Anti-terrorism and homeland securityTheir approach echoes the "Team B" strategy that conservatives had used in the past: establishing a separate entity to offer alternative intelligence analyses to the CIA. Conservatives had done this in 1976, criticizing and intimidating the agency over its estimates of Soviet military strength, and again in 1998, arguing for the necessity of missile defense. (Wolfowitz had participated in both projects; the latter was run by Rumsfeld.) This time, the new operation, headed by Perle protege Abram Shulsky, reassesses intelligence already collected by the CIA along with information from Iraqi defectors and, as Feith will remark in mid-2003, "came up with some interesting observations about the linkages between Iraq and al-Qaeda." In August 2002, Feith brings the unit to Langley to brief the CIA about its findings. If the separate intelligence unit wasn't enough to challenge the CIA, Rumsfeld also begins publicly discussing the creation of a new Pentagon position, an undersecretary for intelligence, who would rival the CIA director and diminish the authority of the agency. (The New Republic)
Islamist terrorism"The financial network of bin Laden, as well as his network of investments, is similar to the network put in place in the 1980s by BCCI for its fraudulent operations, often with the same people (former directors and cadres of the bank and its affiliates, arms merchants, oil merchants, Saudi investors). The dominant trait of bin Laden's operations is that of a terrorist network backed up by a vast financial structure." The BCCI was the largest Muslim bank in the world before it collapsed in 1991. A senior US investigator later says US agencies are looking into the ties outlined by the French because "they just make so much sense, and so few people from BCCI ever went to jail. BCCI was the mother and father of terrorist financing operations." The report identifies dozens of companies and individuals who were involved with BCCI and were found to be dealing with bin Laden after the bank collapsed. Many went on to work in banks and charities identified by the US and others as supporting al-Qaeda. The role of Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz in supporting bin Laden is emphasized in the report. In 1995 bin Mahfouz paid a $225 million fine in a settlement with US prosecutors for his role in the BCCI scandal. (CCR)
9/11 attacksFBI sources report that hundreds of hijacker e-mails have been recovered, many giving "operational details" of the attacks. However, in April 2002, FBI Director Mueller says no documentation of the 9/11 plot has been found. By September 2002, the American media is reporting that none of the e-mails sent and received by the hijackers have been recovered. The texts of some e-mails sent by Mohamed Atta from Germany are published a few months later. (CCR)
Anti-terrorism and homeland securityPakistanis protest the mounting civilian casualties in Afghanistan with violent street demonstrations, sometimes led by fanatical Islamist groups with ties to al-Qaeda. Internally, Musharraf is under fire from members of the ISI, his intelligence agency, and high-ranking military officers. Seymour Hersh writes, "These unintended consequences of the President's decision to wage war on the Taliban government in Afghanistan created a serious rift between the American government's intelligence and diplomatic experts on South Asia and the decision makers of the Bush administration." A Pakistani diplomat tells Hersh the situation in his country is "explosive." But Bush administration officials call the situation dangerous, but manageable. "Musharraf has done a good job," says one senior military planner. "He's put the hard-liners in a box and locked it." A second Pakistani diplomat says, "Nobody's going to move against Musharraf unless there's an uprising. How to prevent the uprising is to stop dropping bombs on civilian targets." Musharraf's decision to replace hard-line military and intelligence officials with loyalists is somewhat effective, but, as one former Pakistani diplomat says, "To remove the top two or three doesn't matter at all. The philosophy remains." He describes the ISI as "a parallel government of its own. If you go through the officer list, almost all of the ISI regulars would say, of the Taliban, 'They are my boys.'"
