Some thirteen years after the event, the shadow of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in Manhattan and the Pentagon still darkens our world. The legacy of that terrible day has impacted not only our foreign policy, bequeathing to a new generation an apparently endless "war on terrorism," it also has led directly to what is arguably the most massive assault on our civil liberties since the Alien and Sedition Acts. Getting all the information about what happened that day – and why it happened – is key to understanding the course we have taken since.
This was supposed to have been the purpose of the 9/11 Commission, whose massive report is now looked to as the primary source on the subject. Yet there is another, far more specific investigative report, the one issued by the intelligence committees of both houses of Congress, entitled "Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001."
If you actually take the time to read the report, all goes along swimmingly (except for occasional redactions) until you get to p. 369, whereupon the text is blacked out for the next twenty-eight pages.
What is in the twenty-eight censored pages? You aren’t allowed to know that, but members of Congress can read them provided they write to the heads of the Senate and House intelligence committees and get permission. If such is granted, they are escorted into a soundproof carefully guarded room in the company of various spooks, where they get to read the material: they aren’t allowed to take notes.
Do you get the impression someone has something to hide?
The censored section is entitled "Finding, Discussion and Narrative Regarding Certain Sensitive National Security Matters," and the introduction – left largely intact – is instructive:
"Through its investigation, the Joint Inquiry developed information suggesting specific sources of foreign support for some of the September 11 hijackers while they were in the United States. The Joint Inquiry’s review confirmed that the Intelligence Community also has information, much of which has yet to be independently verified, concerning these potential sources of support. In their testimony, neither CIA nor FBI officials were able to address definitively the extent of such support for the hijackers globally or within the United States or the extent to which such support, if it exists, is knowing or inadvertent in nature."
The alleged Saudi connection to the 9/11 attacks has had a lot of play: it is widely believed that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 special permission was given to fly members of the Saudi royal family out of the country when the whole nation was in lockdown. This raised suspicions, along with the incontrovertible fact that the majority of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi citizens. In a 2002 interview with Gwen Ifill on PBS, Senator Bob Graham of Florida, then on the Senate Intelligence Committee, went public with the news that foreign governments were in on the 9/11 attacks:
"GWEN IFILL: “Senator Graham, are there elements in this report, which are classified that Americans should know about but can’t?”
SEN. BOB GRAHAM: “Yes, going back to your question about what was the greatest surprise. I agree with what Senator Shelby said the degree to which agencies were not communicating was certainly a surprise but also I was surprised at the evidence that there were foreign governments involved in facilitating the activities of at least some of the terrorists in the United States.”
In the years since his retirement, Sen. Graham has been steadily pounding away at this point, and his persistence has usually been interpreted as a demand to reveal the extent of Saudi complicity in the attacks. And while the Saudis may well have been involved, either directly or otherwise, I would bring your attention to Graham’s statement and the introduction to the Joint Inquiry report, which indicate that more than one foreign government was involved. But if it wasn’t just the Saudis, then who else was involved?
We don’t have to rely on pure speculation, in spite of the fact that us ordinary peons in flyover country aren’t allowed to read those 28 pages. That’s because a few members of Congress have taken the trouble to apply for permission to read them, including Representatives Walter Jones (R-North Carolina), Tom Massie (R-Kentucky), and Stephen Lynch (D-Massachusetts). According to their own accounts, they came out of that soundproof spy-proof room reeling. Here’s what Jones says:
"I was absolutely shocked by what I read. What was so surprising was that those whom we thought we could trust really disappointed me…It does not deal with national security per se; it is more about relationships. The information is critical to our foreign policy moving forward and should thus be available to the American people. If the 9/11 hijackers had outside help – particularly from one or more foreign governments – the press and the public have a right to know what our government has or has not done to bring justice to the perpetrators."
"One or more foreign governments," eh? Who in the Middle East – or anywhere else, for that matter – are among "those whom we thought we could trust"? That doesn’t sound like the Saudis to me. Would anyone really be surprised or "disappointed" to learn that they were playing games behind our back?
