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June 2002 • Vol 2, No. 6 •


By Mumia Abu-Jamal


According to a scattering of broadcast and print reports recently, the Bush Administration had separate warnings from both the CIA and the FBI indicating that operatives of Saudi billionaire Osama bin Laden were planning airplane hijackings in the United States before the events of Sept. 11th, 2001.

Administration spokesmen hasten to add, however, that these were “general,” as opposed to “specific” warnings.

One Bush flack said there was no “direct indication” that these “high-jackings” would involve the suicides of the attackers.


Now, over 8 months after the bombings that transformed two of the nation’s most prominent landmarks into plumes of ash and dust, comes word that the Administration had advance warning—perhaps by as much as a week—and did nothing. What’s that say about U.S. intelligence?

Already, the voices of apologists are heard, screeching that the poor CIA/FBI have too much work to do as it is, and were overburdened, perhaps too busy to really see through the haze of data to the reality of the threats. It is these same voices that provide political cover for the Congressional forces that now want to vastly increase the monies going to these and similar agencies. (Boy—talk about throwing money at a problem!)

Rarely has the nation so blithely rewarded and celebrated failure.

How is it that the eldest son of a former CIA Director, could possibly miss the implications of these kinds of reports that were (one would think) included in the President’s “intelligence” briefing?

The MIT-based scholar/activist/writer Noam Chomsky, in his most recent best seller “9-11,” finds fault with the failure of U.S. intelligence to heed a number of signals offered by the government of Sudan, several years before the towers collapsed in the heart of Manhattan.

Chomsky, who has lately been criticized by the corporate gatekeeper press for his “radical” views on 9-11 (at least prior to the latest revelations about prior warnings) wrote about, not a lack of resources by the CIA/FBI, but a kind of imperial small-mindedness, as well as a remarkable short-sightedness.

The bombing also carried severe costs for the people of the United States, as became glaringly evident on the 11th September, or should have. It seems to me remarkable that this has not been brought up prominently (if at all), in the extensive discussion of intelligence failures that lie behind the 9-11 atrocities.

Just before the 1998 missile strike [Note: Here Chomsky refers to the Clinton-era bombing of the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan-maj], Sudan detained two men suspected of bombing the American embassies in East Africa, notifying Washington, U.S. officials confirmed. But the U.S. rejected Sudan’s offer of cooperation, and after the missile attack, Sudan “angrily released” the suspects (James Risen, New York Times, July 30, 1999); they have since been identified as bin Laden operatives. Recently leaked FBI memos add another reason why Sudan “angrily released” the suspects. The memos reveal that the FBI wanted them extradited, but the State Department refused. One “senior CIA source” now describes this and other rejections of Sudanese offers of cooperation as “the worst single intelligence failure in this whole terrible business” of September 11. “It is the key to this whole thing right now” because of the voluminous evidence on bin Laden that Sudan offered to produce, offers that were repeatedly rebuffed because of the administration’s “irrational hatred” of Sudan, the senior CIA source reports. [Chomsky, 9-11, (New York: Open Media/Seven Stories Press, 2001), pp. 52-53]

When professor Chomsky was writing those words, he (presumably) had no idea that subsequent reports would show that the current administration’s intelligence people had prior knowledge of 9/11, but all but ignored it.

Oh. Ahem—had “no specific information”—I stand corrected.

What did they need? A flight plan? What did they think they would do once they hijacked a flight of Americans—hold them for ransom? When one of their leading benefactors was a man of immense personal and familial wealth?

It took 8 months—over 40 weeks—for the gatekeeper to break the news that the sitting administration had prior, detailed (albeit “non-specific”) information about an upcoming attack. What next?

What is lost in this shuffle is the obvious realization that the job of the intelligence experts and agencies isn’t to protect the lives of average Americans. It’s to protect the policy objectives of the administration, and to project those interests abroad, in the interest of Big Business. It’s to protect the ruling class of this system, and their world hegemony over raw materials, third world labor, and globalized exploitation. Their job isn’t defense—it’s offense.


—Copyright (c) 2002 Mumia Abu-Jamal





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