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Thread: Who Is John Ashcroft?

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    Who Is John Ashcroft?

    Who Is John Ashcroft?

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    July 19, 1995: ’Wall’ Memo Cuts Criminal Investigators Off from Intelligence Information
    The Justice Department issues the “wall” memo, a later heavily criticized memo that establishes procedures to regulate the flow of information from FBI intelligence investigations to criminal investigators and prosecutors. Such procedures already exist, but this “wall” is now formalized and extended. The memo is signed by Attorney General Janet Reno, but is based on a similar one recently issued by Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick governing the 1993 WTC bombing cases (see March 4, 1995). The wall exists to prevent defendants from successfully arguing in court that information gathered under a warrant issued under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) should not be used in a criminal prosecution, as the standard for obtaining a FISA warrant is considered to be lower than that for obtaining a criminal search warrant (see Early 1980s). Such arguments are usually unsuccessful, according to the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which believes that courts are showing “great deference” to the government when such challenges are made. The procedures, which now apply to all intelligence investigations regardless of whether or not a FISA warrant has been issued, state that the FBI must consult the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, not local United States Attorneys’ offices, about intelligence investigations when it is considering starting a parallel criminal investigation, and that it must do so when there is reasonable indication of a significant federal crime. This means that FBI headquarters has veto power over whether a field office can contact a local prosecutor about an intelligence investigation. However, Criminal Division prosecutors should only be consulted and cannot control an investigation. [Office of the Attorney General, 7/19/1995; US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 25-30 pdf file] These procedures will be implemented in such a way that even greater restrictions are placed on information sharing (see (Late 1995-1997)), although a partial exception will be created for the Southern District of New York, which handles a lot of terrorism work (see August 29, 1997). The procedures will also be much criticized for the way they are implemented in the FBI (see July 1999). The increased barriers to information sharing often mean that the FBI monitors terrorists as before, but the information does not get passed to criminal investigators, so the cells carry on operating in the US and the FBI carries on monitoring them. For example, the FBI monitors a Florida-based cell that funds and recruits for jihad throughout the world for nearly a decade before it is rolled up (see (October 1993-November 2001)). Some money raised by terrorism financiers in the US goes to Bosnia, where the US has a policy of enabling covert support for the Muslim side in the civil war (see April 27, 1994). Prosecutor Andrew McCarthy will later call the wall a “rudimentary blunder,” and say that it “was not only a deliberate and unnecessary impediment to information sharing; it bred a culture of intelligence dysfunction.” [National Review, 4/13/2004] John Ashcroft, Attorney General in the Bush Administration (see April 13, 2004), will say that “Government buttressed this ‘wall’,” and will call it the “single greatest structural cause for September 11.” [9/11 Commission, 4/13/2004]

    Early 2000
    US Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) agents arrest Mahnaz Samadi, a leading spokeswoman for the National Council of Resistance, at the Canadian border because several years earlier, when she was seeking political asylum in the US, she had not disclosed her past “terrorist” ties as an MEK “military commander” or the fact that she had trained in an MEK camp that was located in Iraq. Hearing about the case from his constituents, Missouri Senator John Ashcroft comes to the rescue and writes a letter on May 10, 2000 to Attorney General Janet Reno opposing Samadi’s arrest. In his letter, he calls her a “highly regarded human-rights activist.” [Newsweek, 9/26/2002; Slate, 3/21/2003; US Department of State, 4/30/2003]

    September 2000
    When the Iranian National Council of Resistance, a front group for the militant Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), holds a demonstration outside the United Nations protesting a speech by Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, Republican Senators Ashcroft and Chris Bond from Missouri issue a joint statement expressing solidarity with the organization. [Newsweek, 9/26/2002; Slate, 3/21/2003; US Department of State, 4/30/2003]

    Spring 2001: Ashcroft Doesn’t Want FBI Director to Talk About Terrorism
    Attorney General John Ashcroft talks with FBI Director Louis Freeh before an annual meeting of special agents. Ashcroft lays out his priorities, which according to one participant is “basically violent crime and drugs.” Freeh bluntly replies that those are not his priorities and he talks about counterterrorism. “Ashcroft does not want to hear about it,” says one witness. [Newsweek, 5/27/2002]

    May 2001: Clinton Impeachment Lawyer Learns About Al-Qaeda Manhattan Attack Warning
    David Schippers, the House Judiciary Committee’s chief investigator in the Clinton impeachment trial, was hired to represent FBI agent Robert Wright in September 1999 (see August 3, 1999). After 9/11, Schippers will claim that he began privately informing congresspeople about Wright’s investigation into terrorism financing in the US in early 2001, but found little interest (see February-March 2001). Schippers appears to have had different sources than Wright who began telling him about attack warnings. Supposedly, the first warning was based on a secret February 1995 report which stated that bin Laden was planning three attacks on the US: the bombing of a federal building in the heartland of the US, shooting down or blowing up an airplane, and a massive attack in lower Manhattan. Schippers believes the first warning was a prediction of the April 1995 Oklahoma City bombing (see April 19, 1995) and the second was a prediction of the 1996 explosion of TWA Flight 800 (see July 17, 1996-September 1996). In some versions of this warning, the Manhattan attack was meant to be caused by a “dirty bomb” - explosives mixed with radioactive materials - but other accounts described the use of planes as weapons instead. He says one of his sources for this early warning was Yossef Bodansky, director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare. Schippers will claim that his sources continued to uncover further information. The Manhattan warning “had started out just a general threat, but they narrowed it and narrowed it, more and more with time,” until the “same people who came out with the first warning” tell him in May 2001 that “an attack on lower Manhattan is imminent.” Schippers speaks to several FBI agents directly, and hears that “there are [other agents] all over the country who are frustrated and just waiting to come out.” They are frustrated by “a bureaucratic elite in Washington short-stopping information,” which gives “terrorism a free reign in the United States.” Schippers later claims that some FBI agents later told him that before 9/11, “they had [Mohamed] Atta in their sights.” They also had attempted to “check out” the names and activities of “very strange characters training at flight schools.” He will claim that “FBI agents in Chicago and Minnesota” tell him “there [is] going to be an attack on lower Manhattan.” Schippers will later claim that he will attempt to contact Attorney General John Ashcroft and other politicians about this warning in coming months, but that they will show little interest (see July-Late August 2001). [WorldNetDaily, 10/21/2001; Indianapolis Star, 5/18/2002; Ahmed, 2004, pp. 258-260]

    May 8-10, 2001: Senate Hearings Discuss Possibility of Terrorist Attack in the US
    Based on concerns that the US is unprepared for a terrorist attack on its soil, the Republican chairmen of three Senate committees—appropriations, armed services and intelligence—arrange three days of hearings to explore how to better coordinate efforts at preventing and responding to terrorist attacks within the United States. Eighteen government officials testify, including CIA Director George Tenet, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Before the hearings commence, Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan) tells reporters, “The United States is very likely to suffer, on our soil, an attack by a weapon of mass destruction, by a terrorist group or cell. It should come as no surprise this nation is not prepared for such an attack.” [Washington Post, 5/9/2001; Red Cross, 5/10/2001] In his testimony at the hearings, John Ashcroft warns, “It is clear that American citizens are the target of choice of international terrorists. Americans comprise only about 5 percent of the world’s population. However, according to State Department statistics, during the decade of the 1990s, 36 percent of all worldwide terrorist acts were directed against US interests. Although most of these attacks occurred overseas, international terrorists have shown themselves willing to reach within our borders to carry out their cowardly acts.” [US Congress. Senate. Appropriations Committee, 5/9/2001] Yet in a letter describing the agenda of the new administration that he sends to department heads the day after giving this testimony, Ashcroft does not mention terrorism (see May 10, 2001). [New York Times, 2/28/2002] Also testifying at the hearings, FEMA Director Joe Allbaugh announces he will soon be establishing an Office of National Preparedness to coordinate efforts at responding to terrorist attacks. [Washington Post, 5/9/2001] On the day the hearings start, President Bush announces that he is putting Vice President Dick Cheney in charge of overseeing a coordinated effort to address the threat posed to the United States by chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons (see May 8, 2001). [White House, 5/8/2001]

    May 10, 2001: Ashcroft Omits Counterterrorism from List of Goals
    Attorney General Ashcroft sends a letter to department heads telling them the Justice Department’s new agenda. He cites seven goals, but counterterrorism is not one of them. Yet just one day earlier, he testified before Congress and said of counterterrorism, “The Department of Justice has no higher priority.” [New York Times, 2/28/2002] Dale Watson, head of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, recalls nearly falling out of his chair when he sees counterterrorism not mentioned as a goal. [9/11 Commission, 4/13/2004] In August, a strategic plan is distributed, listing the same seven goals and 36 objectives. Thirteen objectives are highlighted, but the single objective relating to counterterrorism is not highlighted. [New York Times, 2/28/2002]

    Summer 2001: FBI Lacks Resources But Ashcroft Denies More Funding
    The New York Times will later report that, according to senior government officials, “A top secret report warned top officials of the FBI in the months before Sept. 11 that the bureau faced significant terrorist threats from Middle Eastern groups like al-Qaeda but lacked enough resources to meet the threat…” The internal assessment finds that virtually every major FBI field office is undermanned when evaluating and dealing with the threat from groups like al-Qaeda. The report gives detailed recommendations and spending increases to address the problem. However, in August 2001, acting FBI Director Tom Pickard meets Attorney General John Ashcroft to ask for supplemental funding for counterterrorism, but his request is turned down. On September 10, 2001, Ashcroft rejects a proposed $58 million increase in FBI counterterrorism funding for the next year’s budget (see September 10, 2001). [New York Times, 6/1/2002]

    End Part I
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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    July 5, 2001: Ashcroft Is Warned of Imminent, Multiple Attacks from Al-Qaeda
    The CIA briefs Attorney General Ashcroft on the al-Qaeda threat. Several senior CIA Counterterrorism Center officials warn him that a significant attack is imminent, preparations for multiple attacks are in the late stages or already complete, and that little additional warning can be expected. He is told the attack is more likely to occur overseas than in the US. He was also briefed by the CIA on the al-Qaeda threat on May 15, 2001. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 258-259, 534; Tenet, 2007, pp. 150] CIA Director Tenet will later claim in a book that at the end of the briefing, Ashcroft turned to some FBI personnel and asked them, “Why are they telling me this? Why am I not hearing this from you?” [Tenet, 2007, pp. 150] One week later, the FBI will brief him about the al-Qaeada threat in the US and he will reportedly reply, “I do not want to hear about this anymore” (see July 12, 2001). By the end of July, he will stop flying commercial aircraft in the US (see July 26, 2001).

