t r u t h o u t | Friday, 31 May, 2002
It would be funny if it were not so terribly sad.
Politics became entwined in our national conversation regarding the September 11th attacks before the fires in Manhattan were extinguished, when Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson chose to blame the attacks on gays, feminists and the ACLU. Politics became entwined in the attacks once the Bush administration chose to use our national shock as cover for ramming through ruinous tax and environmental policies.
Politics became entwined in the attacks when Attorney General Ashcroft sat in the well of the Senate and proclaimed that anyone who questioned the erasure of basic American freedoms in the name of security was aiding and abetting terrorism. More recently, politics became entwined in the attacks when a story emerged from the Toronto Globe and Mail. The story quoted a White House official's blunt statement that all the terrorism warnings America has recently received from the Bush administration were being used solely to deflect criticism.
Recent revelations have surfaced that the Bush administration had been specifically warned of 9/11-style attacks by a host of foreign intelligence services, and failed to properly address them. In order to get out from under any censure for failing to deal with these warnings, politics transmogrified into the use of fear to cow the populace.
On May 30th, politics came into the 9/11 issue from a totally unexpected direction.
Enter Larry Klayman, General Counsel for the conservative activist group Judicial Watch. Klayman has been on the scene for years, coming into prominence as one of the foremost anti-Clinton bombardiers on the Right. Best known for his preponderance of the theory that Clinton Commerce Secretary Ron Brown was assassinated, and that the plane crash that actually killed him was merely a coverup, Klayman spent a great deal of time spreading the story of the 'Clinton Body Count' - those unfortunate souls whacked by Bill because they got too close to his drug-running out of Arkansas airports, or because they asked too many questions about his sex life, etc. Klayman managed to sue the Clinton White House some 18 times before 1999.
On May 30th, Klayman emerged from the mists of anti-Clintonism and fired a stupendous broadside across the bow of the Bush administration and the FBI. Appearing before members of the press in a conference broadcast by C-SPAN, Klayman introduced an 11-year veteran FBI agent named Robert Wright. Judicial Watch has claimed Wright as a client, and intends to defend him against what Klayman describes as a serious campaign by the FBI and the Department of Justice to intimidate and destroy him.
According to Klayman, Wright has been sounding an alarm within the FBI for years about terrorist activities within the United States. Rather than heed Wright's warnings, the FBI has deflected and obstructed his efforts to curtail dangerous movements by agents of Hamas and Hezbollah. Wright's activities within the FBI were geared towards thwarting money-laundering activities by these agents, and he is claiming that his efforts were stymied because important government officials like Colin Powell have been coddling these pro-Palestinian groups to protect the reputation of Yasser Arafat. One can only assume the higher purpose of this coddling was to preserve tattered hopes for a negotiated settlement in the Mideast.
Klayman leaned across the podium at the press on Thursday and claimed that the FBI "did not do its job" regarding 9/11, that Wright had been trying since 1999 to get the FBI to clean house before disaster struck, and that his reward for doing so was threats of civil suits, loss of employment and criminal charges. Klayman juxtaposed this against the recent praise heaped upon Colleen Rowley, the Minnesota FBI agent whose whistleblowing memo to FBI Director Robert Mueller outlining all of the agency's failures to see 9/11 coming was lionized by the Director as he announced the dawn of a new improved FBI. Wright was threatened while Rowley is praised, said Klayman. The comparison was devastating.
The FBI bore the brunt of Klayman's lashing, but it was definitely not alone. The Bush administration was blasted as, "...an administration which, despite being elected on the basis of restoring national security, slept for nine months, and did virtually nothing to shore up the inadequacies of the FBI."
Klayman went on to describe the Bush administration as, "...an administration which comes forward yesterday to cover their backside after it becomes apparent that they hid information from the American people for nine months - material information as to how, in the new admission of FBI Director Robert Mueller, the 9/11 attacks could have possibly been prevented."
Klayman addressed Vice President Dick Cheney specifically, lambasting his recent claim that America is defenseless against future terrorism. According to Klayman and Wright, our defenselessness is based on nothing more or less than rank incompetence on the part of the FBI. That incompetence reaches into the highest offices of government and into the responsibility of men like Cheney and Bush, who should be doing more to change the inadequate capabilities of intelligence branches like the FBI.
"What have you, the Bush administration, been doing for the last nine months," railed Klayman, "that just now you're advising the American people that we don't have the defenses even after having lost 3,000 lives?"
Klayman yielded the podium moments later to the speakerphoned voice of David Schippers, another infamous anti-Clinton warrior standing forth for Robert Wright. Schippers recapitulated the threats levied against Wright by the FBI regarding his intended disclosure of intelligence failures, calling Wright "a great American." Before his voice was cut off, Schippers warned Wright, "Don't go into any specifics, any particulars about any case, even though you and I both know there is no case. But they claim there is, so we'll follow their guidelines - the same guidelines that put 3,000 people on the street, dead."
Wright stepped to the podium and presented himself as a vividly different breed of man than Klayman and Schippers. Dressed in somber tones and adorned with the severest of conservative hairstyles, Wright appeared to have come straight out of FBI central casting. He began by stating that he did not in any way stand as a representative of the Bureau - he was speaking freely here of his own views and opinions, and was not representing the FBI in any capacity.