Oil profiteering and the "oiligarchy"At the same time, George W. Bush is being prepped to pressure India's prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee during an upcoming November 9 summit in Washington. Just before Vajpayee arrives, however, the plans for Bush to intervene on Enron's behalf with the Indian government are scrubbed. Enron will be less than four weeks away from filing bankruptcy at that time, and the US press is barking at Enron's heels with numerous investigations into Enron's instability and its raft of illegal business practices. Instead of providing even more help, Commerce Secretary Evans announces that his department has refused to help Enron maintain its ratings with the country's major credit-rating concerns -- Standard and Poor's, Moody's, and Fitch -- in an attempt to put some belated distance between the administration and the impending Enron collapse. Such an attempt is doomed to failure. Too many administration officials, including Bush and Cheney, have too many intimate ties to Enron. Too many decisions have been made directly favoring Enron and other energy merchants while costing US taxpayers and energy consumers millions, if not billions, of dollars. Bush's Treasury Department, under Paul O'Neill, had worked to derail Clinton-era crackdowns on offshore "tax havens," a move designed to benefit Enron, Halliburton, and other corporations with close ties to the Bush administration. And the administration is forced to defend its post-9/11 attempt to grant three corporations, General Electric, IBM, and Enron, huge tax rebates due to supposed "overpayment" of the federal alternative minimum tax. Enron would have received $254 million if the legislation, killed by the Democratically-controlled Senate, had passed. O'Neill's agreement with the Cayman Islands that no bank-law tightening would need to be undertaken until 2004 comes under heavy fire. (Kevin Phillips)
Oil profiteering and the "oiligarchy"Both Enron and White House officials deny that the administration provides any help to the floundering corporation, though the news of Lay's contacts with O'Neill and Evans does not leak to the press until January 2002, and the administration does nothing while Enron systematically steals millions from its employees' pension fund and illegally unloads billions of dollars' worth of worthless Enron stocks. (David Corn)
Bush's economic policieswhich sets a floor on taxes so that corporations can't use accounting tricks to avoid paying taxes on their profits. The only effect of this "economic stimulus" is to allow corporations to skip out on paying taxes. Worse, the bill repeals the tax retroactively, which means giving corporations refunds from federal coffers for taxes paid over the previous fifteen years. IBM, which had paid only 3.4% of their $6 billion in profits in 2000, received a refund of $1.4 billion. Enron, which paid no taxes whatsoever in four of the last five years, received $254 million in refunded taxes. General Electric, which paid a measly 1.5% of their profits in taxes the previous year, received $833 million in refunds. House Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey says that extending unemployment and health benefits for American workers is "not...commensurate with the American spirit...." but apparently believes that sending wealthy corporation immense tax refunds is the American thing to do. At least one lobbyist, Kenneth Kies, says that he wasn't just lobbying for his corporate clients, but for the benefit of the country, by pushing for the corporate tax refunds. Paul Waldman notes that the alternative minimum tax repeal was so heinous that when political consultants held focus groups to gauge reactions to the plan, the groups "literally refused to believe it was being described accurately to them." The rest of the "stimulus package" is nothing more than a conglomeration of corporate pork, subsidies, and favors for the rich, causing an outcry even from such stalwart conservatives as the Weekly Standard's David Brooks, who says the bill is little more than "redistributing federal dollars from their people to our people." (Center for Tax Justice/Paul Waldman)
Anti-terrorism and homeland securityNine Army linguists, including six trained to speak Arabic, are dismissed from the military's Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, because they are gay. At the same time, the military claims it is facing a critical shortage of translators and interpreters for the war on terrorism. The Miami Herald comments: "The message is unmistakable: We find gay people more frightening than Osama bin Laden, whose stated goal is our destruction." (CCR)
War in AfghanistanThe US begins using the Shahbaz air force base and other bases in Pakistan in their attacks against Afghanistan. However, because of public opposition in Pakistan to US support, it is falsely claimed the US is there for purely logistical and defensive purposes. Such bases in Pakistan become a link in a chain of US military outposts in Central Asia. Other countries also falsely maintain that such bases are not being used for military operations in Afghanistan. (CCR)
