Stephen J. Sniegoski on the anomalies of September 11 -- part two

September 11 and the origins of the "War on Terrorism":
A revisionist account

by Stephen J. Sniegoski, continued.

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Part two



How did it happen that the September 11 tragedy led to developments long sought by Big Oil and by Israel? Were the terrorist attacks really a bolt from the blue — truly fortuitous — a case of pure serendipity? Or is there any evidence that the U.S. government and Israel had prior knowledge of the impending terrorist strikes but allowed them to take place or perhaps even facilitated them?

Even operatives of the Establishment media recognize the improbability of September 11's coming as a complete surprise. As Howard Kurtz wrote in the Washington Post: "How could we not have known? How is it that America was totally blindsided by the Sept. 11 attacks?" [15]

As Bill Clinton might put it, it all depends on what "we" means. In fact, considerable evidence has come to light suggesting that certain Americans, and others, were not blindsided at all.


Instant messages to Israel

Employees in the Israel office of the instant-messaging firm Odigo received messages from the company's New York office warning of the terrorist aerial strikes about two hours before they occurred. Originally it was stated that the World Trade Center was specifically mentioned, but that was later denied. [16]


Stock-market speculation

Just prior to September 11, sudden and unexplained speculation occurred in the stock of American and United airlines. An inordinate number of "put" options — bets that a stock will go down — were placed on those two listings. No other airlines saw such speculation. Similar "put" options were placed on the stock of various companies — including Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley — that were housed in the World Trade Towers. Since it is common for stocks of companies that suffer tragedies to plunge, this stock speculation would imply that someone had foreknowledge of the horrific event. American intelligence should have been aware of the abnormal speculation, since the CIA and other intelligence agencies monitor stock trading closely. [17]

It is interesting that many of the "put" options on United Airlines were purchased through Deutschebank/AB Brown, a firm managed until 1998 by the current executive director of the CIA, A.B. "Buzzy" Krongard. [18]


Private warnings

Some people outside the intelligence organs seem also to have gotten warnings. For example, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown was scheduled to fly to New York City on the morning of September 11, but he claimed later that he received a call the night before from his "security people at the airport" telling him that he should be extra-cautious about air travel on the eleventh. [19] The FAA prevented the author Salman Rushdie, who is under special protection because of threats on his life, from flying to the United States during the week leading up to September 11, and Rushdie connects that prohibition to terror warnings in the possession of the government. [20] In August 2001, Drs. Garth and Mary Nicolson, a husband-and-wife medical team who are among the foremost Gulf War Syndrome investigators, reported to Department of Defense and National Security Council officials that a number of personal friends in the intelligence and diplomatic communities had told them that a terrorist attack on the Pentagon would take place on September 11. [21] And CounterPunch, the newsletter edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, reported that the extremely influential and well-connected investment firm Goldman Sachs circulated an internal memo in its Tokyo office on September 10 advising all employees to avoid any U.S. government buildings because of a possible terrorist attack. [22]

It is highly significant that knowledge of the planned aerial onslaught seems to have leaked outside the terrorist network, for if outsiders knew about the planned attack, one would not expect the CIA itself to be excluded from that knowledge. Bin Laden and his associates had been funded and trained by the CIA in the war against the Soviet Union. It is hard to fathom how the CIA, the best-financed intelligence organization in the world, would be unable to secure information on an organization made up of its former employees.


Public warnings

The fact of the matter is that it was public knowledge that Osama Bin Laden was planning terrorist acts in the United States. On June 23, 2001, Reuters dispatched a story headlined "Bin Laden Fighters Plan Anti-U.S. attack," with this lead sentence: "Followers of exiled Saudi dissident Osama Bin Laden are planning a major attack on U.S. and Israeli interests." And a June 25 UPI dispatch stated: "Saudi dissident Osama Bin Laden is planning a terrorist attack against the United States." [23]


Warnings to the U.S. government

Dire warnings flowed to the U.S. government from various sources. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak claims to have warned the United States 12 days prior to September 11 that "something would happen." [24] According to Russian news reports, Russian intelligence notified the CIA during the summer that 25 terrorist pilots had been specifically training for suicide missions. In an interview September 15 with MSNBC, Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed that in August he had ordered Russian intelligence to warn the United States "in the strongest possible terms" of imminent terrorist strikes on airports and government buildings. [25] According to a story in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies received warning signals in the early summer that Middle Eastern terrorists were planning to hijack commercial aircraft and use them as weapons to destroy important symbols of American and Israeli culture. [26] German police have confirmed that an Iranian man phoned the U.S. Secret Service from his deportation cell in Germany to warn of the planned terrorist assault on the World Trade Center. [27]


