Friday, December 16, 2005
Blogger Thoughts: There's no mention of Mayo Shattuck and the 9/11 Connections in this article.
Florida utility plans to buy BGE parent By William Glanz and Marguerite Higgins
THE WASHINGTON TIMES Published December 15, 2005
FPL Group Inc.'s proposed purchase of Constellation Energy Group, parent company of Baltimore Gas and Electric, would create a utility company stretching from Florida to Maine. The combined company would have $22 billion in annual revenue and more than 5 million customers along the East Coast. The Florida utility, which owns Florida Power & Light, could pay as much as $11 billion for Constellation -- the only Fortune 500 company remaining in Baltimore. Both utilities yesterday declined to talk about the proposed merger, first reported in the New York Times yesterday, but analysts endorsed such a deal and shares of Constellation soared. The Baltimore company's shares closed on the New York Stock Exchange at $61.10, up $4.83, or 9 percent. FPL stock rose 13 cents to $43 yesterday. "I think it's going to be a really good thing," said Michael Worms, an analyst at New York investment bank Harris Nesbitt Corp. The deal would greatly diversify the Florida company. FPL derives 90 percent of revenue from Florida Power & Light, which has 4.2 million customers in 26 states. Constellation's BGE has 1.1 million electricity customers and 600,000 gas customers. Constellation also is an energy generator, with 10 power plants that can produce 12,000 megawatts of energy, and a power marketer, acting as an independent middleman buying and selling electricity on the wholesale market. The Baltimore company also owns three nuclear power plants. Constellation reported $12.5 billion in revenue in 2004, and FPL has $10 billion in revenue. Maryland regulators and consumer advocates said FPL's purchase of Constellation would raise questions because of concerns over Florida Power & Light's reliability. The utility has come under scrutiny for failing to quickly restore service after hurricanes walloped the state, said Theresa Czarski, an attorney at the Maryland People's Counsel, the independent agency representing Maryland utility customers. "Florida Power and Light doesn't have the best reputation, even among its own customers," she said. Hurricane Wilma, which struck Florida Oct. 24, cut electricity to 3.2 million Florida Power & Light customers, some of whom were in the dark for more than two weeks. Ms. Czarski said it is not clear whether a merger would result in lower rates for consumers. The company has passed on to consumers this year higher fuel costs and some of the cost of recovering from several hurricanes. Some critics have said FPL shareholders should eat more of the company's costs instead of always passing them on to customers. "Florida ratepayers are paying out the nose for hurricane cost recovery, for fuel cost recovery, supposedly because FPL cannot afford to pay for these costs themselves," said David Bruns, a spokesman in Florida for the senior lobby AARP. "Somehow they can afford to pay $11 billion for another company? This is outrageous." The Maryland Public Service Commission, which oversees utilities, said any deal would be reviewed to ensure a merger would not change the scope or types of services offered by BGE, said spokeswoman Chrissy Nizer. Thomas Hamlin, an analyst at Richmond investment bank Wachovia Securities LLC, predicted that Constellation would add value to FPL's energy portfolio. Mr. Hamlin, who advised investors to hold FPL stock and buy Constellation shares, does not own stock in either company. But Wachovia Securities is seeking business with both companies. The combined company would be able to generate about 42,500 megawatts of power from nuclear, wind, coal and gas-powered sources. That's enough for about 34 million average U.S. homes, based on Energy Department estimates. The deal at the earliest would be completed in the beginning of 2007, Mr. Worms said. "It takes time to go through the regulatory process," he said, rating FPL as "outperform" and Constellation as "neutral." The purchase would require approval from regulators in Maryland and Florida and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Mr. Worms owns a few hundred shares of FPL but no Constellation stock. Harris Nesbitt has a banking relationship with both companies. •This article is based in part on wire service reports.
The 9/11 Commission’s Incredible Tales
David Ray Griffin
At the end of 2004, I published The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions. Shortly before that book appeared, I delivered a lecture in which I set out to summarize its major points. (That lecture is now available in both print and DVD form.) Unfortunately, The 9/11 Commission Report itself contains so many omissions and distortions that I was able to summarize only the first half of my book in that lecture. The present lecture summarizes the second half of the book, which deals with the Commission’s explanation as to why the US military was unable to intercept any of the hijacked airplanes.
This explanation was provided in the first chapter of The 9/11 Commission Report. Although that chapter is only 45 pages long, the issues involved are so complex that my analysis of it required six chapters. One of the complexities is the fact that the 9/11 Commission’s account of why the military could not intercept the hijacked airliners is the third version of the official account we have been given. To understand why three versions of this story have been deemed necessary, we need to review the standard operating procedures that are supposed to prevent hijacked airliners from causing the kinds of damage that occurred on 9/11.
Standard Operating Procedures
Standard operating procedures dictate that if an FAA flight controller notices anything that suggests a possible hijacking–if radio contact is lost, if the plane’s transponder goes off, or if the plane deviates from its flight plan–the controller is to contact a superior. If the problem cannot be fixed quickly–within about a minute–the superior is to ask NORAD–the North American Aerospace Defense Command–to scramble jet fighters to find out what is going on. NORAD then issues a scramble order to the nearest Air Force base with fighters on alert. On 9/11, all the hijacked airliners occurred in NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector, which is known as NEADS. So all the scramble orders would have come from NEADS.
The jet fighters at the disposal of NEADS could respond very quickly: According to the US Air Force website, F-15s can go from “scramble order” to 29,000 feet in only 2.5 minutes, after which they can then fly over 1800 miles per hour (140). (All page numbers given parenthetically in the text are to David Ray Griffin, The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions). Therefore–according to General Ralph Eberhart, the head of NORAD–after the FAA senses that something is wrong, “it takes about one minute” for it to contact NORAD, after which, according to a spokesperson, NORAD can scramble fighter jets “within a matter of minutes to anywhere in the United States” (140). These statements were, to be sure, made after 9/11, so we might suspect that they reflect a post-9/11 speed-up in procedures. But an Air Traffic Control document put out in 1998 warned pilots that any airplanes persisting in unusual behavior “will likely find two [jet fighters] on their tail within 10 or so minutes” (141).
The First Version of the Official Story
On 9/11, however, that did not happen. Why not? Where was the military? The military’s first answer was given immediately after 9/11 by General Richard Myers, then the Acting Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Mike Snyder, a spokesman for NORAD. They both said, independently, that no military jets were sent up until after the strike on the Pentagon. That strike occurred at 9:38, and yet American Airlines Flight 11 had shown two of the standard signs of hijacking, losing both the radio and the transponder signal, at 8:15. This means that procedures that usually result in an interception within “10 or so minutes” had not been carried out in 80 or so minutes.
That enormous delay suggested that a stand-down order, canceling standard procedures, must have been given. Some people started raising this possibility.
The Second Version of the Official Story
Very quickly, a new story appeared. On Friday, September 14, CBS News said: “contrary to early reports, US Air Force jets did get into the air on Tuesday while the attacks were under way,” although they arrived too late to prevent the attacks (141-42). This second story was then made official on September 18, when NORAD produced a timeline stating the times that it was notified about the hijackings followed by the times at which fighters were scrambled (143). The implicit message of the timeline was that the failure was due entirely to the FAA, because in each case it notified the military so late that interceptions were impossible.
Not quite everyone, however, accepted that conclusion. Some early members of the 9/11 truth movement, doing the math, showed that NORAD’s new timeline did not get it off the hook. With regard to the first flight: Even if we accept NORAD’s claim that NEADS was not notified about Flight 11 until 8:40 (which would mean that the FAA had waited 20 minutes after it saw danger signs before it made the call), NORAD’s implicit claim that it could not have prevented the first attack on the WTC is problematic. If fighters had immediately been scrambled from McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey, they could easily have intercepted Flight 11 before 8:47, which is when the north tower of the WTC was struck.
NORAD, to be sure, had a built-in answer to that question. It claimed that McGuire had no fighters on alert, so that NEADS had to give the scramble order to Otis Air Force Base in Cape Cod. Critics argued that this claim is probably false, for reasons to be discussed later. They also pointed out that the F-15s, even if they had to come from Otis, might have made it to Manhattan in time to intercept Flight 11, if the scramble order had been given immediately, at 8:40, and then the fighters had taken off immediately. NORAD said, however, that the scramble order was not given until 8:46 and that the F-15s did not get airborne until 8:52 (144-45). It looked to critics, therefore, like the failure was not entirely the FAA’s.
Even less plausible, the critics said, was NORAD’s claim that NEADS did not have time to prevent the second attack. According to NORAD’s timeline, NEADS had been notified about United Airlines Flight 175 at 8:43, 20 minutes before the south tower was struck. The F-15s originally ordered to go after Flight 11 were now to go after Flight 175. According to NORAD, as we saw earlier, the scramble order to Otis was given at 8:46. In light of the military’s own statement that F-15s can go from scramble order to 29,000 feet in 2.5 minutes, the F-15s would have been streaking towards Manhattan by 8:49. So they could easily have gotten there before 9:03, when the south tower was struck. NORAD said, however, that it took the fighters six minutes just to get airborne. Critics said that it looked as if at least a slow-down order had been issued.
Critics also pointed out that even if the F-15s did not take off, as NORAD said, until 8:52, they still could have gotten to Manhattan in time to prevent the second attack, assuming that they were going full speed. And, according to one of the pilots, they were. Lt. Col. Timothy Duffy said they went “full-blower all the way.” And yet, according to NORAD’s timeline, when the south tower was hit at 9:03, the F-15s were still 71 miles away. Doing the math showed that the fighters could not have been going even half-blower (146). It still looked like a stand-down order, or at least a slow-down order, had been issued.
The same problem existed with respect to NORAD’s explanation of its failure to protect the Pentagon. NORAD again blamed the FAA, saying that although the FAA knew about the hijacking of American Airlines Flight 77 before 9:00, it did not notify NEADS until 9:24, too late for NEADS to respond.
Again, doing the math showed that this explanation did not work. NORAD claimed that it issued the scramble order immediately, at 9:24. The attack on the Pentagon did not occur until 14 minutes later, at 9:38. That would have been more than enough time for fighters to get there from Andrews Air Force Base, which is only a few miles away. Why, then, did NORAD not prevent the attack?
Part of NORAD’s answer was that no fighters were on alert at Andrews, so that NEADS had to give the scramble order to Langley Air Force Base, which is about 130 miles away. Also, it again took the pilots 6 minutes to get airborne, so they did not get away until 9:30.
