Published on Monday, April 26, 2004 by the Albany Times Union / New York
The 9/11 Commission Avoids the Hard Questions
by Mark A. Dunlea
Two and one half years after 3,000 people were killed in the World Trade Center in New York City, not only do most questions remained unanswered about 9/11, they remain unasked.

President Bush aggressively lobbied Congress against a full-scale investigation. When Bush reluctantly agreed to the creation of the National Commission on Terrorists Attacks, he insisted it be limited to representatives of the two major political parties, with each party having a veto over what the Commission investigated.

Noticeably absent from the Commission are representatives of the family members of the victims, whose only interest would be to determine who was responsible for the murder of their loved ones. Instead, the Commission members are entrenched members of the very foreign policy establishment they are supposed to be investigating.

Family members have called for the resignation of Philip D Zelikow, Executive Director of the Commission. In addition to co-authoring a book on foreign policy with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, as a member of Bush's foreign policy transition team Zelikow participated in the January 2001 meeting where counter-terrorism advisor Richard Clarke briefed the president's national security team on the al-Qaeda threat. Zelikow is thus leading an investigation of his own response.

Commission Chairman Thomas Kean is partners with two of the Saudi billionaires sued by 9/11 families for their roles in the attacks. Khalid bin Mahfouz, who is Osama bin Laden's brother-in-law, and Mohammed Hussein al-Amoudi, are both key financial players allegedly tied to al-Qaeda. Commissioner Fred Fielding is a former White House counsel during Reagan's time, at the time of the Iran-Contra scandal. Commissioner John Lehman was navy secretary under Reagan.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay recently called for the removal of Commissioner Jamie S Gorelick, deputy Attorney General under Clinton, after Ashcroft attacked her for authoring a memo reminding the Justice Department to keep counterintelligence separate from criminal investigations. DeLay however doesn't seem bothered that Gorelick is also very close to current CIA director George Tenet and is a member of the CIA's National Security Advisory Panel. The Commission members are there for damage control, not to find the truth. It was appalling to watch commission members like former Illinois Governor Jim Thompson implement the White House playbook in attacking the credibility of Clarke.

Even with the cursory job done so far by the 9/11 Commission, it is evident that the Bush administration failed to take seriously the threat posed by terrorism and then manipulated the tragedy of 9/11 to pursue its pre-existing agenda to invade Iraq.

The US received explicit warnings shortly before 9/11 from the governments of Russia, France, Israel, Germany and Israel. Russian leader Putin said his warning was delivered "in the strongest possible terms." Despite the claims of the Bush administration that no one ever thought that terrorist would use hijacked planes as missiles, NORAD conducted numerous training exercises under exactly that scenario.

But there are many other key questions that family members have been pressing the Commission on, starting with the role of Saudi Arabia.

Most of the 9/11 terrorists were Saudi Arabian. The Saudi ruling family has been a major source of funding for terrorists. Both the Clinton and Bush administration impeded FBI investigations into Saudi Arabia. No President has ever had such a close relation with a foreign government as the Bushes have with Saudi Arabia. More than $1.4 billion in investments and contracts went from the House of Saud over the past two decades to companies associated with the Bush family.

As John O'Neill, the FBI's former top bin Laden investigator, said shortly before his death in the World Trade Center, "all the answers, everything needed to dismantle Osama bin Laden's organization can be found in Saudi Arabia." O'Neill also said that America's failure to stop bin Laden could be traced to one word - oil.

Some other key questions include:

1. What was the role of the Pakistani Intelligence Service with the 9/11 hijackers? Why did Mahmood Ahmed, Director of Pakistan's secret service, order $100,000 to be wired to lead hijacker Momahmed Atta?

2. What role did the CIA play in training and arming of terrorists before 9/11, including bin Laden and other members of al Qaida? What role did Pakistan and the US play in allowing the Taliban to come to power? Bin Laden worked closely with the CIA when the US during the Carter administration organized "freedom fighters" in Afghanistan to go to war with the Soviet Union.

3. What negotiations took place between the US government and the Taliban before 9/11 relating to the construction of a pipeline through Afghanistan?

4. What surveillance did the FBI and CIA have on the alleged hijackers before 9/11? Several of the hijackers were apparently closely monitored, particularly Mohammed Atta

5. What terrorist organizations and/or governments were responsible for the 9/11 attacks? Saying that "bin Laden" did it is like saying the "Mob" is responsible for organized crime. The NY Times reported the CIA believed that the hijacking may primarily been the idea of Atta, an Egyptian citizen. Other media reports indicate some hijackers thought that their goal was to exchange hijacked passengers for the release of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, a cleric serving a life sentence for masterminding the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

6. Why did the FAA and NORAD fail to follow standard operating procedures in responding to the hijacking of the four planes on 9/11?

If America is ever to find the truth about 9/11, it needs a truly independent commission, one which includes several relatives of those killed on September 11, 2001. Rather than state lawmakers engaging in name calling over "fighting terrorism", the Governor and legislators should be demanding real answers as to why so many people were killed at the World Trade Center.

Mark Dunlea's new novel, 'Madame President: The Unauthorized Biography of the First Green Party President', provides an alternative history to September 11.

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