(Copyright 2001 Al Aronowitz)


Subject: FW: Commission warned Bush
Date: Fri, 14 Sep 2001 21:48:31 -0700
From: "VENIRE" <>

Commission warned Bush But White House passed on recommendations by a bipartisan, Defense Department-ordered commission on domestic terrorism.

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By Jake Tapper

Sept. 12, 2001 | WASHINGTON -- They went to great pains not to sound as though they were telling the president "We told you so."

But on Wednesday, two former senators, the bipartisan co-chairs of a Defense Department-chartered commission on national security, spoke with something between frustration and regret about how White House officials failed to embrace any of the recommendations to prevent acts of domestic terrorism delivered earlier this year.

Bush administration officials told former Sens. Gary Hart, D-Colo., and Warren Rudman, R-N.H., that they preferred instead to put aside the recommendations issued in the January report by the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century. Instead, the White House announced in May that it would have Vice President Dick Cheney study the potential problem of domestic terrorism -- which the bipartisan group had already spent two and a half years studying---while assigning responsibility for dealing with the issue to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, headed by former Bush campaign manager Joe Allbaugh.

The Hart-Rudman Commission had specifically recommended that the issue of terrorism was such a threat it needed far more than FEMA's attention.

Before the White House decided to go in its own direction, Congress seemed to be taking the commission's suggestions seriously, according to Hart and Rudman. "Frankly, the White House shut it down," Hart says. "The president said 'Please wait, we're going to turn this over to the vice president. We believe FEMA is competent to coordinate this effort.' And so Congress moved on to other things, like tax cuts and the issue of the day."

"We predicted it," Hart says of Tuesday's horrific events. "We said Americans will likely die on American soil, possibly in large numbers---that's a quote (from the commission's Phase One Report) from the fall of 1999."

On Tuesday, Hart says, as he sat watching TV coverage of the attacks, he experienced not just feelings of shock and horror, but also frustration. "I sat tearing my hair out," says the former two-term senator. "And still am."

Rudman generally agrees with Hart's assessment, but adds: "That's not to say that the administration was obstructing."

"They wanted to try something else, they wanted to put more responsibility with FEMA," Rudman says. "But they didn't get a chance to do very much" before terrorists struck on Tuesday.

The White House referred an inquiry to the National Security Council, which did not return a call for comment.

The bipartisan 14-member panel was put together in 1998 by then-President Bill Clinton and then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., to make sweeping strategic recommendations on how the United States could ensure its security in the 21st century.

In its Jan. 31 report, seven Democrats and seven Republicans unanimously approved 50 recommendations. Many of them addressed the point that, in the words of the commission's executive summary, "the combination of unconventional weapons proliferation with the persistence of international terrorism will end the relative invulnerability of the U.S. homeland to catastrophic attack."

"A direct attack against American citizens on American soil is likely over the next quarter century," according to the report.

The commission recommended the formation of a Cabinet-level position to combat terrorism. The proposed National Homeland Security Agency director would have "responsibility for planning, coordinating, and integrating various U.S. government activities involved in homeland security," according to the commission's executive summary.

Other commission recommendations include having the proposed National Homeland Security Agency assume responsibilities now held by other agencies -- border patrol from the Justice Department, Coast Guard from the Transportation Department, customs from the Treasury Department, the National Domestic Preparedness Office from the FBI, cyber-security from the FBI and the Commerce Department. Additionally, the NHSA would take over FEMA, and let the "National Security Advisor and NSC staff return to their traditional role of coordinating national security activities and resist the temptation to become policymakers or operators."

The commission was supposed to disband after issuing the report Jan.31, but Hart and the other commission members got a six-month extension to lobby for their recommendations. Hart says he spent 90minutes with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and an hour with Secretary of State Colin Powell lobbying for the White House to devote more attention to the imminent dangers of terrorism and their specific, detailed recommendations for a major change in the way the federal government approaches terrorism. He and Rudman briefed National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice on the commission's findings.

For a time, the commission seemed to be on a roll.

On April 3, before the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Terrorism and Technology, Hart sounded a call of alarm, saying that an "urgent" need existed for a new national security strategy, with an emphasis on intelligence gathering.

"Good intelligence is the key to preventing attacks on the homeland," Hart said, arguing that the commission "urges that homeland security become one of the intelligence community's most important missions." The nation needed to embrace "homeland security as a primary national security mission." The Defense Department, for instance, "has placed its highest priority on preparing for major theater war" where it "should pay far more attention to the homeland security mission. 

Homeland security would be the main purpose of beefed-up National Guard units throughout the country.

A new strategy, new organizations like the National Homeland Security Agency---which would pointedly "not be heavily centered in the Washington, D.C. area"---would be formed to fulfill this mission, as well with the fallout should that mission fail. As the U.S. is now, the Phase III report stated, "its structures and strategies are fragmented and inadequate." Diplomacy was to be refocused on intelligence sharing about terrorist groups. Allies were to have their military, intelligence and law enforcement agencies work more closely with ours. Border security was to be beefed up.

