Kristin Breitweiser. "We're always told we can't get answers or documents because the FBI is holding them back as part of an ongoing investigation. But when Director Mueller invited us back for a follow-up meeting -- on the very morning before that damning report was released -- we were told the FBI isn't pursuing any investigations based on the information we are blocked from getting. The only thing they are looking at is the hijackers. And they're all dead." She observes, "If we have an executive branch that holds sole discretion over what information is released to the public and what is hidden, the public will never get the full story of why there was an utter failure to protect them that day, and who should be held accountable." (New York Observer)
- September 6: "US authorities did little or nothing to pre-empt the events of 9/11," asserts Britain's former environment minister Michael Meacher. "It is known that at least 11 countries provided advance warning to the US of the 9/11 attacks.... It had been known as early as 1996 that there were plans to hit Washington targets with airplanes. Then in 1999 a US national intelligence council report noted that 'al-Qaeda suicide bombers could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the CIA, or the White House.'"
- Meacher goes on to question the heart of the US's "war on terror:" "No serious attempt has ever been made to catch bin Laden," Meacher writes. "In late September and early October 2001, leaders of Pakistan's two Islamist parties negotiated bin Laden's extradition to Pakistan to stand trial for 9/11. However, a US official said, significantly, that 'casting our objectives too narrowly' risked 'a premature collapse of the international effort if by some lucky chance Mr bin Laden was captured.' The US chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Myers, went so far as to say that 'the goal has never been to get bin Laden.' ...The whistleblowing FBI agent Robert Wright told ABC News that FBI headquarters wanted no arrests. And in November 2001 the US airforce complained it had had al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders in its sights as many as 10 times over the previous six weeks, but had been unable to attack because they did not receive permission quickly enough. None of this assembled evidence, all of which comes from sources already in the public domain, is compatible with the idea of a real, determined war on terrorism. The catalogue of evidence does, however, fall into place when set against the PNAC blueprint. From this it seems that the so-called 'war on terrorism' is being used largely as bogus cover for achieving wider US strategic geopolitical objectives. Indeed Tony Blair himself hinted at this when he said to the Commons liaison committee: 'To be truthful about it, there was no way we could have got the public consent to have suddenly launched a campaign on Afghanistan but for what happened on September 11....'
- "Similarly Rumsfeld was so determined to obtain a rationale for an attack on Iraq that on 10 separate occasions he asked the CIA to find evidence linking Iraq to 9/11; the CIA repeatedly came back empty-handed.... 9/11 offered an extremely convenient pretext to put the PNAC plan into action. The evidence again is quite clear that plans for military action against Afghanistan and Iraq were in hand well before 9/11. A report prepared for the US government from the Baker Institute of Public Policy stated in April 2001 that 'the US remains a prisoner of its energy dilemma. Iraq remains a destabilizing influence to...the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East.' Submitted to Vice-President Cheney's energy task group, the report recommended that because this was an unacceptable risk to the US, 'military intervention' was necessary.... Similar evidence exists in regard to Afghanistan. The BBC reported...that Niaz Niak, a former Pakistan foreign secretary, was told by senior American officials at a meeting in Berlin in mid-July 2001 that 'military action against Afghanistan would go ahead by the middle of October.' Until July 2001 the US government saw the Taliban regime as a source of stability in Central Asia that would enable the construction of hydrocarbon pipelines from the oil and gas fields in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, through Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the Indian Ocean. But, confronted with the Taliban's refusal to accept US conditions, the US representatives told them 'either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs.' ...The 9/11 attacks allowed the US to press the "go" button for a strategy in accordance with the PNAC agenda which it would otherwise have been politically impossible to implement.
- "...The conclusion of all this analysis must surely be that the 'global war on terrorism' has the hallmarks of a political myth propagated to pave the way for a wholly different agenda -- the US goal of world hegemony, built around securing by force command over the oil supplies required to drive the whole project. Is collusion in this myth and junior participation in this project really a proper aspiration for British foreign policy? If there was ever need to justify a more objective British stance, driven by our own independent goals, this whole depressing saga surely provides all the evidence needed for a radical change of course." (Guardian, Buzzflash)
- September 7: A new tape of the 9/11 attacks showing both planes striking the World Trade Center was provided to federal investigators. They hope that analysis of the tape will provide clues as to why the towers fell so quickly. The tape was shot by a Czech immigrant construction worker from a moving vehicle. (AP/ABC News)
- September 7: The film "DC 9/11: Time of Crisis" premieres on Showtime, to low ratings and hoots of laughter and outrage by critics and viewers. Reviewer Matt Zoller Seitz calls it "a valentine to Bush, who's portrayed as a Gary Cooper type (solitary, decisive, tough yet sensitive) and a gift-wrapped present to the right-wing talk radio listeners who think Saddam Hussein was directly responsible for 9/11 and that the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center wouldn't have happened if Bill Clinton had been more macho. [The movie] portrays the president as sort of a flesh-and-blood superhero. This Bush is a western movie good guy, a deeply honest man who came to Washington to clean up the moral toxins dumped by the Clinton administration -- a white collar warrior who makes tough decisions fast and never wavers; a foreign policy savant who instinctively grasps the nuts and bolts of every issue, no matter how complex, by virtue of the fact that, well, he's Bush." The wife of a 9/11 victim, Kristen Breitweiser, calls it "a mind-numbingly boring, revisionist, two-hour-long wish list of how 9/11 might have gone if we had real leaders in the current administration."