However, even if those explanations are accepted, the scrambled F-16s, critics pointed out, could go 1500 miles per hour, so they could have reached Washington a couple of minutes before the Pentagon was struck. According to NORAD, however, they were still 105 miles away. That would mean that the F-16s were going less than 200 miles per hour, which would not even be one-quarter blower (147-48).
In all three cases, therefore, NORAD’s attempt to put all the blame on the FAA failed. Critics were able to show, especially with regard to the second and third flights, that NORAD’s new story still implied that a stand-down order must have been issued. It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that the 9/11 Commission came up with a third story, which is not subject to the same objections.
The main question, however, is still the same: Is it true? One reason to suspect that it is not true is the very fact that it is the third story we have been given. When suspects in a criminal case keep changing their story, we assume that they must be trying to conceal the truth. But an even more serious problem with the Commission’s new story is that many of its elements are contradicted by credible evidence or are otherwise implausible. I will show this by examining the Commission’s treatment of each flight, beginning with Flight 11.
THE COMMISSION’S TREATMENT OF AMERICAN AIRLINES FLIGHT 11
A Picture of FAA Incompetence
As we saw, flight controllers are supposed to react quickly if they see any one of the three standard signs of a hijacking. But Flight 11 hit the Trifecta, showing all three signs, and yet no one at the Boston FAA Center, we are told, took any action for some time. Eventually, Boston, having heard hijackers giving orders, called the FAA Command Center in Herndon. Herndon then called FAA headquarters in Washington, but no one there, we are told, called the military. Finally, the FAA center in Boston called NEADS directly at 8:38 (158).
To accept this story, we would have to believe that although the FAA should have notified the military about Flight 11 within a minute of seeing the danger signals at 8:15, the FAA personnel at Boston, Herndon, and Washington were all so incompetent that 23 minutes passed before the military was notified. We would then need to reconcile this picture of top-to-bottom dereliction of duty, which contributed to thousands of deaths, with the fact that no FAA personnel were fired.
An 8-Minute Phone Call
The next implausible element in the story involves Colonel Robert Marr, the commander at NEADS. As we saw earlier, if he had had planes scrambled immediately, even from Otis, they might have prevented the first attack on the World Trade Center. And yet, we are told, he called down to Florida to General Larry Arnold, the head of NORAD’s US Continental Region, to get authorization to have planes scrambled, and this phone call took 8 minutes (165).
Besides the fact that this would be an extraordinarily long phone call in an emergency situation, this call was not even necessary. The Commission, to be sure, would have us believe that Marr had to get approval from superiors. But the very document from the Department of Defense cited by the Commission indicates that anyone in the military chain of command, upon receiving “verbal requests from civil authorities for support in an . . . emergency may . . . immediately respond” (166). Colonel Marr, therefore, could have responded on his own.
Evidence of Earlier Notification
But this tale of an 8-minute phone call is probably not the biggest lie in the Commission’s story about Flight 11. That award seems to belong to the claim that although the FAA saw signs of a hijacking at 8:15, the military was not notified until 8:38. Laura Brown, the FAA’s Deputy in Public Affairs, reportedly said that the National Military Command Center in the Pentagon had set up an air threat teleconference that morning at about 8:20 (187). If she is correct, it would seem that the military knew about Flight 11’s erratic behavior shortly after 8:15, which suggests that the FAA had followed standard procedures.
I turn now to the Commission’s treatment of Flight 175.
THE COMMISSION’S TREATMENT OF UNITED AIRLINES FLIGHT 175
More FAA Incompetence
The Commission claims that NORAD did not intercept this flight because the FAA never reported its hijacking until after it crashed. According to the Commission, the FAA flight controller did not even notify a manager until 8:55. This manager then called the FAA Command Center at Herndon, saying: “[The situation is] escalating . . . big time. We need to get the military involved.” But no one at Herndon, we are told, called the military or even FAA headquarters. As a result, NORAD did not learn about the hijacking of Flight 175 until 9:03, when it was crashing into the WTC’s south tower (175).
Contradicting Earlier Reports
One problem with this story is that such incompetence by FAA officials is not believable. An even more serious problem is that this story is contradicted by many prior reports.
One of these is NORAD’s own previous timeline. As we saw earlier, NORAD had maintained since September 18, 2001, that it had been notified about Flight 175 at 8:43. If that was not true, as the Commission now claims, NORAD must have been either lying or confused when it put out its timeline one week after 9/11. And it is hard to believe that it could have been confused so soon after the event. So it must have been lying. But that would suggest that it had an ugly truth to conceal. The Commission, being unable to embrace either of the possible explanations, simply tells us that NORAD’s previous statement was incorrect, but without giving us any explanation as to how this could be.
The Commission’s claim that the military did not know about Flight 175 until it crashed is also contradicted by a report involving Captain Michael Jellinek, a Canadian who on 9/11 was overseeing NORAD’s headquarters in Colorado. According to a story in the Toronto Star, Jellinek was on the phone with NEADS as he watched Flight 175 crash into the south tower. He then asked NEADS: “Was that the hijacked aircraft you were dealing with?”–to which NEADS said yes (176).
Two Problematic Teleconferences
Still another problem with the Commission’s new story is that there appear to have been two teleconferences during which FAA officials would have talked to the military about Flight 175. I have already mentioned the teleconference initiated by the National Military Command Center in the Pentagon. The 9/11 Commission claims, to be sure, that this teleconference did not begin until 9:29 (186-88), long after Flight 175 had crashed into the south tower. But this late starting time is contradicted by Richard Clarke (188). It is also contradicted by Laura Brown of the FAA, who said that it started at about 8:20. Although Brown later, perhaps under pressure from superiors, changed the starting time to 8:45 (187), this was still early enough for discussions of Flight 175 to have occurred.
There was also a teleconference initiated by the FAA. According to the 9/11 Commission, this teleconference was set up at 9:20 (205). On May 22, 2003, however, Laura Brown sent to the Commission a memo headed: “FAA communications with NORAD on September 11, 2001.” The memo, which used the term “phone bridges” instead of “teleconference,” began: “Within minutes after the first aircraft hit the World Trade Center, the FAA immediately established several phone bridges.” Since the attack on the north tower was at 8:47, “within minutes” would mean that this teleconference began about 8:50, a full half hour earlier than the Commission claims. The memo made clear, moreover, that the teleconference included both NORAD and the National Military Command Center in the Pentagon. During this teleconference, Brown’s memo said:
The FAA shared real-time information . . . about the . . . loss of communication with aircraft, loss of transponder signals, unauthorized changes in course, and other actions being taken by all the flights of interest. (253)
And by 8:50, everyone agrees, Flight 175 was a “flight of interest”–everyone except, of course, the 9/11 Commission, which claims that FAA headquarters had not yet learned about it. Laura Brown’s memo, in any case, was read into the Commission’s record on May 23, 2003. But when the Commission published its final report, it simply pretended that this memo did not exist. Only through this pretense could the Commission claim that the FAA’s teleconferences did not begin until 9:20.
For several reasons, therefore, it appears that the Commission’s claim that the military was not notified about Flight 175 until after it struck the south tower is a lie from beginning to end. I turn now to the Commission’s treatment of Flight 77 and the attack on the Pentagon.
THE COMMISSION’S TREATMENT OF AMERICAN AIRLINES FLIGHT 77 AND THE ATTACK ON THE PENTAGON
As we saw earlier, if the FAA told NORAD about Flight 77 at 9:24, as NORAD’s timeline of September 18 said, NEADS should have had fighter jets over Washington well before 9:38, when the Pentagon was struck. The 9/11 Commission’s solution to this problem was to tell another new tale, according to which the FAA never told NORAD about Flight 77.
One inconvenient fact was that General Larry Arnold, the head of NORAD’s US Continental region, had, in open testimony to the Commission in 2003, repeated NORAD’s statement that it had been notified about this hijacking at 9:24. Other NORAD officials, moreover, had testified that fighters at Langley had been scrambled in response to this notification. The Commission handled this problem by simply saying that these statements by Arnold and the other NORAD officials were “incorrect” (192). The Commission again did not explain why NORAD officials had made incorrect statements. But it said that those statements were “unfortunate” because they “made it appear that the military was notified in time to respond” (192). The Commission’s task was to convince us that this was not true.
More FAA Incompetence
Basic to the Commission’s new story about Flight 77 is another tale of incredible incompetence by FAA officials. This tale goes like this: At 8:54, the FAA controller in Indianapolis, after seeing Flight 77 go off course, lost its transponder signal and even its radar track. Rather than reporting the flight as possibly hijacked, however, he assumed that it had crashed. Evidently it did not occur to him that a possible crash should be reported. In any case, he later, after hearing about the other hijackings, came to suspect that Flight 77 may also have been hijacked. He then shared this suspicion with Herndon, which in turn shared it with FAA headquarters. But no one, we are told, called the military. The result, the Commission says, is that “NEADS never received notice that American 77 was hijacked” (192).
Explaining the Langley Scramble: Phantom Flight 11
But even if we could believe this implausible tale, there is still the problem of why F-16s at Langley Air Force Base were airborne at 9:30. FAA incompetence again comes to the rescue. At 9:21–35 minutes after Flight 11 had crashed into the World Trade Center–some technician at NEADS, we are told, heard from some FAA controller in Boston that Flight 11 was still in the air and was heading towards Washington. This NEADS technician then notified the NEADS Mission Crew Commander, who issued a scramble order to Langley. So, the Commission claims, the Langley jets were scrambled in response to “a phantom aircraft,” not to “an actual hijacked aircraft” (193). This new story, however, is riddled with problems.
One problem is simply that phantom Flight 11 had never before been mentioned. As the Commission itself says, this story about phantom Flight 11 “was not recounted in a single public timeline or statement issued by the FAA or Department of Defense” (196). It was, for example, not in NORAD’S official report, Air War Over America, the foreword for which was written by General Larry Arnold.
