WASHINGTON—Setting aside Sunday’s puerile attacks on Howard Dean by a desperate John Kerry and the by now embarrassing Joe Lieberman, the so-called Iowa debate briefly touched on the true bottom-line issue of the coming election: the extent of the U.S. government’s foreknowledge of 9-11.
Dean’s original statement questioning this possibility was ignored by the mainstream press. They have now unearthed it and cite it as yet one more example of the doctor’s dangerously wacky character. The other sign of his obvious mental illness is the suggestion that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. The crazy guy is citing the Constitution. That basic tenet of American democracy held for the Nuremberg trials but cannot be used for the likes of bin Laden.
Dean’s mostly pathetic opponents aren’t worth bothering about. But the press, which strongly influences the outcome of the election, is another matter. The members of that exclusive club, the Washington press corps, have come to the conclusion that they must intervene in the national interest to rout out a man they have decided is a wacko. They say he can’t win. And if the Washington reporters say he can’t win, by God, he’s gotta go.
Here is what Dean said last month: “The most interesting theory that I’ve heard so far—which is nothing more than a theory, it can’t be proved—is that he [Bush] was warned ahead of time by the Saudis.” Asked later about this statement, Dean replied, “I can’t imagine the president of the United States doing that.” But then he said that Bush should “give the information” to the 9-11 Commission. When asked why he raised the theory in the first place, Dean said, “Because there are people who believe that. We don’t know what happened in 9-11.”
In fact a lot of people apparently had warning that something was going to happen. The Senate intelligence report on 9-11, parts of which the Bush administration has been struggling to keep secret, lists 36 summaries of warnings dating back to 1997. Among them:
“In September 1998, the [intelligence community] obtained information that bin Laden’s next operation might involve flying an explosive-laden aircraft into a U.S. airport and detonating it.”
“In the fall of 1998, the [intelligence community] obtained information concerning a bin Laden plot involving aircraft in the New York and Washington, D.C., areas.”
“In March 2000, the [intelligence community] obtained information regarding the types of targets that operatives of bin Laden’s network might strike. The Statue of Liberty was specifically mentioned, as were skyscrapers, ports, airports, and nuclear power plants.”
There was also discussion in the press. Two examples:
The Observer (U.K.) on May 19, 2002: “George Bush received specific warnings in the weeks before 11 September that an attack inside the United States was being planned by Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network, U.S. government sources said yesterday. In a top-secret intelligence memo headlined ‘Bin Laden determined to strike in the U.S.,’ the President was told on 6 August that the Saudi-born terrorist hoped to ‘bring the fight to America’ in retaliation for missile strikes on al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan in 1998.”
The New York Times on May 15, 2002: “The White House said tonight that President Bush had been warned by American intelligence agencies in early August that Osama bin Laden was seeking to hijack aircraft but that the warnings did not contemplate the possibility that the hijackers would turn the planes into guided missiles for a terrorist attack. ‘It is widely known that we had information that bin Laden wanted to attack the United States or United States interests abroad,’ Ari Fleischer, the president’s press secretary, said this evening. ‘The president was also provided information about bin Laden wanting to engage in hijacking in the traditional pre-9/11 sense, not for the use of suicide bombing, not for the use of an airplane as a missile.’ ”
Additional reporting: Ashley Glacel