- The film spends only 10 minutes or so showing the events of the morning of 9/11, to which Breitweiser comments, "It is understandable that so little time is actually devoted to the president's true actions on the morning of 9/11. Because to show the entire 23 minutes from 9:03 to 9:25 , when President Bush, in reality, remained seated and listening to 'second grade story-hour' while people like my husband were burning alive inside the World Trade Center towers, would run counter to Karl Rove's art direction and grand vision." She also notes, "It's also interesting to watch the fictional versions of Ari Fleischer and Karen Hughes 'strategizing' and 'orchestrating' to make President Bush look like a strong leader. Who knew that it was such hard work to frame the president as an empathetic, strong and competent leader in the face of the nation's worst tragedy? Forgive my naivete, but I never knew how meticulously planned the president's every single word and movement were."
- The film also promotes the lie that Air Force One was a target of attack, a lie that even the administration admitted was false back in September 2001. It revises history by showing the Bush administration as deeply committed to battling terrorism from the moment it took office, when in fact it virtually ignored terrorism as a threat until after 9/11. In keeping with its apparent commitment to rewrite history, it portrays the Clinton administration and Congressional Democrats as the single biggest obstacle to fighting terrorism; instead, it "rewrites history to make Bush and company seem like wise men and women who knew America's house was on fire but could not persuade thick-headed Democrats to wake up and smell the smoke." Seitz concludes, "With its action thriller score, exposition-packed dialogue and enthusiastic airbrushing of a chief executive who's still in power, it suggests not the typical American made-for-TV docudrama, but a Soviet propaganda effort from the 1970s that was designed to be aired on May Day."
- Note that a similarly revisionist film, "The Path to 9/11," will be shown on ABC on the evenings of September 10 and 11, 2006, to similarly low ratings even after a huge marketing push and even the production of study guides and lesson plans connected to the film and made available by Scholastic. The film demonizes the Clinton administration to the point where several members of the administration, including Sandy Berger, Madeleine Albright, and Clinton himself were possibly slandered, and grossly rewrites the actions of Bush officials much like the previous film. See the September 2006 page for further details. (Salon, New Jersey Star-Ledger)
- September 9: A federal judge rules that families of 9/11 victims can proceed with their lawsuit against airlines, aircraft makers and the owners of the World Trade Center. "The hijacking and crashing of the planes was 'a foreseeable risk,'" rules US District Judge Alvin Hellerstein. While the crashes "may not have been foreseen," the airlines had the duty to screen passengers to prevent harm to passengers, crew and ground victims. The ruling will likely affect hundreds of other pending lawsuits, which may use Hellerstein's judgment to give impetus to their own court appearances. (New York Times)
- September 10: Two years after the 9/11 attacks, neither the Chicago Board Options Exchange nor the Securities and Exchange Commission will make any comment about their investigations into insider trading before 9/11. "Neither has announced any conclusion," an article in Slate reports. "The SEC has not filed any complaint alleging illegal activity, nor has the Justice Department announced any investigation or prosecution. ...So, unless the SEC decides to file a complaint -- unlikely at this late stage -- we may never know what they learned about terror trading." (CCR/Break On Through)
Republican senator colludes with White House to keep information about 9/11 secret
- September 13: The Senate Intelligence Committee refuses to seek to declassify sensitive documents concerning the 9/11 attacks, instead accepting the Bush administration's assertions that the documents need to remain secret in order to further the US war against terrorism. Chairman Pat Roberts, a Republican, and senior Democratic member Jay Rockefeller co-author a letter to Senator Bob Graham, who had requested the declassification, that announces the decision, which was based on review of the documents in question along with briefings by FBI director Robert Mueller and CIA deputy director John McLaughlin. (Boston Globe)
- September 14: On Meet the Press, Vice President Cheney responds to a question about polls showing 70% of Americans believe Iraq was involved in the 9/11 attacks by saying, "I think it's not surprising that people make that connection." He continues, "We don't know" if such a link exists, but adds that the US has "learned more and more that there was a relationship" between Iraq and al-Qaeda, and refers to Iraq as "the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault for many years, but most especially on 9/11," leaving little doubt in listeners' minds what he thinks. As possible proof of a connection, Cheney cites the long-discredited story of an alleged meeting between Mohamed Atta, the Al Qaeda leader of the Sept. 11 strikes, and Iraqi officials in the Czech Republic before the attacks. "We've never been able to develop any more on that yet, either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it," Cheney qualifies. He does not mention that Czech officials disputed that story in December 2001 and US intelligence officials have said that Atta was actually in the US at the time of the alleged meeting. Cheney also claims that al-Qaeda "sent personnel to Baghdad to get trained" on biological and chemical weapons and bomb making. No such training sessions have ever been confirmed, and Cheney offers no new evidence to substantiate his claim. A senior defense official says "There isn't any new intelligence." During the broadcast, Tim Russert replays the quote about Saddam currently having reconstituted nuclear weapons, and says to Cheney, "You misspoke." Cheney responds, "Yeah, I did misspeak. I said repeatedly during the show 'weapons capability.' We never had any evidence that he had acquired a nuclear weapon." In March 2003, Russert asked Cheney, "What do you think is the most important rationale for going to war with Iraq?" Cheney responded, "Well, I think I've just given it, Tim, in terms of the combination of his development and use of chemical weapons, his development of biological weapons, his pursuit of nuclear weapons." (Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe)
Bush admits to no links between Iraq, al-Qaeda, and 9/11
