This article is a re-post, from September 2014, to honor those fallen in the tragedy of September 11, 2001. This also is NOW a ‘taboo’ subject that will attract the attention of illegal surveillance, as many ‘key words’ are on the list garnering attention by the NSA, among other agencies. As I’m re-posting this, I’ve drawn a great deal of attention in the small corner from which I’m working. The individual pictured, has walked by me at least five times, over the course of 10-15 minutes. He, among about six other individuals, have been mulling about , seemingly aimlessly, when there are plenty of other spaces in this (The DeVos Library of Grand Valley State University) large and quite luxurious ‘supposed’ sanctuary of learning. After several minutes and several ‘pass-by’s,’ I began feeling those strange sensations (heart palpitations, labored breathing, anxiety, headache, the feeling of raised blood pressure, etc.), up to the time I got the attention of one of the Library staff members, of whom I’ve informed about a previous incident and of which I asked to observe the increased traffic around me, as I went on line to re-post this blog. Fortunately, being cognizant of my surroundings and informing others of what is going on is one way of putting pressure on those conducting illegal, warrantless surveillance, putting them on notice that you are being WATCHED AS WELL!!!
Everyone in America remembers that fateful morning 13 years ago, if they were anywhere near a TV or radio. It was one of those moments frozen in time that will never be forgotten in living memory, as well as being memorialized in the history of a nation for all time.
For some however, it has far more intense meanings. For those American’s who were actually there, September 11th, 2001 is a constant and recurring recollection that somehow seems as if one tries hard enough, they can change the circumstances and outcomes, or maybe even the event altogether, so that the horror will have never occurred at all. But then, upon coming back to reality, the realization that another year has passed and the emotion is no less sharp, the pain no less severe, the longing no less deep, for things to be back to the way they were on September 10, 2001…
For one such person, Richard Clarke, Counter Terrorism Chief through three administrations, this would be one day he would very much like to forget, more so than any other American. As he was the highest official on duty that day, and while beginning like every other for the last several years, this one day would forever haunt him (http://www.nbcnews.com/id/4568982/ns/us_news-security/t/government-failed-you-clarke-testifies/#.VBHjMUDgf4c). Doing everything in his power to impress upon the new, incoming Bush administration that it needed to take far more seriously, the threats to the nation by al Qaida, he could get no one to listen – much less the desperately needed cooperation he continually asked for. Not Condi Rice. Not his direct superior and then-Vice President, Dick Chaney. Not even the President himself, George W. Bush. In spite of all that he knew and the seriousness of the knowledge he carried, no one seemed to take Richard Clarke seriously enough to try to improvise, coordinate with outside channels, even to the point of insubordination if necessary, to get someone to act somehow, in find out the information that would keep Americans safe from what Clarke knew was a terrifying prospect – if word on the wire was in fact true – that an attack on the American mainland was eminent and we being terribly – horribly – unprepared, would suffer enormously as a result!
While exasperated that he could not get the cooperation he had asked for and desperately needed, others in his department were frustrated beyond words – and then to actions deemed necessary, if nothing else, meet the challenge of the dangers presumed in the threat-rankings which seemed to increase as the summer went on. One of those department personnel was John O’Neill – an agent of the FBI, until his abrupt departure from the agency after realizing that the incoming Bush administration was planning to do nothing about the assumed terrorist actions that by all intents and purposes, was looking more likely as the summer of 2001 was winding down. His foresight was uncanny, but of not much good as he alone was helpless in not being able to adequately create the necessary contingencies that would have addressed and had the nation prepared for what was to come.
Increasingly agitated over what he saw as another case of Washington interference in the security affairs that were keeping the nation and its citizens safe, O’Neill would retire later that summer, out of sheer exasperation with the bureaucracy that always seemed to hamstring the efforts of his agency, more than give them their every need in combating phantom foes of which there seemed no adequate means to anticipate their actions. Also, because he’d had more than his share of run-ins with – and not the first dealing with an attack on the World Trade Center – it was in fact eight years earlier, he was also embroiled in disputes over the exact means by which the security agencies should review, in the aftermath of the February, 1993 bombing of the WTC and whether this was just some random action by lone wolf terrorists (as a goodly majority of agents and officials seemed to think), or the start of something of a trend that was only just beginning, with events and a chain of associations, reaching from the Middle East, to Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Philippines, with a common thread being the Mujihadeen. The very same Mujihadeen which was aided by the Americans during the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, during the 1980’s and early 1990’s. With nowhere left to aim their anger and zealotry, the most likely place would be the American and European empires of whom they saw as still setting their imperial designs upon underdeveloped nations rich in natural resources, or were of great geographically strategic value. But their view was focused on the perceived or actual nature of destructiveness to the poor of the world, most especially Muslims of the Middle East and Central and South Asia.