Bush's energy policiesDick Cheney is briefed on the Dabhol power plant situation for his meeting with India's foreign minister. (David Corn)
9/11 attacks"A number of intelligence officials have raised questions about Osama bin Laden's capabilities. 'This guy sits in a cave in Afghanistan and he's running this operation?' one CIA official asked. 'It's so huge. He couldn't have done it alone' A senior military officer [says] that because of the visas and other documentation needed to infiltrate team members into the United States a major foreign intelligence service might also have been involved." These ideas contradict the usual public statements by officials that bin Laden was the ultimate mastermind. (CCR)
Anti-terrorism and homeland securityWhite House chief of staff Andrew Card says, "I'm not trying to be an alarmist, but we know that these terrorist organizations, like al-Qaeda, run by Osama bin Laden and others, have probably found the means to use biological or chemical warfare." GOP Representative Henry Hyde says biological weapons "scare" him more than nuclear weapons because they can be brought into the country "rather easily." Rumsfeld, Ashcroft and others give similar warnings. Just three days later, anthrax attacks become big news. (CCR)
US militarywithout debate, votes unanimously to fund a $60 billion missile defense system that, in Lewis Lapham's words, "couldn't hit its celestial targets and offered no defense against the deadly weapons (smallpox virus, dynamite stuffed into a barrel of nuclear waste) likely to be hand-delivered by terrorists driving rented speedboats or stolen trucks." Democrat Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, explains the absence of discussion of the system, previously the target of huge criticism, by saying "We have no need to create dissent while we need unity." Later in October the House will pass a huge economic stimulus bill proffered by the Bush administration that gave the bulk of the $101 billion in stimulus funds to the wealthiest of US business interests -- $1.4 billion to IBM, $833 million to GM, $671 million to GE, etc. Republican Dick Armey, the House majority leader, justifies the giveaway by saying, "This country is in the middle of the war. Now is not the time to provoke spending confrontations with our Commander in Chief." Democrats apparently fail to notice that all the calls for "unity" were for programs advocated by the administration and by Congressional Republicans; no Democratic legislation was the beneficiary of this sudden feeling of togetherness. The unity is strictly one-sided. (Lewis Lapham)
Domestic terrorismThe letter is addressed to Dr. Ayaad Assaad, a Muslim anthrax researcher who was born in Egypt. The unsigned letter calls Assaad a "'potential terrorist,' with a grudge against the United States and the knowledge to wage biological warfare against his adopted country." This is the latest in a series of attacks against Assaad, which include anonymous long hateful poems about him in the early 1990s. The author of the letter says he is a former colleague of Assaad. The letter seems like an attempt to frame Assaad for the anthrax attacks about to come. (CCR)
Attack on civil libertiesThe "anti-terrorism" Patriot Act is introduced in Congress, but is not well received by all. The next day, Senate Majority Leader and future anthrax target Tom Daschle, a Democrat, says he doubts the Senate will take up this bill in the one week timetable the administration wants. As head of the Senate, Daschle has great power to block or slow passage of the bill. Attorney General Ashcroft accuses Senate Democrats of dragging their feet. On October 4, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman and future anthrax target Patrick Leahy accuses the Bush administration of reneging on an agreement on the anti-terrorist bill. Leahy, a Democrat, is in a key position to block or slow the bill. Some warn that "lawmakers are overlooking constitutional flaws in their rush to meet the administration's timetable." Two days later, Ashcroft complains about "the rather slow pace...over his request for law enforcement powers.... Hard feelings remain." The anthrax letters to Daschle and Leahy are sent out on October 9 and difficulties in passing the Act continue. Many observers view the anthrax mailings as a possible method of coercing the cooperation of Leahy and Daschle in ramming the Patriot Act through Congress. (CCR)
Military-industrial complexAir Force senior acquisitions official Darleen Druyun follows up Aldridge's memo with orders forbidding anyone in the Air Force acquisition community to talk to the media about any of their programs. (At the end of 2002, Druyun would leave the government to work as a high-level official at Boeing.) Soon after, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz forbids all DoD personnel, as well as those working in corporations affiliated with DoD, to talk about their work to the press or even in public. (Stephen Pizzo/Daily Misleader, Federation of American Scientists [Aldridge memo], Federation of American Scientists [Wolfowitz memo])
"I am here to make an announcement that this Thursday, ticket counters and airplanes will fly out of Ronald Reagan Airport." -- George W. Bush, October 3, 2001