- September 17: George W. Bush admits that his administration knows of absolutely no links between the regime of Saddam Hussein and the events of 9/11. He confirms what many Americans already know, but contradicts his own Vice President's remarks of September 14, and what many Americans have been led to believe by him and his administration. "We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with Sept. 11," he says in a press conference, but adds, "There's no question that Saddam Hussein had Al Qaeda ties," a charge that his administration has yet to prove. Bush's remarks were the latest in a round of denials and damage control from senior members of his administration. Condoleezza Rice said on September 16, "We have never claimed that Saddam Hussein had either direction or control of 9/11," a flat lie (see above and below). Press spokesman Scott McClellan echoed Rice by repeatedly telling reporters, "We never made that connection," who continued to ask why Dick Cheney made just such connections as recently as September 14. Donald Rumsfeld, when asked Tuesday about the link between Iraq and the Sept. 11 attacks, said, "I've not seen any indication that would lead me to believe that I could say that." In making his case for an invasion of Iraq in a nationally televised address in October 2002, Bush said, "We know Iraq and the Al Qaeda terrorist network share a common enemy: The United States of America." Bush said Hussein had been linked to Al Qaeda for a decade, and added that an "alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints." (Chicago Tribune)
- September 22: The widow of a man killed in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center sues President Bush and other government officials, contending their negligence of airport security resulted in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The wrongful death lawsuit by Ellen Mariani, whose husband, Louis Neil Mariani, was a passenger on Flight 175 that hit the south tower, is part of her campaign to "get to the truth of what happened on Sept. 11." Her lawyer says, "We just don't believe the federal government has been honest with us." Mariani was one of the first family members to file a lawsuit against the airlines involved in the hijacking. Mariani's suit names Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Attorney General John Ashcroft, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Council on Foreign Relations. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
- September 23: Another man formerly suspected of having hijacked one of the aircraft on 9/11, and perishing in the subsequent crashes, has turned up alive and well. Saudi Arabian pilot Waleed al-Shehri was one of five men that the FBI said had deliberately crashed American Airlines flight 11 into the World Trade Centre on 11 September. He lives in Casablanca, Morocco, and is protesting his innocence. He acknowledges that he attended flight training school at Dayton Beach in the United States, and is indeed the same Waleed al-Shehri to whom the FBI has been referring, but claims to have left the US in September 2002, took a position as a pilot with the Saudi airline, and is currently undergoing further training in Morocco. Al-Shehri is the fourth suspected hijacker to turn up alive and proclaiming their innocence. Abdulaziz al-Omari, another of the Flight 11 hijack suspects, has also been quoted in Arab news reports; he, too, claims to be a Saudi airline pilot. A third suspect, Saeed Alghamdi, has been interviewed by Arabic journalists, and a fourth, Khalid Al Midhar, may also be alive. (BBC)
- September 23: Accused terrorist Khalid Shaikh Mohammed confirms that the attacks on the World Trade Centers were Osama bin Laden's idea. The original plan, hatched in 1996 with Mohammed's input, involved hijacking multiple private planes and flying them into targets in New York City and Los Angeles. The 9/11 attacks had been planned with a second wave of attacks mounted by al-Qaeda members and allies from Southeast Asia. (CNN)
- October: US district court judge Leonie Brinkema rules that if the US government will not allow 9/11 suspect Zacarias Moussaoui to obtain testimony from al-Qaeda suspects in government custody as part of his defense, then the government will not be able to pursue the death penalty against Moussaoui, nor can they allege that Moussaoui has any links to the 9/11 plot. The government's case against Moussaoui is, according to Time magazine, in "a shambles." Brinkema's decision will be reversed by a conservative appellate judge in April 2004, who orders Brinkema to work out a compromise that will allow Moussaoui to have access to the witnesses without compromising the government's desire to interrogate the witnesses without interruption, a virtually impossible request considering the government's recalcitrance over the issue. The government will again be allowed to seek the death penalty against Moussaoui, but that ruling is placed in limbo after a June 2004 hearing over the disposition of supposedly "neutral summaries" of detainee interrogations were given to the court; government officials later admit that they edited and rewrote the supposedly neutral summations. Moussaoui, whose mental health has deteriorated markedly, will also be stripped of the right to defend himself, but will refuse to meet with his lawyers except on a sporadic basis. His trial has been postponed indefinitely. (Seymour Hersh)
FAA withholds evidence from commission
- October 15: The federal commission investigating the 9/11 attacks has subpoenaed the Federal Aviation Administration, after discovering that the agency had withheld a variety of tapes and documents that were "highly material to our inquiry. ...It is clear that the FAA's delay has significantly impeded the progress of our investigation." The commission warns that other executive brance agencies may have documents and material subpoenaed in the near future. The resulting delays could force the commission to extend its investigation beyond May 2004, when it is supposed to finish its task. The possibility of an extension worries the Bush administration, since it could mean the public release of a potentially embarrassing report in the heat of 2004's presidential campaign. One of the main focuses of the commission's investigation is whether or not the FAA, NORAD, and other reacted too slowly to the hijacking of four aircraft the morning of the attacks; the panel and its staff are alarmed by discovering they had not been provided with detailed transcripts and other information about communications on that day between the the FAA and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, the unit of the Pentagon that is responsible for defending American air space. Some of the data sought by the commission concerns the critical 29 minutes between the time the FAA knew the commercial flight that eventually hit the Pentagon had been diverted and notification of the North American air defense command. The FAA says it intends to fully cooperate with the investigation. "I am deeply concerned to learn that the FAA has apparently both misled and failed to adequately respond to the 9/11 commission's request for documents," says Republican Senator John McCain, who cosponsored the bill that created the commission last year. Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman, the lead Democratic sponsor, says that the significance of the subpoena was clear: "This administration is standing in the way of a thorough and searching inquiry." (New York Times, Memphis Commercial Appeal)
- October 26: Commission member Max Cleland tells the New York Times, "As each day goes by we learn that this government knew a whole lot more about these terrorists before September 11th than it has ever admitted." (New York Times/Buzzflash)
Kean protests White House stonewalling
