"As questions accumulate about what really happened on September 11, The one extensive investigative report by a major media outlet is the Washington Post's '10 Days in September' series, written by Bob Woodward and Dan Balz and published in eight parts between January 27 and February 3. The question of whether this series was slanted or even propaganda has been raised. It can be argued that there are sufficient unanswered and unasked questions, along with incidents only partially reported, to question the objectivity and motives of the reporters, Woodward and Balz. The big questions - such as why the planes were not intercepted; why Bush and his advisors, in particular Karl Rove, told stories about the events that were contradictory and untrue; and why Bush sat and listened to the story about a goat while all hell was breaking loose - are not addressed." So writes Robert Reynolds.
Washington Post's '10 Days In September'
- Is It Journalism Or Propaganda?
Robert Reynolds firstname.lastname@example.org
Soon after the events of September 11, there were calls for a complete investigation. Senators Robert Torricelli (D-NJ) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT) suggested an independent investigation, like the one Franklin Roosevelt ordered after the Pearl Harbor attack. Others suggested investigations by various House and Senate Committees. Some, such as Peter Goss (R-FL), chair of the House Intelligence Oversight Committee and a former CIA operative, felt there was no need for any investigation of the CIA or the other intellegence agencies.
There were also announcements of major investigations into trading irregularities in insurance and airlines stocks and whether they indicated foreknowledge of the attacks. It was noted that the CIA tracks trading for clues to coming threats and therefore should have substantial information readily available. Whatever the results of these investigations, they have not been made public, something that is not surprising in an administration noted for secrecy. There has been little indication that any of the major media are pursuing this line of investigation.
On January 29 of this year at a meeting at the White House, Bush asked Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to limit the probes into the events of 9-11, giving as his reason the need of the administration to concentrate on the war against terrorism. Now it appears that the only investigation will be by a joint Senate -House Committee made up of members from the Intelligence oversight committees and headed up by Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL).
Senator Richard Shelby (R AL), the ranking minority member, has questioned the appointment of Gen. Britt Snider to head up the investigative staff. Gen. Snider retired from the CIA a year ago as Inspector General, and is a close friend of CIA Director Tenet. The use of active and former CIA officials in Congressional investigations is not unusual, but there has always been the question as to whom they serve when in that capacity - hence Shelby's reservations. It appears the emphasis will be on the failure of intelligence with limited or no investigation of other areas of concern.
But there is more to be investigated then the question of intelligence failures. What happened on September 11? What were the failures in the government? What occurred prior to that date in our relations with the Taliban and in our pursuit of Osama bin Laden? Is there truth to the allegations of an offer to the Taliban of "a carpet of gold or a carpet of bombs," allegedly made in August of 2001? Bits and pieces are coming out and individual reporters and web investigators are putting together meaningful reports. Unfortunately these are not readily available to the public, a public that depends on the major media for information. There is no indication that the Senate/House investigation will probe into these areas, or if they do, since it is the intelligence committee, that they will release the most sensitive and important information to the public.
The one extensive investigative report by a major media outlet so far is the Washington Post's "10 Days in September" series, written by Bob Woodward and Dan Balz and published in eight parts between January 27 and February 3, starting here:
This would seem intended to be the definitive analysis of the events of September 11. The authorship of Woodward (of Watergate fame) gives the report a certain additional "credibility". Based on their claims of free access to interview Bush, Cheney and other members of the administration, and of access to the minutes of NSC meetings and the notes of those who attended meetings one would expect a thorough and accurate reporting of events.
However, they did make one reservation in the introduction to the series:
This contemporaneous account is inevitably incomplete. The president [sic], the White House staff and senior Cabinet officers responded in detail to questions and requests. But some matters they refused to discuss, citing national security and a desire to protect the confidentiality of some internal deliberations.Even with that limitation, one would expect just knowing the areas that the administration refused to discuss would provide a valuable insight in to the events and the concerns of the administration. It would not prevent the reporters from using other sources to flesh out their report. But whatever the refusals were, they are not indicated in the series.
6:30 a.m. The President [sic] in Florida: Disbelief and DeterminationThe problem here is that according to an official White House Press release on December 4, 2001, Bush told an entirely different story at a town meeting in Orlando, Florida.
Bush's motorcade left for the school at 8:30 a.m. As it was arriving, pagers and cell phones alerted White House Aides that a plane had hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Bush remembers senior adviser Karl Rove bringing him the news, saying it appeared to be an accident involving a small twin-engine plane."..."This is pilot error" the president [sic] recalled saying, "Its unbelieveable that somebody would do this". Conferring with Andrew H. Card Jr., his White House chief of staff, Bush said, "This guy must have had a heart attack."
