However, as revealed to the public in dramatic testimony on the floor of the House by Congressman Curt Weldon years later, this information was actively suppressed and officers in the program were ordered not to pursue these leads.
CURTIS WELDON: Two weeks after 9/11, I took the basic information in this chart down to the White House. I had asked for a meeting with Steve Hadley, who at that time was Deputy National Security Advisor. The chart was smaller. It was 2 feet by 3 feet, but the same information was in the center. Steve Hadley looked at the chart and said, Congressman, where did you get that chart from? I said, I got it from the military.
[. . .]
Now, Mr. Speaker, what is interesting in this chart of al Qaeda, and you cannot see this from a distance, but right here in the center is the name of the leader of the New York cell. And that name is very familiar to the people of America. That name is Mohammed Atta.
[. . .]
We have to ask the question, why have these issues not been brought forth before this day? I had my Chief of Staff call the 9/11 Commission staff and ask the question: Why did you not mention Able Danger in your report? The Deputy Chief of Staff said, well, we looked at it, but we did not want to go down that direction.
So the question, Mr. Speaker, is why did they not want to go down that direction? Where will that lead us? Why do we not want to see the answers to the questions I have raised tonight? Who made the decision to tell our military not to pursue Mohamed Atta?
SOURCE: CURT WELDON ABLE DANGER
CLIP 4 TRANSCRIPT – “Afghanistan Reasons”
The public was told that the war was a response to 9/11. That it was the first salvo in the global war on terror that “will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated.”
But beginning with the invasion of Afghanistan and continuing throughout the so-called “war on terror,” a curious pattern emerged: the targets of the terror war always “coincidentally” happened to have geopolitical, geostrategic and geoeconomic value for the US and its allies beyond its status as a supposed terrorist haven.
As the heart of the so-called “Golden Crescent,” Afghanistan supplied as much as 90% of the world’s opium until the Taliban almost eradicated the poppy crop in the year prior to the invasion.
The country also harbors one of the richest treasure troves of untapped minerals and rare earth elements in the world, with copper, iron ore, lanthanum, neodymium, aluminum, gold, silver, zinc, mercury and lithium deposits estimated to have a value of over $1 trillion.
And, in 1997, Zbigniew Brzezinski—who, as we have already seen, helped draw the Soviets into Afghanistan by launching Operation Cyclone in 1979, thereby playing his own part in the story of Al Qaeda—wrote that American military intervention in Eurasia was going to be needed to assure America’s “global primacy” in the 21st century. He also warned that getting the American public on board with such a military undertaking was going to be extremely difficult “except in the circumstance of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat.”
Perhaps it is no surprise, then, to learn that the first major military directive of the Bush Administration—National Security Presidential Directive 9, calling for “military options against Taliban targets in Afghanistan, including leadership, command-control, air and air defense, ground forces, and logistics”—was requested in March of 2001, drafted by June, and presented to the president on September 4, 2001, seven days before 9/11.
DONALD RUMSFELD: By the first week of September, the process had arrived at a strategy that was presented to principals and later became NSPD-9, the President’s first major substantive national security decision directive. It was presented for a decision by principals on September 4th, 2001, seven days before the 11th, and later signed by the President, with minor changes and a preamble to reflect the events of September 11th, in October.
CLIP 5 TRANSCRIPT – “Torture”
On September 17, 2001, President Bush signed a still-classified directive granting the CIA the power to secretly imprison and interrogate detainees at so-called “black sites.” By November, the CIA general counsel was already attempting to expand the definition of “interrogation” to include torture. As the Jerusalem Post later reported:
On November 26, 2001, soon after the September 11 attacks on the US, the CIA general counsel wrote that “the Israeli example” could serve as “a possible basis for arguing . . . regarding terrorist detainees that ‘torture was necessary to prevent imminent, significant, physical harm to persons, where there is no other available means to prevent the harm.’”
But torture had not been foresworn by the United States and most other nations out of moral concerns for the rights of terrorists. It has long been understood that torture is useless for obtaining reliable intelligence from detainees. What it is very good at doing is getting those detainees to “confess” whatever their interrogators want them to confess. The CIA, under pressure from the Pentagon and the White House to produce intelligence linking Al Qaeda and Iraq, suddenly had a way to produce that intelligence and they would not have to wait long for their opportunity to use it.
At around the same time that bin Laden was retreating to Tora Bora, a Libyan national named Ibn al-Libi was captured by the Pakistani army and handed over to US forces at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Al-Libi was turned over to the CIA for interrogation under the agency’s new “enhanced interrogation” rules. Under the supervision of newly appointed station chief Rich Blee, Michael Anne Casey managed the handling of al-Libi, and it was not long before he was saying exactly what his interrogators wanted him to say: bin Laden had sent two high-level Al Qaeda terrorists to Iraq for biological and chemical weapons training.
Of course, the story was not true. Al-Libi couldn’t answer even the most basic questions about his tale: he couldn’t name any of the Iraqi officials involved, identify what biological or chemical materials were being used for the training or even identify where the training occurred. The Defense Intelligence Agency immediately dismissed the story as a fabrication, noting that “it is more likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers.” Remarkably, even the CIA itself issued a highly classified report on ”Iraqi Support for Terrorism” warning that the claim of Iraqis training Al Qaeda agents came from “sources of varying reliability.”
