9/11 panel should get to the truth

by Mark A. Dunlea
Albany Times Union
Monday, Apr 26, 2004
Link to Original

Two and a half years after 3,000 people were killed in the World Trade Center in Manhattan, not only do most questions remained unanswered about 9/11, they remain unasked.

President Bush aggressively lobbied Congress against a full-scale investigation. When Bush reluctantly agreed to the creation of the National Commission on Terrorists Attacks, he insisted it be limited to representatives of the two major political parties, with each party having a veto over what the commission investigated.

Noticeably absent from the commission are representatives of the family members of the victims, whose only interest would be to determine who was responsible for the murder of their loved ones. Instead, the commission members are entrenched members of the very foreign policy establishment they are supposed to be investigating.

Family members have called for the resignation of Philip Zelikow, the director of the commission. In addition to co-authoring a book on foreign policy with national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Zelikow participated, as a member of Bush’s foreign policy transition team, in the January 2001 meeting where counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke briefed the President’s national security team on the al-Qaidi threat. Zelikow is thus leading an investigation of his own response.

Commission Chairman Thomas Kean is partners with two of the Saudi billionaires sued by 9/11 families for their roles in the attacks. Commissioner Fred Fielding is a former White House counsel during President Reagan’s time, at the time of the Iran-contra scandal. Commissioner John Lehman was Navy secretary under Reagan.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay recently called for the removal of Commissioner Jamie Gorelick, deputy attorney general under Clinton, after Ashcroft attacked her for authoring a memo reminding the Justice Department to keep counterintelligence separate from criminal investigations. DeLay, however, doesn’t seem bothered that Gorelick is also very close to CIA director George Tenet and is a member of the CIA’s National Security Advisory Panel.

The commission members are there for damage control, not to find the truth. It was appalling to watch commission members like former Illinois Gov. Jim Thompson implement the White House playbook in attacking the credibility of Clarke recently.

Even with the cursory job done so far by the 9/11 commission, it is evident that the Bush administration failed to take seriously the threat posed by terrorism and then manipulated the tragedy of 9/11 to pursue its pre-existing agenda to invade Iraq.

The United States received explicit warnings shortly before 9/11 from the governments of Russia, France, Israel, Germany and Israel. Russian leader Vladimir Putin said his warning was delivered “in the strongest possible terms.” Despite the claims of the Bush administration that no one ever thought that terrorist would use hijacked planes as missiles, NORAD conducted numerous training exercises under exactly that scenario.

But there are many other key questions that family members have been pressing the commission on, starting with the role of Saudi Arabia.

As John O’Neill, the FBI’s former top bin Laden investigator, said shortly before his death in the World Trade Center, “all the answers, everything needed to dismantle Osama bin Laden’s organization can be found in Saudi Arabia.”

Some other key questions include:

1. What was the role of the Pakistani Intelligence Service? Why did Mahmood Ahmed, director of Pakistan’s secret service, order $100,000 to be wired to lead hijacker Mohammed Atta?

2. What role did the CIA play in training and arming of terrorists before 9/11, including bin Laden and other members of al Qaida? What role did Pakistan and the United States play in allowing the Taliban to come to power?

3. What negotiations took place between the U.S. government and the Taliban before 9/11 relating to the construction of a pipeline through Afghanistan?

4. What surveillance did the FBI and CIA have on the alleged hijackers before 9/11? Several of the hijackers were apparently closely monitored, particularly Mohammed Atta. What terrorist organizations and/or governments were responsible for the 9/11 attacks? Saying that bin Laden did it is like saying the “Mob” is responsible for organized crime.

If America is ever to find the truth about 9/11, it needs a truly independent commission, one which includes several relatives of those killed on Sept. 11, 2001. Real answers are required as to so many people were killed at the World Trade Center.

Mark A. Dunlea lives in Poestenkill. His self-published novel, “Madame President: The Unauthorized Biography of the First Green Party President,” presents an alternative history to September 11.