Q One thing, Mr. President [sic], is that you have no idea how much you've done for this Country. And another thing is that, how did you feel when you heard about the Terrorist attack? (Applause.)If you accept either story, you would have to accept that Bush and his aides had not been informed by the FAA, NORAD, or the National Military Control Center, that there had been a hijacking of Flight 11 and that it had crashed in the World Trade Center.
THE PRESIDENT [sic]: Thank you, Jordan. Well, Jordan, you're not going to believe what state I was in when I heard about the terrorist attack. I was in Florida. And my Chief of Staff, Andy Card -- actually, I was in a classroom talking about a reading program that works. I was sitting outside the classroom waiting to go in, and I saw an airplane hit the tower -- the TV was obviously on. And I used to fly, myself, and I said, well, there's one terrible pilot. I said, it must have been a horrible accident. But I was whisked off there, I didn't have much time to think about it. And I was sitting in the classroom, and Andy Card, my Chief of Staff, who is sitting over here, walked in and said, "A second plane has hit the tower, America is under attack."
Rove told his audience about Bush's sense of command on Sept. 11, after Rove received word that the first tower of the World Trade Center had been struck. "The president [sic] came walking in the room, took one look at the television set and said, 'We're at war. Get me the vice president. Get me the director of the FBI.' "Why are there so many stories out there, stories told by Bush himself and by his advisor Karl Rove? Milbank's version is perhaps the strangest - a story that completely contradicts the "official" Karl Rove story as reported by Woodward and Balz and one that is ignored by them. This alone raises questions about the integrity of the "10 days" series.
"Card whispered the news: "A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack". Bush remembers exactly what he thought: "They had declared war on us, and I made up my mind at that moment that we were going to war".Woodward and Balz next pick up the story of Bush's activities at 9:30 a.m. when he makes a short talk to the nation.
A photo shows Bush's face with a distant look.... He nodded and resumed his conversation with the class. "Really good," he said before excusing himself and returning to the holding room."
Secret Service agents burst in...."Sir " one said, "we have to leave immediately." Radar showed an airplane barreling toward the White House.So it would appear Cheney did not reach the bunker until after 9:39 a.m. the reported time of the crash into the Pentagon.
Before Cheney could respond, the agents grabbed the vice president and propelled him down the steps.... into the basement and through a long tunnel that led to the ...bunker. [This is the story that Cheney also told in a TV interview.]
Meanwhile, American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757 that had taken off from Dulles International Airport, turned away from the White House and flew back across the Potomac River, slamming into the Pentagon at 9:39 a.m.
In the tunnel.... Cheney stopped to watch a television showing the smoke billowing out of the World Trade Center towers, heard the report about the plane hitting the Pentagon and called Bush again (emphasis added).
Mineta, summoned by the White House to the bunker was on an open line to the Federal Aviation Authority operations center monitoring Flight 77 as it hurtled towards Washington, with radar tracks coming every seven seconds. Reports came that it was 50 miles out, 30 miles out, 10 miles out until word reached the bunker that there had been an explosion at the Pentagon.No explanation is given as to why Mineta was already in the bunker, while Cheney and other White House staffers were rushed there at the last minute.
In his Pentagon office Rumsfeld felt the huge building shudder. He looked out his window, then rushed out towards the smoke, running down the steps and outside where he could see pieces of metal strewn on the ground. Rumsfeld began helping with the rescue effort until a security agent urged him to get out of the area. "I'm going inside" he said and took up his post in the National Military Command Center, the Pentagon's war room (emphasis added).The question of why he was in his office and not at "his post in the National Military Command Center" is not asked.
MR. RUSSERT: What's the most important decision you think he made during the course of the day?As Cheney says, "It's a presidential level decision" - but it wasn't made until Cheney talked to Bush the second time at 9:55 a.m. and in connection with the last plane, Flight 93.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, the--I suppose the toughest decision was this question of whether or not we would intercept incoming commercial aircraft.
MR. RUSSERT: And you decided?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: We decided to do it. We'd, in effect, put a flying combat air patrol up over the city; F-16s with an AWACS, which is an airborne radar system, and tanker support so they could stay up a long time...
It doesn't do any good to put up a combat air patrol if you don't give them instructions to act, if, in fact, they feel it's appropriate.
MR. RUSSERT: So if the United States government became aware that a hijacked commercial airline[r] was destined for the White House or the Capitol, we would take the plane down?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Yes. The president [sic] made the decision...that if the plane would not divert...as a last resort, our pilots were authorized to take them out. Now, people say, you know, that's a horrendous decision to make. Well, it is. You've got an airplane full of American citizens, civilians, captured by...terrorists, headed and are you going to, in fact, shoot it down, obviously, and kill all those Americans on board?
...It's a presidential-level decision, and the president [sic] made, I think, exactly the right call in this case.
In the White House bunker, a military aide approached the vice president.Is this story true?
"There is a plane 80 miles out" he said. "There is a fighter in the area. Should we engage?"