    July 10-11, 2001: Conference Held in Washington on Preparing the US for Domestic Terrorism
    The National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the National Emergency Management Association co-sponsor a two-day event held in Washington called Preparing the Nation: A National Policy Summit on Domestic Terrorism. Federal officials, state teams of governors’ key policy advisors, and state leaders in law enforcement, public health, fire, and emergency management attend. Speakers include Attorney General John Ashcroft, Representative Christopher Shays (R), and West Virginia Governor Robert Wise. [National Governors Association, 6/25/2001; Red Cross, 7/11/2001; National Governors Association, 7/13/2001] The agenda of the event is structured around a tabletop exercise, based on a hypothetical bioterrorist attack. The scenario involves a neo-nazi terrorist releasing six liters of plague slurry in a fictional city resembling New York, called Gotham. [National Governors Association, 6/25/2001; National Governors Association, 7/10/2001 pdf file; National Governors Association, 7/10/2001, pp. 7 pdf file] In his speech at the event, Anthony Williams, the mayor of the District of Columbia, says it is especially appropriate that the summit is being held in DC, because “our city has been called ground zero for a potential terrorism incident. ‘It’s only a matter of time,’ they say, ‘before Washington, DC is the site of a terrorist attack.’” [National Governors Association, 7/10/2001 pdf file] Assistant FBI Director Dale Watson tells the summit that a significant terrorist attack is likely on US soil (see July 11, 2001). [Reuters, 7/12/2001] In his speech, John Ashcroft says, “Our number one priority is the prevention of terrorist attacks” (see July 11, 2001). [National Governors Association, 7/11/2001 pdf file] Charles DeVita, the vice president for global safety and security for the Red Cross, says, “Conferences like these are starting to take place because even the federal government is realizing that [acts of terrorism are a major] threat. It’s not a matter of if, but when this is going to happen.” [Red Cross, 7/11/2001]

    July 10, 2001: CIA Director Gives Urgent Warning to White House of Imminent, Multiple, Simultaneous Al-Qaeda Attacks, Possibly Within US
    CIA Director Tenet finds the briefing Cofer Black just gave him (see July 10, 2001) so alarming that he calls National Security Adviser Rice from his car as he heads to the White House and says he needs to see her right away, even though he has regular weekly meetings with her. [Washington Post, 10/1/2006] Tenet, Black, and an unnamed third CIA official brief Rice on the latest intelligence. Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke are also present. [McClatchy Newspapers, 10/2/2006] According to a later account in the Washington Post, they told her, “First, al-Qaeda was going to attack American interests, possibly in the United States itself. Black emphasized that this amounted to a strategic warning, meaning the problem was so serious that it required an overall plan and strategy. Second, this was a major foreign policy problem that needed to be addressed immediately. They needed to take action that moment—covert, military, whatever—to thwart bin Laden. The United States had human and technical sources, and all the intelligence was consistent…” However, “Tenet and Black felt they were not getting through to Rice. She was polite, but they felt the brush-off.” They leave the meeting frustrated, seeing little prospect for immediate action. Tenet and Black will both later recall the meeting as the starkest warning they gave the White House on al-Qaeda before 9/11 and one that could have potentially stopped the 9/11 attacks if Rice had acted on it (see July 10, 2001) and conveyed their urgency to President Bush (Tenet was briefing Bush on a daily basis at this time, but he will later claim that Rice had a much better rapport with Bush). Black will say, “The only thing we didn’t do was pull the trigger to the gun we were holding to her head.” [Woodward, 2006, pp. 80; Washington Post, 10/1/2006] Clarke will recall in 2006 that Rice focused on the possible threat to President Bush at an upcoming summit meeting in Genoa, Italy (see June 13, 2001 and July 20-22, 2001). Rice and Bush had already been briefed about the Genoa warning by this time (see July 5, 2001). Rice also promised to quickly schedule a high-level White House meeting on al-Qaeda. However, that meeting does not take place until September 4, 2001 (see September 4, 2001). [McClatchy Newspapers, 10/2/2006] Rice also directs that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Attorney General Ashcroft be given the same briefing (see July 11-17, 2001). There will be a brief description of the meeting in a Time magazine article in 2002 that goes largely unnoticed at the time: “In mid-July, Tenet sat down for a special meeting with Rice and aides. ‘George briefed Condi that there was going to be a major attack,’ says an official; another, who was present at the meeting, says Tenet broke out a huge wall chart… with dozens of threats. Tenet couldn’t rule out a domestic attack but thought it more likely that al-Qaeda would strike overseas.” [Time, 8/4/2002] Tenet will privately brief the 9/11 Commission about the meeting in early 2004 (see January 28, 2004). According to a transcript of his briefing, he tells Rice there could be an al-Qaeda attack in weeks or perhaps months, that there would be multiple and simultaneous attacks causing major human casualties, and that the focus would be US targets, facilities, or interests. As Time reported, Tenet says the intelligence focuses on an overseas attack, but a domestic attack could not be ruled out. [Washington Post, 10/3/2006] However, this meeting will go unmentioned by the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry and the 9/11 Commission and commission members will later deny they were told about it. After the transcript is shared with reporters, the commission members will reverse their denials (see September 30-October 3, 2006). Rice will also deny the meeting took place, only to reverse her position as well (see October 1-2, 2006).

    July 11, 2001: John Ashcroft: ‘Our Number One Priority is the Prevention of Terrorist Attacks’
    Attorney General John Ashcroft gives a speech at a summit on preparing the US for domestic terrorism, held in Washington, DC (see July 10-11, 2001). He says, “[W]e must be vigilant about the prevention of attacks utilizing weapons of mass destruction. And we must be prepared to mitigate the damage to human life and property should our worst fears come true.” He also says, “Our number one priority is the prevention of terrorist attacks,” but cautions, “We will not always be able to prevent terrorist attacks. When an incident occurs, we must react and react quickly.” [Associated Press, 7/11/2001; National Governors Association, 7/11/2001 pdf file] Yet despite his claim that preventing terrorism is a priority, one day after this speech Ashcroft reportedly tells the acting FBI director that he does not want to hear about terrorism anymore (see July 12, 2001). In a letter he’d sent out to department heads two months previously, describing the agenda of the new administration and citing seven goals, he’d made no mention of terrorism (see May 10, 2001). And the day before 9/11, Ashcroft will refuse to endorse the FBI’s request for a $58 million increase in counterterrorism funding (see September 10, 2001).

    July 12, 2001: Ashcroft Reputedly Uninterested in Terrorism
    On July 5, the CIA briefed Attorney General Ashcroft on the al-Qaeda threat, warning that a significant overseas terrorist attack is imminent, and a strike could occur at any time (see July 5, 2001). On this day, acting FBI Director Tom Pickard briefs Ashcroft about the terror threat inside the US. Pickard later swears under oath that Ashcroft tells him, “[I do] not want to hear about this anymore.” Ashcroft, also under oath, later categorically denies the allegation, saying, “I did never speak to him saying that I didn’t want to hear about terrorism.” However, Ruben Garcia, head of the Criminal Division, and another senior FBI official corroborate Pickard’s account. Ashcroft’s account is supported by his top aide, but another official in Ashcroft’s office who could also support Ashcroft’s account says he cannot remember what happened. Pickard briefs Ashcroft on terrorism four more times that summer, but he never mentions al-Qaeda to Ashcroft again before 9/11. [MSNBC, 6/22/2004] Pickard later makes an appeal to Ashcroft for more counterterrorism funding; Ashcroft rejects the appeal on September 10, 2001 (see September 10, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 4/13/2004] Pickard later says, “Before September 11th, I couldn’t get half an hour on terrorism with Ashcroft. He was only interested in three things: guns, drugs, and civil rights.” [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 293]

    July 26, 2001: Ashcroft Stops Flying Commercial Airlines; Refuses to Explain Why
    CBS News reports that Attorney General Ashcroft has stopped flying commercial airlines due to a threat assessment, but “neither the FBI nor the Justice Department… would identify [to CBS] what the threat was, when it was detected or who made it.” [CBS News, 7/26/2001] One newspaper reports, “Ashcroft demonstrated an amazing lack of curiosity when asked if he knew anything about the threat. ‘Frankly, I don’t,’ he told reporters.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 6/3/2002] It is later reported that he stopped flying in July based on threat assessments made on May 8 and June 19. In May 2002, it is claimed the threat assessment had nothing to do with al-Qaeda, but Ashcroft walked out of his office rather than answer questions about it. [Associated Press, 5/16/2002] The San Francisco Chronicle will later conclude, “The FBI obviously knew something was in the wind.… The FBI did advise Ashcroft to stay off commercial aircraft. The rest of us just had to take our chances.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 6/3/2002] CBS’s Dan Rather will later ask of this warning: “Why wasn’t it shared with the public at large?” [Washington Post, 5/27/2002] On July 5, the CIA had warned Ashcroft to expect multiple, imminent al-Qaeda attacks overseas (see July 5, 2001) and on July 12 the FBI warned him about the al-Qaeda threat within the US (see July 12, 2001).

    End Part II
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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    July-Late August 2001: Clinton Impeachment Lawyer Tries to Warn about Al-Qaeda Attack on Lower Manhattan
    David Schippers, the House Judiciary Committee’s chief investigator in the Clinton impeachment trial and the lawyer for FBI agent Robert Wright since September 1999, will later claim that he was warned about an upcoming al-Qaeda attack on lower Manhattan in May 2001 (see May 2001). After May, Schippers continues to get increasingly precise information about this attack from FBI agents in Chicago and Minnesota, and around July he renews efforts to pass the warning to politicians. He will claim, “I tried to see if I could get a Congressman to go to bat for me and at least bring these people [to Washington] and listen to them. I sent them information and nobody cared. It was always, ‘We’ll get back to you,’ ‘We’ll get back to you,’ ‘We’ll get back to you.’” At the same time he is attempting to pass on this warning, he will claim he is also attempting to pass on the work of reporter Jayna Davis and her theory that Middle Easterners were involved in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing (see April 19, 1995), and also Wright’s claim that Hamas operatives were operating freely inside the US (see February-March 2001). The three claims put together seem to lead to a bad response; Schippers later comments, “People thought I was crazy.” Around July 15, he attempts to contact Attorney General John Ashcroft. Conservative activist “Phyllis Schlafly finally apparently made some calls. She called me one day and said, ‘I’ve talked to John Ashcroft, and he’ll call you tomorrow.’” The next day, one of Ashcroft’s underlings in the Justice Department calls him back and says, “We don’t start our investigations with the Attorney General. Let me look into this, and I’ll have somebody get back to you right away.” Schippers will say he never did hear back from anyone in the Justice Department. Perhaps coincidentally, on July 26 it will be reported that Ashcroft has stopped flying commercial aircraft due to an unnamed threat (see July 26, 2001). In late August, his FBI agent sources again confirm that an al-Qaeda attack on lower Manhattan is imminent. [WorldNetDaily, 10/21/2001; Indianapolis Star, 5/18/2002; Ahmed, 2004, pp. 258-260] In 2003, Wright will say, “In 2000 and in 2001, [Schippers] contacted several US congressmen well before the September 11th attacks. Unfortunately, these congressmen failed to follow through with Mr. Schippers’ request that they investigate my concerns.” It is not clear if Wright was one of the Chicago FBI agents that Schippers claims gave warnings about a Manhattan attack, or if Wright is only referring to Wright’s investigation into funding for Hamas and other groups that Schippers was also warning politicians about (see February-March 2001). [Federal News Service, 6/2/2003]