"We need to counter the shockwave of the evildoer by having individual rate cuts accelerated and by thinking about tax rebates." -- George W. Bush, October 4, 2001
9/11 attacksassures his listeners that his country had nothing to do with financing any of the terrorists who struck on 9/11 and does not support Islamic extremism. Telephone intercepts made by the NSA tell a different story. The Saudi government, working primarily through the governor of Riyadh, Prince Salman, has funnelled millions to a range of extremist groups. "We know that Salman was supporting all of the causes," says an intelligence official with knowledge of the intercepts. Other intercepts and related intelligence prove that Saudi officials, and perhaps the government as a whole, has financed Osama bin Laden for years, since at least 1996. But Bush stands by his statement of September 24 when, in spite of Saudi recalcitrance in allowing the US to interview suspects, access data, or trace financial records, he told the American people that the Saudis are "nothing but cooperative" in helping wage the war on terror. On October 2, Rumsfeld stood next to the Saudi defense minister, Prince Sultan, and lied about the Saudis providing lists of 9/11 suspects (the Saudis refused). In return for American duplicity, the Saudis allow the US to use a command-and-control center, built before the Gulf War, in the pending air war against Afghanistan's Taliban.
Domestic terrorismHealth and Human Services head Tommy Thompson dismisses the case as an isolated incident with no connection to terrorist attacks. Letters containing anthrax continue to be received until October 19. After many false alarms, it turns out that only four letters contain real anthrax. They are sent to NBC, the New York Post, Democratic Senator Tom Daschle and Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy. There are a number of hoax letters however, that are possibly sent by the same person to all the recipients of the real anthrax letters, plus to CBS, Fox News, the New York Times, and the St. Petersberg Times. Eleven people are infected and five people eventually die, including Stevens. (CCR)
War in Afghanistan1,000 American troops are sent into Uzbekistan, which borders Afghanistan. (CCR)
US militaryHe had served as vice chair under Shelton. Myers was chosen over Chief of Naval Operations Vern Clark for a number of reasons. Clark was widely seen as more likely to stand up to pressure from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who is already winning a reputation as a bully and a martinet. Shelton personally recommended Clark as his successor, telling Rumsfeld that while Myers, the other serious candidate, would do little more than acquiesce to Rumsfeld, Clark would push back against Rumsfeld if need be, a quality that would serve both Rumsfeld and the US military far better than a yes-man. Rumsfeld's own chief civilian advisor, Steve Herbits, tells Rumsfeld, "If you want transformation to happen in this building, then Vern Clark's your man. He is brilliant analytically, he is a leader of change, he knows how to get people moving." Clark had been quite successful in streamlining and improving efficiency in the Navy, that most hidebound of military cultures. "He knows how to pick change agents. He changed the Navy. He's done an unbelievable job." However, Myers has combat experience, having logged over 600 hours in Vietnam. Clark has none. Herbits says that Myers's combat experience might give him "symbolic importantance. And the military will trust him more in a military situation than they will Vern, who has got all the credentials but he doesn't have the war-fighting experience."
War in AfghanistanAfghanistan "has significant oil and gas deposits. During the Soviets' decade-long occupation of Afghanistan, Moscow estimated Afghanistan's proven and probable natural gas reserves at around five trillion cubic feet and production reached 275 million cubic feet per day in the mid-1970s." Nonstop war since has prevent further exploitation, but that soon changes. A later article suggests the country may also have as much copper as Chile, the world's largest producer, and significant deposits of coal, emeralds, tungsten, lead, zinc, uranium ore and more. (CCR)
War in AfghanistanOver the following weeks, American and British forces will launch dozens of air strikes at Taliban targets and suspected terrorist camps inside Afghanistan. (The US originally calls the Afghan invasion "Operation Infinite Justice," a phrase which offends Muslims; it is quickly renamed "Operation Enduring Freedom.") While the Pentagon, in the person of Donald Rumsfeld and new JCS chief Richard Myers, play up the intensity of the opening strike, they do not reveal that they have only 31 targets on their "hit list." The ensuing ground offensive will be largely carried out by Afghanistan's Northern Alliance, a largely lawless group of anti-Taliban warlords whose alliances are swift to shift with the tides of fortune; though this decision to "outsource" much of the ground fighting will limit American casualties, it will work to the detriment of effectively stamping out the Taliban from much of Afghanistan.