- October 27: Republican Thoman Kean, chairman of the 9-11 Commission, challenges President Bush's assertion that his administration is determined to "uncover every detail and learn every lesson of September 11th." Kean has already subpoenaed the FAA for documents concerning its response to reports that airliners were hijacked the morning of 9/11, and intends to issue more subpoenas if the White House continues to refuse to provide documents requested by the commission. Kean is losing patience with what he calls the administration's "foot-dragging", and believes the administration wants to run out the clock on the committee's mandate, which is due to expire in May 2004. "I will not stand for it," Kean has said. " Anything that has to do with 9/11, we have to see it -- anything. There are a lot of theories about 9/11, and as long as there is any document out there that bears on any of those theories, we're going to leave questions unanswered. And we cannot leave questions unanswered. ...It's obvious that the White House wants to run out the clock here. It's Halloween, and we're still in negotiations with some assistant White House counsel about getting these documents -- it's disgusting. ...As each day goes by, we learn that this government knew a whole lot more about these terrorists before Sept. 11 than it has ever admitted." Committee member Slade Gorton, a conservative and former senator, agrees with Kean, and says that he was startled by the "indifference" of some executive branch agencies in making material available to the commission: "This lack of cooperation, if it extends anywhere else, is going to make it very difficult" for the commission to finish its work by next May. The Bush administration is blocking the commission from seeing daily intelligence briefings presented to the President in the days and weeks before 9/11, citing issues of national security. The commission insists that the briefings contain critical information which would illuminate our understanding of the terrorist attacks. Members point out that they have been thoroughly vetted and possess the highest security clearances.
- Another argument proposed by the White House is that future briefings may be compromised if their authors believe the briefings may be made public someday. That argument has some merit, but as the editors of The New Republic observe, "While there may be theoretical merit to this argument, it is certainly less compelling than the need to fully account for a terrorist catastrophe and prevent another one. And it is badly undermined by the White House's tendency to invoke it only in cases when the administration may have something to hide. Consider, by contrast, the fact that Bob Woodward was readily shown hundreds of secret National Security Council documents revealing vast amounts of deliberative information for his hagiographic book, Bush at War." Considering the administration's "loathing" for the commission, and its repeated attempts to block the commission's efforts to find the truth about 9/11, the arguments presented by the White House in favor of keeping the briefings secret are, at best, specious. The TNR editors conclude, "surely the White House realizes that the perception of a cover-up is more politically damaging than turning over a few intelligence reports. Unless, of course, it really does have something scandalous to hide." (Daily Misleader, CBS & The New Republic, New York Times/CommonDreams)
- October 27: President Bush defies the threat of a subpoena and continues to refuse to turn over classified intelligence reports to an independent commission investigating the 9/11 attacks. He characterizes the reports as "very sensitive." Indications are that the administration will continue to refuse to hand over the reports; the documents have been held up for over a year by the White House, among citations of "executive privilege" and "the interests of national security." Two Democratic presidential candidates are highly critical of Bush's decision. "I am very concerned by the president's foot-dragging on cooperation with the bipartisan 9/11 commission," says Howard Dean. "The administration's current stonewalling suggests that there is more that they knew and want to hide from the American public." Senator Joseph Lieberman adds, "President Bush may want to withhold the truth about Sept. 11, but the American people, and especially the victims' families, demand and deserve it." (New York Times)
- November 5: The FBI claims that it has identifed an al-Qaeda operative as the so-called "20th hijacker" in the 9/11 attacks. The FBI says that the operative left the US shortly before the attacks, and refuses to either name the suspect or say where he might be now. The FBI believes that the suspect was to have been the fifth hijacker on United Flight 93, the hijacked plane which crashed in Pennsylvania. (USA Today)
- November 7: The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States will subpoena NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, to obtain documents that were promised -- and previously subpoenaed -- but never delivered regarding the 9/11 attacks. The panel requested in May that the FAA supply it with information regarding air traffic control tracking of the four hijacked aircraft, along with the FAA's communication with NORAD. Some members of the commission are interested in the time sequence for notifying the jets that headed to Washington where one of the hijacked planes struck the Pentagon. "The commission has encountered some serious delays in obtaining needed documents from the Department of Defense," the panel says in a statement. "We are especially dismayed by problems in the production of the records of activities of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and certain Air Force commands on September 11, 2001. The commission has therefore voted to issue a subpoena requiring the production of these records." (Reuters/AlertNet)
White House edits classified documents before providing them to 9/11 commission
- November 13: The White House strikes a deal with the commission investigating the 9/11 attacks, allowing the commission to see classified Oval Office intelligence reports after the White House has edited them. Some Democrats, along with the families of many victims, have decried the decision, saying that the administration should release the full, unedited documents. White House officials say that only information unreleated to the 9/11 attacks will be removed: "An entire PDB [Presidential Daily Briefing' will have articles about China, South Africa, Venezuela," says executive director Philip Zelikow. "The notion that the commission should want to read PDB articles that have nothing to do with Al Qaeda would be a novel suggestion. The commission has not asked to see the country's most sensitive intelligence information on China or North Korea." One panel Democrat, former congressman Timothy Roemer, says he believes the panel has agreed to terms that would let the White House edit the reports to remove the contexts in which the intelligence was presented and to hide any "smoking guns." Roemer says, "The President's Daily Brief can run 9 to 12 pages long. But under this agreement, the commission will be allowed to see only specific articles or paragraphs within the PDB's. Our members may see only two or three paragraphs out of a nine-page report." Roemer says the commission should have insisted on access to the full reports, because "you need the context of how the PDB was presented to the president in order to determine whether or not there were smoking guns." The other Democratic critic on the panel, former Senator Max Cleland, has described the agreement as unconscionable. Not only will the reports be edited, says the White House, but only four designated members of the commission will be allowed to read them, and the administration will edit any notes they might take before presentation to the full commission.