More resources needed to be devoted to the new mission. "The Customs Service, the Border Patrol, and the Coast Guard are all on the verge of being overwhelmed by the mismatch between their growing duties and their mostly static resources," the report stated. Intelligence needed to focus not only on electronic surveillance but a renewed emphasis on human surveillance --- informants and spies ---"especially on terrorist groups covertly supported by states." As the threat was imminent, Congress and the president were urged to "start right away on implementing the recommendations put forth here."

Congress seemed interested in enacting many of the commission's recommendations. "We had a very good response from the Hill," Rudman says.

In March, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, introduced the National Homeland Security Agency Act. Other members of Congress---Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Md., John Kyl, R-Ariz., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.---talked about the issue, and these three and others began drafting legislation to enact some of the recommendations into law.

But in May, Bush announced his plan almost as if the Hart-Rudman Commission never existed, as if it hadn't spent millions of dollars, "consulting with experts, visiting 25 countries worldwide, really deliberating long and hard," as Hart describes it. Bush said in a statement that "numerous federal departments and agencies have programs to deal with the consequences of a potential use of a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapon in the United States. But to maximize their effectiveness, these efforts need to be seamlessly integrated, harmonious and comprehensive." That, according to the president, should be done through FEMA, headed by Allbaugh, formerly Bush's gubernatorial chief of staff.

Bush also directed Cheney---a man with a full plate, including supervision of the administration's energy plans and its dealings with Congress---to supervise the development of a national counter-terrorism plan. Bush announced that Cheney and Allbaugh would review the issues and have recommendations for him by Oct. 1. The commission's report was seemingly put on the shelf.

Just last Thursday, Hart spoke with Rice again. "I told her that I and the others on the commission would do whatever we could to work with the vice president to move on this," Hart said. "She said she would pass on the message."

On Tuesday, Hart says he spent much of his time on the phone with the commission's executive director, Gen. Charles G. Boyd. "We agreed the thing we should not do is say, 'We told you so,'" Hart says. "And that's not what I'm trying to do here. Our focus needs to be: What do we do now?"

Of course, as a former senator, Hart well knows what happens to the recommendations of blue-chip panels. But he says he thought that the gravity of the issue---and the comprehensiveness of the commission's task---would prevent its reports from being ignored. After all, when then-Secretary of Defense William Cohen signed the charter for the 21st Century National Security Strategy Study, he charged its members to engage in "the most comprehensive security analysis" since the groundbreaking National Security Act of 1947, which created the National Security Council, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Office of Secretary of Defense, among other organizations.

Neither Hart nor Rudman claim that their recommendations, if enacted, would have necessarily prevented Tuesday's tragedy. "Had they adopted every recommendation we had put forward at that time I don't think it would have changed what happened," Rudman says. "There wasn't enough time to enact everything. But certainly I would hope they pay more attention now."

"Could this have been prevented?" Hart asks. "The answer is, 'We'll never know.' Possibly not." It was a struggle to convince President Clinton of the need for such a commission, Hart says. He urged Clinton to address this problem in '94 and '95, but Clinton didn't act until 1998, prompted by politics. "He saw Gingrich was about to do it, so he moved to collaborate," Hart says. "Seven years had gone by since the end of the Cold War. It could have been much sooner."

Rudman said that he "would not be critical of them [the Bush administration] this early because the bottom line is, a lot has to be done." The commission handed down its recommendations just eight and a half months ago, he said, and they'll take years to fully enact.

"On the other hand," Rudman said, "if two years go by and the same thing happens again, shame on everybody.

"I'm not pointing fingers," Rudman said. "I just want to see some results." He may get his wish. On Wednesday, Thornberry renewed his call for a National Homeland Security Agency. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the assistant majority leader, called for the formation of a federal counter-terrorism czar.

Three days ago, if asked to predict what the first major foreign terrorist attack on America soil would involve, Hart says he would have guessed small nuclear warheads simultaneously unleashed on three American cities. But, he says, "there wasn't doubt in anyone's mind on that commission" that something horrific would happen "probably sooner rather than later. We just didn't know how."

In addition to the Bush administration, Hart has another group that he wishes had paid the commission's suggestions more heed. "The national media didn't pay attention," Hart says. One senior reporter from a well-known publication told one of Hart's fellow commissioners, "This isn't important, none of this is ever going to happen," Hart says. "That's a direct quote."

Hart points out that while the New York Times mentioned the commission in a Wednesday story with the sub-headline "Years of Unheeded Alarms," that story was the first serious mention the Times itself had ever given the commission. The Times did not cover the commission's report in January, nor did it cover Hart's testimony in April, he points out. "We're in an age where we don't want to deal with serious issues, we want to deal with little boys pitching baseballs who might be 14 instead of 12."