Rep. Massie’s statement is even more revealing:
"I had to stop every two or three pages and rearrange my perception of history. And it’s that fundamental – those 28 pages….It certainly changes your view of the Middle East."
Would the discovery of Saudi perfidy "change your view of the Middle East" in a "fundamental" way? The Kingdom has been exporting its fanatic brand of Wahabism – fundamentalist Sunni ideology – spreading terrorism and political instability across the region for many years. So this is nothing new: and for those of us old enough to remember the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s, their two-timing nature is taken for granted.
Graham has been explicit in accusing the Saudis of financing at least some of the 9/11 hijackers, as well as facilitating their entry into the United States. However, the Joint Inquiry indicates that more than this was involved: the phrase "foreign support for some of the September 11 hijackers while they were in the United States" jumps out at me, at least implying that it wasn’t just financing – after all, how much did the 9/11 attacks actually cost Al Qaeda in terms of dollars and cents? – but also that operational assistance was given on the ground.
Given – by whom?
In the wake of 9/11, while the smoke from the downed World Trade Building was still clouding the skies over Manhattan, I noticed a news item in the Washington Post that rang all kinds of alarm bells, or at least it should have – although our vaunted Fourth Estate was too busy signing on to the newly-minted "war on terrorism" to notice. The story was headlined "Government Calls Several Cases ‘of Special Interest,’ Meaning Related to Post-Attacks Investigation." Reporter John Mintz related that at least 60 Israelis "of special interest to the government" had been rounded up and that several of these had training in counter-terrorist techniques. As I noted at the time:
"Well, spying is indeed a time-honored tradition, and something tells me these guys are no ordinary tourists, but since the US Government is keeping mum about everything connected with this investigation, we just don’t know. In rounding up untold hundreds of mostly Arab Muslim men, and interviewing thousands more, the Ashcroft Sweep is clearly designed to gather information that might lead them to the remaining conspirators. It could be that the Israelis, or at least some of them, fall into this category: while not being directly involved, maybe they know something. Nothing else could account for the government’s ‘special interest.’"
Not long after that, in the hard winter of 2001, Fox News ran a four-part series – part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4 – reported by Carl Cameron that let the cat out of the bag. Part one started out with a bang:
"Since September 11, more than 60 Israelis have been arrested or detained, either under the new patriot anti-terrorism law, or for immigration violations. A handful of active Israeli military were among those detained, according to investigators, who say some of the detainees also failed polygraph questions when asked about alleged surveillance activities against and in the United States.
"There is no indication that the Israelis were involved in the 9-11 attacks, but investigators suspect that the Israelis may have gathered intelligence about the attacks in advance, and not shared it. A highly placed investigator said there are ‘tie-ins.’ But when asked for details, he flatly refused to describe them, saying, ‘evidence linking these Israelis to 9-11 is classified. I cannot tell you about evidence that has been gathered. It’s classified information.’"
The Fox series detailed an extensive and highly sophisticated Israeli spy network inside the US – including not only hundreds of agents on the ground masquerading as "art students," but also hi-tech spying tapping into our phone system and US eavesdropping capabilities – with the first part ending in this dialogue between Cameron and Fox News anchor Brit Hume:
“HUME: Carl, what about this question of advanced knowledge of what was going to happen on 9-11? How clear are investigators that some Israeli agents may have known something?
CAMERON: It’s very explosive information, obviously, and there’s a great deal of evidence that they say they have collected – none of it necessarily conclusive. It’s more when they put it all together. A bigger question, they say, is how could they not have known? Almost a direct quote."
Days after the broadcast of part four, the whole series disappeared from the Fox News site. The powerful pro-Israel lobby went after reporter Cameron, accusing him of anti-Semitism on account of his upbringing: he had grown up, in part, in the Middle East, where his father was an archeologist working in Iran. Pressure was applied to media organizations not to do any follow up reporting on this story of Israeli complicity.