General Arnold’s ignorance of phantom Flight 11 was, in fact, an occasion for public humiliation. The 9/11 Commission, at a hearing in June of 2004, berated him for not remembering that the Langley jets had really been scrambled in response to phantom Flight 11, not in response to a warning about Flight 77. Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste began a lengthy grilling by asking: “General Arnold. Why did no one mention the false report received from the FAA that Flight 11 was heading south during your initial appearance before the 9/11 Commission back in May of last year?” After an embarrassing exchange, Ben-Veniste stuck the knife in even further, asking:
General, is it not a fact that the failure to call our attention to the . . . the notion of a phantom Flight 11 continuing from New York City south . . . skewed the official Air Force report, . . . which does not contain any information about the fact that . . . you had not received notification that Flight 77 had been hijacked? . . . [S]urely by May of last year, when you testified before this commission, you knew those facts. (197).
In Alice in Wonderland, the White Queen says: “It is a poor memory that remembers only backwards.” One must wonder if General Arnold felt that he was being criticized for not remembering the future–that is, for not “remembering” a story that had been invented only after he had given his testimony. Arnold, in any case, simply replied that he “didn’t recall those facts in May of last year.”
But if those alleged facts were real facts, that reply would be beyond belief. According to the Commission’s new story, NORAD, under Arnold’s command, failed to scramble fighter jets in response to Flights 11, 175, 77, and 93. The one time it scrambled fighters, it did so in response to a false report. Surely that would have been the biggest embarrassment of Arnold’s professional life. And yet 20 months later, he “didn’t recall those facts.”
A second problem is that there is no way for this story about phantom Flight 11 to be verified. The Commission says that the truth of this story “is clear . . . from taped conversations at FAA centers; contemporaneous logs compiled at NEADS, Continental Region headquarters, and NORAD; and other records” (193-94). But when we look in the notes at the back of The 9/11 Commission Report, we find no references for any of these records; we simply have to take the Commission’s word. The sole reference is to a NEADS audiofile, on which someone at the FAA’s Boston Center allegedly tells someone at NEADS: “I just had a report that American 11 is still in the air, and it’s . . . heading towards Washington” (194). The Commission claims to have discovered this audiofile. Again, however, we simply have to take the Commission’s word. We cannot obtain this audiofile. And there is no mention of any tests, carried out by an independent agency, to verify that this audiofile, if it exists, really dates from 9/11, rather than having been created later, after someone decided that the story about phantom Flight 11 was needed.
But could not reporters interview the people at NEADS and the FAA who had this conversation? No, because the Commission says, nonchalantly: “We have been unable to identify the source of this mistaken FAA information” (194). This disclaimer is difficult to believe. It is now very easy to identify people from recordings of their voices. And yet the Commission was supposedly not able to discover the identity of either the individual at Boston who made the mistake or the NEADS technician who received and passed on this misinformation.
Another implausible element is the very idea that someone at Boston would have concluded that Flight 11 was still airborne. According to stories immediately after 9/11, flight controllers at Boston said that they never lost sight of Flight 11. Flight controller Mark Hodgkins later said: “I watched the target of American 11 the whole way down” (194) If so, everyone at the Boston Center would have known this. How could anything on a radar screen have convinced anyone at the Boston Center, 35 minutes later, that Flight 11 was still aloft?
Still another implausible element in the story is the idea that the Mission Commander at NEADS, having received this implausible report from a technician, would have been so confident of its truth that he would have immediately ordered Langley to scramble F-16s.
This entire story about phantom Flight 11 is the Commission’s attempt to explain why, if the US military had not been notified about Flight 77, a scramble order was issued to Langley at 9:24, which resulted in F-16s taking off at 9:30. As we have seen, every element in this story is implausible.
Why Were the Langley F-16s So Far from Washington?
Equally implausible is the Commission’s explanation as to why, if the F-16s were airborne at 9:30, they were not close enough to Washington to protect the Pentagon at 9:38. To answer this question, the Commission once again calls on FAA incompetence.
The F-16s, we are told, were supposed to go to Baltimore, to intercept (phantom) Flight 11 before it reached Washington. But the FAA controller, along with the lead pilot, thought the orders were for the F-16s to go “east over the ocean,” so at 9:38, when the Pentagon was struck, “[t]he Langley fighters were about 150 miles away” (201). Has there ever been, since the days of the Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges, such a comedy of errors? This explanation, in any case, is not believable. By the time of the scramble order, it was clear that the threat was from hijacked airliners, not from abroad. My six-year-old grandson would have known to double-check the order before sending the fighters out to sea.
The Military’s Alleged Ignorance about Flight 77
Even more problematic is the Commission’s claim that Pentagon officials were in the dark about the hijacking of Flight 77.
That claim is flatly contradicted by Laura Brown’s memo. Having said that the FAA had established its teleconference with military officials “within minutes” of the first strike, she said that the FAA shared “real-time information” about “all the flights of interest, including Flight 77.” Moreover, explicitly taking issue with NORAD’s claim that it knew nothing about Flight 77 until 9:24, she said:
NORAD logs indicate that the FAA made formal notification about American Flight 77 at 9:24 a.m., but information about the flight was conveyed continuously during the phone bridges before the formal notification. (204)
This statement about informal notification was known by the Commission. Richard Ben-Veniste, after reading Laura Brown’s memo into the record, said: “So now we have in question whether there was an informal real-time communication of the situation, including Flight 77’s situation, to personnel at NORAD.” But when the Commission wrote up its final report, with its claim that the FAA had not notified the military about Flight 77 (whether formally or informally), it wrote as if this discussion had never occurred.
The Pentagon’s Alleged Ignorance of an Aircraft Headed Its Way
The Commission also claims that people in the Pentagon had no idea that an aircraft was heading in their direction until shortly before the Pentagon was struck. But this claim was contradicted by Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, in open testimony given to the Commission itself. Mineta testified that at 9:20 that morning, he went down to the shelter conference room (technically the Presidential Emergency Operations Center) under the White House, where Vice President Cheney was in charge. Mineta then said:
During the time that the airplane was coming in to the Pentagon, there was a young man who would come in and say to the Vice President, “The plane is 50 miles out.” “The plane is 30 miles out.” And when it got down to “the plane is 10 miles out,” the young man also said to the Vice President, “Do the orders still stand?” And the Vice President turned and whipped his neck around and said, “Of course the orders still stand. Have you heard anything to the contrary?” (220)
When Mineta was asked by Commissioner Timothy Roemer how long this conversation occurred after he arrived, Mineta said: “Probably about five or six minutes,” which, as Roemer pointed out, would mean “about 9:25 or 9:26.”
According to the 9/11 Commission, no one in our government knew that an aircraft was approaching the Pentagon until 9:36, so there was no time to shoot it down. But the Commission had been told by Mineta that the vice president knew at least 10 minutes earlier, at 9:26. The 9/11 Commission dealt with Mineta’s testimony in the same way it dealt with almost everything else that threatened its story–by simply ignoring it in the final report.
This testimony by Mineta was a big threat not only because it indicated that there was knowledge of the approaching aircraft at least 12 minutes before the Pentagon was struck, but also because it implied that Cheney had issued stand-down orders. Mineta himself did not make this allegation, to be sure. He assumed, he said, that “the orders” mentioned by the young man were orders to have the plane shot down. Mineta’s interpretation, however, does not fit with what actually happened: The aircraft was not shot down. That interpretation, moreover, would make the story unintelligible: If the orders had been to shoot down the aircraft if it got close to the Pentagon, the young man would have had no reason to ask if the orders still stood. His question makes sense only if the orders were to do something unexpected–not to shoot down the aircraft. The implication of Mineta’s story is, therefore, that the attack on the Pentagon was desired.
Why Did the Scramble Order Go to Langley?
The same implication follows from another problem. Every part of the story about the fighters from Langley, we saw, is implausible. But an even more basic implausibility is the very claim that the order had to go to Langley because Andrews had no fighters on alert (158-59).
One reason to doubt that claim is simply that it is, in a word, preposterous. Andrews has primary responsibility for protecting the nation’s capital (160). Can anyone seriously believe that Andrews, given the task of protecting the Pentagon, Air Force One, the White House, the houses of Congress, the Supreme Court, the US Treasury Building, and so on, would not have fighters on alert at all times?
In addition to this a priori consideration, there is the empirical fact that the US military’s own website said at the time–although it was modified after 9/11 (163-64)–that several fighter jets were kept on alert at all times. The 121st Fighter Squadron of the 113th Fighter Wing was said to provide “capable and ready response forces for the District of Columbia in the event of natural disaster or civil emergency.” The Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 321 was said to be supported by a reserve squadron providing “maintenance and supply functions necessary to maintain a force in readiness.” And the District of Columbia Air National Guard was said “to provide combat units in the highest possible state of readiness” (163).
The assumption that Andrews did have fighters on alert on which NORAD could have called is supported, moreover, by a report given by Kyle Hence of 9/11 Citizens Watch about a telephone conversation he had with Donald Arias, the Chief of Public Affairs for NORAD’s Continental Region. After Arias had told Hence that “Andrews was not part of NORAD,” Hence asked him “whether or not there were assets at Andrews that, though not technically part of NORAD, could have been tasked.” Rather than answer, Arias hung up (161). There are many reasons to conclude, therefore, that the claim that there were no fighters on alert at Andrews is a lie.
The realization that Andrews must have had fighters on alert has many implications. For one thing, if Andrews had fighters on alert, then it would seem likely that McGuire did too, so that fighters to protect New York City did not have to be scrambled from Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod. National security expert (and former ABC producer) James Bamford says, moreover, that NEADS was also able to call on “alert fighter pilots at National Guard units at Burlington, Vermont; Atlantic City, New Jersey; . . . and Duluth, Minnesota” (258). If so, then there were at least 7 bases from which NEADS could have scrambled fighters, not merely two, as the official story has it (158-59). And if that part of the official story is a lie, then it seems likely that that story as a whole is a lie. This conclusion will be reinforced by our examination of the Commission’s treatment of United Airlines Flight 93.
THE COMMISSION’S TREATMENT OF UNITED AIRLINES FLIGHT 93
Flight 93 presented the 9/11 Commission with a different task. In relation to the previous flights, the Commission’s task was to explain why the US military did not intercept and shoot them down. With regard to Flight 93, the Commission had to convince us that the military did not shoot it down. It sought to do this not by refuting the evidence, which is considerable, that the airliner was shot down, but by simply constructing a new story intended to show that the US military could not have shot down Flight 93.
The Military’s Ignorance of the Hijacking
The Commission makes two major claims about Flight 93. The first one is that: “By the time the military learned about the flight, it had crashed” (229). The centrality of this claim is shown by the fact that it is repeated, almost mantra-like, throughout the Commission’s chapter.