    August 6, 2001: Justice Department Reaffirms Wall Policy
    In testimony before the 9/11 Commission, Attorney General Ashcroft complains, “[T]he single greatest structural cause for September 11 was the wall that segregated criminal investigators and intelligence agents.” However, on this day, Ashcroft’s Assistant Attorney General, Larry Thompson, writes a memo reaffirming the policy that is later criticized as this “wall.” [9/11 Commission, 12/8/2003; Washington Post, 4/18/2004]

    Between August 7 and September 10, 2001: Ashcroft Supposedly Does Not See ‘Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US’ Memo before 9/11
    On August 7, 2001, a version of the Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US” given to President Bush the day before is sent to other top US officials (see August 7, 2001). This version, called an SEIB, has the same title as the PDB but contains less classified information. Attorney General John Ashcroft - the head of law enforcement in the US - will later claim that he does not remember seeing this SEIB before 9/11. He will say he was at a conference in Chicago at the time and he does not remember his staff briefing him about it later. In the Clinton administration, the attorney general was a regular recipient of the same PDB given to the president. [9/11 Commission, 4/13/2004]

    Before September 23, 2001
    Less than two weeks after 9/11, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales sets up an interagency group to design a strategy for prosecuting terrorists, and specifically asks it to suggest military commissions as one viable option for prosecution of suspected terrorists. Pierre-Richard Prosper from the State Department, assigned to lead the group, recalls, “We were going to go after the people responsible for the attacks, and the operating assumption was that we would capture a significant number of al-Qaeda operatives.” In addition to the use of military commissions, the group begins to work out three other options: ordinary criminal trials, military courts-martial, and tribunals with a mixed membership of civilians and military personnel. The option of a criminal trial by an ordinary federal court is quickly brushed aside for logistical reasons, according to Prosper. “The towers were still smoking, literally. I remember asking: Can the federal courts in New York handle this? It wasn’t a legal question so much as it was logistical. You had 300 al-Qaeda members, potentially. And did we want to put the judges and juries in harm’s way?” Despite the interagency group’s willingness to study the option of military commissions, lawyers at the White House, according to reporter Tim Golden, grow impatient with the group. Some of its members are seen to have “cold feet.” [New York Times, 10/24/2004]

    September 10, 2001: Ashcroft Opposes Counterterrorism Funding
    Attorney General Ashcroft rejects a proposed $58 million increase in financing for the FBI’s counterterrorism programs. The money would have paid for 149 new counterterrorism field agents, 200 additional analysts and 54 additional translators. On the same day, he sends a request for budget increases to the White House. It covers 68 programs—but none of them relate to counterterrorism. He also sends a memorandum to his heads of departments, stating his seven priorities—none of them relate to counterterrorism. [Guardian, 5/21/2002; New York Times, 6/1/2002; New York Times, 6/2/2002] He further proposes cutting a program that gives state and local counterterrorism grants for equipment like radios and preparedness training from $109 million to $44 million. Yet Ashcroft stopped flying public airplanes in July due to an as yet undisclosed terrorist threat (see July 26, 2001), and in a July speech he proclaimed, “Our No. 1 priority is the prevention of terrorist attacks.” [New York Times, 2/28/2002]

    (8:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Some US Leaders Are Scattered; Others in D.C.
    Secretary of State Colin Powell leaves his Lima, Peru hotel after hearing the news.Secretary of State Colin Powell leaves his Lima, Peru hotel after hearing the news. [Source: Agence France-Presse]Just prior to learning about the 9/11 attacks, top US leaders are scattered across the country and overseas:
    • President Bush is in Sarasota, Florida. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
    • Secretary of State Powell is in Lima, Peru. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
    • General Henry Shelton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is flying across the Atlantic on the way to Europe. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
    • Attorney General Ashcroft is flying to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
    • Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Joe Allbaugh is at a conference in Montana. [ABC News, 9/14/2002] Others are in Washington:
    • Vice President Cheney and National Security Adviser Rice are at their offices in the White House. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
    • Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is at his office in the Pentagon, meeting with a delegation from Capitol Hill. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
    • CIA Director Tenet is at breakfast with his old friend and mentor, former senator David Boren (D), at the St. Regis Hotel, three blocks from the White House. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
    • FBI Director Mueller is in his office at FBI Headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
    • Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta is at his office at the Department of Transportation. [US Congress, 9/20/2001]
    • Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is at a conference in the Ronald Reagan Building three blocks from the White House. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 1]


    (9:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Clarke Directs Crisis Response through Video Conference with Top Officials
    Around this time, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke reaches the Secure Video Conferencing Center next to the Situation Room in the West Wing of the White House. From there, he directs the response to the 9/11 attacks and stays in contact with other top officials through video links. On video are Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, CIA Director Tenet, FBI Director Mueller, FAA Administrator Jane Garvey, Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson (filling in for the traveling Attorney General Ashcroft), Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (filling in for the traveling Secretary of State Powell), and Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers (filling in for the traveling Chairman Henry Shelton). National Security Adviser Rice is with Clarke, but she lets Clarke run the crisis response, deferring to his longer experience on terrorism matters. Clarke is also told by an aide, “We’re on the line with NORAD, on an air threat conference call.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 2-4; Australian, 3/27/2004] The 9/11 Commission says of this conference in a staff report: “The White House Situation Room initiated a video teleconference, chaired by Richard Clarke. While important, it had no immediate effect on the emergency defense efforts.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] The 9/11 Commission’s Final Report covers the conference in greater depth and suggests begins about 15 minutes later than Clarke claims, at 9:25 a.m.(see 9:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). Yet, as the Washington Post puts it, “everyone seems to agree” Clarke is the chief crisis manager on 9/11. [Washington Post, 3/28/2004] Even Clarke’s later opponent, National Security Adviser Rice, calls him 9/11’s “crisis management guy.” [United Press International, 4/10/2004] The conference is where the government’s emergency defense efforts are concentrated.

    10:49 p.m. September 11, 2001: Ashcroft Claims to Already Understand Hijacking Procedure
    It is reported that Attorney General Ashcroft has told members of Congress that there were three to five hijackers on each plane armed only with knives. [CNN, 9/12/2001]

    September 12, 2001: Virginia Chief Medical Examiner in ‘Tug of War’ Over Who Should do Autopsies of Pentagon Victims
    Virginia Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Marcella Fierro, believing that state forensic pathologists have jurisdiction over the Pentagon’s land, reassigns staff from three other regional offices to the Northern Virginia office in order to conduct postmortem examinations on victims of the Pentagon attack. However, following what the Washington Post calls a “behind-the-scenes tug of war,” after FBI and Defense Department officials meet with her they instead opt to conduct forensic and mortuary activities at Defense Department facilities. Fierro requests and later receives a letter from Attorney General John Ashcroft relieving her department of its responsibilities. [Washington Post, 9/13/2001; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A-47]

    End Part III
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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    October 2, 2001: Patriot Act is Introduced to Congress
    Sen. Russell Feingold will ultimately be the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act. Sen. Russell Feingold will ultimately be the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act. [Source: Publicity photo]The “anti-terrorism” Patriot Act is introduced in Congress, but is not well received by all. [US Congress, 10/2/2001] One day later, Senate Majority Leader and future anthrax target Tom Daschle (D) says he doubts the Senate will take up this bill in the one week timetable the administration wants. As head of the Senate, Daschle has great power to block or slow passage of the bill. Attorney General Ashcroft accuses Senate Democrats of dragging their feet. [Washington Post, 10/3/2001] On October 4, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman and future anthrax target Patrick Leahy (D) accuses the Bush administration of reneging on an agreement on the anti-terrorist bill. Leahy is in a key position to block or slow the bill. Some warn that “lawmakers are overlooking constitutional flaws in their rush to meet the administration’s timetable.” Two days later, Ashcroft complains about “the rather slow paceover his request for law enforcement powers Hard feelings remain.” [Washington Post, 10/4/2001] The anthrax letters to Daschle and Leahy are sent out on October 9 and difficulties in passing the Act continue (see October 2001).

    October 11-29, 2001: General Terror Alerts Issued, Terrorists Said Poised to Attack US ‘in the Next Week’
    On October 11, 2001, President Bush uses his first prime-time news conference to give an update on the early stages of the war on terrorism. He confirms that the Justice Department just issued a blanket alert “in recognition of a general threat.” [CNN News, 10/11/2001] This general threat never materializes. On October 29, the Administration warns again of plans to strike the United States “in the next week.” In a quickly called news conference, US Attorney General John Ashcroft says intelligence sources have found “credible” information the nation could be the focus for some sort of terrorist attack within the week. No specific information is provided to the public now or later to explain what information may have caused this alert. [CNN News, 10/29/2001]

    October 12, 2001: Ashcroft Urges Agencies to Deny FOIA Requests
    Attorney General Ashcroft encourages federal agencies to deny requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In a memo to all government departments and agencies, he states, “When you carefully consider FOIA requests and decide to withhold records, in whole or in part, you can be assured that the Department of Justice will defend your decisions.” This is a dramatic shift from the Clinton Administration, which instructed federal officials to grant all information requests unless there was “foreseeable harm” in doing so. [Washington Post, 12/2/2002] The New York Times notes that while the new policy was announced after 9/11, “it had been planned well before the attacks.” [New York Times, 1/3/2003]

    Late October 2001
    White House lawyers have become impatient with the interagency group’s (see Before September 23, 2001) less than full endorsement of the use of military commissions to try suspected terrorists. By late October, Timothy E. Flanigan takes the task of designing a strategy for prosecuting terrorists away from the group and proceeds to focus on military commissions as the only preferable option. The White House lawyers now work more in secret, excluding many agencies and most of the government’s experts in military and international law, but together with the lawyers of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), with the intention of drafting a presidential military order. [New York Times, 10/24/2004] There is a remarkable secrecy surrounding the drafting process. Both Attorney General John D. Ashcroft and his deputy, Larry D. Thompson, are closely consulted. But the head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Michael Chertoff is kept out of the loop. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld is informed through his general counsel, Williams J. Haynes II. Other Pentagon experts, however, are excluded. [New York Times, 10/24/2004] When the order is signed many expressed surprise. “That came like a bolt from the blue,” a former Pentagon official says. “Neither I nor anyone I knew had any insight, any advance knowledge, or any opportunity to comment on the president’s military order.” [Guardian, 6/9/2004] “I can’t tell you how compartmented things were,” retired Rear Adm. Donald J. Guter, the Navy’s Judge Advocate General, later recalls. “This was a closed administration.” [New York Times, 10/24/2004]

