News & Politics

Bush: ‘I’m Not Making This Up’

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WASHINGTON, D.C.—No doubt reassuring millions of Americans, President Bush yesterday defended his program of legally dubious wiretapping at home and strategically dubious regime change abroad for fighting terrorists by insisting he isn’t in la-la land.

Terrorists want to use Iraq as a home base, Bush told reporters on Wednesday. He then added:

“I’m not making this up.”

So now you know: This time it’s for real.

Fighting a credibility gap, the president has steadily insisted he needs the National Security Agency
domestic wiretap program so as to ferret out information on terrorist plans and empower the government to
prevent future attacks. But the kind of power Bush wants amounts to a family coup, carried under the pretense of defending the homeland.

“They attacked us before, they’ll attack us again if they can,” Bush said in San
Antonio over the weekend. “And we’re going to do
everything we can to stop them.”

If Bush is to be king, he’d better get his act and that of his courtiers up to par, at least. All the evidence is that the government knew in one case after another
well before 9-11 that we were going to be attacked and did nothing about it.

The Zacarias Moussaoui fiasco is a prime example. In her
letter to FBI director Robert Mueller of May 21, 2002,
Coleen Rowley, the Minneapolis FBI agent who finally
blew the whistle on the Bureau, points out the
Minneapolis FBI agents figured Moussaoui was a
terrorist threat in the summer of 2001. “The decision to
take him into custody on August 15, 2001, on the INS
‘overstay’ charge was a deliberate one to counter that
threat and was based on the agents’ reasonable
suspicions,” she said in her May 21, 2002, letter to
Mueller. These suspicions were reinforced by reports
from French intelligence, but the FBI HQ refused to
give the Minneapolis agents the go ahead on a search
warrant. From the way Moussaoui was acting, the
Minneapolis agents felt sure he was hiding something.

“The fact is that key FBIHQ personnel whose job it
was to assist and coordinate with field division
agents on terrorism investigations and the obtaining
and use of FISA searches (and who theoretically were
privy to many more sources of intelligence information
than field division agents),” she told Mueller, “continued to, almost inexplicably, throw up roadblocks
and undermine Minneapolis’ by-now desperate efforts to
obtain a FISA search warrant, long after the French
intelligence service provided its information and
probable cause became clear. HQ personnel brought up
almost ridiculous questions in their apparent efforts
to undermine the probable cause. In all of their
conversations and correspondence, HQ personnel never
disclosed to the Minneapolis agents that the Phoenix
Division had, only approximately three weeks earlier,
warned of Al Qaeda operatives in flight schools
seeking flight training for terrorist purposes!”

The Moussaoui case again illustrates the inability
of the FBI to take action in the face of obvious
terrorist threats. The Bureau had been tipped off by one of its
longtime Afghan assets in April 2001 of a planned
attack on New York and Washington using commercial
aircraft. It had an informant in San Diego, who actually
socialized with two of the 9-11 hijackers when they arrived in the
U.S. in 2000 and even rented one of them a room.

None of this failing had anything to do with the slowness
of the FISA court or a lack of intelligence or a lack of ability to gather intelligence. (The
president has 72 hours to wiretap someone before
having to get a search warrant and, in a time of war, 15
days.)

Instead, the falling down bore directly on the top officials of the
Bureau, including both Mueller and his successor Louis Freeh,
who did not act when confronted with clear evidence of
a threat. Neither one of them has ever been held
accountable for any of this disaster.

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