Hart says he just shook his head when he saw a former Clinton administration Cabinet official on TV Tuesday calling for the formation of a commission to study the best way to combat terrorism. "If a former Cabinet officer didn't know, how could the average man on the street? I do hope the American people understand that somebody was paying attention."

In his April 3 testimony, Hart noted that "the prospect of mass casualty terrorism on American soil is growing sharply. That is because the will to terrorism and the ways to perpetrate it are proliferating and merging. We believe that, over the next quarter century, this danger will be one of the most difficult national security challenges facing the United States---and the one we are least prepared to address." He urgently described the need for better human intelligence and not just electronic intelligence, "especially on terrorist groups covertly supported by states."

He's far from happy to have been proven correct. Both Hart and Rudman say with grim confidence that Tuesday's attacks are just the beginning. Maybe now, Rudman says, Congress, the White House, the media and the American people will realize how serious they were about their January report.

"Human nature is prevalent in government as well," Rudman says. "We tend not to do what we ought to do until we get hit between the eyes. 

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About the writer
Jake Tapper is Salon's Washington correspondent and the author of
"Down and Dirty: The Plot to Steal the Presidency.

Copyright 2001 ##

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Subject: FW: Bush's Faustian Deal With the Taliban
Date: Fri, 14 Sep 2001 22:00:16 -0700
From: "VENIRE" <>

By Robert Scheer

Published May 22, 2001 in the Los Angeles Times

Enslave your girls and women, harbor anti-U.S. terrorists, destroyevery vestige of civilization in your homeland, and the Bush administration will embrace you. All that matters is that you line up as an ally in the drug war, the only international cause that this nation still takes seriously.

That's the message sent with the recent gift of $43 million to the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan, the most virulent anti-American violators of human rights in the world today. The gift, announced last Thursday by Secretary of State Colin Powell, in addition toother recent aid, makes the U.S. the main sponsor of the Taliban and rewards that "rogue regime" for declaring that opium growing is against the will of God. So, too, by the Taliban's estimation, are most human activities, but it's the ban on drugs that catches this administration's attention.

Never mind that Osama bin Laden still operates the leading anti-American terror operation from his base in Afghanistan, from which, among other crimes, he launched two bloody attacks on American embassies in Africa in 1998.

Sadly, the Bush administration is cozying up to the Taliban regime at a time when the United Nations, at U.S. insistence, imposes sanctions on Afghanistan because the Kabul government will not turn over Bin Laden.

The war on drugs has become our own fanatics' obsession and easily trumps all other concerns. How else could we come to reward the Taliban, who has subjected the female half of the Afghan population to a continual reign of terror in a country once considered enlightened in its treatment of women?

At no point in modern history have women and girls been more systematically abused than in Afghanistan where, in the name of madness masquerading as Islam, the government in Kabul obliterates their fundamental human rights.  Women may not appear in public without being covered from head to toe with the oppressive shroud called the burkha, and they may not leave the house without being accompanied by a male family member. They've not been permitted to attend school or be treated by male doctors, yet women have been banned from practicing medicine or any profession for that matter.

The lot of males is better if they blindly accept the laws of an extreme religious theocracy that prescribes strict rules governing all behavior, from a ban on shaving to what crops may be grown. It is this last power that has captured the enthusiasm of the Bush White House.

The Taliban fanatics, economically and diplomatically isolated, are at the breaking point, and so, in return for a pittance of legitimacy and cash from the Bush administration, they have been willing to appear to reverse themselves on the growing of opium. That a totalitarian country can effectively crack down on its farmers is not surprising. But it is grotesque for a U.S. official, James P. Callahan, director of the State Department's Asian anti-drug program, to describe the Taliban's special methods in the language of representative democracy: "The Taliban used a system of consensus-building," Callahan said after a visit with the Taliban, adding that the Taliban justified the ban on drugs "in very religious terms."

Of course, Callahan also reported, those who didn't obey the theocratic edict would be sent to prison.

In a country where those who break minor rules are simply beaten on the spot by religious police and others are stoned to death, it's understandable that the government's "religious" argument might be compelling. Even if it means, as Callahan concedes, that most of the farmers who grew the poppies will now confront starvation. That's because the Afghan economy has been ruined by the religious extremism of the Taliban, making the attraction of opium as a previously tolerated quick cash crop overwhelming.

For that reason, the opium ban will not last unless the U.S. is willing to pour far larger amounts of money into underwriting the Afghan economy.

As the Drug Enforcement Administration's Steven Casteel admitted, "The bad side of the ban is that it's bringing their country---or certain regions of their country---to economic ruin." Nor did he hold out much hope for Afghan farmers growing other crops such as wheat,which require a vast infrastructure to supply water and fertilizer that no longer exists in that devastated country. There's little doubt that the Taliban will turn once again to the easily taxed cash crop of opium in order to stay in power.

The Taliban may suddenly be the dream regime of our own war drug war zealots, but in the end this alliance will prove a costly failure.

Our long sad history of signing up dictators in the war on drugs demonstrates the futility of building a foreign policy on a domestic obsession.  ##



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