    November 10, 2001
    Vice-President Cheney leads a meeting at the White House to put the finishing touches on a draft Presidential Order establishing military commissions (see November 9, 2001). The meeting includes Ashcroft, Haynes, and the White House lawyers, but leaves out senior officials of the State Department and the National Security Council. Two officials later claim Cheney advocated withholding the document from National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell. According to a former official, Cheney discusses the draft with Bush over lunch a few days later. [New York Times, 10/24/2004]

    December 3-5, 2001
    As soon as he hears the news, Lindh’s father immediately hires James Brosnahan, a well-respected lawyer, on behalf of his son. On December 3, Brosnahan faxes a letter to Powell, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, and CIA Director George Tenet. He introduces himself as Lindh’s lawyer, expressing his wish to see him, and stating: “Because he is wounded and, based upon press reports, went for three days without food, I would ask that any further interrogation be stopped, especially if there is any intent to use it in any subsequent legal proceedings.” When Brosnahan receives no reply, he writes again, “I would ask that no further interrogation of my client occur until I have the opportunity to speak with him. As an American citizen, he has the right to counsel and, under all applicable legal authorities, I ask for the right to speak with my client as soon as possible.” On December 5, still having received no reply, he urges that “we have a conversation today.” Again, no reply comes. [Los Angeles Times, 3/23/2002; World Socialist Web Site, 3/27/2002; New Yorker, 3/3/2003]

    December 6, 2001: Ashcroft Says People Nostalgic Over ‘Phantoms of Lost Liberty’ ‘Aid Terrorists’
    Attorney General Ashcroft says, “To those who pit Americans against immigrants, citizens against non-citizens, to those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America’s enemies and pause to America’s friends. They encourage people of good will to remain silent in the face of evil.” [CNN, 12/7/2001]

    January 17, 2002: Suicide Attack Alert Issued
    Attorney General John Ashcroft warns that suicide attacks “might be expected because of confidential information” the US government has received. He further warns, in regards to the five most wanted terrorists, that “These men could be anywhere in the world” and “may be trained and prepared to commit future suicide terrorist acts.” [NBC, 1/17/2002]

    January 20, 2002
    Attorney General John Ashcroft publicly defends the president’s decision (see January 18, 2002) to deny detainees the protections of Geneva Convention. He calls them “terrorists” who “are uniquely dangerous.” [CNN, 1/22/2002]

    February 1, 2002
    In a letter to Bush, Ashcroft argues that the Third Geneva Convention should not be applicable to the Taliban, based on two grounds. First, Afghanistan is a failed state and cannot therefore be considered a party to the treaty. Second, Taliban fighters acted as unlawful combatants. Explaining the advantages of this proposal, Ashcroft notes, “[A] Presidential determination against treaty applicability would provide the highest assurance that no court would subsequently entertain charges that American military officers, intelligence officials and law enforcement officials violated Geneva Convention rules relating to field conduct, detention conduct or interrogation of detainees.” [US Attorney General, 2/1/2002] As Judge Evan J. Wallach will later observe, “Attorney General Ashcroft’s letter seems to make it clear that by the end of January, at least, consideration was being given to conduct which might violate [the Third Geneva Convention’s] strictures regarding the detention and interrogation of prisoners of war.” [Wallach, 9/29/2004]

    February 12, 2002: Ashcroft Calls for ‘Highest State of Alert’
    Attorney General John Ashcroft says “I want to encourage…all Americans everywhere to be on the highest state of alert.” The FBI warns of a threat from Yemeni or Saudi Arabian terrorists who may be planning an imminent attack. [CNN, 2/12/2002] It is later revealed that the threat hadn’t been corroborated by other US intelligence agencies. In addition, the threat actually indicated a more likely attack in Yemen. This announcement was made the same day that Enron CEO Kenneth Lay appeared before Congress. A week earlier, the White House had been ordered to refrain from destroying any documentation related to Enron. [Rolling Stone, 9/21/2006 pdf file]

    End Part IV
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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    March 14, 2002: US Indicts Saeed for Murder of Daniel Pearl
    Attorney General Ashcroft announces a second US criminal indictment of Saeed Sheikh, this time for his role in the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl. The amount of background information given about Saeed is very brief, with only scant reference to his involvement with Islamic militant groups after his release from prison in 1999. It only mentions is that he fought in Afghanistan with al-Qaeda in September and October 2001. The indictment and Ashcroft fail to mention Saeed’s financing of the 9/11 attacks, and no reporters ask Ashcroft about this either. [CNN, 3/14/2002; Los Angeles Times, 3/15/2002]

    May 30, 2002: FBI Allowed to Monitor Political or Religious Groups
    Attorney General Ashcroft relaxes decades-old rules limiting government agents from monitoring domestic religious and political groups. Now, FBI agents can attend political rallies or religious meetings without evidence of a crime or advance approval from superiors. The new rules also permit the FBI to broadly search or monitor the internet for evidence of criminal activity without having any tips or leads that a specific criminal act has been committed. [Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/31/2002]

    June 4, 2002: Bush Acknowledges Agencies Made Mistakes, Continues to Insist That 9/11 Could Not Have Been Prevented
    For the first time, Bush concedes that his intelligence agencies had problems: “In terms of whether or not the FBI and the CIA were communicating properly, I think it is clear that they weren’t.” [London Times, 6/5/2002] However, in an address to the nation three days later, President Bush still maintains, “Based on everything I’ve seen, I do not believe anyone could have prevented the horror of September the 11th.” [Sydney Morning Herald, 6/8/2002] Days earlier, Newsweek reported that the FBI had prepared a detailed chart showing how agents could have uncovered the 9/11 plot if the CIA had told them what it knew about the hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar sooner. (FBI Director Mueller denies the existence of such a chart. [Washington Post, 6/3/2002] ) One FBI official says, “There’s no question we could have tied all 19 hijackers together.” [Newsweek, 6/2/2002] Attorney General Ashcroft also says it is unlikely better intelligence could have stopped the attacks. [Washington Post, 6/3/2002]

    June 9, 2002
    President Bush designates Padilla, who has been in custody since May 8 (see May 8, 2002), an “enemy combatant” on advice from Rumsfeld and Ashcroft, and directs Rumsfeld to see that he his taken into military custody. Padilla is taken to the Consolidated Naval Brig in Charleston, South Carolina sometime during the middle of that night. At the time of the transfer, Padilla was awaiting a judgment on a request made by his counsel to have the material witness warrant (see May 8, 2002) vacated. [CNN, 6/11/2002]

    June 10, 2002
    Attorney General John Ashcroft announces Padilla’s arrest (see June 9, 2002), claiming that “in apprehending [Padilla] as he sought entry into the United States,” the US government has “disrupted an unfolding terrorist plot to attack the United States by exploding a radioactive ‘dirty bomb.’” [CBS News, 6/10/2002] Similarly, President Bush says: “This guy, Padilla, is a bad guy. And he is where he needs to be—detained,” along with many other “would-be killers” as part of the war on terrorism. And Rumsfeld too, states that Padilla “was unquestionably involved in terrorist activities.” [CNN, 6/11/2002] Padilla becomes publicly known as the “dirty-bomber.”

    June 13, 2002: Congresspeople Ask Ashcroft About Patriot Act
    Several congresspeople submit a list of 50 questions to Attorney General Ashcroft, asking him how the Patriot Act is being implemented (see October 26, 2001). [New York Times, 7/14/2002] For instance, they ask, “How many times has the department requested records from libraries, bookstores and newspapers? How many roving wiretaps has the department requested?” Ashcroft refuses to answer many of the questions, even though he is legally required to do so. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/8/2002] Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D) fails to receive any response to dozens of letters he writes to Ashcroft, and other senators complain of a complete stonewall [Washington Post, 8/21/2002] In March 2003, senators continue to complain that Ashcroft still has not provided the oversight information about the Patriot Act that he is required to give by law. [ABC News, 3/12/2003]

    Early July 2002: Moussaoui Expresses Willingness to Talk, Offer Is Rejected by Justice Department
    Zacarias Moussaoui indicates that he is willing to disclose information to the US authorities, but his overtures are rejected by the FBI and the Justice Department. After learning of Moussaoui’s offer, Minneapolis FBI counsel Coleen Rowley contacts assistants to FBI director Robert Mueller and to Justice Department manager Michael Chertoff. She says she is worried about Moussaoui’s research into cropdusting and wind patterns, and that the information he could provide may prove useful averting a second strike by al-Qaeda. Rowley will later comment: “But by that time Moussaoui had been charged with the death penalty and I deduced that [attorney general John] Ashcroft would not allow any potential for bargaining leverage to be injected into the case.” [Huffington Post, 5/2/2007]

    August 1, 2002
    The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) sends a non-classified memo to White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, offering the opinion that a policy allowing suspected al-Qaeda members to be tortured abroad “may be justified.” [US Department of Justice, 8/1/2002 pdf file] The 50-page memo is signed and authored by Jay S. Bybee, head of OLC, and co-authored by John Yoo, a deputy assistant attorney general. Gonzales had formally asked for the OLC’s legal opinion in response to a request by the CIA for legal guidance. A former administration official, quoted by the Washington Post, says the CIA “was prepared to get more aggressive and re-learn old skills, but only with explicit assurances from the top that they were doing so with the full legal authority the president could confer on them.” [Washington Post, 6/9/2004] “We conclude that the statute, taken as a whole,” Bybee and Yoo write, “makes plain that it prohibits only extreme acts.” Addressing the question of what exactly constitute such acts of an extreme nature, the authors proceed to define torture as the infliction of “physical pain” that is “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.” Purely mental pain or suffering can also amount to “torture under Section 2340,” but only if it results “in significant psychological harm of significant duration, e.g. lasting for months or even years.” [Washington Post, 6/9/2004] Bybee and Yoo appear to conclude that any act short of torture, even though it may be cruel, inhuman or degrading, would be permissible. They examine, for example, “international decisions regarding the use of sensory deprivation techniques.” These cases, they notice, “make clear that while many of these techniques may amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, they do not produce pain or suffering of the necessary intensity to meet the definition of torture. From these decisions, we conclude that there is a wide range of such techniques that will not rise to the level of torture.” More astounding is Bybee and Yoo’s view that even torture can be defensible. “We conclude,” they write, “that, under the current circumstances, necessity or self-defense may justify interrogation methods that might violate Section 2340A.” Inflicting physical or mental pain might be justified, Bybee and Yoo argue, “in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the al-Qaeda terrorist network.” In other words, necessity or self-defense may justify torture. Moreover, “necessity and self-defense could provide justifications that would eliminate any criminal liability.” [Washington Post, 6/8/2004] International anti-torture rules, furthermore, “may be unconstitutional if applied to interrogations” of suspected terrorists. [US News and World Report, 6/21/2004] Laws prohibiting torture would “not apply to the president’s detention and interrogation of enemy combatants” in the “war on terror,” because the president has constitutional authority to conduct a military campaign. [Washington Post, 6/27/2004] “As commander in chief,” the memo argues, “the president has the constitutional authority to order interrogations of enemy combatants to gain intelligence information concerning the military plans of the enemy.” [Washington Post, 6/9/2004] According to some critics, this judgment—which will be echoed in a March 2003 draft Pentagon report (see March 6, 2003) —ignores important past rulings such as the 1952 Supreme Court decision in Youngstown Steel and Tube Co v. Sawyer, which determined that the president, even in wartime, is subject to US laws. [Washington Post, 6/9/2004] The memo also says that US Congress “may no more regulate the president’s ability to detain and interrogate enemy combatants than it may regulate his ability to direct troop movements on the battlefield.” [Washington Post, 6/27/2004] After the memo’s existence is revealed, Attorney General John D. Ashcroft denies senators’ requests to release it and refuses to say if or how the president was involved in the discussion. “The president has a right to hear advice from his attorney general, in confidence,” he says. [New York Times, 6/8/2004; Bloomberg, 6/8/2004; Washington Post, 6/9/2004] Responding to questions about the memo, White House press secretary Scott McClellan will reason that the memo “was not prepared to provide advice on specific methods or techniques,” but was “analytical.” But the 50-page memo seems to have been considered immensely important, given its length and the fact that it was signed by Jay S. Bybee, head of the Office Legal Counsel. “Given the topic and length of opinion, it had to get pretty high-level attention,” Beth Nolan, a former White House Counsel (1999-2001), will tell The Washington Post. This view is confirmed by another former Office of Legal Counsel lawyer who tells the newspaper that unlike documents signed by deputies in the Office of Legal Counsel, memorandums signed by the Office’s head are considered legally binding. [Washington Post, 6/9/2004]