- A victims' family group, the Family Steering Committee, says the agreement would "prevent a full uncovering of the truth and is unacceptable." The group was instrumental in pressuring Congress to create the commission last year over Bush administration opposition. "As it now stands, a limited number of commissioners will have restricted access to a limited number of PDB documents," says the group. "The commission should issue a statement to the American public fully explaining why this agreement was chosen in lieu of issuing subpoenas to the C.I.A. and executive branch. ...All 10 commissioners should have full, unfettered and unrestricted access to all evidence, including but not limited to all Presidential Daily Briefings." Group spokesman Kristen Breitweiser, whose husband, Ronald, was killed at the World Trade Center, says the families are alarmed that the terms of the accord were kept secret. "I think this entire deal needs to be explained to the public," she says. "This is an independent commission that is supposed to be transparent, that is supposed to be open." Commissioner Max Cleland says, "If this decision stands, I, as a member of the commission, cannot look any American in the eye, especially family members of victims, and say the commission had full access. This investigation is now compromised." (New York Times/Information Clearinghouse, AlterNet)
- November 20: The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States subpoenas New York City for a variety of police tapes and other material about the attacks. It says that the city's refusal to hand over the material has "significantly impeded the commission's investigation." The documents, containing audio recordings of 911 calls and statements by police and fire fighters, have been withheld by the city, which claims it wants an agreement from the commission to let personal "last word" commentaries to be edited out before turning the documents over. (New York Times
- November 21: The situation in Iraq has, in a sense, worked to the Bush administration's advantage, inasmuch as it has driven from the media's attention the fact that the administration's long-term attempts to cover up the story behind the 9/11 attacks are slowly coming undone. Though the White House was successful in limiting the 9/11 investigative commission's access to presidential briefing notes produced shortly before the attacks, the commission has enough access to the documents to be able to show that the administration lied when it claimed to have had no coherent warnings of the attacks before they took place. Investigative journalist David Corn writes, "[A]s the final report of the joint inquiry of the House and Senate intelligence committees notes, for years the intelligence community had collected information reporting that terrorist outfits, including al Qaeda, were interested in mounting 9/11-like attacks -- that is, hijacking airliners and crashing them into high-profile targets in the United States. U.S. intelligence services, the Pentagon, and the Federal Aviation Administration during the Clinton and Bush II years apparently did not take action in response to these reports. That was a systemic failure. Bush has never addressed it publicly, but if pressed he could blame the bureaucrats at the CIA, the Defense Department and the FAA for ignoring clear-and-present hints."
- He will have less success defending the lapses of his own administration, including his closest advisors. We now know that in August 2001, Bush was briefed on Osama bin Laden's intent to hijack commercial airliners and ram them into American buildings or landmarks. We know that the Bush administration received a dramatic warning in July 2001 from intelligence sources that read, in part: "We believe that [bin Laden] will launch a significant terrorist attack against the U.S. and/or Israeli interests in coming weeks. The attack will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties against U.S. facilities or interests. Attack preparations have been made. Attack will occur with little or no warning." We also know that Condoleezza Rice tried, and failed, to discredit the information about Bush's August presidential briefing; we know that the administration still refuses to acknowledge that any senior administration officials were privy to the July intelligence report.