Incredible FAA Incompetence
The main support for this claim is provided by yet another tale of amazing incompetence by FAA officials. At 9:28, we are told, the traffic controller in Cleveland heard “sounds of possible screaming” and noticed that Flight 93 had descended 700 feet, but he did nothing. Four minutes later, he heard a voice saying: “We have a bomb on board.” This controller, not being completely brain dead, finally notified his supervisor, who in turn notified FAA headquarters. Later, however, when Cleveland asked Herndon whether the military had been called, the Commission claims, Herndon “told Cleveland that FAA personnel well above them in the chain of command had to make the decision to seek military assistance and were working on the issue” (227). To accept this account, we must believe that, on a day on which there had already been attacks by hijacked airliners, officials at FAA headquarters had to debate whether a hijacked airliner with a bomb on board was important enough to disturb the military. And we must believe that they were still debating this question 13 minutes later, when, we are told, the following conversation between Herndon and FAA headquarters occurred:
Command Center: Uh, do we want to think, uh, about scrambling aircraft?FAA Headquarters: Oh, God, I don’t know.Command Center: Uh, that’s a decision somebody’s gonna have to make probably in the next ten minutes. (228)
But obviously the decision was that the military should not be disturbed, because 14 minutes later, at 10:03, when Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania, we are told, “no one from FAA headquarters [had yet] requested military assistance regarding United 93″ (229). We are expected to believe, in other words, that FAA officials acted like complete idiots.
In any case, besides arguing, by means of this tale of incredible incompetence, that the FAA never formally notified the military about Flight 93, the Commission argued that there was also no informal notification during any teleconference. In this case, not being able to argue that the teleconferences began too late, the Commission argued that they were worthless. Its summary statement said: “The FAA, the White House, and the Defense Department each initiated a multiagency teleconference before 9:30. [But] none of these teleconferences . . . included the right officials from both the FAA and the Defense Department” (211).
Let us begin with the teleconference initiated by the National Military Command Center. Why was it worthless for transmitting information from the FAA to the military? Because, we are told, Pentagon operators were unable to get the FAA on the line. This is a very implausible claim, especially since, we are told, the operators were able to reach everyone else (230-31). Also, as we saw earlier, Laura Brown of the FAA seemed to have independent knowledge about when this teleconference started—which suggests that the FAA was reached.
Why was the FAA-initiated teleconference equally worthless? The problem here, the Commission claimed, was that the officer at the NMCC said that “the information was of little value” so he did not pay attention (234).
However, even if we could believe that no one at the Pentagon was monitoring the call, Laura Brown’s memo had said that in addition to the phone bridge set up by the FAA with the Pentagon, the “Air Force liaison to the FAA . . . established contact with NORAD on a separate line.” So even if no one at the Pentagon was paying attention, the military still would have received the information. Her memo said, moreover, that “[t]he FAA shared real-time information . . . about . . . all the flights of interest” (183), and the Commission itself agrees that by 9:34, FAA headquarters knew about the hijacking of Flight 93, so it was a “flight of interest.” The Commission’s claim is, therefore, flatly contradicted by this memo, which was read into the Commission’s record.
What about the White House videoconference, which was run by Richard Clarke? The Commissioners say: “We do not know who from Defense participated” (210). But this claim is completely unbelievable. One problem is that it contradicts the Commission’s assurance that “the right people” were not involved in this conference: How could they know this if they did not know who was involved? The main problem, however, is simply that the claim is absurd. Surely any number of people at the Pentagon could have told the Commissioners who participated in Clarke’s videoconference. Simpler yet, they could have looked at Clarke’s book, Against All Enemies, which became a national best seller during the Commission’s hearings. It clearly states that the participants from the Pentagon were Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and General Richard Myers, Acting Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (210-12). It also reports that the FAA was represented by its top official, Jane Garvey. And if these were not “the right people,” who would have been?
The Commission’s attempt to prove that the military could not have learned about Flight 93 from this videoconference is even more explicitly contradicted by Clarke, who reports that at about 9:35, Jane Garvey reported on a number of “potential hijacks,” which included “United 93 over Pennsylvania” (232). Therefore, more than 25 minutes before Flight 93 crashed, according to Clarke, both Myers and Rumsfeld heard from the head of the FAA that Flight 93 was considered a potential hijack.
The Commission’s tales about FAA incompetence and worthless teleconferences are, therefore, directly contradicted by Laura Brown’s memo and Richard Clarke’s book. Their combined testimony implies that the Commission’s main claim–that “[b]y the time the military learned about the flight, it had crashed”–is a bald-faced lie.
Cheney’s Arrival at the Shelter Conference Room
To recall where we are: The Commission’s first major claim is that the US military could not have shot down Flight 93 because it did not know about the hijacking of this flight until after it crashed at 10:03. The Commission’s second main point, to which we now turn, is that the authorization to shoot planes down was not issued until several minutes after 10:03.
In support of this point, the Commission claims that Vice President Cheney, who was known to have issued the shoot-down authorization from the shelter conference room under the White House, did not get down there until about almost 10:00, “perhaps at 9:58″ (241). This claim, however, is doubly problematic.
One problem is that this claim is not supported by any documentation. The Commission says that the Secret Service ordered Cheney to go downstairs “just before 9:36″; that Cheney entered the underground corridor at 9:37; that he then, instead of going straight to the shelter conference room at the other end of the corridor, spent some 20 minutes calling the president and watching television coverage of the aftermath of the strike on the Pentagon (241). This timeline is said to be based on Secret Service alarm data showing that the Vice President entered the underground corridor at 9:37. However, The 9/11 Commission Report then says that this “alarm data . . . is no longer retrievable” (244). We must, therefore, simply take the Commission’s claim on faith.
And this is very difficult, since the Commission’s claim is contradicted by every prior report. A White House photographer, who was an eyewitness, and various newspapers, including the New York Times, said that Cheney went below shortly after 9:00. Richard Clarke’s account suggests that Cheney went below before 9:15 (242). Even Cheney himself, speaking on “Meet the Press” five days after 9/11, indicated that he was taken downstairs at about that time (243). The Commission, showing its usual disdain for evidence that contradicts its story, makes no mention of any of these reports.
The most dramatic contradiction of the Commission’s timeline was provided by Norman Mineta. In open testimony to the Commission itself, he said, as we saw earlier, that when he got to the underground shelter at 9:20, Cheney was already there and fully in charge. The Commission, insisting that Cheney did not get there until almost 10:00, simply omitted any mention of this testimony in its Final Report. But Mineta’s testimony is still available for anyone to read.
We can say with a very high level of confidence, therefore, that the Commission’s account is a lie.
The Time of the Shoot-Down Authorization
The same is true of the Commission’s claim that the shoot-down authorization was not issued until after 10:10.
In making this claim, the Commission tells a tale of yet another incredible error made by the FAA. Flight 93, according to the Commission, crashed at 10:03 (249-50). And yet sometime between 10:10 and 10:15, the Commission claims, the FAA told the military that Flight 93 was still headed towards Washington and was, in fact, only 80 miles out. Once again, FAA headquarters managed to call the military only when it had false information. In any case, we are told, the military requested permission to engage an aircraft and Cheney immediately gave the authorization (237). The implication is that the military could not possibly have shot down Flight 93, since it had crashed about 10 minutes earlier.
However, the Commission’s new timeline is again contradicted by several previous reports.
First, although the Commission says that Richard Clarke did not receive the shoot-down authorization until 10:25, Clarke himself says that he received it some 35 or minutes earlier, at 9:45 or 9:50 (240).
Second, the story of Cheney’s giving permission to engage an aircraft that was 80 miles out originally appeared in stories published shortly after 9/11. In these stories, the permission was given earlier, when Flight 93 truly was still aloft, after which an F-16 was sent in pursuit (239).
That original account is supported, moreover, by several reports stating that prior to crashing, Flight 93 was being tailed by US military fighters. One such report came from CBS; another came from a flight controller who had ignored an order not to talk to the media; and one such report even came from Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz (238-39). Evidently the Commission felt that if it could ignore statements from the secretary of transportation and even the vice president, it could also ignore a statement by the deputy secretary of defense.
In any case, the Commission’s timeline, besides being contradicted by all those reports, is also contradicted by James Bamford’s account, which is based on a transcript from ABC News. According to this account, Cheney’s authorization was transmitted to Colonel Marr at NEADS, who then “sent out word to air traffic controllers to instruct fighter pilots to destroy the United jetliner.” Marr reportedly said: “United Airlines Flight 93 will not be allowed to reach Washington, D.C.” (238). But the Commission simply tells its new tale as if this report had never been broadcast.
The Commission’s account is contradicted, finally, by reports that the shoot-down actually occurred. Major Daniel Nash, one of the two F-15 pilots sent to New York City from Otis, later reported that after he returned to base, he was told that a military F-16 had shot down an airliner in Pennsylvania (239).
That rumor was so widespread that during General Myers’ interview with the Senate Armed Services Committee on September 13, 2001, chairman Carl Levin said that “there have been statements that the aircraft that crashed in Pennsylvania was shot down,” adding: “Those stories continue to exist” (151).
Besides ignoring all these reports, the Commission also ignored reports from people who lived near the spot where the airliner came down. These reports spoke of missile-like noises, sightings of a small military airplane, debris falling from the airliner miles from its crash site, and the discovery of part of an engine far from the site (151).
There is, in sum, an enormous amount of evidence suggesting that the FAA did notify the military about Flight 93; that Cheney went down to the underground shelter about 45 minutes earlier than the Commission claims; that he gave the shoot-down authorization about 25 minutes earlier than the Commission claims; and that military jets went after and shot-down Flight 93. It would appear that if some committee had set out to construct a fable about Flight 93, every part of which could be easily falsified, it could not have improved on the Commission’s tale. And yet our mainstream media have not reported any of these obvious falsehoods.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
The Portrait of FAA Incompetence
The Commission, as we have seen, has attempted to exonerate the military for its failure to prevent the attacks of 9/11. According to the Commission, accounts suggesting that the military was notified in time to respond “overstated the FAA’s ability to provide the military with timely and useful information that morning” (255). In its effort to correct that alleged overstatement, the Commission gave us a picture of incredible incompetence at every level of the FAA. We read of flight controllers who, instead of following instructions to treat every possible emergency as an actual one, would not respond after seeing two or even all three of the standard signs of a hijacking. We read of controllers who told the military that airplanes that had already crashed were still aloft and headed towards Washington. We read of officials at FAA headquarters who consistently refused to call the military–unless, of course, the airplane to be reported was merely a phantom.
