Saturday, September 10, 2011

Guess What? We Were Warned

I thought a lot about what I’d right for the 10th anniversary of the attacks of 9/11/2001. I started a number of pieces that soon turned into rambling. As the day approached the Department of Homeland Security issued warnings of potential attacks in the form a truck-bombs, and the targets could be New York or Washington D.C. Yet due to the vagueness of the warnings the response has been mostly cynicism from most Americans. This finally gave my thoughts focus. Ten years ago in the Spring of 2001 there are warnings that Al Qaeda was planning to strike the U.S. somewhere in the world, and that it was possible that their attack would take place inside of the United States. It was no secret. The warnings were there for those who read the middle and back pages of the newspapers. Few people read the warnings, and fewer took them seriously.

On June 9, 2001, the Associated Press’s Pauline Jelinek wrote an article about how Army bases across the country would tighten security and restrict access. The story cited a “system-wide review of security…started after October’s bombing (2000) in Yemen of the USS Cole…” as a reason for the directive. Then on June 22, 2001 the State Department issued a “World-Wide Caution” alert:
This warning is quoted in its entirety:

Public Announcement
Over the last several months, the U.S.
Government has learned that U.S. citizens and interests abroad may be at
increased risk of a terrorist action from extremist groups. In addition, we have
received unconfirmed information that terrorist actions may be taken against
U.S. military facilities and/or establishments frequented by U.S. military
personnel in Korea and Japan. We are also concerned about information we
received in May 2001 that American citizens may be the target of a terrorist
threat from extremist groups with links to Usama Bin Ladin's Al-Qaida
organization. In the past, such individuals have not distinguished between
official and civilian targets. As always, we take this information seriously.
U.S. Government facilities worldwide remain at a heightened state of alert. U.S.
citizens are urged to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate
steps to increase their security awareness to reduce their vulnerability.
Americans should maintain a low profile, vary routes and times for all required
travel, and treat mail and packages from unfamiliar sources with suspicion. In
addition, American citizens are also urged to avoid contact with any suspicious,
unfamiliar objects, and to report the presence of the objects to local
authorities. Vehicles should not be left unattended, if at all possible, and
should be kept locked at all times. U.S. Government personnel overseas have been
advised to take the same precautions. In addition, U.S. Government facilities
have and will continue to temporarily close or suspend public services as
necessary to review their security posture and ensure its adequacy. U.S.
citizens planning to travel abroad should consult the Department of State's
Public Announcements, Travel Warnings, Consular Information Sheets, and regional
travel brochures, all of which are available at the Consular Affairs Internet
web site at We will continue to provide updated
information should it become available. American citizens overseas may contact
the American Citizens Services unit of the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate by
telephone or fax for up-to-date information on security conditions. In addition,
American citizens in need of emergency assistance should telephone the nearest
U.S. Embassy or Consulate before visiting the Embassy or Consulate. Department
of State travel information and publications are available at Internet address: U.S. travelers may hear recorded information by calling
the Department of State in Washington, D.C. at 202-647-5225 from their
touch-tone telephone, or receive information by automated telefax by dialing
202-647-3000 from their fax machine. This Public Announcement supersedes the
Public Announcement - Worldwide Caution of June 22, 2001 to inform U.S. citizens
of unconfirmed threats against U.S. military facilities, personnel and
establishments frequented by U.S. military personnel. This Public Announcement
expires on December 22, 2001.

Yes, there’s nothing in there about hijacking passenger jets then flying them into buildings, but it is clear that the US Government was expecting an attack – somewhere – between June 22, 2001 and December 22, 2001. The holes in the national security machine (re: the CIA & FBI) have been painfully documented elsewhere, and will continue to be exposed as time goes onward. What has been lost in the cloud of dust of the collapse and two reflexive wars is another story from June 23, 2001. The Middle East Broadcasting Centre (MBC) had a reporter in Kandahar:

“"I met with bin Laden near Kandahar (Afghanistan) over the last few days and his main supporters said in front of him that there will be a big surprise over the next two weeks," the MBC correspondent said.Among the bin Laden supporters quoted were Abu Hafs, considered as bin Laden's right-hand man, and Ayman al-Zawahirit, the leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad.”

While the two week mark came and went it was common knowledge the US was in Al Qaeda’s crosshairs. At least it was common knowledge to the Arab press, and to people who tracked terror warning. For some reason the threats didn’t resonate with the American public, even though the World Trade Center had already been bombed in 1993, and the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City had been destroyed by a truck-bomb in April, 1995.

The talking heads on the national news desks and those on the cable news ghetto all begin their yearly 9/11 sermons with how naïve and innocent Americans were on the morning of 9/11/2001. This is bullshit. Americans weren’t naïve nor innocent, they were simply ill-informed. The national news media had collectively fallen asleep at the wheel. In the summer before the attacks the news universe was dominated by Congressman Gary Condit and his missing intern, Chandra Levy. There is also the Enron scandal that the media had also failed to detect in advance in spite of their multiple financial experts on staff. Just as they failed to look deeply into the Enron and the “Tech-Bubble” there was little interest in looking into threats from Al Qaeda. ABC’s John Miller seemed to be one of the few to understand Osama bin Laden to be a larger threat. His interviews with bin Laden can be found on ABC’s website, and are worth reviewing even now.

The point is that after the attacks fingers were pointed at the Bush Administration, and the bulk of responsibility rests with their disinterest in the subject of terror threats before 9/11/2001. Fingers need also to be pointed at the news media as well. The Time Magazine that hit the stands after the attacks contained amazingly detailed accounts of Al Qaeda’s movements inside the US, and their planning overseas. The only way this level of detail was possible was because reporters had already been following Al Qaeda independently, and after the attacks they quickly connected their dots. The question needs to be asked: Why was the news media so uninterested in Al Qaeda prior to 9/11/2001? The network and cable news pimps have no problem generating their own stories, and framing them in a way that they can be milked for weeks on end. Why was national security a back-burner issue?

The sad thing is that these questions will never be answered. I read the June 22nd warning in my local news paper, and on that morning when the towers came down I remembered that Al Qaeda had planned a strike on US interests. While I was shocked and horrified I was not surprised. There is much complaint about what has happened to America since the attacks, but the fact is that Americans have surrendered their responsibilities for their own security to the Federal Government. Nothing has been taken away by force. We haven’t lost anything, we handed it over. When the government asks Americans to be vigilant the response is to compare the US to Soviet Russia. If more Americans had been vigilant before 9/11 the attacks could have been headed off, and there would be no need for a Homeland Security. Yet in 2011 the average American can’t be bothered with security matters. For all of the histrionics the fact is that we are just as pathetic as we were on September 10, 2001.