Former FBI agent Ali H. Soufan remembers being at the American embassy in Yemen on September 11, 2001 when, a few hours after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, a CIA official finally produced material, including photographs of two of the hijackers, that the FBI had requested months before.
"For about a minute I stared at the pictures and the report, not quite believing what I had in my hands," Soufan has written in his just-released memoir, The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against Al Qaeda. "My whole body was shaking." Had the material, documenting an al-Qaeda meeting in Malaysia in January 2000, been combined with information from the investigation in the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole that same year, he believes, the suicide mission to hijack airplanes in the United States and fly them like missiles into key commercial and government buildings might have been discovered and thwarted.
It is now possible to see why it has taken so long to restore the area where the two giant World Trade Center towers stood. Because there were so many factors to consider in rebuilding the area, decision-making became incredibly complex. But once decisions were made, the rebuilding projects could proceed. Architects, designers, and contractors got to work. The building originally called Freedom Tower (now renamed One World Trade Center) will be the tallest building in America at 1,776 feet. Two smaller towers are also being built. The memorials for the nearly 3,000 people who were murdered on September 11, 2001 have been completed. The museum, beneath the memorials, is in the process of being built as well as the transportation center at the site.
In other words, this site will become the chief visitor attraction in the nation, second only to Washington, D.C. It will enshrine everything that took place on that fateful day when so many lives were taken, so much property destroyed, so many responders scarred with lung problems, having breathed in the incinerated dust as they tried to rescue whomever they could rescue. 343 firefighters and 37 police officers from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey were killed that day by the collapsing towers.
"At 8:46 on the morning of September 11, 2001, the United States became a nation transformed," the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the 9-11 Commission) said, noting the time at which the first of two planes attacking the World Trade Center struck the north tower. The "transformation" seemed real and dramatic at the time. Even before the shock wore off, the America that some accused of having been on a "holiday from history" since the end of the Cold War was suddenly aroused and united in purpose. The seemingly feckless President became both symbol and spokesman of that new resolve as he stood amid the rubble at "ground zero" at New York, bullhorn in hand, and promised that the people responsible for knocking down the Twin Towers would soon hear from all of us and feel the power of our righteous retribution. Most of the nations of the world, including many that had long been critical of the United States, poured out their sympathy and support. Even the left-wing French newspaper Le Monde published a headline proclaiming, "We Are All Americans."
As the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001 dawns upon us, Americans will come together to recall the happenings of that infamous day. Ceremonies and even parades will occur in cities and towns around the country as television and radio stations allocate time for special programming and school children partake of numerous activities.
At the risk of sounding sacrilegious, to say nothing of heartless, I confess to having little patience for the pomp and circumstance to which we are treated year after year around the eleventh of September.
For sure, the attacks of that day were as awful as any that this country has experienced during our lifetime. Those who personally suffered loss on that day are as deserving of our compassion as those who attacked us are deserving of our justice. Yet from these facts it most certainly does not follow that there is an obligation on our part to annually engage in ritualistic expressions of our collective angst over the losses that we endured a decade ago.
In the days following the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began systematically disregarding civil liberties and arresting “suspects” they believed might commit a crime if given the opportunity.
An example of these violations is found in the case of Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain.
In 2007, these leaders at a mosque in Albany, New York were sentenced to 15 years in a federal penitentiary for their alleged connection with terrorist organization and their participation in a plot to launder money obtained by selling a missile to a Pakistani militant group known as Jaish-e-Mohammed. The FBI alleged that the two men had conspired to “make money through jihad” by laundering the proceeds of the sale of the shoulder-launched missile.
What the FBI also admitted was that the crimes of which Aref and Hossain were accused, tried, and convicted were “not real” and that there was never any threat to the American people from the supposed conspiracy.
According to a story published recently in Harper's Magazine:
President Obama will be the featured speaker at an “interfaith faith prayer service” at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. on the evening of September 11th to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attack on the nation. Curiously, while the event will also include a “Roman Catholic bishop, a Jewish rabbi, Buddhist nun, a Hindu priest, the president of the Islamic Society of North America, and a Muslim musician,” reported Ron Kerby at Beliefnet.com, “…not a single protestant or evangelical has been invited to participate.”
Most conspicuously absent, noted Kerby, will be official representation from the nation’s 16.6 million Southern Baptists, by far America’s largest Protestant denomination. “Completely left off the program was anybody represented by the National Association of Evangelicals,” he added. “No Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Congregationalists, Wesleyans, or Mennonites. Nobody from the Church of Christ or the Assemblies of God.”
The U.S. government has found another way to invade privacy in the name of fighting terrorism by proposing legislation that would track prepaid debit cards. As usual, the real losers would be, not terrorists who won’t comply anyway, but innocent Americans, or travelers, and card issuers burdened with yet another layer of record keeping and compliance procedures. The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a branch of the Treasury Department, has drafted rules, taking effect Sep. 27, to establish a “more comprehensive regulatory approach for prepaid access.”
It’s important to distinguish between these prepaid debit cards and the debit cards attached to your bank account. Once known as “stored-value cards” the cards will be renamed “prepaid access cards” — because they aren’t tied to a bank account, the money paid for them in advance could be anywhere, currently outside the reach of monitoring by the government. Which is precisely the point. An assessment of financial security threats in 2005 by the Treasury Department noted that the 9/11 hijackers opened bank accounts, signed signature cards and received wire transfers, which left a financial trail.
U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker told Reuters that American forces must continue the fight against the Taliban and for a stable Afghanistan as "the ultimate guarantee that there will not be another 9/11."
"It is going to require more resources, its going to require time," said Crocker, a career diplomat who also served as Ambassador to Iraq. "I hope we can bring all those to bear, because as hard, painful, as expensive as this has been in blood and treasure, it has cost a lot less than 9/11 did."
The Central Intelligence Agency continues to rapidly expand its global extrajudicial assassination program under the Obama administration, secretly murdering people with drones from Pakistan and Afghanistan to Somalia and Yemen. Even American citizens are fair game, according to the President.
The dramatic evolution of the agency’s priorities and operations has become so extreme that a former senior intelligence official told the Washington Post the CIA had been turned into “one hell of a killing machine.” The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the paramilitary transformation was “nothing short of a wonderment.”
But the dramatic metamorphosis, detailed in a recent exposé by the Post, entitled “CIA shifts focus to killing targets,” is hardly without critics. Some experts have even warned Congress that the illegal killings may constitute war crimes.
Documents discovered in the rebel-occupied capital of Libya offer evidence that the CIA assisted the now-deposed Libyan ruler Muammar el-Qaddafi in apprehending and jailing suspected terrorists. Those suspects include members of the rebel forces the United States and NATO have aided in toppling the Qaddafi regime.
The files were found by journalists and the activist group Human Rights Watch in the Tripoli headquarters of former External Security Organization chief Moussa Koussa. They show that both the CIA and its British counterpart, MI-6, turned captured enemies of the Qaddafi regime, including suspected al-Qaeda operatives, over to the Libyan dictator. Both the United States and Great Britain sent terrorist suspects to Libya for questioning, knowing the country's reputation for brutal interrogation techniques. Some of the documents included warnings to the Libyan government to respect the human rights of the detainees, the New York Times reported.