U.S. was aware of hijacked-planes scenario

A key aspect of the official story is that while U.S. authorities did expect acts of terrorism in the United States, the hijacked-planes scenario was completely unforeseen. The truth is, however, that terrorist use of hijacked planes had been talked about for some time. As columnist Robert Novak pointed out in his column of September 27: "From the moment of the September 11th attacks, high-ranking federal officials insisted that the terrorists' method of operation surprised them. Many stick to that story. Actually, elements of the hijacking plan were known to the FBI as early as 1995 and, if coupled with current information, might have uncovered the plot." [28]

In January 1995, police in the Philippines arrested Abdul Hakim Murad, an associate of Ramzi Yousef, leader of the group involved in the 1993 World Trade Towers bombing. Under interrogation, Murad spoke of a plan by the Ramzi group to hijack a commercial airliner and crash it into CIA headquarters in Virginia. Murad, who had attended flight schools in the United States, said that he was going to be the pilot. Filipino investigators also turned up evidence that commercial buildings in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York City were to be targeted. That information was passed on to the FBI. [29]

Notably, U.S. security officials had considered and prepared for possible attacks by suicide planes during the Atlanta Summer Olympics in 1996. [30] Furthermore, measures to avert suicide airliner crashes were in effect during the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and were on track for the 2002 winter games in Salt Lake City. As a matter of fact, International Olympic Committee officials have revealed that suicide plane-crash scenarios had been considered in their security planning for every Olympics since 1972. [31] In addition, the FAA's Criminal Acts against Civil Aviation report for 2000 warned that Bin Laden and his followers were a threat to U.S. civil aviation. [32] Finally, since 1996 the FBI had made numerous inquiries about suspected Bin Laden associates' taking flight training in the United States and abroad. [33]


U.S. monitored Bin Laden's conversations

U.S. authorities acknowledge that they electronically monitored Bin Laden's conversations in the past, but the official story maintains that Bin Laden stopped engaging in electronic communication after he learned that monitored communications had aided the U.S. cruise missile strike on his Afghanistan training camp in 1998. However, some knowledgeable observers reject that account. For example, the eminent Egyptian journalist and former government spokesman Mohammed Heikal, in an interview with the British newspaper The Guardian, maintained that "Bin Laden has been under surveillance for years: every telephone call was monitored and al Qaeda has been penetrated by American intelligence, Pakistani intelligence, Saudi intelligence, Egyptian intelligence. They could not have kept secret an operation that required such a degree of organisation and sophistication." [34]

Moreover, in February, 2001, UPI terrorism correspondent Richard Sale reported that U.S. intelligence agencies were able to monitor some of Bin Laden's electronic communications. [35] If, as the official story has it, the September 11 events required long-term planning, it would seem likely that American intelligence picked up some information about the plan.

Official claims of an intelligence blackout in the run-up to September 11 seem odd in light of other official claims that U.S. intelligence was able to successfully monitor the Bin Laden network's electronic communications immediately after the attacks. According to Newsweek magazine, the key reason that the authorities identified Bin Laden as the culprit was that U.S. intelligence picked up communications among his associates relaying the message: "We've hit the targets." [36]

Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah gave a similar account to the Associated Press on September 11, claiming that U.S. government monitors had overheard two Bin Laden aides celebrating the successful terrorist strike. [37] Hatch repeated the story to ABC News the same day, adding that he had received the information from both CIA and FBI officials. The validity of Hatch's story was confirmed by the hostile reaction of Bush administration officials, with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld condemning the unauthorized disclosure of allegedly classified information. [38]

It's hard to deny that Bin Laden would have to rely heavily upon electronic communications in order to direct a global terrorist operation. And if U.S. intelligence agencies were able to monitor his communications immediately after the September 11 attack, it is difficult to believe that they were totally unable to do so before that time.


Hijackers were known to authorities

Interestingly, the suicide hijackers were actually known to U.S. authorities, and they seem to have made little effort to conceal their identities. For example, the FBI placed two of the hijackers, Kahlil Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhamzi, on an FBI "watch list" on August 23, after the CIA received information linking the pair to Bin Laden. But the authorities somehow failed to pass along that information to the airlines, and the two were able to buy first-class one-way airline tickets, and then board and hijack a jetliner on September 11. [39]

The case of Ziad Samir Jarrah, one of the suspected hijackers aboard the United Airlines jet that crashed in Pennsylvania, has its oddities also. Authorities in the United Arab Emirates detained and questioned Jarrah at the Dubai International Airport after he arrived there from Pakistan on January 30, 2001. The request for the interrogation had been made by the U.S. government. According to an unnamed United Arab Emirates official: "The Americans told us that he was a supporter of terrorist organizations, that he had connections with terrorist organizations."