- "With these actions," writes Corn, "the White House blocked the public from learning what Bush had been told about the al-Qaeda threat in the weeks before 9/11, and it hid information that could cause Americans to wonder if Bush might have not reacted to the warnings with sufficient vigor. But the preliminary evidence is that the White House has been protecting itself. According to the House and Senate intelligence committees' final report on 9/11, the committees were told by an intelligence community representative that an August 2001 intelligence report included information that bin Laden wanted to conduct attacks in the United States, that al-Qaeda members had been residing and traveling to the United States for years and had apparently maintained a support structure here, that bin Laden was interested in hijacking airliners (to trade for prisoners), that the FBI had discerned patterns of activity consistent with preparations for hijackings, and that bin Laden supporters were planning attacks in the United States with explosives. That sure is different than a general warning about al-Qaeda. Did this information appear in Bush's August 6, 2001, PDB? The committees are not in a position to say, but their staff has told reporters they strongly believe some -- if not all -- of this material was included in the PDB. That suggests that Rice misled the public about this briefing and that Bush had been presented with more than a routine warning about al Qaeda. And one Democratic senator on the committee told reporters (including me) that the July warning -- the one noting a 'spectacular' attack loomed -- had indeed gone to senior White House officials and the president." The Bush administration continues to fight to keep this, and other, information secret; the 9/11 commission continues to struggle to get at least limited access, and so far, the media by and large continues to ignore the whole thing. (Los Angeles Weekly/AlterNet)
- November 26: Ellen Mariani, who lost her husband Louis in the World Trade Center attacks of 9/11, files a RICO lawsuit against President Bush and several of his administration's highest officials alleging that Bush and his administration "had knowledge/warnings of 911 and failed to warn or take steps to prevent [the attacks]; ...have been covering up the truth of 911; and ...have therefore violated the laws of the United States...." Mariani is filing a RICO lawsuit as opposed to another type of suit because she alleges that Bush and his officials failed to prevent the attacks for personal and political gain: "Defendant GWB failed to act and prevent '911' knowing the attacks would lead to our nation having to engage in an 'International War on Terror (IWOT)' which would benefit Defendants both financially and for political reasons." (Scoop)
- November 27: The Family Steering Committee, a group of 9/11 victim advocates, marks the one-year anniversary of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States by urging an extension of its May 27 deadline for submitting findings and recommendations. Committee members believe that the panel's effectiveness is being suborned by the Bush administration's refusal to cooperate with it. "Unfortunately, the production of a timely report no longer seems to be possible, in large part because of the delays caused by the administration and the agencies that report to it," the group writes. The leaders of the 10-member commission, Republican Thomas Kean and Democrat Lee Hamilton, said last week that they still intend to complete work by May 27, but they warned that further resistance from government agencies could threaten their ability to meet the deadline. (AP/Guardian)
- December 6: The FBI acknowledges it has known since 1996 of a specific threat that terrorists in al-Qaeda might use a plane in a suicide attack against the headquarters of the CIA or another large federal building in the Washington area. (Intervention Magazine)
- December 10: Former Senator Max Cleland is resigning from the 9/11 commission, and will be replaced by fellow Democrat Bob Kerrey, another former senator and a veteran of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Kerrey is widely seen as a staunch supporter of CIA Director George Tenet. Kerrey is expected to leave his post as the president of the New School University in New York; Cleland, probably the most outspoken antiwar voice on the panel, will be joining the Export-Import Bank board. Kerrey will also resign as a member of a CIA science advisory board. In 2002, Kerrey was a member of the prowar Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a group dominated by Republicans and with close ties to Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. The committee was a spinoff of the neoconservative Project for a New American Century. (Washington Post, Amy Goodman and David Goodman)
- December 10: Author David Potorti, who lost a brother in the 9/11 attacks, says, "We spent $100 million on Whitewater. Only $3 million has been spent on investigating September 11! It's not about 'getting Bush' -- I'm no fan of Bill Clinton either! In a democracy it's always about us -- and what we're willing to let people get away with." (Buzzflash, Amy Goodman and David Goodman))
- December 13: Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, a former Iraqi intelligence officer who was said to have met with the suspected leader of the Sept. 11 attacks, has told American interrogators the meeting never happened. Under questioning he has said that he did not meet with Mohamed Atta in Prague, according to US officials who have reviewed classified debriefing reports based on the interrogations. Reports that an Iraqi spy had met with Atta in Prague first circulated soon after the attacks on New York and the Pentagon, but they have been in dispute ever since. Czech government officials initially confirmed the reports, even as the CIA and the FBI said they could not corroborate them. Conservatives both inside and out of the Bush administration, arguing for war with Iraq, pointed to the reports as evidence of a link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, the terrorist organization that planned the Sept. 11 attacks. During the period between the Sept. 11 attacks and the war, the reports of the Prague meeting came under intense scrutiny from the CIA, the FBI, the Pentagon and the White House. Possible contacts between Atta and Ani seemed to offer the clearest potential connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda at a time when the Bush administration was arguing that invading Iraq was part of its campaign against terrorism. But the CIA and FBI eventually concluded that the meeting probably did not take place, and that there was no hard evidence that Hussein's government was involved in the Sept. 11 plot. (New York Times/Muslim News)
