Is Bush Using the FBI As A Scapegoat?
Ever since the New York Post ran that infamous headline, "Bush Knew!" on May 16, 2002, politicians, pundits and the media have been in a feeding frenzy over intelligence information surrounding the Sept 11 attacks.
Is Bush Using the FBI As A Scapegoat?
by James G. Wilson June 2, 2002
Ever since the New York Post ran that infamous headline, "Bush Knew!" on May 16, 2002, politicians, pundits and the media have been in a feeding frenzy over intelligence information surrounding the Sept 11 attacks. Revelations of an August 6, 2001 memo that Bush is said to have reviewed without acting upon was the fuel for the Post headline. Within a matter of days, the "Bush Knew!" line went through a series of metamorphoses in an effort to shift the focus of the inquiries away from George W. Bush.
Democratic calls for investigations into what information the Bush administration had access to in the months prior to 9-11 was perverted by conservative pundits and Dick Cheney to mean that the Democrats were being unpatriotic by "second-guessing" Bush's war on terra. Their phony propaganda tactic succeeded in quieting (though, not silencing) those calls long enough for the White House to find an angle from which it could misdirect everyone's scrutiny. Their chance came five days later in the form of a "bombshell memo" from Coleen Rowley that was leaked to the media.
In the memo, Rowley accused various mid- and upper level divisions within the FBI of hindering the investigation into Zacarias Moussaoui. The White House and FBI Director, Robert Mueller, seized upon this opportunity to place the spotlight of blame for intelligence miscues squarely on the FBI. The floodgates then swung wide open with other agents coming forward to tell their stories of having their investigations thwarted and/or interfered with by officials in the Washington bureau office. A July 10th memo from the Phoenix office and accusations from Robert Wright of the Chicago office are drawing the most attention currently.
Everyone's attention has since been directed to the FBI's alleged mishandling of those important clues that may have prevented the Sept. 11 attacks. John Ashcroft and Robert Mueller took full advantage of the situation to "reorganize" the FBI and give it broad new powers that seriously undermine protections guaranteed by the Constitution. This is a dangerous consequence of letting Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft and Mueller act in such a hasty fashion without question. In any event, what Ashcroft and Mueller did in restructuring the FBI has little or no bearing on solving the issues raised by the agents' memos.
What were the agents really saying? They accuse the Washington bureau of failing to act on the myriad of evidence that was sent to them. According to a letter to FBI Director Mueller from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee:
"A press account on May 22 states that the Radical Fundamentalist Unit at FBI Headquarters had decided not to pursue the recommendations in the Phoenix memorandum before September 11, 2001, since according to '[o]fficials . . . the FBI counterterrorism division was swamped with urgent matters.' Another press account on May 23 contains a correction by 'a senior FBI official' and that 'the FBI's Osama bin Laden Unit was responsible" for the decision rejecting the recommendations."
For those who may not know, the CIA, in coordination with the FBI, set up a bin Laden task force in 1996 within its counterterrorism center. It was set up largely because of evidence linking him to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. At the time, he was living in Sudan. But, he was expelled from that country in May 1996 after the CIA failed to persuade the Saudis to accept a Sudanese offer to turn him over." (so much for the partisan accusation that Clinton refused to take up the Sudanese offer to hand over bin Laden)
All of the attention paid to the turmoil that has surfaced at the FBI has obscured what may have really happened. The focus on the FBI's in-fighting seems to be an intentional obfuscation of a much bigger issue. Nobody seems to have yet asked a very important question: WHY did the Washington bureau bury the information it received about imminent attacks on US soil?
One possible answer to that question comes from an investigation done by Greg Palast. On November 7, 2001, Palast released a report for the Guardian (London) in which he states:
"FBI and military intelligence officials in Washington say they were prevented for political reasons from carrying out full investigations into members of the Bin Laden family in the US before the terrorist attacks of September 11. ... High-placed intelligence sources in Washington told the Guardian this week: 'There were always constraints on investigating the Saudis'. They said the restrictions became worse after the Bush administration took over this year. The intelligence agencies had been told to 'back off' from investigations involving other members of the Bin Laden family, the Saudi royals, and possible Saudi links to the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Pakistan. 'There were particular investigations that were effectively killed.'"
Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers of Sept. 11 were Saudis. Now, we know that the White House tied the hands of the FBI and CIA possibly preventing them from investigating these people. Did the Bush family's business links to the bin Laden family precipitate this order? According to an American Free Press article:
"George W. Bush and the bin Laden family have been connected through dubious business deals since 1977, when Salem, the head of the bin Laden family business, one of the biggest construction companies in the world, invested in Bush's start-up oil company, Arbusto Energy, Inc. James R. Bath, a friend and neighbor, was used to funnel money from Osama bin Laden's brother, Salem bin Laden, to set up George W. Bush in the oil business, according to The Wall Street Journal and other reputable sources."
smh.com.au also reports:
"Young George also received fees as director of a subsidiary of Carlyle Corporation, a little-known private company which in just a few years of its founding has become one of America's biggest defence contractors, and his father, Bush Senior, is also a paid adviser, the program said. And it became embarrassing when it was revealed that the bin Ladens held a stake in Carlyle, sold just after September 11, it added."
The Bush - bin Laden - Carlyle ties provide crucial evidence of a serious conflict of interest that seems to have led to the directive handed down to the FBI and CIA to "back off" of investigating the bin Laden family and other Saudis and their possible connections to terrorist organizations. The FBI can not and should not be allowed to be a scapegoat for the Bush Administration's likely interference with the agency's ability to conduct proper investigations.
Will Congress take up these important issues and/or appoint a special non-partisan commission to delve into this most disturbing set of circumstances? We can only hope that they won't let themselves be derailed by Bush's claim that he is a "wartime president" (even though Congress has never officially declared war) and can't be distracted from such investigations. Bush and Cheney have done everything in their power to obstruct a thorough Congressional hearing, and it is time to ask them to honestly explain their actions.
Although it is important to examine the internal workings of the FBI to determine ways to improve its ability to fight terrorism, we must not lose sight of possibly more important contributing factors that led to the horrific events of Sept. 11. There is enough prima facia evidence before us to start asking hard questions of this seemingly duplicitous White House. What role did their hamstringing of the FBI and CIA investigations play? What role did their interest in a pipeline across Afghanistan play in hampering the surveillance of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda camps prior to 9-11? Why was all of the foreign intelligence presented to the United States in the weeks before 9-11 ignored or dismissed? How are the many conflicts of interest within the Bush administration continuing to affect the war on terrorism? The American people deserve to know the truth behind the failure to prevent 9-11, and Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft, Muller et. al. must come clean about what they knew and when they knew it.
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