Around the vice president, Rice, deputy White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten and ...Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, tensed as the military aide repeated the question, this time with even more urgency. The plane was now 60 miles out. "Should we engage?" Cheney was asked.
"Yes " he replied again.
As the plane came closer, the aide repeated the question. "Does the order still stand?"
"Of course it does," Cheney snapped.
The vice president said later that it seemed "painful but nonetheless clear-cut. And I didn't agonize over it"
Many ...feared Cheney's order had brought down a civilian aircraft. Rice demanded that someone check with the Pentagon.There is no explanation given as to why this would take two hours. Presumably Flight 93 and the military plane (or planes) were being tracked by the National Military Command Center and other agencies. It is reasonable to assume that they were in voice contact with the pilot (or pilots) involved and that Bush's instructions had been passed on.
On Air Force One, Bush inquired, "Did we shoot it down or did it crash".
It took the Pentagon almost two hours to confirm that the plane had not been shot down.... (emphasis added).
10:32 The President [sic] on Air Force One: Still a threat to WashingtonWe are given two reasons for the diversion to Barksdale: the threat to "Angel One" and the unavailability of a fighter escort for 40 to 90 minutes. Air Force One had already been airborne for 37 minutes and the Pentagon, as reported above, had ordered a fighter escort to be dispatched. This means that the earliest escort would appear at 11:12 a.m. to 12:02 p.m. for a plane that had departed at 9:55 a.m. Woodward and Balz do not comment on this, not even to the extent of wondering about the failure of the military to provide immediate protection to Bush in an area (the Southeast US) where there are numerous military facilities of all three services.
Cheney called Bush on Air Force One, on its way from Florida to Washington, to say the White House had just received a threat against the plane. The caller had used its code word, "Angel," suggesting terrorists had inside information. Card was told it would take between 40 minutes and 90 minutes to get a protective fighter escort up to Air Force One.
Bush told an aide that Air Force One "is next." He was in an angry mood. "We're going to find out who did this," he said to Cheney, "and we're going to kick their asses."
Air Force One was still en route to Washington when Cheney called again at 10:41 a.m. This time, he urged Bush not to return. "There's still a threat to Washington," the vice president said. Rice agreed, and had told the president [sic] the same thing. There was little debate or discussion.
The threat to the plane turned out to be false. Someone inside the White House had heard a threat to Air Force One, perhaps in a phoned-in call, and passed it up the line using the code word "Angel." Others thought the threatening caller had used the code word. It took days for the incident to be sorted out and weeks before the White House publicly acknowledged it.There is far more to this than they report. This was a story that was actively pushed by members of the administration. William Safire wrote a column where he went so far as to suggest that there may have been a "mole" in the White House who had disclosed the code name for Air Force One. A bin Laden "mole" in the White House?
Falsehoods uttered at the White House press podium always matter, if only because they injure the reputation of the Presidency, but some are more important than others. Under the present administration, which vowed to restore "honor and integrity" to Washington, the credibility of the people who speak for George W. Bush has decayed, week by week, beginning with their promotion last winter of bogus accusations against their predecessors.Other reports allege that Karl Rove actively called reporters to push the story. As we already know, Karl Rove is a featured player in conflicting stories about the first crash into the WTC.
That ugly episode, however, wasn't nearly as troubling as what now appears to have been the promulgation by the nation's highest officials of a false story about the events of Sept. 11.
For two weeks following the terror attack, White House officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Presidential Assistant Karl Rove and Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, repeatedly insisted that a "credible threat" -- involving code-word confirmation -- had convinced the Secret Service that terrorists were trying to hit Air Force One and the White House. Only when those assertions were shot down by CBS News and the Associated Press did the spinners back down, claiming that it had all been a "misunderstanding" by staffers, with little elaboration.
Bush arrived at Barksdale AFB (La) at 11:45.At this point, there is no reason for him to not depart for Washington. By now one would have to assume they finally could provide fighter escort. Only the Secret Service advised him that things were still unsettled and not to return. But Bush is in charge! If he wants to do something, he can do it. The Secret Service is always advising Presidents to stay away from crowds, but they all ignore the warning and dive in shaking hands and greeting the voters.
12:16 p.m., the FAA command center reported that U.S. airspace had been cleared of all commercial and general aviation aircraft; only military and lifeguard flights were airborne. Twenty minutes later, according to the red digital clock in the conference room near the Barksdale base commander's office, Bush entered, looking grim. Reporters in the room noted that his eyes were red-rimmed. It had been more than three hours since Bush or any senior official had said anything publicly.
On the plane, Bush expressed his irritation over being away from the White House. "I want to go back home ASAP" he told Card, according to notes of the conversation. "I don't want whoever did this holding me outside of Washington".It would seem that the decision always rested with Bush, and certainly after 12:16 there was no reason not to head for Washington and home. But he didn't.