This portrait of rampant incompetence by FAA officials is contradicted by several facts. One such fact is NORAD’s timeline of September 18, 2001, which indicates that the FAA responded slowly but not nearly as slowly as the Commission now claims. A second fact is Laura Brown’s memo of 2003, which says that the FAA was on the telephone with the military from about 8:50 on, talking about all flights of interest.
A third fact is that the FAA was called on to carry out an unprecedented operation that day: grounding all the aircraft in the country. And yet, the Commission itself says, the FAA “execut[ed] that unprecedented order flawlessly” (272-73). Is it plausible that FAA personnel, on the same day that they carried out an unprecedented task so flawlessly, would have failed so miserably with a task–asking the military to intercept problematic flights–that they had been carrying out about 100 times a year (140)?
It would seem, therefore, that the first chapter of The 9/11 Commission Report is one long lie. As I have shown elsewhere, moreover, that is true of the report as a whole.
Crisis and Challenge
This conclusion has, of course, frightening implications, because it is hard to imagine why the Commission would have engaged in such deceit except to cover up the fact that the attacks of 9/11 were orchestrated by forces within our own government, including our armed forces. And if that is the case, then our country is in even worse shape than already evident through the Downing Street Memos, which revealed that the administration had fixed the intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq. As Burns Weston, a professor of law, has said, we now have “a disparity between official 9/11 ’spin’ and independently researched 9/11 fact so glaring as to suggest the possibility of a constitutional crisis unlike anything our country has ever known.”
Overcoming this crisis must surely be the main task before us as American citizens today, because it is likely that, unless we can overcome this one, all the related crises–growing militarism and imperialism, growing plutocracy, increasing poverty in our country and around the world, increasing destruction of our planet’s ecosystem, and so on–will simply continue to get worse.
The first step in overcoming our constitutional crisis is to have this crisis acknowledged. This is why the 9/11 truth movement is in one respect the most important movement in our country and even in our world today. This movement has accomplished its first task–providing evidence strong enough to convince anyone with an even slightly open mind that the official story is a lie. What is now needed is for this fact to be publicly recognized.
The main reason why this fact is not yet publicly recognized is that the mainstream media have thus far failed to deal with this issue. Although they have reported on a few of the falsehoods in the official account, they have thus far failed not only to discuss any of the evidence pointing to official complicity but even to expose any of the obvious problems in The 9/11 Commission Report, such as those mentioned in the present essay. If the Commission has created a new tale about the military’s response that contradicts what the military had been saying since September 18, 2001; if the Commission has suppressed Laura Brown’s memo and Norman Mineta’s testimony; if the Commission has contradicted statements by Richard Clarke, Paul Wolfowitz, Vice President Cheney, and three high-ranking NORAD officials–Captain Michael Jellinek, Colonel Robert Marr, and General Larry Arnold–it seems elementary that our news organizations should report these contradictions. I cannot, at least, imagine how anyone from the mainstream media could support the contention that they should not report such contradictions.
Exposing such contradictions could, of course, lead to exposing evidence that the Bush-Cheney administration had prior knowledge of, and perhaps even orchestrated, the attacks of 9/11, which would mean that the whole post-9/11 “war on terror” has been based on deceit. I cannot imagine how anyone in the media could marshal a principled argument to the effect that, if that is true, the media are not obligated to report the relevant evidence.
Unfortunately, of course, principle is often over-ruled by other considerations. But we can hope that even the corporate owners of the mainstream media now realize that 9/11 has been used to justify policies that have greatly weakened our country and undermined its reputation and credibility in most of the world. And we can hope that they will, on the basis of this realization, put the welfare of our country and our planet ahead of any considerations that would prevent them from allowing the press to carry out its most important task as the Fourth Estate: exposing high crimes in high places.
1 David Ray Griffin, The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions (Northampton: Interlink Books, 2005)–henceforth sometimes cited simply as O&D.
2 The DVD, prepared by Ken Jenkins, is entitled “Truth and Politics: Unanswered Questions about 9/11.” It is available at www.911Visibility.org and from KenJenkins@aol.com. The lecture has been transcribed (with slight modifications) by Ian Woods and published as “Truth and Politics of 9/11: Omissions and Distortions of The 9/11 Commission Report” in Global Outlook), Issue 10 (Spring-Summer 2005), 45-56.
3 The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, Authorized Edition (New York: W. W. Norton, 2004).
4 Reminder: All parenthetical references in the text are to Griffin, The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions.
5 llarion Bykov and Jared Israel, “Guilty for 9-11: Bush, Rumsfeld, Myers, Section 1: Why Were None of the Hijacked Planes Intercepted?” (www.emperors-clothes.com/indict/911page.htm). This essay is listed in the Table of Contents under “Evidence of high-level government conspiracy in the events of 9-11.”
6 “NORAD’s Response Times,” September 18, 2001 (available at www.standdown.net/noradseptember182001pressrelease.htm).
7 That this alleged phone call took 8 minutes is an inference from the fact that NEADS was supposedly notified about Flight 11 shortly before 8:38 whereas the scramble order was not given until 8:46 (The 9/11 Commission Report, 20).
8 The 9/11 Commission Report (Ch. 1, note 103) cites “Aircraft Piracy (Hijacking) and Destruction of Derelict Airborne Objects,” which was issued June 1, 2001. This document in turn cites Directive 3025.15, issued in 1997, which contains the statement quoted in the text. The idea that no standard procedures should prevent immediate responses in emergency situations is also stated in other places in the document of June 1, 2001. Section 4.4, after saying that the secretary of defense retains approval authority for various types of support, concludes by saying: “Nothing in this Directive prevents a commander from exercising his or her immediate emergency response authority as outlined in DoD Directive 3025.1.” And Section 4.5 begins with these words: “With the exception of immediate responses under imminently serious conditions, as provided in paragraph 4.7.1., below. . . . ” I have discussed this issue at greater length in the Afterword to the second edition of David Ray Griffin, The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11 (Northampton: Interlink Books, 2004)—henceforth cited as NPH.
9 Tom Flocco, “Rookie in the 9-11 Hot Seat?” tomflocco.com, June 17, 2004 (http://tomflocco.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=65). Flocco adds that Laura Brown later e-mailed him to say that that teleconference had not started until about 8:45, but Flocco suspects that her earlier statement, made to him while they were both present at the first hearing of the 9/11 Commission, was closer to the truth than her later statement, which she made “after returning to her office and conferring with superiors.” Flocco’s belief that the 8:20 time was correct was, he says, reinforced by a source in the Department of Transportation who told him that phone bridges, linking officials from NORAD, the Secret Service, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Transportation, were established at 8:20 (Tom Flocco, “9-11 Probe Continues to Bypass Executive Branch Testimony,” tomflocco.com, October 13, 2003 (http://tomflocco.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=10). See my discussion in O&D 187.
10 This memo is available at www.911truth.org/article.php?story=2004081200421797.
11 National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, May 23, 2003 (http://www.911commission.gov/archive/hearing2/9-11Commission_Hearing_2003-05-23.htm).
12 Air War over America: Sept. 11 Alters Face of Air Defense Mission (Public Affairs: Tyndall Air Force Base, 2003), by Leslie Filson (Foreword by Larry K. Arnold).
13 Still another problem is that earlier, when the Commission was explaining why no fighters were scrambled in time to intercept Flight 11, it said that NEADS had to call General Arnold to get permission. But this time, we are told, NEADS simply issued the order, without calling General Arnold. This undermines the Commission’s claim that the call to Arnold was necessary in relation to the earlier flight.
14 Quoting Laura Brown, “FAA Communications with NORAD On September 11, 2001″ (available at http://www.911truth.org/article.php?story=2004081200421797).
15 National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, May 23, 2003 (http://www.911commission.gov/archive/hearing2/9-11Commission_Hearing_2003-05-23.htm).
16 The idea that military officials knew about Flight 77 long before the Pentagon was struck is also supported by a New York Times story published four days after 9/11, which began: “During the hour or so that American Airlines Flight 77 was under the control of hijackers, up to the moment it struck the west side of the Pentagon, military officials in a command center on the east side of the building were urgently talking to . . . air traffic control officials about what to do” (Matthew Wald, “After the Attacks: Sky Rules; Pentagon Tracked Deadly Jet but Found No Way to Stop It,” New York Times, September 15, 2001).
17 Quoting “Statement of Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, May 23, 2003″ (available at www.cooperativeresearch.org/timeline/2003/commissiontestimony052303.htm).
18 Page 9 of The 9/11 Commission Report says 9:34. But 9:36 is the time given on pages 27 and 34, and it is the time that allows the Commission to claim that the military “had at most one or two minutes to react to the unidentified plane approaching Washington” (34).
19 Still another thing ignored by the report is the US military’s prodigious radar systems. The website for one of these systems, called PAVE PAWS, says that it is “capable of detecting and monitoring a great number of targets that would be consistent with a massive SLBM [Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile] attack” (”PAVE PAWS, Watching North America’s Skies, 24 Hours a Day” (www.pavepaws.org). The PAVE PAWS system is surely not premised on the assumption that those SLBMs would have transponders. The claim that the military did not know about an aircraft approaching the Pentagon is, accordingly, absurd. After the strikes on the WTC, the US military, if the attacks of 9/11 had genuinely been surprise attacks carried out by foreigners, would have been on the highest state of alert and would not have hesitated to shoot down any unauthorized and unidentified aircraft approaching Washington. And as to the capability to do this, even if for some reason Andrews did not have fighters on alert that morning, the website of the Congressional Budget Office informs us that, in Fred Burks’ summary statement, “ICBMs [Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles] travel at speeds up to 6 to 7 kilometers per second (approximately 14,000 miles per hour)” and can hence take down “an ICBM in a matter of minutes” (Burks, “Billions on Star Wars Missile Defense Can’t Stop Four Lost Airliners on 9/11″ (www.wanttoknow.info/911starwars), citing “Alternatives for Boost-Phase Missile Defense,” July 2004 (http://www.cbo.gov/showdoc.cfm?index=5679&sequence=1&from=0).