Wright went on to describe his work with the FBI. For many years, he had worked in the Chicago office on counter-terrorism cases that focused on money-laundering efforts by terrorist cells operating within the United States. His work developed into an operation that was named 'Bulgar Betrayal,' which seemed on the verge of becoming officially designated as a major case because of its far reach and national security implications. Before he was finished, a Saudi businessman named Yasin Kadi became implicated in the terrorism funding. Wright was careful to note on Thursday that, one month after the 9/11 attacks, Kadi was named by the Federal government as a financial supporter of Osama bin Laden.
Yet Kadi's name was known to Wright well before 9/11, when the Bulgar Betrayal investigations were taking place. Did his work take root within the FBI? Did his superiors note the dangers implicit in the activities of the terrorists Wright had pinpointed? "FBI management," said Wright on Thursday, "intentionally and repeatedly thwarted my attempts to launch a more comprehensive investigation to identify and to neutralize terrorists."
Wright had to purchase computer software and hardware necessary for his investigations because the FBI failed to allocate the necessary funds to help his work. A week after 9/11, Wright attempted to deliver his concerns to several members of Congress so the glaring gaps in American national security could be addressed, but was threatened by the FBI and the Justice Department. In fact, he was told that he could not travel beyond Chicago without specific permission from the FBI.
Wright's frustration at the FBI's inaction regarding his warnings led him to write a 500 page manuscript detailing the Bureau's anti-terrorism failings entitled "Fatal Betrayals of the Intelligence Mission." Beyond describing the myriad ways the FBI and the government have failed to protect Americans from terrorism, the manuscript goes on to demand a thorough house-cleaning within the FBI. It seems clear after listening to Wright's press conference that the main reason why FBI Director Mueller has chosen to embrace whistleblowing agent Rowley while threatening agent Wright comes down to the existence of that manuscript.
Wright concluded his remarks on Thursday in dramatic and emotional fashion. "My efforts," he said, "have always been geared towards neutralizing the terrorist threats that focused on taking the lives of American citizens, in addition to harming the national and economic security of America. However, as a direct result of the incompetence, and at times intentional obstruction of justice by FBI management to prevent me from bringing terrorists to justice, Americans have unknowingly been exposed to potential terrorist attacks for years."
He went on to state, "Knowing what I know, I can confidently say that until the investigative responsibilities for terrorism are removed from the FBI, I will not feel safe."
At this point, Wright paused a long moment before continuing. "To the families and victims of September 11th," he finally said through choked voice, wiping a tear from his eye, "on behalf of John Vincent, Barry Carmody and myself...we're sorry." These last words were essentially sobbed into the microphone, and with that Wright fled the podium. It should be noted that the names he mentioned - Vincent and Carmody - were later described by Klayman as FBI agents preparing to come forward "with the truth" as Wright did.
What to make of all this? On one side stands Larry Klayman, clown-man extraordinaire who shattered his credibility years ago by spreading tales of Clinton death squads. On the other side stands FBI agent Robert Wright, shadowed by agents Vincent and Carmody. Anyone who watched the Wright press conference - available via link at JudicialWatch.org - could sense the man's earnestness. Perhaps he believed Klayman was the only vehicle he had to get his story out. Perhaps, after eight years of anti-Clinton jihad along the halls of the FBI, Klayman was the only lawyer he'd ever heard of.
The politics behind the fact that Klayman has begun attacking the Bush administration and its FBI head cannot be ignored. Klayman's name is gold among ultra-conservatives; if he has it in for Bush and the FBI, by-God, so will the grass rooters who still think Clinton had Vince Foster killed. The fact that such people make up a substantial portion of Bush political base spells trouble if Klayman's claims resonate. Never mind the left-wingers who have been waiting for this shoe to drop. Bush's foreknowledge of 9/11 has been gospel for months, and the fact that Klayman has helped confirm their suspicions only adds humor to a truly bleak scenario.
All of this falls under the broader political spectrum of these recent 9/11 revelations. Wright's claims of FBI malfeasance have become an accent in the symphony of accusation that include Rowley's assertions and dozens of terror warnings from foreign intelligence services such as the French Directorate of Territorial Security (DST). The DST was screaming at Rowley's Minnesota FBI office about Zacarias Moussaoui and terrorist plans to crash airplanes into important targets, but no one from Rowley's office could get FBI headquarters to pay attention to these warnings until it was too late.
What the FBI and the Justice Department will do with the information coming from these truth-telling agents, who squat above Ashcroft's door like the raven, remains to be seen in the long run. The immediate return upon this informational investment does not bode well. On the same day that Wright revealed his information, the FBI released a warning for everyone to be on the look-out for terrorists bearing shoulder-launched missile weapons. If that terror-warning dog gets wagged any harder, someone's going to get bit.
More ominously, Ashcroft announced on Thursday that the Justice Department plans to extend its Patriot Act mandate into the surveillance of churches and political groups. Congressman John Conyers, Democrat of Michigan, blasted this move: "The Administration's continued defiance of constitutional safeguards seems to have no end in sight. This decision decimates the Fourth Amendment. The Justice Department is intent on another power grab when it has become clear that a lack of competence - not law enforcement authorities - prevented the Administration from connecting the dots before September 11. I call on the Bush Administration to immediately halt any efforts to unilaterally expand surveillance authority and to consult Congress before implementing further intrusions on our civil liberties."
Klayman, Schippers, Wright, Vincent, Carmody, Rowley, Conyers...it is getting awfully loud around here. Can the Bush administration and the FBI avoid the shouting? Have we crossed a line here, from freedom-hating terror attacks to willful negligence on the part of this government? Where will the politics of treason take us next?
William Rivers Pitt maintains his own site. You can visit him at : www.willpitt.com