Jarrah was allowed to leave the U.A.E., traveling on to Hamburg via Amsterdam. Later he flew to the United States. Despite the interest of U.S. authorities in him and his activities and his connections, Jarrah was allowed to enter the country. He then enrolled in a flight school.

Jarrah was stopped for speeding in Maryland on September 9, two days before the hijacking. The Maryland State Police apparently ran his name through their computers but, inexplicably enough, found nothing on him. They issued him a ticket and allowed him to proceed. [40]


The strange case of Mohammed Atta

Mohammed Atta, the alleged ringleader of the terrorist strike team, was reportedly an object of attention for Egyptian, German, and American authorities, and yet managed to travel without hindrance between Europe and America throughout 2000 and 2001. U.S. agents in Germany had monitored Atta's group there before September 11; after the attacks, according to the British paper The Observer, "A team of agents dispatched by the FBI to Germany has been focusing on the northern city of Hamburg, where three of the men who died in the planes and four others who were on the FBI's initial list of suspects studied at universities." Atta "was under surveillance between January and May last year [2000] after he was reportedly observed buying large quantities of chemicals in Frankfurt, apparently for the production of explosives and for biological warfare." [41]

Atta came to the attention of U.S. authorities several times in 2001. On January 10, 2001, he was allowed to enter the United States on a tourist visa, even though he admitted to immigration officials that he would be attending flight school, an activity that requires a student visa. The executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association told the Washington Post that "nine times out of ten" a person in that situation would have been denied entrance. Oddly enough, federal immigration police overlooked Atta's visa status violation even though he had previously been under FBI surveillance for stockpiling bomb-making materials. [42]

During the summer of 2001, the FBI discovered that Atta received a wire transfer of $100,000 from an account in Pakistan alleged to be controlled by a representative of Osama Bin Laden. [43] It is difficult to understand how such a large sum of money could be transmitted with impunity to someone under FBI surveillance.


The strange case of Zacarias Moussaoui

The government's seeming lack of interest in the case of Zacarias Moussaoui is also very strange. On January 3, 2002, Moussaoui was arraigned on terrorism conspiracy charges in connection with the September 11 attacks. He had been arrested in Minnesota on August 16 after officials of a flight school there alerted the FBI of his suspicious behavior. Though lacking the most basic flying skills, he was seeking flight training on a commercial jet simulator. Moreover, he reportedly did not want to learn how to take off or land, only how to steer the jet while it was in the air. Moussaoui was detained by the Immigration and Naturalization Service on charges of violating the terms of his visa.

Local FBI investigators in Minneapolis immediately viewed Moussaoui as a terrorist suspect and sought authorization for a special counterintelligence surveillance warrant in order to search the hard drive of his home computer. Higher-level officials in Washington rejected the request, claiming there was insufficient evidence to meet the legal requirements for the warrant. On August 26, French intelligence notified FBI headquarters that Moussaoui had connections to Osama Bin Laden, but even that revelation had little effect. A special counterterrorism panel of the FBI and CIA concluded that there was insufficient evidence to show that Moussaoui represented any threat, and he was not even transferred from INS detention to FBI custody until after September 11. [44] In an analysis published December 22, the New York Times commented that the Moussaoui case "raised new questions about why the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies did not prevent the hijackings." [45]


What did the U.S. government know?

In early August, the CIA informed the White House and other high government officials that Osama Bin Laden intended to mount a terrorist attack in the United States. [46] In its September 24 issue, Newsweek made the startling revelation that on September 10, "A group of top Pentagon officials suddenly canceled travel plans for the next morning, apparently because of security concerns." [47] That would imply that some federal officials knew of the exact timing of the attack. It appears that while federal officials might have made use of such knowledge to save their own skins, they had no desire to actually prevent the terrorist attack from taking place; or, to be more precise, that certain government officials at the highest levels had no desire to prevent it from taking place.

David P. Schippers, noted Chicago lawyer and the House Judiciary Committee's chief investigator in the Clinton impeachment trial, has charged that elements of the U.S. government had foreknowledge of the September attack. He claims that lower-echelon FBI agents in Chicago and Minnesota contacted him about a month and a half before September 11 and told him that a terrorist attack was going to occur in lower Manhattan.