20 The 9/11 Commission Report, 30, 31, 34, 38, 44.
21 The Commission’s professed inability to discover the identity of the Pentagon participants, along with its neglect of Clarke’s account, may have something to do with the fact that it endorsed General Myers’ quite different account of his whereabouts, according to which he was up on Capitol Hill at the time. The Commission also endorsed an account of Rumsfeld’s movements that is quite different from Clarke’s account (O&D 217-19).
22 “Statement of Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, May 23, 2003.”
23 The Calgary Herald (Oct. 13, 2001) reported that NORAD scrambled fighters 129 times in 2000; the FAA reported 67 scrambles between September 2000 and June 2001 (FAA News Release, August 9, 2002).
24 See The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions and, for a brief summary, “The 9/11 Commission Report: A 571-Page Lie,” 9/11 Visibility Project, May 22, 2005 (http://www.septembereleventh.org/newsarchive/2005-05-22-571pglie.php).
25 This statement is in Weston’s blurb for The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions.
26 Overviews of this evidence are provided in my two books. Also, in “The Destruction of the World Trade Center: Why the Official Account Cannot Be True,” I have laid out the case against the official story about the collapses of the WTC buildings much more fully than before.
© David Ray Griffin.
[Democracy Now and The Nation have purposefully chosen to omit critical facts about Jerome Hauer and BioPort in Jeremy Scahill’s coverage of the ongoing controversy surrounding the Bush Administration and its public health policies – especially as they relate to the stockpiling of vaccines.
These publications made a conscious choice to portray Jerome Hauer as a martyr targeted by the Bush administration while ignoring the fact that Hauer now sits on the Board of one of the most controversial pharmaceutical corporations on the planet, BioPort. This company produces an anthrax vaccine that has a proven track record of being deadly and injurious. BioPort is linked to the Bin Laden Family and may be owned in part by The Carlyle Group.Let’s take a look at the real story. – FTW]
N THE KINGDOM OF THE HALF-BLIND
IN THE KINGDOM OF THE HALF-BLIND
By Bill Moyers
(This is the prepared text of the address delivered on December 9, 2005, by Bill Moyers for the 20th anniversary of the National Security Archive, a non-governmental research institute and library at The George Washington University, in Washington D.C. The Archive collects and publishes declassified documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. Collaborating with him on this speech was Michael Winship. They have been colleagues in public broadcasting for over thirty years, including, most recently, on the PBS weekly broadcast NOW with Bill Moyers. Moyers, who retired from the NOW broadcast last December, is the President of the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy.)
It's always a fight to find out what the government doesn't want us to know. And no one in this town has done more to fight for open democracy or done more to see that the Freedom of Information Act fulfills its promise than the Archive. The fight goes back a long way. You'll find a fine account of it in Herbert Foerstel's book, Freedom of Information and the Right to Know: The Origins and Application of the Freedom of Information Act (Greenwood Press, 1999). Foerstel tells us that although every other 18th century democratic constitution includes the public's right to information, there were two exceptions: Sweden and the United States.
But in 1955 the American Society of Newspaper Editors decided to battle government secrecy. The Washington Post's James Russell Wiggins and Representative John Moss of California teamed up to spearhead that fight. President Kennedy subsequently resisted their efforts. When he asked reporters to censor themselves on the grounds that these were times of "clear and present danger," journalists were outraged and agreed that his administration represented a low point in their battle. But Congressman Moss refused to give up, and in 1966 he managed to pass the Freedom of Information Act, although in a crippled and compromised form.
I was there, as the White House press secretary, when President Lyndon Johnson signed the act on July 4, 1966; signed it with language that was almost lyrical - "With a deep sense of pride that the United States is an open society in which the people's right to know is cherished and guarded."
Well, yes, but I knew that LBJ had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the signing ceremony. He hated the very idea of the Freedom of Information Act; hated the thought of journalists rummaging in government closets and opening government files; hated them challenging the official view of reality. He dug in his heels and even threatened to pocket veto the bill after it reached the White House. And he might have followed through if Moss and Wiggins and other editors hadn't barraged him with pleas and petitions. He relented and signed "the damned thing," as he called it (I'm paraphrasing what he actually said in case C-Span is here.) He signed it, and then went out to claim credit for it.
Because of the Freedom of Information Act and the relentless fight by the Archive to defend and exercise it, some of us have learned more since leaving the White House about what happened on our watch than we knew when we were there. Funny, isn't it, how the farther one gets from power, the closer one often gets to the truth?
Consider the recent disclosures about what happened in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964. These documents, now four decades old, seem to confirm that there was no second attack on U.S. ships on the 4th of August and that President Johnson ordered retaliatory air strikes against North Vietnam on the basis of intelligence that either had been "mishandled" or "misinterpreted" or had been deliberately skewed by subordinates to provide him the excuse he was looking for to attack North Vietnam.
I was not then a player in foreign policy and had not yet become the President's press secretary - my portfolio was politics and domestic policy. But I was there beside him during those frenetic hours. I heard the conversations from the President's side, although I could not hear what was being told to him by the Situation Room or the Pentagon.
I accept now that it was never nailed down for certain that there was a second attack, but I believe that LBJ thought there had been. It is true that for months he had wanted to send a message to Ho Chi Minh that he meant business about standing behind America's commitment to South Vietnam. It is true that he was not about to allow the hawkish Barry Goldwater to outflank him on national security in the fall campaign. It is also true that he often wrestled with the real or imaginary fear that liberal Democrats, whose hearts still belonged to their late fallen leader, would be watching and sizing him up according to their speculation of how Kennedy would have decided the moment.
So yes, I think the President's mind was prepared to act if the North Vietnamese presented him a tit-for-tat opportunity. But he wasn't looking for a wider war at that time, only a show of resolve, a flexing of muscles, the chance to swat the fly when it landed.
Nonetheless, this state of mind plus cloudy intelligence proved a combustible and tragic mix. In the belief that a second attack suggested an intent on the part of an adversary that one attack alone left open, the President did order strikes against North Vietnam, thus widening the war. He asked Congress for the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that was passed three days later and opened the way for future large-scale commitments of American forces. Haste is so often the enemy of good judgment. Rarely does it produce such costly consequences as it did this time.
But did the President order-up fabricated evidence to suit his wish? No. Did subordinates rig the evidence to support what they thought he wanted to do? It's possible, but I swear I cannot imagine who they might have been - certainly it was no one in the inner-circle, as far as I could tell. I don't believe this is what happened. Did the President act prematurely? Yes. Was the response disproportionate to the events? Yes. Did he later agonize over so precipitous a decision? Yes. "For all I know," he said the next year, "our Navy was shooting at whales out there." By then, however, he thought he had other reasons to escalate the war, and did. All these years later, I find it painful to wonder what could have been if we had waited until the fog lifted, or had made public what we did and didn't know, trusting the debate in the press, Congress, and the country to help us shape policies more aligned with events and with the opinion of an informed public.
I had hoped we would learn from experience. Two years ago, prior to the invasion of Iraq, I said on the air that Vietnam didn't make me a dove; it made me read the Constitution. Government's first obligation is to defend its citizens. There is nothing in the Constitution that says it is permissible for our government to launch a preemptive attack on another nation. Common sense carries one to the same conclusion: it's hard to get the leash back on once you let the wild dogs of war out of the kennel. Our present Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has a plaque on his desk that reads, "Aggressive fighting for the right is the noblest sport the world affords." Perhaps, but while war is sometimes necessary, to treat it as sport is obscene. At best, war is a crude alternative to shrewd, disciplined diplomacy and the forging of a true alliance acting in the name of international law. Unprovoked, "the noblest sport of war" becomes the slaughter of the innocent.
I left the White House in early 1967 to practice journalism. Because our beat is the present and not the past - we are journalists after all, not historians - I put those years and events behind me, except occasionally to reflect on how they might inform my reporting and analysis of what's happening today. I was chastened by our mistakes back then, and chagrined now when others fail to learn from them.
The country suffers not only when presidents act hastily in secret, but when the press goes along. I keep an article in my files by Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon ("30 Year Anniversary: Tonkin Gulf Lie Launched Vietnam War") written a decade ago and long before the recent disclosures. They might have written it over again during the buildup for the recent invasion of Iraq. On August 5, 1964, the headline in The Washington Post read: "American Planes Hit North Vietnam After Second Attack on Our Destroyers: Move Taken to Halt Aggression." That, of course, was the official line, spelled out verbatim and succinctly on the nation's front pages. The New York Times proclaimed in an editorial that the President "went to the people last night with the somber facts." The Los Angeles Times urged Americans "to face the fact that the communists, by their attack on American vessels in international waters, have escalated the hostilities." It was not only Lyndon Johnson whose mind was predisposed to judge on the spot, with half a loaf. It was also those reporters and editors who were willing to accept the official view of reality as the truth of the matter. In his book, Censored War, Daniel Hallin found that journalists at the time had a great deal of information available which contradicted the official account of what happened in the Gulf of Tonkin, but "it simply wasn't used."
Tim Wells, who wrote a compelling book on The War Within: America's Battle Over Vietnam, told Cohen and Solomon it was yet another case of "the media's almost exclusive reliance on the U.S. government officials as sources of information," as well as "their reluctance to question official pronouncements on national security issues." There are many branches on the family tree of journalism where Judith Miller blossomed. I can imagine that one day the National Security Archive will turn up a document explaining how reporters waited outside the Garden of Eden to snap up Adam and Eve's account of what had happened inside, but never bothered to interview the snake.
I am taking your time with all this hoping you will understand why I have become something of a fundamentalist on the First Amendment protection of an independent press, a press that will resist the seductions, persuasions, and intimidations of people who hold great power - over life and death, war and peace, taxes, the fate of the environment - and would exercise it undisturbed, in great secrecy, if they are allowed.
In a telling moment, the Bush Administration opposed the declassification of 40 year old Gulf of Tonkin documents. Why? Because they fear uncomfortable comparisons with the flawed intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq. And well they might. Just as absurd is their opposition to the release of two intelligence briefings given to President Johnson in 1965 and 1968. The CIA claims they should be kept secret on the grounds that their release could impair its mission by revealing its sources and methods of forty years ago. That's bull. The actual methods used by the CIA back then have largely been declassified, which is why I signed a statement in your support when the National Security Archive went to court over this matter. I was as disappointed as you were when the federal judge, who ruled this past summer, preferred the government's penchant for secrecy to the people's right to know what goes on in their name and with their money.