CPA provides false evidence about 9/11 hijacker
- December 14: Iraq's coalition government claims that it has uncovered documentary proof that Mohammed Atta, the al-Qaeda mastermind of the September 11 attacks against the US, was trained in Baghdad by Abu Nidal, the notorious Palestinian terrorist. Details of Atta's visit to the Iraqi capital in the summer of 2001 are contained in a top secret memo written to Saddam Hussein, the then Iraqi president, by Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, the former head of the Iraqi Intelligence Service. The handwritten memo is dated July 1, 2001 and provides a short resume of a three-day "work program" Atta had undertaken at Abu Nidal's base in Baghdad. In the memo, Habbush reports that Atta "displayed extraordinary effort" and demonstrated his ability to lead the team that would be "responsible for attacking the targets that we have agreed to destroy." The second part of the memo, which is headed "Niger Shipment," contains a report about an unspecified shipment -- believed to be uranium -- that it says has been transported to Iraq via Libya and Syria. Although Iraqi officials refused to disclose how and where they had obtained the document, Dr Ayad Allawi, a member of Iraq's ruling seven-man Presidential Committee, said the document was genuine. "We are uncovering evidence all the time of Saddam's involvement with al-Qaeda," he says. "But this is the most compelling piece of evidence that we have found so far. It shows that not only did Saddam have contacts with al-Qaeda, he had contact with those responsible for the September 11 attacks." Although Atta is believed to have lived in Florida in the summer of 2001, he is known to have used more than a dozen aliases, and intelligence experts believe he could easily have slipped out of the US to visit Iraq. Abu Nidal, who was responsible for the failed assassination of the Israeli ambassador to London in 1982, was based in Baghdad for more than two decades. (Daily Telegraph)
- December 15: In a press conference, President Bush angrily dismisses questions about his administration's knowledge of the possibility of the 9/11 attacks: he answered that even asking such a question was "an absurd insinuation." Unfortunately for Bush's claims, as far back as May 2002, White House officials acknowledged that the CIA had informed Bush and his senior staff of al-Qaeda's plans to attack the US in late summer or early fall of 2001, probably with hijacked airliners. Among other effects, the threat assessment prompted Attorney General John Ashcroft to stop flying on public planes and rely solely on private charter jets. (Daily Misleader)
Kean acknowledges 9/11 could have, and should have, been prevented
- December 17: In a stunning admission, the chairman of the 9/11 commission, Thomas Kean, says that 9/11 could have and should have been prevented. "This is a very, very important part of history and we've got to tell it right," says Kean. "As you read the report, you're going to have a pretty clear idea what wasn't done and what should have been done," he continues. "This was not something that had to happen. ...There are people that, if I was doing the job, would certainly not be in the position they were in at that time because they failed. They simply failed." Kean promises major revelations in public testimony beginning next month from top officials in the FBI, CIA, Defense Department, National Security Agency and, maybe, President Bush and former President Clinton. A day later, Kean will clarify his remarks to say that he isn't attaching blame to any particular person: "We have no evidence that anybody high in the Clinton administration or the Bush administration did anything wrong." Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark labels Kean's statements "disturbing" and says they showed the Bush administration could have done more to protect America from a terrorist attack. Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg says Kean's comments meant "that Bush administration officials had valuable information that could have prevented the terrorist attacks." Kean says he did not mean to suggest that certain federal officials should have been fired after Sept. 11. He said he was commenting on obvious mistakes that were made, such as letting terrorists into the country and letting dangerous items onto planes. "There are a number of steps along the way, that if they had occurred differently, this event wouldn't have occurred," he says. White House press secretary Scott McClellan said he reviewed the CBS report and did not believe Kean leveled accusations against the Bush administration. "There is nothing that we have seen that leads us to believe that Sept. 11 could have been prevented," McClellan says. (CBS News, Salon)
- December 18: The wife of one of the 9/11 victims explains why she chose to pursue a court case against the Bush administration rather than accept the legal settlement. Beverly Eckert, the founder of the group Victims of September 11th, writes: "I've chosen to go to court rather than accept a payoff from the 9/11 victims compensation fund. Instead, I want to know what went so wrong with our intelligence and security systems that a band of religious fanatics was able to turn four US passenger jets into an enemy force, attack our cities and kill 3,000 civilians with terrifying ease. I want to know why two 110-story skyscrapers collapsed in less than two hours and why escape and rescue options were so limited. I am suing because unlike other investigative avenues, including congressional hearings and the 9/11 commission, my lawsuit requires all testimony be given under oath and fully uses powers to compel evidence. The victims fund was not created in a spirit of compassion. Rather, it was a tacit acknowledgement by Congress that it tampered with our civil justice system in an unprecedented way. Lawmakers capped the liability of the airlines at the behest of lobbyists who descended on Washington while the Sept. 11 fires still smoldered. And this liability cap protects not just the airlines, but also World Trade Center builders, safety engineers and other defendants.
