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What Did They Know Page

What kinds of politics and pressures kept our government 
from taking precautionary measures against terrorist attacks?

Most of the links below no longer work, but there is enough
information in each excerpt to find the article
at the Internet archive's WayBack Machine or in LexisNexis.


President wants Senate to hurry with new anti-terrorism laws,, July 30, 1996

“[W]hile the president pushed for quick legislation, Republican lawmakers hardened their stance against some of the proposed anti-terrorism measures.”

HOT AIR, Susan Ellingwood, The New Republic, March 10, 1997:

“Two billion dollars a year to guard against terrorism and sabotage--a threat which, Hahn notes, is responsible for a grand total of thirty-seven deaths in U.S. planes since 1982--works out to a cost per life saved of well over $300 million.

'After Dirty Air, Dirty Money', Lucy Komisar, The Nation, June 18, 2001:

“Jack Blum, a Washington lawyer who co-wrote a 1998 report for the United Nations on the offshore phenomenon, says US policy has been influenced by the fact that the hot money from the rest of world [fueled] one of the greatest booms in the stock market and the fact that big brokerage firms find it profitable to run private banking operations for rich people all over the world who don't want to pay taxes. He estimates that at least $70 billion in US taxes is evaded annually through offshore accounts. That is just above the $65 billion in the projected federal budget for education, training, employment and social services.”

Easy cockpit access, lax security aid hijackers, Michael Berens and Jon Hilkevitch, Chicago Tribune, Published September 12, 2001:

“For all the security measures taken at the nation's airports, two things stand between a safe trip and terror: a simple deadbolt lock on the cockpit door and scantly trained checkpoint workers paid less than the people flipping burgers at airport fast-food outlets.”

Paying the Price, Paul Krugman, The New York Times, September 16, 2001:

“[T]his is a tale not just of villainy, but also of penny-pinching that added up to disaster — and a system that encouraged, even forced, that penny-pinching. It's a problem that goes beyond terrorism. Something is amiss with our political philosophy: we are a nation that is unwilling to pay the price of public safety.”

Why Five Thousand Americans Paid The Ultimate Price, Bartcop, American Politics Journal, September 17, 2001:

"The GOP swarmed the state of Arkansas trying to find some woman who would give them some juicy details about what was behind Clinton's zipper. Christ, they chased Liz Gracen to Japan, using your tax dollars and several trained agents who could've been looking into bin Laden's activities, instead.”

Airlines fought security changes, Walter V. Robinson, and Glen Johnson, Boston Globe, September 20, 2001:

“Despite warnings, companies wanted to avoid delays

Roadblocks Cited in Efforts to Trace bin Laden's Money, Tim Weiner and David Cay Johnston, The New York Times, September 20, 2001:

[S]ix-year struggle to uncover Osama bin Laden's financial network failed because American officials did not skillfully use the legal tools they had, did not realize they needed stronger weapons, and faced resistance at home and abroad, officials involved in the effort say.”

The Terrorism Story -- And How We Blew It , Richard Cohen, Washington Post, October 4, 2001:

I know a guy -- never mind his name -- who was on one of those government terrorism commissions -- never mind which one -- and who used to say I ought to talk to him. I never did. I was busy, not just with Bill and Monica but with other things as well, some of them very important. Anyway, I never wrote about the terrorist threat to this country. I was negligent.”

WHAT WENT WRONG, Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker, Issue of October 8, 2001, posted to the Internet October 1, 2001:

“Today's C.I.A. is not up to the job. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, in 1991, the C.I.A. has become increasingly bureaucratic and unwilling to take risks, and has promoted officers who shared such values.”

FAA, Airlines Stalled Major Security Plans, Judy Pasternak, Los Angeles Times, October 6, 2001:

“Federal bureaucracy and airline lobbying slowed and weakened a set of safety improvements recommended by a presidential commission--including one that a top airline industry official now says might have prevented the Sept. 11 terror attacks.”

The Public Interest, Paul Krugman, The New York Times, October 10, 2001:

“What's now clear, in case you had any doubts, is that America's hard right is simply fanatical — there is literally nothing that will persuade these people to accept the need for increased federal spending. And we're not talking about some isolated fringe; we're talking about the men who control the Congressional Republican Party — and seem, once again, to be in control of the White House.”

Don't say that we weren't forewarned, Bob Greene, Chicago Tribune, October 17, 2001:

“The story, written by the Copley News Service, had a Washington dateline. Remember, this was 1970. It began:  ‘Airline pilots have demanded bulletproof cockpit doors and bulkheads to thwart would-be aerial hijackers.’”  

Agent: FAA buried lapses Checkpoint flaws alleged , Blake Morrison, USA Today, February 25, 2002:

{C} {C} “The charges … raise questions about whether the agency that oversaw security during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 had disregarded repeated warnings from its own workers that airport checkpoints could easily be breached.”

Ashcroft drawn into row over September 11, Julian Borger, Guardian Unlimited May 21, 2002:

“On September 10 last year, the last day of what is now seen as a bygone age of innocence, Mr Ashcroft sent a request for budget increases to the White House. It covered 68 programmes, none of them related to counter-terrorism.