By 2003, the story had completely fallen apart. Al-Libi had recanted his claim and the CIA had withdrawn all intelligence reports based on his information. But by that point, they had already served the administration’s purpose, becoming another part of the growing Al Qaeda/Iraq myth.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Several of the detainees, in particular, some high-ranking detainees, have said that Iraq provided some training to Al Qaeda in chemical weapons development. So yes, there are contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda.
SOURCE: Rice on Iraq, War and Politics (September 25, 2002)
BUSH: We’ve learned that Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases.
But fabrications about clandestine meetings and secret training could only go so far toward motivating the public for war. In order to really sell the public on Iraq’s centrality to the war on terror, it would be helpful for the neocons to be able to point to an act of terror undeniably perpetrated by the Iraqis. And, since Saddam Hussein was not willing to oblige, an incident would have to be created.
CLIP 6 TRANSCRIPT – “Seven Countries, Five Years”
GEN. WESLEY CLARK: About ten days after 9/11, I went through the Pentagon and I saw Secretary Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz. I went downstairs just to say hello to some of the people on the Joint Staff who used to work for me, and one of the generals called me in. He said, “Sir, you’ve got to come in and talk to me a second.” I said, “Well, you’re too busy.” He said, “No, no.” He says, “We’ve made the decision we’re going to war with Iraq.” This was on or about the 20th of September. I said, “We’re going to war with Iraq? Why?” He said, “I don’t know.” He said, “I guess they don’t know what else to do.” So I said, “Well, did they find some information connecting Saddam to Al Qaeda?” He said, “No, no.” He says, “There’s nothing new that way. They just made the decision to go to war with Iraq.” He said, “I guess it’s like we don’t know what to do about terrorists, but we’ve got a good military and we can take down governments.” And he said, “I guess if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail.”
So I came back to see him a few weeks later, and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan. I said, “Are we still going to war with Iraq?” And he said, “Oh, it’s worse than that.” He reached over on his desk. He picked up a piece of paper. And he said, “I just got this down from upstairs” — meaning the Secretary of Defense’s office — “today.” And he said, “This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.” I said, “Is it classified?” He said, “Yes, sir.” I said, “Well, don’t show it to me.” And I saw him a year or so ago, and I said, “You remember that?” He said, “Sir, I didn’t show you that memo! I didn’t show it to you!”
Ultimately, the war on terror was not about Al Qaeda, and it was not confined to Afghanistan or Iraq. Instead, it was a blank check, a convenient excuse for achieving the neocons’ foreign policy objectives in the Middle East and reshaping the world in the process.
In 2007, as the war in Iraq was floundering, the neocons attempted to fail forward by redirecting the public’s attention to the next target in their war of terror: Iran.
CLIP 7 TRANSCRIPT – “P2OG”
In 2002, a Pentagon advisory group called the “Defense Science Board” proposed that the US government improve the Defense Department’s intelligence in the war on terror by developing “an entirely new capability to proactively, preemptively evoke responses from adversary/terrorist groups.” The new, secret counterintelligence unit, dubbed “Proactive Preemptive Operations Group” or P2OG, would field a team of one hundred “highly specialized people with unique technical and intelligence skills such as information operations, PSYOP, network attack, covert activities, SIGINT, HUMINT, SOF, influence warfare/deception operations” to “improve information collection by stimulating reactions” from terrorist targets. In addition to goading Al Qaeda terrorists into actually committing acts of terrorism, the proposal also called for “creating a ‘red team’ of particularly diabolical thinkers to plot imaginary terror attacks on the United States so the government can plan to thwart them.”
This stunning suggestion was reported briefly by veteran Los Angeles Times intelligence reporter William Arkin, who noted the dramatic expansion of the Pentagon’s reliance on “black world” covert operations in an October 2002 article, “The Secret War.” The article reports the proposal’s reasoning as given: provoking Al Qaeda into committing acts of terrorism would flush the terrorists out and expose them to quick-response attacks by US forces.
Other reporters, like CounterPunch’s Chris Floyd, had a different assessment: “In other words–and let’s say this plainly, clearly and soberly, so that no one can mistake the intention of Rumsfeld’s plan–the United States government is planning to use ‘cover and deception’ and secret military operations to provoke murderous terrorist attacks on innocent people. Let’s say it again: Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush and the other members of the unelected regime in Washington plan to deliberately foment the murder of innocent people–your family, your friends, your lovers, you–in order to further their geopolitical ambitions.”
Whatever the case, a remarkable story began to play out as the “easy victory” of the Iraq invasion turned into the protracted agony of the Iraq occupation. A cycle of increasingly violent sectarian attacks between Sunni and Shiite forces in the country also began to successfully target American occupation forces with ambushes, firefights, bombings and the ever-present threat to American vehicles, Improvised Explosive Devices.
The attacks increasingly became associated with a new group that had only sprung up in the wake of the occupation: Al Qaeda in Iraq.