When the twin towers fell, the Pentagon was on fire as the fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania and the Bush administration had a huge problem on their hands. On one hand, they had to convince the American public that they weren’t asleep at the wheel. On the other hand, they had to convince America that they were on the job in keeping us safe. It is somewhat like that old Richard Pryor routine where he asks, “Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?” America could clearly see that the Bush administration failed to keep us safe. We could see the smoldering Pentagon and the 24/7 news coverage of the fallen twin towers. Condoleezza Rice, former National Security Advisor, famously stated, “I don’t think that anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon, that they would try to use an airplane as a missile.” Although these words are strong, seeing Condi Rice deliver these words are even more powerful.
On the surface, this seems reasonable. If you’re a guy who works on the assembly line and doesn’t follow the news extremely closely, this makes perfect sense. You can’t recall any time that someone was trying to use a passenger jet as a missile. This was a deliberate attempt to throw you and the American people off the trail. The goal is not for you and me to imagine this or that, the goal is for the Bush administration to use all the information at their disposal to try to prevent something catastrophic like 9/11.
In 1994, Algerian terrorists tried to fly a plane into the Eiffel Tower. The plot was foiled by a French SWAT team while the plane was being refueled in Marseille. The plane was getting three times as much fuel as it needed, which tipped authorities off to their real intent. The Bojinka Plot, which I mentioned yesterday, also included one of the 12 planes to fly into the Pentagon and another of the planes to fly into CIA headquarters in Langley. Abdul Hakim Murad trained at a flight school in Norman, Oklahoma. He became an informant when he was captured in Manila. He told police that the plan was to board an American aircraft as a passenger, hijack it and then fly the plane into CIA headquarters. He specifically said that it was a suicidal mission. Remember that this plot was foiled in 1995. In August 2001, US officials intercepted intelligence suggesting that terrorists wanted to bomb the US Embassy in Nairobi. They were either going to bomb the embassy using a plane or using the plane as a missile.
In light of this information, Condoleezza Rice’s statement seems less genuine. It seems more crafted to throw the American people off the scent of incompetence. Now, to be fair, the FBI and the CIA and the rest of the intelligence community together form a huge and unwieldy beast. The one thing that 9/11 has taught me is how difficult it is to get information to those who can really use it. Still, the Bush administration could’ve admitted to us that they were truly focused on Al Qaeda, bin Laden and terrorism. That kind of honesty, I would’ve respected.
9/11 has taught me that our government can be extremely deceptive. Before 9/11, I thought that our government basically gave us the straight scoop. Maybe I was naïve. Now, everything that comes out of our government I question. Basically I say, prove to me that you’re telling the truth. What are the lessons that you learned from 9/11?
A lot of the information from this post comes from the fabulous book, Intelligence Matters, written by Senator Bob Graham.