“He also sent a memorandum to his heads of departments, stating his seven priorities. Counter-terrorism was not on the list. He turned down an FBI request for hundreds more agents to be assigned to tracking terrorist threats.”

Mike Peters, Dayton Daily News

[From the Dayton Daily News: 05.22.2002]

Ashcroft's poor judgment is catching up with him, Douglas Turner, Buffalo News, May 27, 2002:

“In July of last year, Ashcroft cited a "threat assessment" to justify his use of leased private aircraft at $1,600 an hour for his official travels instead of using commercial flights as his predecessor Janet Reno had done.

“At the same time, Ashcroft downgraded counterterrorism efforts in his budget request for fiscal 2003. Among the requests he turned down was one from FBI Director Louis Freeh for $58 million for 149 counterterrorism field agents, 200 intelligence analysts and 54 additional translators.

“Also rejected were pleas for funds to upgrade the FBI's outmoded computer system.

“Ashcroft proposed cutting $65 million for state and local preparedness programs including training, radios and decontamination suits.

“Despite the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and U.S. military and diplomatic facilities abroad, counterterrorism was not on Ashcroft's list of 68 programs in his budget request, despite the threat that put him in chartered aircraft

“There is mounting evidence that field office warnings about hijackings and attacks were not buried in the FBI's far-flung bureaucracy last summer, but came directly to the FBI's headquarters right across Pennsylvania Avenue from Ashcroft's office.”

Global Eye -- Prior Engagement, Chris Floyd, Moscow Times, May 24, 2002:

“Absolutely nothing must be allowed to interfere with the achievement of Central Asian dominance: the Holy Grail of the energy elite and its corporate outriders. Nothing -- not democracy, not morality and certainly not the safety of the suckers back home -- is more important.

“The death of 3,000 innocent people in the United States was an unintended consequence of this ruthless Grail quest. But like everything else, it was fair game to be exploited…

It's all about priorities -- not ‘incompetence.’ The regime is very competent in pursuing its priorities. It's just that these priorities don't include the preservation of innocent lives. It's just that these priorities are -- what's the word we're looking for, Mr. Bush? -- evil.”

Agent Alleges FBI Ignored Hamas Activities, James V. Grimaldi and John Mintz, Washington Post, May 11, 2002:

“‘FBI management failed to take seriously the threat of terrorism in the United States,’ [Agent Robert G.] Wright [Jr.]'s lawsuit claims. ‘FBI management intentionally and repeatedly thwarted and obstructed Wright's attempts to launch a more comprehensive investigation that would identify terrorists, their sources and methods of funding before they attacked additional U.S.

F.B.I. Was Warned It Could Not Meet Terrorism Threat, James Risen and David Johnston, The New York Times, June 1, 2002:

“A top secret report warned top officials of the F.B.I. in the months before Sept. 11 that the bureau faced significant terrorist threats from Middle Eastern groups like Al Qaeda but lacked enough resources to meet the threat, senior government officials said.

The internal assessment, one of the bureau's most closely held documents, found virtually every major F.B.I. field office undermanned in evaluating and dealing with the threat posed by groups like Al Qaeda, the officials said.”

[Remember the Ashcroft's Poor Judgment” article, above.]

New Orleans Brothel Made a Federal Case, Adam Nossiter, Washington Post, June 3, 2002:

“Hour after hour, month after month, 10 agents recorded the men's demands, the [New Orleans] brothel keepers' deals and the prostitutes' complaints. The agents were listening on Sept. 11, in the days before and in the days after. With 90 calls a day to monitor, the listening post was busy.”

Bush: FBI, CIA Didn't Communicate Well Before 9/11, Arshad Mohammed, Associated Press, June 4, 2002:

“President Bush on Tuesday said the FBI and CIA did not communicate well before Sept. 11 but are in closer touch now and he dismissed finger-pointing between the agencies as bureaucrats ‘trying to protect their hide.’

“Bush made the remarks while visiting the National Security Agency, a huge U.S. intelligence-gathering operation that essentially eavesdrops on the world, as Congress began investigating intelligence failures before the attacks on New York and Washington in which some 3,000 people died.”

He waved away warnings (link no longer valid), John R. MacArthur, Toronto Globe and Mail, June 4, 2002:

“[I]t's hard to see how new ‘investigative powers’ will increase the FBI's effectiveness when it's clear that agents Coleen Rowley and Kenneth Williams already had all the necessary information to make arrests (as was done with Zacarias Moussaoui), or at least haul the student pilots in for questioning. It's very likely that specialists in the bureau's counterterrorism section were fully aware of the possibility that the planes might be aimed at the twin towers…

“So while the bureaucrats were actually looking for bad guys, what were the politicians up to?”

Rowley Criticizes FBI Bureaucracy, David Espo, Associated Press, June 6, 2002:

“The FBI is weighed down by bureaucracy, ‘make-work paperwork’ and a culture that discourages risk-taking, an agency whistle-blower told Congress on Thursday, venting frustration with an organization she said could have done more to prevent the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“‘Seven to nine levels (of bureaucracy) is really ridiculous,’ Coleen Rowley, a lawyer in the FBI's Minneapolis office, told a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and a nationwide television audience.”

What Did They Know Page

Last changed: December 13, 2009