    End Part V
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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    September 10, 2002: Threat Level Raised to Orange for First 9/11 Anniversary
    The government raises the National Alert Level to orange, the second highest level possible. This is the first time such an alert has been raised since 9/11. The government temporarily closes for public business about two dozen US diplomatic posts worldwide. Officials say there is no specific known threat against targets in the US. [Washington Post, 9/10/2002] President Bush personally makes the announcement while Vice President Cheney flees to a “secure location.” Attorney General John Ashcroft warns that the threat targets “transportation and energy sectors.” More specific detail on the nature or targets of the threat is not supplied. The heightened terror alert coincides with the President’s address to the nation from Ellis Island on the first anniversary of 9/11. [Rolling Stone, 9/21/2006 pdf file]

    September 12, 2002: WHIG Puts Out White Paper On Iraq
    The White House publishes a 26-page government white paper titled, “A Decade of Deception and Defiance,” which seeks to demonstrate that Saddam Hussein represents a serious and imminent threat to the United States. The report, written by White House Iraq Group member James Wilkinson, relies primarily on public sources, including reports that have been published by human rights groups and the State Department, as well as various newspaper articles, including two by the New York Times. [Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 48] Section 5 of the report deals with “Saddam Hussein’s support for international terrorism,” though it makes no attempt to tie Hussein’s government to al-Qaeda or Osama bin Laden. It lists six points linking Saddam Hussein to terrorist activities, some dating as far back as the ‘70s. One of the points criticizes Iraq for its ties to the Mujahadeen-e Khalq Organization (MKO), an obscure militant Iranian dissident group whose main office is in Baghdad. The report says: “Iraq shelters terrorist groups including the Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO), which has used terrorist violence against Iran and in the 1970s was responsible for killing several US military personnel and US civilians.” The paper notes that the US State Department classified MKO as a “foreign terrorist organization” in 1997, “accusing the Baghdad-based group of a long series of bombings, guerilla cross-border raids and targeted assassinations of Iranian leaders.” [Newsweek, 9/26/2002 Sources: Richard Durbin] The administration is quickly ridiculed for making the claim when, two weeks later, Newsweek reports that MKO’s front organization, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, has a small office in the National Press Building in Washington, DC. It is also reported that only two years beforehand this very group had been supported by then-Senator John Ashcroft and more than 200 other members of Congress. On several issues the senator and his colleagues had expressed solidarity with MKO at the behest of their Iranian-American constituencies. [Newsweek, 9/26/2002] Another allegation included in the paper states that Iraqi defector Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, a civil engineer, “had visited twenty secret facilities for chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons.” According to the White House dossier, Haideri “supported his claims with stacks of Iraqi government contracts, complete with technical specifications.” Ten months earlier, the CIA had debriefed Haideri in Bangkok and concluded from the results of a polygraph that Haideri account was a complete fabrication (see December 17, 2001). [Executive Office of the President, 9/12/2002 pdf file]

    September 30, 2002: No Plea Bargain Sought in Case Against Moussaoui
    Seymour Hersh of New Yorker magazine reveals that, despite a weak case against Zacarias Moussaoui, no federal prosecutor has discussed a plea bargain with him since he was indicted in November 2001. Hersh reports that “Moussaoui’s lawyers, and some FBI officials, remain bewildered at the government’s failure to pursue a plea bargain.” Says a federal public defender, “I’ve never been in a conspiracy case where the government wasn’t interested in knowing if the defendant had any information—to see if there wasn’t more to the conspiracy.” Apparently a plea bargain isn’t being considered because Attorney General Ashcroft wants nothing less than the death penalty for Moussaoui. One former CIA official claims, “They cast a wide net and [Moussaoui] happened to be a little fish who got caught up in it. They know it now. And nobody will back off.” A legal expert says, “It appears that Moussaoui is not competent to represent himself, because he doesn’t seem to understand the fundamentals of the charges against him, but I am starting to feel that the rest of us are crazier… we may let this man talk himself to death to soothe our sense of vulnerability.” [New Yorker, 9/30/2002]

    October 18, 2002: Ashcroft Invokes ‘State-Secrets Privilege’ to Prevent FBI Whistleblower’s Suit from Being Heard in Court
    At the request of FBI Director Robert Mueller, Attorney General John Ashcroft files a declaration invoking the rarely used “state-secrets privilege” to block FBI translator Sibel Edmonds’ lawsuit against the government from being heard in court. [New York Observer, 1/22/2004] The Justice Department insists that disclosing her evidence, even at a closed hearing in court, “could reasonably be expected to cause serious damage to the foreign policy and national security of the United States.” The “state-secrets privilege,” derived from English common law, has never been the subject of any congressional vote or statute. Normally, the privilege is used to block the discovery of a specific piece of evidence that could put the nation’s security at risk. But Ashcroft’s declaration asserts that the very subject of her lawsuit constitutes a state secret, thus barring her from even presenting her case in court. The text of Ashcroft’s declaration is classified. [Vanity Fair, 9/2005]

    December 18, 2002-April 2005: Marzouk, InfoCom, and Holy Land Foundation Leaders Are Charged and Convicted
    Mousa Abu Marzouk, his wife, and five brothers (Ghassan Elashi, Bayan Elashi, Hazim Elashi, Basman Elashi, and Ihsan Elashi) are charged with conspiracy, money laundering, dealing in the property of a designated terrorist, illegal export, and making false statements. The brothers are arrested in Texas, but Marzouk and his wife are living in Syria and remain free. Marzouk is considered a top leader of Hamas. FBI agent Robert Wright had been investigating Marzouk and the brothers since the late 1990s. Wright is set to appear on ABC News on December 19, 2002, to complain that the FBI had failed to prosecute Marzouk for years. As the New York Post notes, “That got results: A day before the show aired, Attorney General Ashcroft announced he would indict Marzouk.” [BBC, 12/18/2002; Associated Press, 12/18/2002; Washington Post, 12/19/2002; New York Post, 7/14/2004] FBI agent John Vincent, who worked closely with Wright, comments, “From within the FBI, [Wright] and I tried to get the FBI to use existing criminal laws to attack the infrastructure of terrorist organizations within the United States, but to no avail. It took an appearance [on television] by [Wright] and I to propel them into making arrests that they could have made as early as 1993.” [Federal News Service, 6/2/2003] ABC News similarly notes, “Marzouk was in US custody in 1997 and under criminal investigation then for much the same crimes cited today.” [ABC News, 12/18/2002] Ghassan Elashi was the vice president of InfoCom Corporation, which was raided on September 5, 2001 (see September 5-8, 2001). He was also chairman of Holy Land Foundation, which was shut down in December 2001. InfoCom and Holy Land were based in the same Texas office park and shared many of the same employees. [Guardian, 9/10/2001; CBS News, 12/18/2002; Associated Press, 12/23/2002] Holy Land raised $13 million in 2000 and claimed to be the largest Muslim charity in the US. The government charges that Hamas members met with Ghassan Elsashi and other Holy Land officials in 1993 to discuss raising money for the families of suicide bombers (see October 1993). Wright had begun an investigation into Holy Land that same year, but he faced obstacles from higher-ups and eventually his investigation was shut down. [CBS News, 12/18/2002; New York Times, 7/28/2004] In 2004, the five Elashi brothers will be convicted of selling computer equipment overseas in violation of anti-terrorism laws. In 2005, three of the brothers, Ghassan, Basman, and Bayan Elashi, will be found guilty of supporting Hamas by giving money to Mazouk through 2001. [BBC, 7/8/2004; Associated Press, 4/13/2005] In July 2004, Ghassan Elashi will be charged again, along with four other former Holy Land officials. Two other Holy Land officials will also charged but not arrested, since they had recently left the country. Sen. Charles Schumer (D) will state, “I wonder why this prosecution has taken so long. I think until recently we have not put the resources needed into tracking groups that finance terrorism, and the fact that they didn’t get 24-hour surveillance on these two who escaped is galling and perplexing.” This trial is still ongoing. [New York Times, 7/28/2004]