It has to be said: there has been nothing in our time like the Bush Administration's obsession with secrecy. This may seem self-serving coming from someone who worked for two previous presidents who were no paragons of openness. But I am only one of legions who have reached this conclusion. See the recent pair of articles by the independent journalist, Michael Massing, in The New York Review of Books. He concludes, "The Bush Administration has restricted access to public documents as no other before it." And he backs this up with evidence. For example, a recent report on government secrecy by the watchdog group, OpenTheGovernment.org, says the Feds classified a record 15.6 million new documents in fiscal year 2004, an increase of 81% over the year before the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. What's more, 64% of Federal Advisory Committee meetings in 2004 were completely closed to the public. No wonder the public knows so little about how this administration has deliberately ignored or distorted reputable scientific research to advance its political agenda and the wishes of its corporate patrons. I'm talking about the suppression of that EPA report questioning aspects of the White House Clear Skies Act; research censorship at the departments of health and human services, interior and agriculture; the elimination of qualified scientists from advisory committees on kids and lead poisoning, reproductive health, and drug abuse; the distortion of scientific knowledge on emergency contraception; the manipulation of the scientific process involving the Endangered Species Act; and the internal sabotage of government scientific reports on global warming
It's an old story: the greater the secrecy, the deeper the corruption.
This is the administration that has illegally produced phony television news stories with fake reporters about Medicare and government anti-drug programs, then distributed them to local TV stations around the country. In several markets, they aired on the six o'clock news with nary a mention that they were propaganda bought and paid for with your tax dollars.
This is the administration that paid almost a quarter of a million dollars for rightwing commentator Armstrong Williams to talk up its No-Child-Left-Behind education program and bankrolled two other conservative columnists to shill for programs promoting the President's marriage initiative.
This is the administration that tacitly allowed inside the White House a phony journalist under the non-de-plume of Jeff Gannon to file Republican press releases as legitimate news stories and to ask President Bush planted questions to which he could respond with preconceived answers.
And this is the administration that has paid over one hundred million dollars to plant stories in Iraqi newspapers and disguise the source, while banning TV cameras at the return of caskets from Iraq as well as prohibiting the publication of photographs of those caskets - a restriction that was lifted only following a request through the Freedom of Information Act.
Ah, FOIA. Obsessed with secrecy, Bush and Cheney have made the Freedom of Information Act their number one target, more fervently pursued for elimination than Osama Bin Laden. No sooner had he come to office than George W. Bush set out to eviscerate both FOIA and the Presidential Records Act. He has been determined to protect his father's secrets when the first Bush was Vice President and then President -
as well as his own. Call it Bush Omerta.
This enmity toward FOIA springs from deep roots in their extended official family. Just read your own National Security Archive briefing book #142, edited by Dan Lopez, Tom Blanton, Meredith Fuchs, and Barbara Elias. It is a compelling story of how in 1974 President Gerald Ford's chief of staff - one Donald Rumsfeld - and his deputy chief of staff - one Dick Cheney - talked the President out of signing amendments that would have put stronger teeth in the Freedom of Information Act. As members of the House of Representatives, Congressman Rumsfeld actually co-sponsored the Act and as a Congressman, Ford voted for it. But then Richard Nixon was sent scuttling from the White House in disgrace after the secrets of Watergate came spilling out. Rumsfeld and Cheney wanted no more embarrassing revelations of their party's abuse of power; and they were assisted in their arguments by yet another rising Republican star, Antonin Scalia, then a top lawyer at the Justice Department. Fast forward to 2001, when in the early months of George W. Bush's Administration, Vice President Cheney invited the tycoons of oil, gas, and coal to the White House to divide up the spoils of victory. They had, after all, contributed millions of dollars to the cause, and as Cheney would later say of tax cuts for the fraternity of elites who had financed the campaign, they deserved their payoff. But to keep the plunder from disgusting the public, the identities of the participants in the meetings were kept secret. The liberal Sierra Club and the conservative Judicial Watch filed suit to open this insider trading to public scrutiny.
But after losing in the lower court, the White House asked the Supreme Court to intervene. Lo and behold, hardly had Justice Scalia returned from a duck hunting trip with the Vice President - the blind leading the blind to the blind - than the Supreme Court upheld the White House privilege to keep secret the names of those corporate predators who came to slice the pie. You have to wonder if sitting there in the marsh, shotguns in hand, Scalia and Cheney reminisced about their collaboration many years earlier when as young men in government they had tried to shoot down the dreaded Freedom of Information Act that kept them looking over their shoulders (Congress, by the way, overrode President Ford's veto.)
They have much to fear from the Freedom of Information Act. Just a few days ago, FOIA was used to force the Department of Justice to make available legal documents related to Supreme Court nominee Judge Alito's record. The department reluctantly complied but under very restricted circumstances. The records were made available on one day, for three hours, from 3 to 6pm, for reporters only. No citizen or advocacy groups were permitted access. There were 470 pages to review. The blogspot Mpetrelis <http://mpetrelis.blogspot.com> reckons this meant a reporter had about 34 seconds to quickly read each page and figure out if the information was newsworthy or worth pursuing further. "Not a lot of time to carefully examine documents from our next Supreme Court justice."
It's no surprise that the White House doesn't want reporters roaming the halls of justice. The Washington Post reports that two years ago six Justice Department attorneys and two analysts wrote a memo stating unequivocally that the Texas Congressional restricting plan concocted by Tom DeLay violated the Voting Rights Act. Those career professional civil servants were overruled by senior officials, Bush's political appointees, who went ahead and approved the plan anyway.
We're only finding this out now because someone leaked the memo. According to The Post, the document was kept under tight wraps and "lawyers who worked on the case were subjected to an unusual gag rule." Why? Because it is a devastating account of how DeLay allegedly helped launder corporate money to elect a Texas Legislature that then shuffled Congressional districts to add five new Republican members of the House, nailing down control of Congress for the radical right and their corporate pals.
They couldn't get away with all of this if the press was at the top of their game. Never has the need for an independent media been greater. People are frightened, their skepticism of power - their respect for checks and balances - eclipsed by their desire for security. Writing in The New York Times, Michael Ignatieff has reminded us that democracy's dark secret is that the fight against terror has to be waged in secret, by men and women who defend us with a bodyguard of lies and armory of deadly weapons. Because this is democracy's dark secret, Ignatieff continues, it can also be democracy's dark nemesis. We need to know more about what's being done in our name; even if what we learn is hard, the painful truth is better than lies and illusions. The news photographer in Tom Stoppard's play Night and Day, sums its up: "People do terrible things to each other, but it's worse in the places where everybody is kept in the dark."
Yet the press is hobbled today - hobbled by the vicissitudes of Wall Street investors who demand greater and greater profit margins at the expense of more investment in reporting (look at what's going on with Knight-Ridder.) Layoffs are hitting papers all across the country. Just last week, the Long Island daily Newsday, of which I was once publisher, cut 72 jobs and eliminated 40 vacancies - that's in addition to 59 newsroom jobs eliminated the previous month. There are fewer editors and reporters with less time, resources and freedom to burn shoe leather and midnight oil, make endless phone calls, and knock on doors in pursuit of the unreported story.
The press is also hobbled by the intimidation from ideological bullies in the propaganda wing of the Republican Party who hector, demonize, and lie about journalists who ask hard questions of this regime.
Hobbled, too, by what Ken Silverstein, The Los Angeles Times investigative reporter, calls "spurious balance," kowtowing to those with the loudest voice or the most august title who demand that when it comes to reporting, lies must be treated as the equivalent of truth; that covering the news, including the official press release, has greater priority than uncovering the news.
Consider a parable from the past, from the early seventh century, when an Irish warrior named Congal went nearly blind after he was attacked by a swarm of bees. When he became king he changed Irish law to make bee attacks criminal. Thereafter he was known as Congal Caech which means "Congal the Squinting" or "Congal the Half-Blind." If this administration has its way, that description will apply to the press.
Which brings me to a parable for our day.
Once upon a time - four years ago to be exact - PBS asked me to create a new weekly broadcast of news, analysis, and interviews. They wanted it based outside the beltway and to be like nothing else on the air: report stories no one else was covering, conduct a conversation you couldn't hear anywhere else. That we did. We offered our viewers a choice, not an echo. In our mandate, we reached back to the words of Lord Byron that once graced the masthead of many small town newspapers: "Without, or with, offence to friends or foes," he said, "I sketch your world exactly as it goes."
We did it with a team of professional journalists recruited from the best in the business: our own NOW staff; public radio's Daniel Zwerdling, Rick Karr and Deborah Amos; Network veterans Brian Ross, Michele Martin, and Sylvia Chase; Washington's Sherry Jones; The Center for Investigative Reporting's Mark Shapiro; Frontline's Lowell Bergman; Newsweek's Joe Contreras. We collaborated on major investigations with U.S. News and World Report, NPR, and The New York Times.
We reported real stories and talked with real people about real problems. We told how faraway decision-making affected their lives. We reported on political influence that led to mountaintop removal mining and how the government was colluding with industry to cover up the effect of mercury in fish on pregnant women.
We described what life was like for homeless veterans and child migrants working in the fields. We exposed Wall Street shenanigans and tracked the Washington revolving door. We reported how Congress had defeated efforts to enact safeguards that would mitigate a scandal like Enron, and how those efforts were shot down by some of the same politicians who were then charged with investigating the scandal. We investigated the Deputy Secretary of the Interior, Steven Griles, a full eighteen months before he resigned over conflicts of interest involving the oil and mining industries for which he had been a lobbyist on the other side of that revolving door. We reported on those secret meetings held by Cheney with his industry pals and attempted to find out who was in the room and what was discussed. We reported how ExxonMobil had influenced the White House to replace a scientist who believes global warming is real.
We won an Emmy for the hour-long profile of Chuck Spinney, the Pentagon whistleblower who worked from within to expose graft and waste in defense spending. And the blog, Dailykos.com, speculated that it was our interview with Ambassador Joe Wilson, two weeks before the invasion of Iraq and months before Robert Novak outed Wilson's wife Valerie Plame as a CIA operative, that first outraged the administration. "An honor I dreamed not of…"
None of this escaped the attention of the Chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Kenneth Tomlinson, a buddy of Karl Rove and the designated driver for the administration's partisan agenda for public broadcasting. Tomlinson set out, secretly, to discredit our broadcast. He accused us of being unfair and unbalanced, but that wouldn't wash. We did talk with liberal voices like Howard Zinn, Susan Sontag, Sister Joan Chittester, Isabel Allende, Thomas Frank and Arundhati Roy. But we also spoke with right-wingers like Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed, Cal Thomas, Frank Luntz, Richard Viguerie, Robert Bartley of The Wall Street Journal editorial page and then his successor, Paul Gigot.
