WHERE'S THE ACCOUNTABILITY FOR SEPT. 11?
Dennis L. Cuddy, Ph.D.
On NBC's Jan. 4 edition of "Meet the Press," host Tim Russert quoted the Baton Rouge Advocate to Gen. Wesley Clark: "Clark said the president 'didn't do his duty' to protect America from attack on Sept. 11, 2001." Fellow Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean has made a similar accusation.
It is not just Democrats, however, who are questioning the Bush administration's failure to prevent the Sept. 11 attacks. In an interview aired on CBS on Dec. 17, Republican Tom Kean, chairman of the independent commission investigating the attacks, said, "This was not something that had to happen." The next day, a White House official reiterated its position that the attacks were not preventable. Kean has indicated there will be "major revelations" this month when his commission begins hearing public testimony from top government officials.
The problem with all of these accusations against the Bush administration is that they do not specifically say what should have been done. For example, Black Hawk helicopters were ordered to be in the sky over New York on New Year's Eve in case of a terrorist attack. For more than two years, I've been asking why that same thing wasn't done to prevent Sept. 11, since shortly after that tragic day Vice President Dick Cheney acknowledged they knew in advance that terrorists were going to do something "big," and "soon."
Having military helicopters on alert near New York is the type of simple, preventive contingency planning that any responsible administration should have done.
I also found the administration's ignorance incredible given that news of an impending attack was even available on the Internet. On AirlineBiz's Web site on June 23, 2001, a reporter had just interviewed Osama bin Laden and said it was a race to see whether the U.S. would attack him first or vice versa.
Then, on Northwest Airlines flight attendants' Web site on July 2001 was a "Backgrounder" by Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz referring to Project Bojinka, which included a plan to hijack airliners and crash them into the World Trade Center, Pentagon and other sites.
Closer to Sept. 11, we know the Federal Aviation Administration on Sept. 3, 2001, issued an "emergency ruling" to airlines that if the infamous author Salman Rushdie were on an airplane, it might be attacked by terrorists. Then late on Sept. 10, 2001, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown received a call from security people warning him and all Americans to watch their air travel (he was going to fly to New York on the morning of Sept. 11).
I sent this information to the federal government as part of a Freedom of Information request regarding any warnings U.S. government agencies received pertaining to transportation between May 2001 and Sept. 15, 2001. Homeland Security replied that there were 12 information circulars consisting of 35 pages, but they were being withheld because their release "would be detrimental to the security of transportation if disclosed."
The Aug. 6, 2001, CIA briefing to President Bush indicated that a terrorist attack could occur inside the United States and that there could be a hijacking (see Bob Woodward and Dan Eggen's "Aug. memo focused on attacks in U.S.," The Washington Post, May 18, 2002).
Those who could have prevented the attacks but didn't should be held accountable. And as ABC "Nightline" host Chris Bury asserted on Dec. 18: "Surely if the failure was as systemic and catastrophic as the early evidence indicates, the responsibility for that must fall higher up in the chain of command. Isn't that what accountability is all about?"
© 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.
"The Aug. 6, 2001, CIA briefing to President Bush indicated that a terrorist attack could occur inside the United States and that there could be a hijacking..."