SEPT. 11: HOLD GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABLE
Dennis L. Cuddy, Ph.D.
Recently, I wrote a column for Knight Ridder Tribune raising important questions about the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. A reader wrote to me suggesting I give answers regarding what happened leading up to that tragic day.
And with the second anniversary of fresh in our minds, it seems timely that someone should come up with possible answers, so here are a few.
Years before Sept. 11, our government knew of Project Bojinka, a terrorist plan which included hijacking airliners and crashing them into the World Trade Center, Pentagon and other buildings. Then on Aug. 6, 2001, the CIA briefed President Bush concerning al-Qaida possibly hijacking airplanes.
The White House is still unwilling to release the details of that briefing and my guess is the details might reveal an indication that al-Qaida might attack inside the United States.
Why is this important? It's because the administration has consistently said it knew before Sept. 11 that something "big" and "soon" would occur, but thought the attack would be overseas. Congress, the press and media all seem unwilling to find out why some top Pentagon officials on Sept. 10, 2001, suddenly canceled their travel plans for the next morning apparently because of security concerns.
And they also seem uninterested in finding out specifically who called San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown late at night on Sept. 10, 2001, (he was scheduled to fly to New York City the next morning), warning him and all Americans to watch their air travel because of possible terrorist attacks.
These people were going to travel within the United States on Sept. 11, so might the FAA or some other agency have sent an alert that at least indicated the possibility of an attack in this country? We know the FAA on Sept. 3, 2001, issued an emergency ruling to airlines not to fly controversial author Salman Rushdie unless they had implemented strict and costly security measures, because he could be the target of an attack.
Why is it important whether the administration knew an attack using hijacked airliners could occur here? It's because immediately after Sept. 11 they all said "no one could have imagined" such an attack. But how could they say this when between Oct. 24 and 26, 2000, military planners held an exercise to prepare for "incidents including a passenger plane crashing into the Pentagon"?
If the public learned the possibility of such an attack was known to the administration, the people would have demanded to know why such a possibility was not made known to us all in advance. That foreknowledge by the public probably would have at least saved most of the lives lost in the second WTC tower, because it would have been evacuated immediately after the first plane hit the first tower.
The public also probably would have demanded to know where the preventive contingency planning was. This could have included something as simple as a military helicopter on standby alert near New York, because terrorists had already tried to blow up the WTC in 1993.
My guess is that shortly before Sept. 11, information via intelligence intercepts or some other means was obtained indicating the possibility of an imminent attack in the United States and some people were alerted on Sept. 10.
Why should anyone care about this, two years after the event? It's because we all need to know if we can completely trust our government leaders. We need to know if they have developed plans to thwart terrorists if tomorrow the latter would try to crash a Lear jet packed with explosives into a building, or use a helicopter from which to fire shoulder-launched rockets into crowds of people, or derail passenger trains, or contaminate food, or disrupt our supply of electricity, etc.
Our very lives are at stake.
It was not necessary for the administration to know before Sept. 11 exactly what the terrorists would do and when.
If any in the government knew before Sept. 11 simply that a "big" attack could happen "soon" inside the U.S. and failed to warn us and take simple preventative measures, they should be held accountable.
© 2004 Dennis Cuddy - All Rights Reserved
Dennis Laurence Cuddy, historian and political analyst, received a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (major in American History, minor in political science). Dr. Cuddy has taught at the university level, has been a political and economic risk analyst for an international consulting firm, and has been a Senior Associate with the U.S. Department of Education.
Cuddy has also testified before members of Congress
on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice. Dr. Cuddy has authored or
edited seventeen books and booklets, and has written hundreds of articles
appearing in newspapers around the nation, including The Washington Post,
Los Angeles Times and USA Today. He has been a guest on numerous radio
talk shows in various parts of the country, such as ABC Radio in New York
City, and he has also been a guest on the national television programs
USA Today and CBS's Nightwatch.
"Why should anyone care about this, two years after the event? It's because we all need to know if we can completely trust our government leaders."