A hard-living womanizer, O’Neill certainly knew his job and was rarely off base, with the abundance of information and contacts he’d acquired over the years, as a long-time FBI agent. He and Clarke would have a rough start at the outset, but would soon come to rely on each other, per their respective positions in the vast security networks, all of which began working overtime soon after the first WTC attack and the critical importance placed on the eyes and ears needed to keep track of the growing menace of fundamentalist groups that seemingly grew out of the disaffected regions of the Middle East, Central Asia (bordering Russia) and South Asia. Beginning in 1995, their partnership would take them from the hunt for the 1993 WTC bombing mastermind, Ramzi Yousef, who had been seen in Pakistan and at that time. As O’Neill’s expertise gave him the ideal vantage point from which to round up such characters and bring them back to the U.S. for trial, he did not disappoint. On the chance that they had been identified and indicted and if out of reach of American authorities, O’Neill’s service showed why he was the consummate professional in this particular line of covert security, targeting and apprehensions. By assembling his own team of agents that he knew he could rely on, to get the work done that only he could, like very few others of his particular level of the security field, results were the best measurement of success.
This is why his seemingly forced departure was so perplexing to many in the agencies – aside from the increasingly erratic personal behavior – he was still able to get the job done. The fact that five of the suspects in the 1998 Kenyan and Tanzanian bombings had been rounded up and eventually convicted, with the O’Neill-led investigation, eventually identifying bin Laden as the mastermind and placing him atop the most wanted international terrorist list. What would occur over the next year could only be described as surreal, as a single security stop at the U.S. – Canadian Port Angeles, Washington border crossing and basically stumbled across the motherload of terror suspect breakthroughs! Richard Clarke himself described this as the most comprehensive discovery of that period – if not ever in modern time, as the arrest of Algerian Ahmed Ressam, on December 14, 1999, not only thwarted the planned New Year’s bombing of Los Angeles International Airport, but also the planned bombing of the Ahman, Jordan Radisson Hotel, and after sifting through the web of contacts connected to Ressam, which would lead to the preliminary investigations leading directly to the eventual perpetrators of the 9/11 terrorist attacks! (See http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2002/01/14/the-counter-terrorist)
John O’Neill’s feelings of a lack of appreciation and cooperation – coupled with that of Richard Clarkes’ postulations that their work to uncover terrorists generally, but those who would eventually be involved in the 9/11 attacks specifically, leave a haunting legacy to the aftermath of that tragic day, permitting those of us who have at least broached the truth, to still have still more lingering questions than answers, and to continue wondering even now, how the diligence of just just these two men could change world history?
This day is all the more tragic, in as much as John O’Neill – seeing his duty as protecting the nation with his every last effort, being his very last job, as Head of Security at the World Trade Center, which would be his most challenging. Never knowing just how close he’d come to being part of the team that took down members of a group committed to creating chaos and terror on American shores, how much greater success could he have achieved had he been blessed with just a hand full more of individuals with the same diligence as he? And then, by paying the ultimate price, O’Neill would perish in the ruins of the South Tower, where former fellow FBI agent, Wesley Wong last saw him, heading toward, with the express intent to try and assist in the evacuation of potential survivors, prior to the towers collapse.
Being denied the opportunity to help prevent one of the most horrific tragedies in our nations history is especially painful, knowing the team assembled by the Clinton administration, had one of their own waiting in the wings, in the person of Vice President Al Gore. And it was his department (as was the next Vice President, Dick Chaney) which oversaw and coordinated the Anti-Terrorism Unit, which would have still been intact, at the very moment his (Gore’s) administration had been declared the winner of the electoral dispute of the 2000 election. That, being the first tragedy, of a plurality of Justices failing to, as former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day-O’Connor would later reflect (http://takingnote.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/29/oconnor-regrets-bush-v-gore/?_r=0), that like many other legal scholars and experts at the time agreed, should have simply said ‘… we’re not going to take it…‘ (in deciding on a yet-incomplete Florida recount process, rushed upwards to the Supreme Court prior to its conclusion) instead of being decided – not on precedence or prevailing law – but along strict party and ideological preferences of the five conservative Justices that made up the majority.
Looking even a step further, how might just 560 or so more voters have made a difference similarly, in Florida, had they cast their votes for someone else on the ballot the night of November 7, 2000?
Knowing what we do now, seeing far more clearly that the very politically conservative Supreme Court Majority decision on December 12, 2000, was wrong, if only for the fact that nearly 3,000 American lives were – at that precise moment – placed in the balance that very night, we will never know with any real certainty, that had Al Gore been allowed the whole of the estimated 180,000 – plus votes that were in dispute and therefore disallowed, would they have made a difference enough to avert the tragedy of September 11, 2001?
For we the living, this is all we have to hold on to, as the reverberations of that one day, shaking us to the core each year still, reminds us of what was, what could have been and what is, yet still today. But today is a day of remembrances, tears and reflection, so let us engage there once more and reflect…
We have much still to be thankful for, as we’re still working to create a safer world, garnering allies to accompany us on our walk toward a world of peace and co-existence, with the hope that along the way, we’re able to avert future threats from those who misunderstand life to such a point that they would rather quickly end it due to frustration, instead of taking those few minutes necessary to think things through; pray; even talk to someone and come away with just a small mustard seeds worth of hope, that tomorrow may just possibly be the day that brings the breakthrough they were waiting on – making the planned carnage and death unnecessary, meaningless and in the end, foolish.
This is the hope that is embodied in our Democracy and is the reason we have collectively, avoided great violence throughout our history. Our unique brand of Democracy, when put to its greater efforts, aims our attention towards tomorrow, in the hope that with a unified, collective effort, we are that much better. If only more Americans would see this day as the opportunity that it truly represents – in just this fashion… in spite of such sacrifices…
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