    February 7-13, 2003: Orange Alert Causes Duct Tape and Plastic Sheeting Buying Panic
    The government raises the threat level to orange. The announcement is made by Attorney General John Ashcroft, Homeland Security Secretary Ridge, and FBI Director Mueller. CIA Director George Tenet calls the threat “the most specific we have seen” since 9/11 and says al-Qaeda may use a “radiological dispersal device, as well as poisons and chemicals.” Ashcroft states that “this decision for an increased threat condition designation is based on specific intelligence received and analyzed by the full intelligence community. This information has been corroborated by multiple intelligence sources.” [CNN, 2/7/2003] Ashcroft further claims that they have “evidence that terrorists would attack American hotels and apartment buildings.” [ABC News, 2/13/2007] A detailed plan is described to authorities by a captured terror suspect. This source cited a plot involving a Virginia- or Detroit-based al-Qaeda cell that had developed a method of carrying dirty bombs encased in shoes, suitcases, or laptops through airport scanners. The informant specifies government buildings and Christian or clerical centers as possible targets. [ABC News, 2/13/2007] Three days later, Fire Administrator David Paulison advises Americans to stock up on plastic sheeting and duct tape to protect themselves against radiological or biological attack. This causes a brief buying panic. [MSNBC, 6/4/2007] Batteries of Stinger anti-aircraft missiles are set up around Washington and the capital’s skies are patrolled by F-16 fighter jets and helicopters. [BBC, 2/14/2003] The threat is debunked on February 13, when the main source is finally given an FBI polygraph and fails it. Two senior law enforcement officials in Washington and New York state that a key piece of information leading to the terror alerts was fabricated. The claim made by a captured al-Qaeda member regarding a “dirty bomb” threat to Washington, New York, or Florida had proven to be a product of his imagination. Vincent Cannistraro, former head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, says the intelligence turned out “to be fabricated and therefore the reason for a lot of the alarm, particularly in Washington this week, has been dissipated after they found out that this information was not true.” But threat levels remain stuck on orange for two more weeks. [ABC News, 2/13/2007] Bush administration officials do admit that the captured terror suspect lied, but add that this suspect was not the only source taken into consideration. Ridge says that there is “no need to start sealing the doors and windows.” Bush says that the warning, although based on evidence fabricated by an alleged terrorist, is a “stark reminder of the era that we’re in, that we’re at war and the war goes on.” [BBC, 2/14/2003] The alert followed less than forty-eight hours after Colin Powell’s famous speech to the United Nations in which he falsely accused Saddam Hussein of harboring al-Qaeda and training terrorists in the use of chemical weapons (see 10:30 a.m. February 5, 2003). [Rolling Stone, 9/21/2006 pdf file] Anti-war demonstrations also continue to take place world-wide. [MSNBC, 6/4/2007]

    Late March 2003 and After: FBI Offers $5 Million Reward for Information on Atta Associate
    The FBI issues a reward of $5 million for information on Adnan Shukrijumah, starting a world-wide manhunt that will last for years. Shukrijumah lived in the same area as most of the 9/11 hijackers and was reportedly seen with Mohamed Atta in the spring of 2001 (see May 2, 2001), when he was being investigated by the FBI over two terrorist plots (see April-May 2001 and (Spring 2001)). Information gleaned from detainees sugests that Shukrijumah is a top al-Qaeda operative who was trained in Afghanistan and is associated with 9/11 architect Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Jose Padilla (see June 10, 2002). In May 2004 Attorney General John Ashcroft will even single out Shukrijumah as the most dangerous al-Qaeda operative planning to attack the US. However, despite reported sightings in Central America, he is still on the run in 2006 and believed to be hiding in the tribal areas of Pakistan. [US News and World Report, 4/7/2003; USA Today, 6/15/2003; FrontPage Magazine, 10/27/2003; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 40-41 pdf file; Los Angeles Times, 9/3/2006] US authorities claim he is a pilot and has been receiving flight training outside the US for several years, though they do not release any evidence to substantiate this. His family insists that he is neither a qualified pilot nor an al-Qaeda operative. [USA Today, 6/15/2003; CNN, 9/5/2003]

    End Part VI
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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    April 23, 2003
    John Ashcroft states that US authorities have “noticed an increase in third country nations (Pakistanis, Palestinians, etc.) using Haiti as a staging point for attempted migration to the United States. This increases the national security interest in curing use of this migration route.” Commenting on the remarks, State Department spokesman Stuart Patt says, “‘We all are scratching our heads. We are asking each other, ‘Where did they get that?’” No evidence is ever offered by Ashcroft or anyone else in the Justice Department to support the accusation. Miami Immigration attorney Ira Kurzban, who will later represent Jean-Bertrand Aristide after his removal, says the statements are “part of a concerted plan involving the destruction of the Haitian people by creating the chaotic economic conditions in Haiti while forcing people to go back there.” Kurzban adds: “There is no basis of fact for the attorney general’s claims. No information of this nature has been presented to the Haitian government. It’s a false claim. It’s used to perpetuate a discriminatory policy against Haitians.” [Miami Herald, 4/25/2003]

    May 13-June 30, 2003: FBI Wins Battle to Control Finance Investigations
    The FBI and Customs Department had been waging a bureaucratic war over control of Operation Greenquest, a controversial but largely fruitful Customs terrorist finance investigation (see After March 20, 2002-Early 2003). On May 13, 2003, Attorney General John Ashcroft and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge signed a memorandum of agreement giving the FBI near total control over all terrorist finance investigations. According to the memorandum, if the FBI feels the case is related to terrorist financing and should belong to them, “the investigation and operation of the matter shall be led by the FBI.” The agreement also effectively ends Greenquest. The memo states, “The Secretary [of Homeland Security] agrees that no later than June 30, 2003, Operation Greenquest will no longer exist as a program name.” [National Review, 5/27/2003]

    June 2003-August 2004: Detroit ‘Sleeper Cell’ Members Found Guilty, Then Convictions Overturned After Discovery of Widespread Prosecutorial Misconduct
    Verdicts are announced in a trial of four men who lived in a Detroit apartment on 9/11 that had previously been rented by al-Qaeda operative Nabil al-Marabh (see September 17, 2001). Abdel-Ilah Elmardoudi and Karim Koubriti are convicted of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and also document fraud. Ahmed Hannan is convicted of document fraud. Farouk Ali-Haimoud is cleared of all charges. Justice Department officials, including Attorney General John Ashcroft, assert the men were in an al-Qaeda sleeper cell and had plans to attack targets in the US and Turkey. The verdicts are hailed as the first successful post-9/11 terrorism prosecution. [Washington Post, 12/31/2003] However, the case soon begins to fall apart. The judge learns the prosecution had withheld evidence in the case, and in December 2003, orders an internal Justice Department inquiry. In August 2004, the inquiry asks the judge to throw out the convictions because of prosecutorial misconduct, which he does. For instance, it is revealed that the only witness in the trial, Youssef Hmimssa, told a fellow prisoner that he had made up all his evidence against the defendants. But the prosecution kept this information, and much more that was potentially damaging to their case, from the jury. The Washington Post later reports that the inquiry concludes “the prosecution stuck doggedly to its theory in defiance of plausible explanations and advice from other US government officials. Records suggest prosecutors withheld evidence that cast doubt on their conclusions, even when ordered by superiors to deliver documents to the defense.” By late 2005, it will be reported that a federal grand jury is investigating whether the lead prosecutor, Richard Convertino, or anyone else should be indicted. Convertino meanwhile will sue Ashcroft and other Justice Department superiors, accusing them of mismanaging the case and retaliating against him for testifying critically about the Justice Department before Congress. [Washington Post, 12/31/2003; Associated Press, 8/30/2004; Washington Post, 11/20/2005]

    June 23, 2003: President Bush Designates Third Enemy Combatant
    President Bush designates Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri as an “enemy combatant.” Al-Marri arrived in the US one day before 9/11 (see September 10, 2001) and has been in US custody since December 2001 (see December 15, 2001). He is the third declared an enemy combatant, after Yaser Esam Hamdi and Jose Padilla. They both are US citizens while he is a legal US resident. The presidential order says he “engaged in conduct that constituted hostile and war-like acts, including conduct in preparation for acts of international terrorism.” The order adds that Al-Marri “represents a continuing, present, and grave danger to the national security of the United States.” His detention is necessary, the order claims, to prevent him from participating in terrorist activities against the US. Al-Marri is subsequently detained in solitary confinement at the Naval Brig in Charleston. The immediate result of the presidential order is that the Pentagon becomes Al-Marri’s new custodian and that Al-Marri will not be entitled to legal representation or access to a US court. The order in effect precludes a pretrial hearing scheduled for July 2 and the start of a formal trial on July 22. His lawyer Mark Berman filed a motion to suppress evidence seized at Al-Marri’s apartment during an FBI search, which he says was conducted without a warrant. In addition, he claims his client was not properly advised of his rights before his initial interrogation. Officially, Al-Marri was indicted on seven counts, including making false statements to the FBI and identity and credit card fraud. He supposedly lied about contacts between September and November 2001 with an al-Qaeda paymaster in the United Arab Emirates, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi. The Justice Department also alleges that Al-Marri is an al-Qaeda sleeper operative tasked with assisting other members in carrying out future terrorist attacks. These officials say this information was provided by another detainee, believed to be a member of al-Qaeda, who also claims Al-Marri is trained in the use of poisons. Other detainees have told interrogators that Al-Marri met with Osama bin Laden at the Al-Farouq training camp in Afghanistan, where he offered to become a martyr. An additional reason for Al-Marri’s designation of enemy combatant appears to be the possibility of drawing more information from him. Attorney General Ashcroft states: “An individual with that kind of situation is an individual who might know a lot about what could happen, might know the names of individuals, information being so key to intelligence and prevention.” [CNN, 6/24/2003]

    Early 2004: White House, Justice Department Clash over Secret NSA Data Mining Program
    The White House and the Justice Department are at odds over the legality of the National Security Agency’s “data mining” program, which involves the NSA combing through enormous electronic databases containing personal information about millions of US citizens, ostensibly for anti-terrorism purposes and often without court warrants. Such data mining by the NSA potentially threatens citizens’ constitutional right to privacy. This clash between the White House and the Justice Department is one of the reasons that White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and chief of staff Andrew Card will try to pressure Attorney General John Ashcroft, while Ashcroft is recuperating from surgery, to reauthorize the NSA program over the objections of Deputy Attorney General James Comey. That attempt to force reauthorization over Justice Department complaints will result in the protest resignations of Ashcroft, Comey, and other Justice officials (see March 10-12, 2004). In 2007, Gonzales will deny that any such attempt to pressure Ashcroft to overrule Comey ever happened (see July 24, 2007), and will deny that there was any such dispute between the White House and Justice Department over the NSA program. Those denials will lead to calls to investigate Gonzales for perjury (see May 16, 2007). In late 2005, President Bush will admit, after the New York Times reveals the existence of the NSA warrantless wiretapping program (see Early 2002), that the program indeed exists, but will not acknowledge the data mining. Several current and former administration officials, interviewed by reporters in 2007, refuse to go into detail about the dispute between the White House and Justice Department, but say that it involves other issues along with the data mining. They will also refuse to explain what modifications to the surveillance program Bush will authorize to mollify Justice Department officials. Bush and his officials, including Gonzales, who will ascend to the position of attorney general in 2005, will repeatedly insist that he has the authority, both under the Constitution and under Congress’s authorization to use military force against terrorists passed after the 9/11 attacks (see September 14-18, 2001), to bypass the requirements for court warrants to monitor US citizens. Critics will say that such surveillance is illegal under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. [New York Times, 7/29/2007]