War in Afghanistanmeaning that they had discretion to hit targets "as long as they expected it would only cause minimal damage to civilians," according to Bob Woodward's account of Bush's leadership during the Afghanistan offensive, Bush at War. Even so, civilian casualties in Afghanistan are high from the outset, leading to Afghani outrage over the casualties and unconvincing denials by Bush that civilian targets are being hit. Woodward's accounts of Bush's meetings about, and discussions of, the progress made in the Afghani offensive contain no mention at all of any concern over civilian casualties; virtually the only mentions of "noncombatants" comes over discussion of two air strikes on Red Cross warehouses, which result in no civilian deaths but the destruction of critically needed humanitarian aid supplies such as food and medicine. Even Pakistani president Musharraf calls for an early end to the bombing raids due to civilian casualties. If Woodward's reporting is accurate, and he will be given unprecedented access to Bush, Powell, and other key figures in compiling his data, then Bush never troubles to ask anyone for accurate information about how many civilians are being killed and wounded by the strikes. The single instance of a discussion about "collateral damage" shows Bush worried about the public relations aspect of so many civilian deaths, but unworried about the deaths themselves. "Well, we also need to highlight the fact that the Taliban are killing people and conducting their own terror operations, so get a little bit of balance here about what the situation is." [Editor's note: this is a perfect illustration of the Rovian method of managing public opinion: if the issue can be turned into a back-and-forth, he-said she-said discussion, then the issue of civilian casualties itself becomes secondary, and the PR damage is negligible.] Interestingly enough, Bush later speaks with NBC's Tom Brokaw about the PR effects of civilian casualties in targeting Saddam Hussein's family at the onset of the Iraq invasion, and tells Brokaw, "...I was worried that the first pictures coming out of Iraq would be a wounded grandchild of Saddam Hussein...that the first images of the American attack would be death to young children." Peter Singer writes, "The concern Bush expresses here is not about the risk that American bombs might kill or wound children -- who would, even if they were Saddam's grandchildren, be innocent of his crimes. It is that images of the dead or wounded children would be 'the first pictures coming out of Iraq.' Taken in isolation, one might think that Bush was simply speaking carelessly, but the similarity between Woodward's account of his thoughts about the public relations aspects of civilian casualties in Afghanistan, and this remark about children being killed in Iraq, suggests that this focus on the images rather than the actual deaths is an accurate reflection of Bush's thinking." (Bob Woodward/Peter Singer)
Iraq war and occupationDeputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz contacts his old friend and fellow military intellectual Christopher DeMuth, the longtime head of the extremist conservative think tank AEI (American Enterprise Institute). Wolfowitz tells DeMuth that the Defense Department is incapable of producing the kinds of ideas and strategies needed to handle a crisis of the magnitude required to respond to the 9/11 attacks. He wants DeMuth and the AEI to determine exactly who the terrorists are, where they come from, how they relate to Islamic history and the history of the Middle East, and how they impact current Middle East tensions. Wolfowitz says he is thinking along the lines of the famous "Bletchley Park" team of mathematicians and cryptologists set up by the British during World War II to break the ULTRA German codes. He asks DeMuth to put together a team to produce a report for himself, Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and George Tenet. DeMuth leaps at the chance. As reporter Bob Woodward writes, "AEI was practically the intellectual farm team and retirement home for Washington conservatives. Among its scholars and fellows were former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Lynne Cheney, the wife of the vice president. Cheney himself had been an AEI fellow between his stints as secretary of defense and president and CEO of the giant defense contractor Halliburton." DeMuth recruits a team of a dozen AEI stalwarts, including Islamic scholar Bernard Lewis (a Cheney favorite), former US ambassador to Hungary Mark Palmer, Newsweek editor Fareed Zakaria, SAIS Middle East Studies director Fouad Ajami, human studies professor James Wilson, and former CIA middle east expert Reuel Marc Gerecht. Many of the team members became well-known to TV news audiences as "experts" on the Iraq situation in years to come. Rumsfeld's chief civilian aide, Steve Herbits, is assigned to the group; Herbits nicknames the group "Bletchley II."