According to Schippers, the agents had been developing extensive information on the planned attack for many months. However, the FBI command pulled them off the terrorist investigation and threatened them with prosecution under the National Security Act if they went public with the information. As a result, some of them went to Schippers in hopes of prompting someone influential to persuade the government to take action. Schippers tried to pass the information on to high government officials — including some in the attorney general's office — but his efforts apparently were ignored. One would have thought that Schippers's background would have made him a credible witness, especially in the eyes of the intelligence and security appointees of a Republican regime.

He is now representing at least ten of the FBI agents in a suit against the U.S. government in an attempt to have their testimony subpoenaed, which would enable them to legally tell what they know and legally get it on record. [48]


Alleged terrorists acted like boobs

In an interview that appeared on January 13 in the Berlin daily Tagesspiegel, Andreas von Bülow — who served on a parliamentary commission that oversaw the three branches of German intelligence from 1969 to 1994 — finds the modus operandi of the alleged terrorist highjackers to be very suspicious. In particular, he regards the clues that they left behind to be very amateurish, if not idiotic. He describes them as

assailants who ... leave tracks behind them like a herd of stampeding elephants[.] They made payments with credit cards with their own names; they reported to their flight instructors with their own names. They left behind rented cars with flight manuals in Arabic for jumbo jets. They took with them, on their suicide trip, wills and farewell letters, which fell into the hands of the FBI, because they were stored in the wrong place and wrongly addressed. Clues were left like behind like in a child's game of hide-and-seek, which were to be followed. [49]

How could terrorists who were capable of secretly carrying out a very complicated plan, undetected beforehand, leave evidence behind that even the Keystone Cops could detect? Or was the evidence left behind for the express purpose of incriminating the Bin Laden network?

Reporter Robert Fisk points out that the alleged evidence does not mesh with the notion that the terrorist highjackers were devoted Muslims. Fisk writes: "If the handwritten, five-page document which the FBI says it found in the baggage of Mohamed Atta, the suicide bomber from Egypt, is genuine, then the men who murdered more than 7,000 innocent people believed in a very exclusive version of Islam — or were surprisingly unfamiliar with their religion." [50]


Other strange revelations

Two other pieces of evidence frequently cited by conspiratorial believers are most intriguing but are of uncertain validity. One odd case is that of a 35-year-old American by the name of Delmart Edward "Mike" Vreeland II. Vreeland claims to be a lieutenant in a U.S. Navy intelligence unit and says he knew in advance about the September 11 attacks. He has been imprisoned in Canada since December 2000, being initially arrested on fraud-related charges. While in prison, he tried to warn Canadian authorities about possible terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon, as well as on targets in Ottawa and Toronto, but was ignored. He then wrote the warning on a piece of paper, sealed it in an envelope, and handed it to jail guards a month before the attacks. The guards opened the letter on September 14 and immediately forwarded the information to Ottawa.

American law-enforcement officials want Vreeland returned to the United States, where he would face fraud-related criminal charges in five states. Vreeland and his lawyers are fighting extradition, claiming that a return to this country could mean his death. [51] The entire story is fascinating, but Vreeland does appear to be a con artist. [52] That he was in naval intelligence and was involved in various secret operations seems implausible. His prediction of the attacks could have been a lucky guess.

More intriguing are remarks that Tom Kennedy, a member of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) National Urban Search and Rescue Team, made during a nationally telecast interview with CBS News anchor Dan Rather on September 13. Kennedy told Rather that FEMA sent the Urban Search and Rescue Team to New York City on Monday night, which was the night before the attacks occurred!

Kennedy recounted: "We're currently one of the first teams that was deployed to support the City of New York in this disaster. We arrived on late Monday night [September 10] and went right into action on Tuesday morning" [September 11]. FEMA officials said Kennedy misstated his team's arrival date. Kennedy has never been reached for comment. The easy explanation is that this was a slip of the tongue, but since the interview took place on September 13, it would seem that Kennedy must have fallen victim to an extremely poor memory — perhaps signaling early-onset Alzheimer's Syndrome. [53]


Bush administration hindered Bin Laden probes

FBI and military intelligence officials in Washington have claimed that they were prevented for political reasons from carrying out full investigations into members of the Bin Laden family and Saudi activities in the United States before the attacks of September 11. [54] FBI deputy director John O'Neill, who for years led U.S. investigations into Bin Laden's al Qaeda network, resigned in August 2001 in protest over the obstruction. [55]

Ironically, after his resignation O'Neill took a new job as head of security at the World Trade Center. He died on September 11.

March 14, 2002

To part three.

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