Published on Sunday, May 18, 2003 by the Toronto Star
Barbs Aside, 9/11 Questions Aren't Going Away
by Michele Landsberg
I was just listening to the latest CIA transmissions through the fillings in my molars last week when I accidentally intercepted a secret internal memo from the National Post.
It went something like this: "Post readership hits bottom, journalistic integrity under question, editor dumped, columnists fleeing sinking ship — attack Toronto Star writer at once!"
Seriously, if I may be serious for a moment about the National Post, it was not so surprising to find myself the subject of a hostile editorial in that paper after I wrote about my unanswered 9/11 questions. The Post is a staunch voice for Bush America and brooks no dissenting voices. In tabloid fashion, it headed its editorial "Michele Landsberg Loses It."
I fully expected to be labeled a "conspiracy theorist" after interviewing Vision TV's Barrie Zwicker and writing about his challenges to the official version of what happened at the World Trade Center. But I was surprised by the nature of the ensuing attacks. The Post, and the dozen or so readers who were similarly enraged by my column, didn't come up with a single argument or documented fact. It was all quivering jowls, wild insults and expostulations.
The Post's entire argument, once I filtered out the verbiage ("crock", "nonsense," "comical," "embarrassing" and, that good old standby, "blinding hatred of the United States") came down to this: captured Al Qaeda commanders have confessed to the 9/11 crimes. End of story.
Except that what I was asking was a little different. Few of us doubt that murderous Saudi Arabian terrorists executed this massacre. But I wanted to know more. Why did the U.S. military, with the most powerful arsenal in world history, fail to prevent or at least try to stop a series of hijackings and crashes that went on for nearly two hours? Where was the Air Force?
If President Bush and his cabinet were not, at this very moment, still trying to censor, suppress and delay the publication of the Joint Congressional Inquiry into 9/11, if there had been honest disclosure and straight stories from the beginning, perhaps all these "dark questions," as the Post puts it, would never have arisen.
The great majority of people, sickened and overwhelmed by the horror of the attacks, unquestioningly accepts the White House version. Many thousands, however, are patiently stitching together the documented evidence and noting the huge holes in the fabric of that official story.
Just ask yourself how the United States, with its vast intelligence establishment and spy power, could have been caught unawares in such a drastic state of unpreparedness on Sept. 11.
President Bush, or, as he delights to call himself, the commander-in-chief, must certainly have been briefed about the ominous drumbeat of terrorist threats that were accumulating over the spring and summer of 2001. According to the report by Eleanor Hill, staff director for the Joint Inquiry, there had been "an unprecedented rise in threat" during that summer. U.S. government agencies had been warned by the intelligence community that there was a high probability of "spectacular" terrorist attacks by Al Qaeda "designed to inflict mass casualties. ... Attacks will occur with little or no warning."
The warnings included the possibility that airplanes would be used as weapons. There was even an April, 2001, intelligence report that terrorists planned "a spectacular and traumatic attack" like the first World Trade Center bombing, as well as an earlier report a group of Arabs planned to fly a plane into the World Trade Center or CIA headquarters.
According to Hill, these warnings went to "senior government officials" whom she was not allowed to name.
On that fateful morning, the first pictures of the burning tower were broadcast at 8:48 a.m. By then, according to a carefully documented timeline at http://www.cooperativeresearch.net, the Federal Aviation Administration, NORAD (joint U.S.-Canada air defence), the Pentagon, the White House and the Secret Service all knew that three commercial passenger jets had been hijacked.
Here begin the obfuscation and deceit, in small matters and large, that permeate the official narrative.
Disinformation was spewing all over the place that week after Sept.11. Serious newspapers actually reported that one hijacker's passport fluttered down from the roaring inferno to be found in the rubble by sharp-eyed intelligence officers.
The key question to me was one of air defence. There are, after all, standard procedures in the event of airplane emergencies. The FAA and NORAD have clear rules about any plane that suddenly loses radio contact with the tower or veers more than 15 degrees from its course.
Once the air traffic controller detects an emergency, he or she must inform aviation officials who alert NORAD. Fighter jets are then sent up to check out the straying plane, signal to it with dipped wings, escort it back on course or even force it down.
"We scramble aircraft to respond to any potential threat," said Marine Corps Maj. Mike Snyder, a NORAD spokesman, in an interview with the Boston Globe.
But it didn't happen that way on Sept. 11. The first reports from authoritative sources (NORAD's Snyder, Vice-President Dick Cheney and, most significantly, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers) all stated that no jets took off until it was too late.
Just two days after the catastrophe, on Sept. 13, Gen. Myers was confirmed as the new chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. On that day, he told the Senate Armed Forces Committee that no Air Force jets got into the air until after the attack on the Pentagon.
On Sept. 15, The Boston Globe reported on a strange contradiction. The Globe quoted NORAD spokesman Snyder, who insisted that "the command did not immediately scramble any fighters even though it was alerted to a hijacking 10 minutes before the first plane ... slammed into the World Trade Center." He said the fighters remained on the ground until after the Pentagon was hit at 9:40 a.m. But The Globe also expressed puzzlement over the new official story that had just emerged. Now Americans were being told that fighter jets roared up from Cape Cod and from Virginia, but just didn't make it in time.
Furthermore, no explanation was ever offered for the bizarre fact that Andrews Air Force base, whose job it is to defend the U.S. capital just 19 kilometers away, had no fighter jets ready to go into action — despite the months of serious warnings of impending terrorist attacks.
And these are the people we're to trust with a missile defence system? They can't even get their stories straight, let alone defend their air space.
According to The Post and to some of their hot-eyed followers, to ask these questions is to indulge in "poisonous delusions ... that do not belong in a mainstream newspaper." I'm not sure they're the proper arbiters of mainstream journalism, but I'm willing to be "unintentionally comical" in pursuit of understanding.
And Nostradamus rocks!
Michele Landsberg's column usually appears in the Star Saturday and Sunday.
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