Islamist terrorismPakistani intelligence (ISI) chief General Mahmud Ahmed, considered by many to be a Taliban supporter, is replaced after the FBI finds evidence linking him to Umar Sheikh, one of the terrorists involved in the 1993 WTC bombings. (Dawn, CCR)
Conservative media slant(Ailes was the chief media consultant to the first Bush administration, and also worked for the Nixon and Reagan administrations.) According to Bob Woodward, who first reported the story in his book Bush at War, "[The memo] had to be confidential because Ailes, a flamboyant and irreverent media executive, was currently the head of Fox News, the conservative-leaning television cable network that was enjoying high ratings. In that position, Ailes was not supposed to be giving political advice. His back-channel message: The American public would tolerate waiting and would be patient, but only as long as they were convinced that Bush was using the harshest measures possible. Support would dissipate if the public did not see Bush acting harshly." Former Fox news producer Charlie Reina says, "Everyone [at Fox] understands that FNC [Fox News] is, to a large extent, 'Roger's Revenge' -- against what he considers a liberal, pro-Democrat media establishment that has shunned him for decades." (WSWS/Rense, Amy Goodman and David Goodman)
Domestic terrorismOther American Media employees will test positive for anthrax over the coming days. Later in the month, NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw is sent an envelope stuffed with anthrax; a NBC News employee tests positive. Democratic Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy receive similar letters at their offices in Washington. New York Governor George Pataki says that anthrax is detected in the New York Capital building. Anthrax is also detected in the Ford building in Washington. Postal workers in Washington test positive for anthrax; postal facilities in Washington and New Jersey are closed for testing. (CCR)
Conservative media slantHer reply? "None that matter." "It's a jaw-dropping statement when you think about it," writes David Potorti, who lost his brother in the World Trade Center attacks. Potorti will write a book, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, in part inspired by Roberts' flippant dismissal. "In a larger sense, of course, Roberts is right," Potorti observes. "In a media universe where you're likely to find right-wing conservatives on ABC, Fox, or NPR, the facts don't matter; only the framing. And in the hands of biased pundits posing as objective journalists, the framing is always going to be the same: pro-military, pro-government, and pro-war. ...Will network news divisions, owned by defense contractors, give us any useful insights into the workings of the US military? None that matter. Will you hear any coherent news reports from outside of a narrow, statist perspective? None that matter. And are there any mainstream media outlets willing to criticize US foreign policy? None that matter." (Amy Goodman and David Goodman)
Attack on civil libertiesDemocratic Senator Russ Feingold blocks an attempt to rush the secretly written USA Patriot Act to a vote with little debate and no opportunity for amendments, and criticizes the bill as a threat to liberty. (CCR)
Domestic terrorismTrenton, New Jersey, with lethal doses to Democratic Senators Daschle and Leahy. Inside both letters are the words: "Death to America, Death to Israel, Allah is Great." (CCR)
Oil profiteering and the "oiligarchy"US Ambassador Wendy Chamberlain meets with the Pakistani oil minister. She is briefed on the gas pipeline project from Turkmenistan, across Afghanistan, to Pakistan, which appears to be revived "in view of recent geopolitical developments." (Frontier Post/From the Wilderness)