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Reopening the 9/11 Investigation

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Message Burt Hall
In OpEd News.Com of January 8, 2010, 911 Widows strongly objected to the absence of any accountability for the 9/11 and Xmas Day terror attacks. Their position is that without personal accountability there will be no impetus to prevent future failures. The major issue they raise is: "The 9/11 Commissioners would not assign any accountability nor did they recommend that incompetent people be fired".

The 9/11 Widows are on the right track, but don't have the full story because the 9/11 Commission didn't disclose it. The White House was the real problem. How do you fire the President and Vice- President, except at election time?After rejecting the new office of homeland security, the Vice-President was supposed to set up a defense against domestic attacks. Over a period of several months his project never got off the ground. All the discussion about sharing of information and connecting dots at lower levels had nothing to do with the 9/11 outcome. How could it -- neither the President nor the Vice-President ever accepted what was then the most advanced threat in U.S. history?

Essentially, there are three things which are required to make things happen in government: (1) personal involvement of the agency head, (2) a White House priority, or (3) interest expressed by the President himself. In the case of 9/11, none of these three things existed, except in the case of the CIA. The CIA Director had many advance warnings from our foreign allies that our nation was in mortal danger. Among those warnings were strong messages from three Heads of State -- the King of Jordan, Prime Minister Blair of England and Prime Minister Putin of Russia. Some warnings disclosed al-Qaeda's intent to use hijacked aircraft as weapons and the presence of al-Qaeda members in the U.S. planning the attacks and learning to fly.

In July, the CIA Director made a compelling case to the White House and begged for military action and covert authority to remove al-Qaeda's safe haven in Afghanistan and take down Bin Laden. That crucial meeting was omitted from the 9/11 Commission report, as were the specific warnings from our foreign allies. Agency heads were not asked to give this threat their personal attention and the President did not take control of the situation or warn the public. To prevent the disaster, all our government had to do was protect commercial aviation -- just that one thing.

Absent high level government attention and the advance warnings themselves, it would have taken a miracle for lower level government people to connect the dots, predict al-Qaeda's actual plan and convince higher levels to act. Some who did begin to connect the dots got nowhere. But, amazingly one FBI field agent, who had arrested the 20th hijacker while in flight training, actually figured out what was going to happen. He predicted that a hijacked airplane would be crashed "into the World Trade Center." Despite the lack of interest at his Headquarters, he persisted and a special briefing was finally held with the CIA Director two and a half weeks before 9/11. The next day the CIA Director went to Crawford, Texas to brief the President, and he briefed him again at the end of August. The CIA Director refused to acknowledge this visit to Crawford. However, White House press reports confirm the visit.

Assessing overall U.S. preparedness for the attacks was required by the 9/11 Commission's statute. However, in the midst of the president's reelection campaign, the politically-divided Commission compromised its report and secretly agreed to exclude any conclusions on presidential responsibility. In addition, they omitted evidence incriminating the White House. The Commission report comments extensively on bureaucratic mistakes and opportunities at lower levels of government, while ignoring those at the very top. Two key administration officials now acknowledge presidential responsibility and two 9/11 Commissioners have broken ranks with other members and concur.

True accountability for 9/11 should be shared by the President, the Vice President and their national security team. An extensive article on this entire topic (including the White House cover-up) is out for possible publication. The article documents that our government at the very highest level had reliable information on the approaching 9/11 attacks, but did not make an attempt to stop them. To this day we do not know why, although the article suggests a possible reason. The 9/11 investigation should be reopened, and only then will the 911 Widows find some peace of mind in their long quest for accountability.

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Burt Hall previously was Group Director, U.S. Government Accountability Office on national security matters. He served also on a congressional commission, similar to the 9/11 one, and with the Office of Management and Budget. He is a graduate of (more...)
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