What got Tomlinson's goat was our reporting. After all, we kept after his political pals for keeping secrets, and over and again we reported on how the big media conglomerates were in cahoots with official Washington, scheming for permission to get bigger and bigger. The mainstream media wouldn't touch this topic. Murdoch, Time Warner, Viacom, GE/NBC, Disney/ABC, Clear Channel, Sinclair - all stood to gain if their lobbying succeeded. Barry Diller appeared on our broadcast and described the relationship between the big news media and Washington as an "oligarchy." Sure enough, except for NOW with Bill Moyers, the broadcast media were silent about how they were lobbying for more and more power over what Americans see, read, and hear. It was left to one little broadcast, relegated to the black hole of Friday night, to shine the light on one of the most important stories of the decade.
What finally sent Tomlinson over the edge and off to the ramparts, however, was a documentary we did about the people of Tamaqua, a small town in Pennsylvania. The Morgan Knitting Mill there had just laid off more than a third of its workforce - the last of 25 textile mills that sustained the townspeople after the demise of the coal industry. The jobs were going to Honduras and China. Our report told how free trade agreements like NAFTA had encouraged companies to lay off American workers, produce goods more cheaply abroad and then import the goods back here. We showed how the global economy contributes to the growing inequality in America, with the gap between the rich and poor doubling in the last three decades until it is now wider than in the days of the Great Depression.
Those are the facts - "reality-based" reporting - that caused Tomlinson to tell The Washington Post that what he saw was "liberal advocacy journalism." Well, if reporting what happens to ordinary people because of events beyond their control, and the indifference of government to their fate, is liberalism, I plead guilty.
Tomlinson was now on the warpath. In secret (his preferred modus operandi) he hired an acquaintance out in Indianapolis named Fred Mann to monitor the content of our show. What qualified Fred Mann for the job has been hard to learn. His most recent position was as director of the Job Bank and alumni services at the National Journalism Center in Herndon, Virginia, an organization that is administered by the Young America's Foundation, which is, in turn, affiliated with the rightwing Young Americans for Freedom. The foundation describes itself as "the principle outreach organization for the conservative movement" and has received funding from ExxonMobil and Phillip Morris, among others. But the trail to Mann went cold there. Several journalists have tried telephoning or emailing him. I tried four times just this week to reach him. One enterprising young reporter even left notes for him at an Indianapolis Hallmark Store where Mann frequently faxed data to Tomlinson. No luck. I guess we'll have to wait for Robert Novak to out him.
Fred Mann never got around to writing his full report, but when members of Congress pressed Tomlinson to show them the notes from Mann, it turns out that he had divided NOW's guests into categories, with headings like, "Anti-Bush," "Anti-business," and "Anti-Tom DeLay." He characterized Republicans Senator Chuck Hegel, who departed from Republican orthodoxy to question the Iraq war, as "liberal," which must have come as a quite a shock to the senator.
During all this I sought several times to meet with Tomlinson and the Board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. I wanted to ask them first-hand what was going on and to discuss the importance of public broadcasting's independence. They refused. I invited Tomlinson more than once to go on the air with me, with a moderator and format of his choosing, to discuss our views on the role of public broadcasting. He refused.
But all the while he was crudely pressuring the President of PBS, Pat Mitchell, to counter NOW. And he himself was in direct contact with Paul Gigot, the rightwing editor of The Wall Street Journal editorial pages, to bring to PBS a show that Gigot had hosted on the cable business network CNBC until it was cancelled for lack of an audience. So the Journal Editorial Report came to PBS, with The Wall Street Journal, that fierce defender of the free market, accepting over $4 million of taxpayer dollars courtesy of Ken Tomlinson.
The emails between Tomlinson and Gigot during this time reveal two ideological soul mates scheming to make sure "our side," as they described themselves, gets "an absolute duplication of what Moyers is doing." But as the record will show, Gigot's show was nowhere near what NOW with Bill Moyers was doing. We were digging, investigating, and reporting; they were opining. We were offering a wide range of opinions and views; they were talking to each other. The participants on Gigot's broadcast were his own staff members at the newspaper whose editorial pages are the Pravda of American journalism, where the Right speaks only to the Right. To be blunt about it, we had more diversity of opinion on a single broadcast than Gigot had all year or than he has ever tolerated on his own editorial pages. Reporting? You have to be kidding. In their private exchange of emails Tomlinson informs Gigot that he doesn't really need to do field reporting. Gigot agrees, and goes on to say that he finds such reporting not only a waste of time and money, but "boring" [I'm not making this up: the editor of the editorial page of a great American newspaper finds field reporting "boring."] So it is that ideologues like Gigot can hold stoutly to a worldview despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality.
I had always thought Gigot an honorable, if ideological fellow. The emails confirm that he is for certain an ideologue - and a partisan. The saddest part of this story, personally, is that on my own initiative - with no prompting from anyone - I had Gigot on my broadcast three times and had asked him to become a regular presence through the elections. I even solicited Pat Mitchell, the PBS President, to urge him to accept my invitation. I had no idea that at this very same time he was secretly negotiating with Tomlinson for his own show. He never bothered to tell me. After reading the emails, I realized this was deceitful on his part. Even as I was asking him in good faith to join me on the broadcast, Gigot was back-channeling with Tomlinson on how they could complete their deal and was advising Tomlinson on "the line" that the CPB chairman should follow.
Of the many disclosures in the email exchange between the two, this is the most intriguing. On August 13, 2004, Tomlinson wrote Gigot: "Protect me on this. I am breaking my word by forwarding this Mintz/Moyers stuff - but it's too rich for you not to see. Please, please don't show it to anyone. But keep in mind as we have fun with this. Cheers-KT."
What's he talking about? Mintz is Morton Mintz, the octogenarian (now retired) and much honored investigative reporter for the Washington Post. I know nothing about his politics; during his long career he broke exposes of both Democrats and Republicans. That August he and I were emailing about the possibility of an appearance by him on my broadcast, and two months later, just prior to the first Bush-Kerry debate, I did interview him about the questions he would put to both candidates if he were an interlocutor who wanted to break through the polite protocol of the staged event in the hope of getting the politicians to touch reality. Neither Mintz nor I can recall the exact subject of our email exchanges that August, long before the debate. Tomlinson somehow gained access to our correspondence - Mintz speculates that he found someone who hacked into our emails -and promised his source that he wouldn't share it with anyone else. Nonetheless, "breaking my word" and begging Gigot to "protect me on this," he forwarded it to his co-conspirator. In a sane world, both men would be drummed out of town for such behavior.
Gigot has now taken his show to FOX News, where such tactics will find a compatible home among like-minded partisans. "Our side" turns out to be the great Republican noise machine. A couple of days after that announcement, The Wall Street Journal published a thoroughly disingenuous editorial, obviously written by Gigot, defending Kenneth Tomlinson and their own involvement with him, while taking potshots at the Inspector General of CPB who had investigated the whole mess at the request of members of Congress. The editorial compared him to Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau.
But in a final triumph of reporting and evidence over ideology and spin, the Inspector found that Tomlinson had committed multiple transgressions: he broke the law, violated the corporation's guidelines for contracting, meddled in program decisions, injected politics into hiring procedures, and admonished CPB executive staff "not to interfere with his deal" with Gigot. The emails show Tomlinson bragging to Karl Rove, who played an important role in his appointment as chairman, about his success in "shaking things up" at CPB. They also confirm that he had consulted the White House about recruiting loyalist Republicans to serve as his confederates in an organization that had been created in 1967 to prevent just such partisan meddling in public broadcasting. (Thanks to Tomlinson and his White House allies, the new President of CPB is the former co-chair of the Republican National Committee. She arrives under a cloud that only her actions can dispel. We shall see.)
Curiously, Gigot's Wall Street Journal editorial conveniently failed to mention that the emails between himself and Tomlinson indicate Tomlinson perjured himself under oath, before Congress, when he said he had nothing to do with the agreement that landed Gigot at PBS. Fact is, they worked hand-in-glove. As I just mentioned, Tomlinson told his own staff not to interfere with "his deal" with Gigot. There's even an email in which Tomlinson says to Gigot, after they have been plotting on how to bring the proposed Gigot show to fruition, "Let's stay in close touch." Obviously, lying by an ally doesn't offend Gigot, who is otherwise known as a scourge of moral transgressions by Democrats, liberals, and other pagans.
As all this was becoming public, Tomlinson was forced to resign from the CPB board. He is now under investigation by the State Department for irregularities in his other job as Chair of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the agency that oversees Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and other international broadcasting sponsored by the United States. As I say, great secrecy breeds great corruption.
I have shared this sordid little story with you because it is a cautionary tale about the regime in power. If they were so determined to go with all guns blazing at a single broadcast of public television that is simply doing the job journalism is supposed to do - setting the record straight - you can imagine the pressure that has been applied to mainstream media. And you can understand what's at stake when journalism gets the message and pulls its punches. We saw it once again when Ahmed Chalabi was in town. This is the man who played a key and sinister role in fostering both media and intelligence reports that misled the American people about weapons of mass destruction. Although still under investigation by the FBI, Chalabi has maneuvered himself into the position of Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq. He came to Washington recently to schmooze with the President and to meet with the armchair warriors of the neoconservative crowd who had helped him spin the case for going to war. The old Houdini was back, rolling the beltway press who treated him with deference that might have been accorded George Washington. Watching him knock one soft pitch after another over the wall, I was reminded that the greatest moments in the history of the press have come not when journalists made common cause with power but when they stood fearlessly independent of it. This was not one of them.
In his recent book, The Gospel According to America, David Dark reminds us again of a lesson we seem always to be forgetting, that "as learners of freedom, we might come to understand that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance." He might well have been directly addressing the press when he wrote, "Keeping one's head safe for democracy (or avoiding the worship of false gods) will require a diligent questioning of any and all tribal storytellers. In an age of information technology, we will have to look especially hard at the forces that shape discourse and the various high-powered attempts, new every morning, to invent public reality."
So be it.