    March 9, 2004: Cheney Leads Internal Battle for Approval of Warrantless Wiretapping Program
    Vice President Dick Cheney challenges objections to the White House’s secret, warrantless surveillance program (see Early 2002) by Justice Department officials. Cheney makes his objections during a meeting attended by high-level White House and Justice Department officials, but this does not come to light until a 2007 testimony by Deputy Attorney General James Comey (see May 15, 2007). [Washington Post, 6/7/2007] (Comey will step down from his post in mid-2005.) [Law.com, 4/21/2005] The White House meetings take place one day before White House officials journey to Attorney General John Ashcroft’s hospital room to try to force Ashcroft to give his approval for the NSA-managed surveillance program (see March 10-12, 2004). Ashcroft will refuse to give his approval. Cheney’s key role in leading what the Washington Post calls “a fierce internal battle over the legality of the warrantless surveillance program” is not known until Comey’s 2007 testimony. The White House meeting, held to discuss Justice Department objections to the NSA program, is attended by Cheney, White House counsel and future attorney general Alberto Gonzales, Cheney’s chief counsel David Addington, and others. Comey will testify that at the time, eight Justice Department officials are prepared to resign if the White House doesn’t back down on forcing the department to sign off on the program. Those officials include FBI director Robert Mueller, US attorney Chuck Rosenberg of the northern Virginia district, and Office of Legal Counsel head Jack Goldsmith. [Washington Post, 6/7/2007]

    March 10, 2004: Cheney Briefs ‘Gang of Eight’ Congressional Leaders on Warrantless Wiretapping Program; Reportedly Misleads Them
    Vice President Dick Cheney gives the Congressional leaders known as the “Gang of Eight”—the House Speaker and House Minority Leader, the Senate Majority and Minority Leaders, and the ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees—their first briefing on the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program (see Early 2002). Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) later recalls the meeting as superficial. Cheney “talked like it was something routine,” Daschle will say. “We really had no idea what it was about.” Unbeknownst to many of the Congressional leaders, White House and Justice Department leaders are locked in a sharp dispute over whether or not the program is legal and should be continued; Cheney is preparing to send White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and chief of staff Andrew Card to Attorney General John Ashcroft’s hospital room to persuade the gravely ill and heavily sedated Ashcroft to overrule acting attorney general James Comey and reauthorize the program (see March 10-12, 2004). The briefing is designed to give the appearance of Congressional approval for the program. While most Republicans in the briefing give at least tacit approval of the program, some Democrats, as Daschle will later recall, express “a lot of concerns” over the program’s apparent violation of fundamental Congressional rights. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi later recalls that she “made clear my disagreement with what the White House was asking.” But administration officials such as Gonzales will later say (see July 24, 2007) that the eight Congressional leaders are in “consensus” in supporting the program, a characterization that is patently false (see July 25, 2007.) Gonzales will also later testify that this briefing did not cover the NSA wiretapping program, later dubbed the “Terrorist Surveillance Program” (TSP), another apparent falsehood contradicted by Democratic senators such as Russ Feingold and John Rockefeller, as well as testimony and notes on the hospital room visit made by FBI director Robert Mueller and a memo from John Negroponte, the Director of National Intelligence. Many feel that Gonzales is using the moniker “Terrorist Surveillance Program,” not in use until December 2005, to play what Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff calls “verbal parsing” and “a semantic game”—since the NSA wiretapping program was not known by that name at the time of the Congressional briefing, Gonzales will imply that the briefing wasn’t about that program. [Newsweek, 8/6/2007]

    End Part VII
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


  8. #8
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    March 24, 2004-May 2004: FBI Says Saudi Associates of Hijackers Not Involved in Plot; This Conclusion Is Disputed
    It is reported that the FBI has closed down their investigation into Saudis Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Basnan. The Associated Press reports, “The FBI concluded at most the two Saudi men occasionally provided information to their kingdom or helped Saudi visitors settle into the United States, but did so in compliance with Muslim custom of being kind to strangers rather than out of some relationship with Saudi intelligence.” [Associated Press, 3/24/2004] Sen. Bob Graham (D) had cochaired the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry that found considerable evidence tying these two men to two 9/11 hijackers and also to the Saudi government. When he sees this news report, he contacts the FBI and is told the report is not correct and that the investigation into the two men is still ongoing. A month later, FBI Director Robert Mueller tells Graham that the report was correct, and the case has been closed. Graham asks Mueller to speak to the two FBI agents who reached this conclusion and find out why they reached it. He asks that he should be allowed the same access to them that the Associated Press had been given. Both Mueller and Attorney General John Ashcroft refuse to give clearance for the agents to speak to Graham. Graham then writes a letter with Sen. Arlen Specter (R), again asking for clarification and the right to meet with the agents. Their request is denied. Graham concludes that this is something it “seems that neither the FBI nor the Bush administration wants the American people to find out about.” [Graham and Nussbaum, 2004, pp. 224-227]

    April 13, 2004: Attorney General Blames ‘Wall’ for 9/11 Failures, but 9/11 Commission Believes He Is Exaggerating
    Attorney General John Ashcroft publicly testifies before the 9/11 Commission, claims there was no program to kill Osama bin Laden before 9/11, and blames the “wall” (see July 19, 1995) for the 9/11 attacks. Ashcroft says, “Let me be clear: my thorough review revealed no covert action program to kill bin Laden.” However, the 9/11 Commission has already found a Memorandum of Notification signed by President Clinton in 1998 after the embassy bombings that allowed CIA assets to kill bin Laden, and two commissioners, Fred Fielding and Richard Ben-Veniste, point this out to Ashcroft. [9/11 Commission, 4/13/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 132, 485] The attorney general comments, “The single greatest structural cause for September 11 was the ‘wall’ that segregated criminal investigators and intelligence agents. Government erected this ‘wall.’ Government buttressed this ‘wall.’ And before September 11, government was blinded by this ‘wall.’” The wall was a set of procedures that regulated the passage of information from FBI intelligence agents to FBI criminal agents and prosecutors to ensure that information obtained using warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) would not be thrown out from criminal cases (see July 19, 1995). Ashcroft says that the wall impeded the investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui and that a “warrant was rejected because FBI officials feared breaching the ‘wall.’” (Note: two applications to search Moussaoui’s belongings were prepared. The first was not submitted because it was thought to be “shaky” (see August 21, 2001). The second warrant application was prepared as a part of an intelligence investigation under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, so it was not affected by the “wall” (see August 28, 2001)). According to Ashcroft, the wall also impeded the search for hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi because criminal investigators were not allowed to join in. However, the 9/11 Commission will find that they could legally have helped, but were prevented from doing so by FBI headquarters (see August 29, 2001). Ashcroft asserts that 9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick was responsible for the wall. He cites a document he just declassified that had been written by Gorelick to deal with the two 1993 WTC bombing cases (see March 4, 1995). That document becomes known as the “wall memo.” However, this memo only governed the two WTC cases; all other cases were governed by a different, but similar memo written by Attorney General Janet Reno a few months later (see July 19, 1995). [9/11 Commission, 4/13/2004] 9/11 Commission chairmen Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton will say that the “attorney general’s claim was overstated,” and that the two 1995 memos only codified a set of procedures that already existed (see Early 1980s). During questioning, Republican 9/11 Commissioner Slade Gorton points out that Ashcroft’s deputy reaffirmed the procedures in an August 2001 memo that stated, “The 1995 procedures remain in effect today” (see August 6, 2001). [Kean and Hamilton, 2006, pp. 194-6]

    May 17-18, 2004: Ashcroft Warns of ‘Immediate Attack’: Announcement Follows Bad News from Iraq
    On May 17, 2004, security officials say that recent intelligence has led to increased concern about the possibility of a major terrorist attack in the US. It is believed that the attack could take place as early as the summer and before November, perhaps in an attempt to affect the outcome of the Presidential election. Potential targets include the dedication of the National World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, the G8 economic summit on Sea Island, Georgia, Fourth of July celebrations, the Democratic convention in Boston, the Republican convention in New York, and the Olympics in Greece. However, no specific target, time or date is identified for the possible attack. Sources do state that the assessment is new and is the result of intelligence gathered over time. However, an official with the Department of Homeland Security, speaking on condition of anonymity, states that “We are not aware of any new highly credible intelligence indicating a planned attack in the US this summer. Nothing in the current intelligence is exceptionally specific.” [CNN, 5/25/2004] The next day, Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller hold a news conference to warn of a “plane attack inside the United States.” They warn that terrorists are “poised for an immediate attack.” Ashcroft says “credible intelligence from multiple sources indicates that al-Qaeda plans to attempt an attack on the United States in the next few months. This disturbing intelligence indicates al-Qaeda’s specific intention to hit the United States hard.” [CNN, 5/26/2004] The Justice Department asks for assistance in locating seven alleged terrorist operatives and states an increased concern about attacks over the summer. [CBS News, 6/14/2004] It is later revealed the threat actually came from a group that falsely claimed responsibility for the terror attacks in Madrid. One expert says that the group is “not really taken seriously by Western intelligence.” These warnings come as the administration is under heavy criticism for failures in Iraq. The Abu Ghraib torture scandal dominates headlines. [Rolling Stone, 9/21/2006 pdf file] This warning also comes on the heels of other bad news for the Bush administration. During a May 16 interview on “Meet the Press,” Secretary of State Colin Powell is cut off by an aide while discussing misleading CIA information regarding WMD in Iraq. He admits that “it turned out that the sourcing was inaccurate and wrong and in some cases, deliberately misleading. And for that, I am disappointed and I regret it.” [MSNBC, 6/15/2004] Three days later, Newsweek reports that White House counsel Alberto Gonzalez warned in a January 25, 2002 internal White House memo that US officials could be prosecuted for war crimes due to the unprecedented and unusual methods used by the Bush administration in the war on terrorism. [Newsweek, 5/19/2004]

    May 19, 2004: Previously Public Information about FBI Whistleblower Is Now Classified
    Attorney General John Ashcroft again invokes the “State Secrets Privilege,” forbidding former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds from testifying in a case brought by hundreds of families of September 11 victims (see October 18, 2002). [New York Times, 5/20/2004] Four weeks earlier, on April 26, the Justice Department had obtained a temporary court order preventing her from testifying before the court. [Independent, 4/2/2004; Government Executive, 4/30/2004] The families, represented by the law firm Motley-Rice, alleges that a number of banks and two members of the Saudi royal family provided financial support to al-Qaeda. [New York Times, 5/20/2004] Ashcroft’s order retroactively classifies information it provided senators Chuck Grassley and Patrick Leahy (see June 17, 2002) concerning former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds and her allegations. Among the documents to be “reclassified” are the follow-up letters sent by Grassley and Leahy to the FBI which they posted on their website. Their staff members are now prohibited from discussing the information, even though it is now public knowledge. The order bars Edmonds from answering even simple questions like: “When and where were you born?,” “What languages do you speak?,” and “Where did you go to school?” [New York Times, 5/20/2004; Boston Globe, 7/5/2004; Asia Times, 8/6/2004; Vanity Fair, 9/2005] In response to the announcement, Grassley says: “I think it’s ludicrous, because I understand that almost all of this information is in the public domain and has been very widely available. This classification is very serious, because it seems like the FBI would be attempting to put a gag order on Congress.” [New Republic, 6/7/2004]

