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Wednesday, May 29, 2002

What Did We Know and When Did We Know It?

Deciphering some of the other chatter surrounding 9/11

By Betsey Culp

Recently, the Bush Administration warned of increased Al Qaeda “chatter,” suggesting the possibility of another attack on the United States. Perhaps there were grounds for the warning; perhaps not. But an increase in another kind of chatter bears further examination.

Ever since September 11, the internet has buzzed with explanations for that day’s events. Conspiracy buffs have been in cyber-heaven. Other, more serious observers tried to fit together the myriad bits of information, disinformation, and rumor, that came their way. As Edward Herman notes in a ZNet commentary, the mainstream media were slow to join in. In particular, he says, they ignored this story:

The story of the warnings to the Bush administration that Bin Laden and Al Qaeda were planning a terrorist act, possibly including the use of hijacked aircraft to attack facilities like the Pentagon and White House. These warnings date back at least to 1996, but became acute and difficult to ignore in the six months before 9/11 – that is, during Bush II's tenure. They included explicit warnings from foreign governments including Israel, Britain, Russia, Germany, France, Jordan, and Morocco, all advising of a serious imminent terrorist attack on the United States. These even included explicit warnings of plans "to hijack commercial aircraft and use them as we weapons to attack important symbols of American and Israeli culture" (a Mossad message of August 24).

What warnings?

The most explicit explanation of the warnings appeared on May 21 on Gordon Thomas’s Globe-Intel website in an article entitled “Bush: The ignored warning that will come to haunt him.” Thomas, a former foreign correspondent who now lives in Ireland and who has covered the Middle East from 1956, runs a website devoted to “secret intelligence.” He told me that, in preparing the “Bush” article, he collaborated with Yvonne Ridley, a new contributor to Globe-Intel and a regular correspondent for the British Sunday Express, where Thomas’s pieces also appear occasionally. In case you’ve forgotten, it was Ridley who was captured by the Taliban on September 28 and released with much fanfare on October 8. She later published a book about the incident, in which (according to an article in Alexander Cockburn’s Counterpunch) she claimed that “Western intelligence agencies tried to get her killed to bolster public support for the air strikes on Afghanistan.” Ridley said in an email that her own article on the warning to Bush will appear in the Sunday Express sometime in the future.

Here’s the gist of the carefully documented article:

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon authorised the leak of sensitive documents which reveal America's spy agencies were warned about a terrorist strike weeks before September 11. The controversial move has now directly embroiled President George Bush in the 'how-much-did-he-know?' debate over the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Sharon's reaction is a calculated response to growing claims that Mossad has been running spy operations within the United States and also reveals a split in the special relationship between the two leaders.

Mossad chiefs insist the Israeli spy agency was tracking Osama Bin-Laden's terrorists in America before September 11 and that that the information was passed on to the CIA on five separate occasions before the attacks on the WTC and Pentagon. As late as August 24, less than two weeks before the attacks, a Mossad warning, confirmed by German intelligence, BND, said that "terrorists plan to hijack commercial aircraft to use as weapons to attack important symbols of American and Israeli culture." The warning alert was passed to the CIA.

The Israeli spy agency was tracking Osama Bin-Laden's terrorists in America before September 11? According to Paul M. Rodriguez, writing in the conservative magazine Insight on March 11,

From Paris to Washington to New York City and back again, a story has reverberated about an alleged Israeli spy ring that was busted in the United States last year. Intelligence Online, a well-respected Internet news service broke the explosive story, which quickly was picked up by Le Monde in France, then the Associated Press (AP) in Washington and other news outlets.

These stories all seem to track a similar report last December by Carl Cameron of Fox News outlining concerns among U.S. law-enforcement and intelligence agencies that an Israeli-based network of operatives was spying or otherwise engaged in information-gathering activities within the United States.

On March 22, and in a number of other columns (referenced in one posted on March 22), Justin Raimondo added his two cents on the Libertarian website Antiwar.com:

The leaked Israeli Art Student Papers – posted on Antiwar.com yesterday – confirm what we have been saying in this space all along: that an underground apparatus of Israeli covert agents, centered in the southwestern US but extending nationwide, carried out extensive operations in the months prior to 9/11. Their targets were US government offices, including not only the Drug Enforcement Administration (as previously reported), but the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Federal Protective Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF), the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and a host of state and federal courthouses and other buildings, as well as military bases. There is no longer any doubt about whether the spy ring existed. Now we are left with the nagging question: what was its purpose?

If the Thomas and Ridley’s revelations of May 21 in Globe-Intel are correct, we are now beginning to know the "purpose."

Lots of chatter. Lots. It has been circling ever-inward, beginning on a few sites that are often considered to be on the crackpot fringe and gradually making its way toward the center. Once the Sunday Express publishes its own story, it will be interesting to see how long it takes the mainstream U.S. media to pick it up. If they do.

How accurate is it? Only time – and a good ear – will tell.