- "The caps on liability have consequences for those who want to sue to shed light on the mistakes of 9/11. It means the playing field is tilted steeply in favor of those who need to be held accountable. With the financial consequences other than insurance proceeds removed, there is no incentive for those whose negligence contributed to the death toll to acknowledge their failings or implement reforms. They can afford to deny culpability and play a waiting game. By suing, I've forfeited the '$1.8 million average award' for a death claim I could have collected under the fund. Nor do I have any illusions about winning money in my suit. What I do know is I owe it to my husband, whose death I believe could have been avoided, to see that all of those responsible are held accountable. If we don't get answers to what went wrong, there will be a next time. And instead of 3,000 dead, it will be 10,000. What will Congress do then? So I say to Congress, big business and everyone who conspired to divert attention from government and private-sector failures: My husband's life was priceless, and I will not let his death be meaningless. My silence cannot be bought." (USA Today)
- December 18: Kristin Breitweiser, the wife of one of the 9/11 victims, speaks to CBS News, where she says, "If you were to tell me that two years after the murder of my husband that we wouldn't have one question answered, I wouldn't believe it." (Buzzflash)
- December 18: Breitweiser is also interviewed on MSNBC's Hardball. She tells host Chris Matthews that she is relieved the 9/11 commission is recommending that someone, at long last, should be held responsible for the intelligence failures leading to the success of the attacks. When asked what she would do differently had she been president on that day, she alludes to Bush's August 6, 2001 briefing that warned that Osama bin Laden was planning to hijack airplanes in the U.S., and replies: "Undoubtedly, I think that I would have told the public. I would have told people like my husband and the 3,000 others that worked in New York City and that decided to fly on planes that day that we were a nation under an imminent threat, that the airlines were a target. And after the first building in New York City, then you know what? People like my husband in the second building would have immediately fled. They would have immediately evacuated that second tower, because they wouldn't have thought it was an accident. People like Donald Rumsfeld may not have sat at his desk for 45 minutes until the Pentagon was hit. People like the president wouldn't have sat there for 25 minutes in front of a group of children. They would have acted more decisively. Lives would have been saved. I would have informed the public." Matthews observes, "It sounds like the problem is at the top," and Breitweiser agrees: "It does." Interestingly, the transcript seems to have disappeared from the MSNBC archives; the interview was excerpted by Buzzflash. (Buzzflash)
- December 18: Russ Kirk compiles a list of statements from the Bush administration and senior lawmakers that together indicate that most people in Washington believe that 9/11 well may have been prevented. Here are the statements:
Other, equally oblivious statements from Bush administration and Republican officials can easily be located. (The Memory Hole)
- "This was not something that had to happen. They simply failed." -- Republican Thomas Kean, chairman of the independent 9/11 commission, December 17. 2003
- "They don't have any excuse because the information was in their lap, and they didn't do anything to prevent it." — Senator Richard Shelby, then ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee; member of the joint intelligence committee that investigated 9/11, June 3, 2002
- "I don't believe any longer that it's a matter of connecting the dots. I think they had a veritable blueprint, and we want to know why they didn't act on it." -— Senator Arlen Specter, a Republican member of the joint intelligence committee that investigated 9/11, June 6, 2002
- "There were lots of warnings." -— Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, October 12, 2001
- "should we have known? Yes, we should have. Could we have known? Yes, I believe we could have because of the hard targets [CIA operatives were tracking]." -— Representative Porter Goss, Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; Republican co-chairman of the joint intelligence committee that investigated 9/11, June 12,2002
- "I cannot say for sure that there wasn't a possibility we could have come across some lead that would have led us to the hijackers." -— FBI Director Robert Mueller, May 30, 2002
- "As of September 10th, each of us knew everything we needed to know to tell us there was a possibility of what happened on September 11th." -— Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff, the Bush administration's top anti-terrorism prosecutor, June 1, 2002
- "Had one human being or a common group of human beings sat down with all that information, we could have gotten to the hijackers before they flew those four airplanes either into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon or the ground of Pennsylvania." -— Senator Bob Graham, then Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; Democratic co-chairman of the joint intelligence panel that investigated 9/11, June 6, 2002
- "If you put all those pieces together, I don't say you could have prevented September 11th, but there might have been some warning, had it been handled properly." -— Vice President Dick Cheney, May 23, 2002
Rice refuses to testify before commission
- December 20: National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice is resisting testifying under oath to the 9/11 investigative commission. She and her staff are arguing over ground rules for her appearance in part because, apparently, she does not want to testify under oath or in public. While the commission may invite -- not subpoena -- the testimony of former president Bill Clinton, former VP Al Gore, and current officeholders Bush and Cheney, it has been seeking the sworn testimony of other Clinton and Bush administration officials. Commission chairman Thomas Kean, who has already suggested that the attacks could have been prevented had mid-level officials done their jobs, is expected to grill Rice and other senior Bush officials over their actions before and after the attacks. One Republican commissioner says a comment by Rice last year that no one "could have predicted that they would try to use a...hijacked airplane as a missile" was "an unfortunate comment...that was, of course, a wrong-footed statement on its face," given that there was years of intelligence about al-Qaeda's interest in airplane attacks. An administration spokesperson says of Rice's cooperation with the commission, "Dr. Rice and the White House continue to work amiably with the commission, consistent with the President's desire to make staff available in accordance with his ability to fight the war on terrorism." (Time)
- December 23: Up to 73 families of 9/11 victims have announced they are refusing the settlement offered them by the US government, and will sue the government instead, ignoring the deadline of midnight, December 22, to file a claim. Some families dismiss the offer as "blood money." The families say they aren't interested in money, they are interested in the truth, and in accountability. "These may be uncharted waters, but I was thrown in a pool on Sept. 11, 2001 and had to learn to swim," says Monica Gabrielle, who lost her husband Richard in the World Trade Center attack. "I am doing this for my husband. He was a gentle man, and he was alive, trying to get out of that building that day. The dead. The dying. The smoke. The terror. No one should have suffered like that. I want accountability. I need answers." To receive the federal money, recipients must sign a waiver giving up their right to sue anyone involved in the terrorist attacks. To get there, they had to accept a monetary value on the lives of those closest to them, after making a case based on birth and marriage licences, diplomas and degrees, even videos. They will, on average, receive $1.8 million each. About 95% of the families involved have agreed to the settlement. Gabrielle says it is a bribe by the government so victims can be coerced into washing their hands of the affair. She is also resentful that the government is determining the worth of loved ones. "This is about mass murder," she says. "I want to know who was responsible. No one has been fired. No one has been demoted. The same people who are guarding us today on an elevated security alert are the same people who were working that day." Irene Golinski, 53, whose husband died in the Pentagon attack, was still grappling with the decision to put 9/11 behind her or continue with a lawsuit. She eventually decided to take the government's offer, but she isn't comfortable with her decision. "It's almost like it's a payoff to save the airlines and not hold any of those people responsible for what happened," she says. (Toronto Star)