Yet some major media organizations did pursue the story: Le Monde did a piece that added some new information:
"Six of the intercepted “students” had a cellular telephone bought by an Israeli ex-vice-consul in the United States. Two others, at an unspecified time, arrived in Miami by direct flight from Hamburg, and went to the residence of an FBI agent, to try to sell him artwork, left again for the Chicago airport to go to the residence of an agent of the justice department, then again took a plane directly for Toronto – all in one day.
"More than a third of these ‘students,’ who, according to the report, moved in at least 42 American cities, stated they resided in Florida. Five at least were intercepted in Hollywood, and two in Fort Lauderdale. Hollywood is a town of 25,000 inhabitants to the north of Miami, close to Fort Lauderdale. At least 10 of the 19 terrorists of 9/11 were residing in Florida."
Noting that Hollywood, Florida, was the stomping grounds of "four of the five members of the group that diverted American Airlines flight number 11," including ringleader Mohammed Atta, and going on to link others to the same area, Le Monde concluded:
"This convergence is, inter alia, the origin of the American conviction that one of the tasks of the Israeli ‘students’ would have been to track the Al-Qaida terrorists on their territory, without informing the federal authorities of the existence of the plot."
Salon.com did an excellent follow up by ace reporter Christopher Ketcham, and some others followed suit, but only here at Antiwar.com did we continue to consistently report on this important story – arguably, along with the Snowden revelations, one of the biggest stories in the history of modern journalism.
When I first started writing about the question of Israeli complicity in the 9/11 attacks, I was told that I would henceforth be consigned to the margins: I was a "truther," a crackpot, and, naturally, an "anti-Semite." But why, I asked, would Fox News – surely one of the most pro-Israel news organizations on the planet – have run a four-part series pointing the finger directly at Israel if it didn’t comport with the facts? Why is this a "conspiracy theory" if the CIA’s own National Counterintelligence Center was concerned enough about those "art students" to post a warning about them on its official web site? The NCC noted, in March, 2001:
“In the past six weeks, employees in federal office buildings located throughout the United States have reported suspicious activities connected with individuals representing themselves as foreign students selling or delivering artwork. Employees have observed both males and females attempting to bypass facility security and enter federal buildings.”
Ketcham, writing in Salon, theorized that the "art students" were a ploy to divert attention away from the hijackers, and, perhaps, to simultaneously shield Atta and his crew from US counterintelligence.
It would serve the Israelis well to concentrate exclusively on the alleged Saudi connection to 9/11, and this has been the case so far. Yet the public statements of those who have actually seen the censored 28 pages in the Joint Inquiry report do not comport with this narrow focus. What else other than evidence of Israeli complicity in the 9/11 terrorist attacks would cause these members of Congress to "rearrange" their "perception of history"? Can you think of a better description of the Israelis than "those whom we thought we could trust," as Rep. Jones put it?
I would also note that both Massie and Jones took the unusual step of voting "no" on funding the Israeli "Iron Dome" antimissile system, along with a tiny minority in both parties. Why do you suppose that is?
So the question boils down to – Why? Why would the Israelis, who were tracking the terrorists on our territory, not only fail to let us know but perhaps act to shield them from law enforcement’s gaze? The answer, I believe, is indicated by the role played by Israel since the attacks in agitating for US military action in the Middle East. In 2003, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, anticipating the Iraq war, declared that Syria, Iran, and Libya had to be "disarmed" as well. And Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking to a conference at Bar Ilan University in 2008, was more direct. As reported by Israeli news outlets Ha’aretz and Ma’ariv:
“’We are benefiting from one thing, and that is the attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon, and the American struggle in Iraq,’ Ma’ariv quoted the former prime minister as saying. He reportedly added that these events ‘swung American public opinion in our favor.’”
What’s in the 28 censored pages of the Joint Inquiry into 9/11? We don’t know for sure – but if Israel is involved, then we do know why they won’t let us read those pages.
Representatives Jones, Lynch, and Massie have sparked a movement to declassify the 28 pages: go here for more information. This is a fight we need to win – but we can only do it by raising a huge stink. Call or write your congressional representatives and urge them to join the three congressmen who are fighting for your right to know. And spread the word.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
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- The Saudi War Against Qatar – June 13th, 2017