To Foresee September 11
Le Monde Editorial
Friday 25 July 2003
It's to the credit of American democracy that it permits its legislators to have so many resources to investigate the internal workings of the most secret part of the administration: the intelligence services. Few other countries offer equal freedom to elected representatives.
After ten months of investigations, Congress' Special Commission attempts to answer this question which haunts Americans: was it truly impossible, as the Bush administration has asserted the last two years, to foresee and to prevent the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon?
The 850 page report bears no revelations, but, it is, in its entirety, overwhelming. The FBI and CIA had accumulated masses of information both inside and outside the United States that were either not put together for half-bureaucratic, half-political reasons or ignored by those responsible, who believed America invulnerable and so gave no credit to proof of threats right before their eyes. The report shows that five of the nineteen Al-Quaeda terrorists had met with fourteen people on American soil who were already subjects of FBI inquiry. Four of them were subject to further inquiry. An FBI informant had been in contact with two of the hijackers while they were in San Diego, but the local bureau antenna didn't know that the same people had been identified by the CIA as members of Bin Ladin's network. Summer 2001, several alerts were given about imminent attacks supposed to cause "considerable losses": they were not followed up on.
Impossible to prevent September 11? One may think the contrary after reading the report, which gives arguments to critics of the intelligence agencies, already on the hot seat over the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Democrats accuse the White House of failing to draw any conclusions from the patent failures of American intelligence services, the heads of which are still in place.
Another wave of criticism concentrates not on what the report contains, but on the 28 pages that were deleted by the White House for "national security" reasons. What's in those pages? The questions concern most notably the role of Saudi Arabia. The report confirms that Riyadh refused to collaborate with the inquiries after September 11, but explains that a Saudi suspected of having links to his country's government directly financed the two San Diego hijackers in the United States.
He met with them right after a visit to the Los Angeles' consulate. It is permissible to think that these "cuts" in the report concern specifics that on the one hand raise questions about Saudi Arabia and on the other hand about its diplomatic ties with certain people in the White House.
Translation: TruthOut French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.