    End Part IX
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


  9. #9
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    June 8, 2004: Ashcroft Insists Bush Administration ‘Rejects Torture’
    Attorney General John Ashcroft tells a Senate committee, “This administration rejects torture.” [Guardian, 6/9/2004] When asked whether torture might be justified in certain situations, Ashcroft responds, “I condemn torture. I don’t think it’s productive, let alone justified.” [Washington Post, 6/8/2004] With regard to President Bush’s involvement, he says: “Let me completely reject the notion that anything that this president has done or the Justice Department has done has directly resulted in the kind of atrocity which were cited. That is false.” [Guardian, 6/9/2004] Ashcroft adds, “There is no presidential order immunizing torture.” [Washington Post, 6/8/2004]

    June 14-15, 2004: Somali Immigrant Charged with Ohio Mall Bomb Plot
    The Justice Department announces to the press they have thwarted an imminent terror plot to bomb malls in Ohio. A Somali native residing in Ohio is charged with plotting to blow up a Columbus shopping mall. It is alleged that he was part of a group of al-Qaeda operatives. Attorney General John Ashcroft says, “The American heartland was targeted for death and destruction by an al-Qaeda cell which allegedly included a Somali immigrant who will now face justice.” The man, Nuradin Mahamoud Abdi is alleged to have obtained refugee documentation under false pretenses and to have attended terrorist training camps in Ethiopia. Although authorities would not state how many were involved in the plot, they do name admitted al-Qaeda member Iyman Faris as a co-conspirator. Faris, serving a 20-year sentence for providing material support to terrorism and conspiracy to provide material support, plead guilty in May 2003 to plotting to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge and to providing sleeping bags, mobile phones, and cash to al-Qaeda operatives. He later withdrew this plea, but was subsequently convicted. [CBS News, 6/14/2004] Later it is revealed that Abdi had been arrested November 28, 2003, for his connections to terrorism, so there is nothing “imminent” in the case. Court papers filed by the government allege the existence of a plot from March 2000. His indictment isn’t announced until June 15, 2004, and it makes no mention of the shopping mall plot publicly announced the day before. [Cincinnati Post, 6/15/2004] The Justice Department announcement comes as Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry leads President Bush by seven points in early Ohio polls. [Rolling Stone, 9/21/2006 pdf file]

    June 30, 2004: Several Senators Demand Ashcroft Explain Al-Marabh’s Deportation Decision
    The Associated Press reports that both Republicans and Democrats have expressed outrage that Nabil al-Marabh was deported in January 2004 (see January 2004). Several senators have written letters to Attorney General John Ashcroft, demanding an explanation. Sen. Charles Grassley (R) states that the circumstances of al-Marabh’s deportation—who was “at one time No. 27 on the [FBI] list of Most Wanted Terrorists”—are “of deep concern and appear to be a departure from an aggressive, proactive approach to the war on terrorism.” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D) wrote to Ashcroft, “The odd handling of this case raises questions that deserve answers from the Justice Department.… Why was a suspected terrorist returned to a country that sponsors terrorism? We need to know that the safety of the American people and our strategic goals in countering terrorism are paramount factors when decisions like this are made.” Sen. Charles Schumer (D) says, “It seems that pursuing a military tribunal, a classified criminal trial, or continued immigration proceedings would have made more sense than merely deporting a suspected terrorist.” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) has also made inquiries into the case. Prosecutors in several US cities sought to bring criminal cases against al-Marabh and a US attorney in Chicago drafted an indictment against him, which he apparently was not allowed to pursue (see January-2002-December 2002). [Associated Press, 6/30/2004] Apparently, no explanation from Ashcroft is ever given. The 9/11 Commission Final Report, released a couple of months later, will fail to mention al-Marabh at all.

    July 25-29, 2004: Al-Qaeda Suspect Arrested in Pakistan; Some Allege Announcement Is Timed for Political Effect
    Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a high-level al-Qaeda operative from Tanzania suspected of participating in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in East Africa, is captured in Gujrat, Pakistan, after a violent standoff with Pakistani police. [CNN, 8/3/2004] Ghailani’s arrest is publicly announced on July 29, four days later. The announcement by Pakistan’s Interior Minister Faisal Hayat is made in an unusual late-night press conference that takes place just hours before John Kerry accepts the Democratic nomination for president. [Salon, 8/17/2004] Pakistani authorities say the announcement of Ghailani’s arrest was delayed four days because of the need to confirm his identity before making the proclamation. [BBC, 7/30/2004] But former Pakistani official Husain Haqqani later claims the announcement was timed to upstage the Kerry speech. [Salon, 8/17/2004; United States Conference on International Religious Freedom, 6/30/2005] An article in the New Republic published earlier in the month reported that the Bush administration was asking Pakistan to make high-profile arrests of al-Qaeda suspects during the Democratic National Convention in order to redirect US media attention from the nomination of John Kerry (see July 8, 2004). [New Republic, 7/29/2004] John Judis, who co-wrote the article predicting such an arrest, says the day after the arrest is announced, “Well, the latest development pretty much confirms what we wrote in the article, which is that there was pressure for Pakistan to produce a high-value target during the last 10 days of July and to announce that arrest.” He also asks why is it “they announced [the arrest] at all? Because when you have somebody who’s been in hiding since 1998, they have an enormous amount of information and contacts. By announcing this guy’s arrest, what you do is you warn off everybody who’s been associated with him from the last five or six years. You tell them that they better get their act together or they are going to be found. So, there’s some, really a lot of questions of why they announced this thing when they did.… It may be in this case that we—that we, and the Pakistanis got somebody and prematurely announced this person’s arrest in order to have an electoral impact.” [Democracy Now!, 7/30/2004]

    November 2, 2004: George W. Bush Reelected
    President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are re-elected to the US presidency for a second term. In the coming months, some important cabinet officials are replaced. Secretary of State Colin Powell resigns. Condoleezza Rice moves from National Security Adviser to Secretary of State. Her Deputy National Security Adviser Steven Hadley becomes the new National Security Adviser. Attorney General John Ashcroft resigns and is replaced by Alberto Gonzalez. Department of Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge resigns and is replaced by Michael Chertoff.

    November 10, 2004: Bush Names Alberto Gonzales as the New Attorney General
    President Bush names Alberto Gonzales to succeed Ashcroft as the new attorney general. Ashcroft submitted a letter of resignation on November 2. [Bloomberg, 11/10/2004]

    Commentaries
    Francis Boyle

    “As White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales originated, authorized, approved and aided and abetted grave breaches of the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions of 1949, which are serious war crimes. In other words, Gonzales is a prima facie war criminal. He must be prosecuted under the Geneva Conventions and the US War Crimes Act.” — November 10, 2004 [Inter Press Service, 11/11/2004]

    January 6, 2005: Gonzales Expresses Little Respect and Understanding of International Law
    Alberto R. Gonzales tells the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearings that there had been some discussion within the administration about trying to rewrite the Geneva Conventions. “We are fighting a new type of enemy and a new type of war,” he says. “Geneva was ratified in 1949… and I think it is appropriate to revisit whether or not Geneva should be revisited. Now I’m not suggesting that the principles of Geneva regarding basic treatment—basic decent treatment of human beings—should be revisited…. That should always be the basis on which we look at this. But I am aware there’s been some very preliminary discussion as to whether or not—is this something that we ought to look at.” [Los Angeles Times, 1/7/2005] During the hearing, Gonzales is grilled on his involvement in the administration’s decision to allow aggressive interrogations of terrorism detainees. Critics believe the interrogation policy developed by Gonzales and his colleagues created the conditions that allowed abuses, such as those at Abu Ghraib, to occur. Senator Edward Kennedy tells Gonzales: “It appears that legal positions that you have supported have been used by the administration, the military, and the CIA to justify torture and Geneva Convention violations by military and civilian personnel.” [Associated Press, 1/6/2006] Retired Adm. John Hutson, a former Navy judge advocate general (JAG) who testifies as a witness at the hearing, says, “I believe that the prisoners’ abuses that we’ve seen… found their genesis in the decision to get cute with the Geneva convention.” [Reuters, 1/7/2005] At certain points during the hearing, Gonzales demonstrates an apparent lack of understanding about US and international law. When he is asked if he thinks other world leaders can legitimately torture US citizens, he answers, “I don’t know what laws other world leaders would be bound by.” On another occasion he is asked whether “US personnel [can] legally engage in torture under any circumstances,” to which he answers, “I don’t believe so, but I’d want to get back to you on that.” He also asked whether he agrees with John Ashcroft’s judgment that torture should not be used because it produces nothing of value. Gonzales responds: “I don’t have a way of reaching a conclusion on that.” [Washington Post, 1/7/2005]

    May 10, 2005: Ridge Reveals Internal Dissension on Terror Alerts
    Former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge admits to further problems with the terror alert system. In defense of his administration of the Department of Homeland Security, he says that Administration decisions to raise the threat level were sometimes unjustified by evidence and unsupported by his department. “More often than not we were the least inclined to raise it,” says Ridge. “Sometimes we disagreed with the intelligence assessment. Sometimes we thought even if the intelligence was good, you don’t necessarily put the country on [alert].… There were times when some people were really aggressive about raising it, and we said, for that?” Ridge had previously disagreed with Attorney General John Ashcroft on the communication of threat information to the public. These comments mark the first time that dissension among the Homeland Security Advisory Council, a panel made up of business representatives, academic leaders, and security experts appointed by President Bush, is discussed with the press. Reform of the terror alert system is under review by current Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff. Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse says “improvements and adjustments” may be announced within the next few months. [USA Today, 5/10/2005] As of 2007, no such announcement have been made.

    October 1-2, 2006: Rice Denies Attendance in Urgent Pre-9/11 Al-Qaeda Briefing, but State Department Confirms She Was There
    Secretary of State Rice says that she does not recall the meeting on July 10, 2001, when CIA Director Tenet and other officials briefed her about the al-Qaeda threat (see July 10, 2001). “What I am quite certain of is that I would remember if I was told, as this account apparently says, that there was about to be an attack in the United States, and the idea that I would somehow have ignored that I find incomprehensible.” [Associated Press, 10/2/2006] Rice says she has no recollection of what she variously calls “the supposed meeting” and “the emergency so-called meeting.” [Editor & Publisher, 10/1/2006; McClatchy Newspapers, 10/2/2006] The Washington Post comments that “Rice added to the confusion… by strongly suggesting that the meeting may never have occurred at all—even though administration officials had conceded for several days that it had.” Hours after Rice’s latest denial, the State Department confirms that documents show Rice did attend such a meeting on that date. However, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack then says, “The briefing was a summary of the threat reporting from the previous weeks. There was nothing new.” The Washington Post notes that when it was pointed out to McCormack that Rice asked for the briefing to be shown to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Attorney General Ashcroft (see July 11-17, 2001), “McCormack was unable to explain why Rice felt the briefing should be repeated if it did not include new material.” [Washington Post, 10/3/2006]

    End
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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