“Now may be the time to revamp and reform our intelligence services.”
Oliver then remarks:
No, pal, the time to start revamping and reforming was at about noon of September 11, 2001.
Let’s take a trip down the memory hole that is Democratic election year politics and see what we can dig up.
The Aftermath of the WTC Bombing, 1993-:
The details of the World Trade Center case are chilling. From the outset, the Justice Department refused to share key information with the national security agencies. The government had two sets of relevant information–foreign intelligence, gathered by the CIA from watching terrorist states such as Iran and Iraq, and evidence gathered by the FBI largely within the United Stares for use in the trial. The FBI flatly told the national security bureaucracies that there was “no evidence” of state sponsorship in the World Trade Center bombing. When the national security agencies asked to see the evidence themselves, the FBI replied, “No, this is a criminal matter. We’re handling it.” Thus, all that the national security agencies had available to decide the question of state sponsorship was foreign intelligence they themselves had collected.
But many cases of stare-sponsored terrorism cannot be cracked by means of intelligence alone. The crucial element linking the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 to Libya, for example, was not intelligence but a piece of physical evidence–a microchip, part of the bomb’s timing device, that could be tied to other bombs built by Libyan agents.
After the World Trade Center bombing, the FBI was the only bureaucracy with both the intelligence and the evidence. Even if the FBI did make a serious effort to examine the evidence for state sponsorship–and it is not clear that it did–the Bureau alone is not competent to carry out such an investigation. “They’re head hunters”, one official in Pentagon Counterterrorism remarked–that is, they are oriented to the arrest of individuals. A State Department expert described the FBI’s new Office of Radical Fundamentalism as “a joke”, bereft of any genuine Middle East expertise.
The Aftermath of the Khobar Towers Bombings–
SecDef Perry said that officials had only, in his words, “fragmentary and inconclusive” intelligence about a possible terrorist attack.
The Downing report cites ten separate suspicious incidents 90 days prior to the attack, as well as other signs that raised concerns. The report said, “While intelligence did not provide the tactical details of date, time, place and exact method of attack on Khobar Towers, a considerable body of information was available that indicated terrorists had the capability and intention to target U.S. interests in Saudi Arabia and that Khobar Towers was a potential target.”
Downing, himself, also wrote, “I am concerned that insufficent attention is being given to anti-terrorism measures and force protection. Specifically, the attack with a stand-off bomb was only one of many vulnerabilities which existed at Khobar Towers and other locations visited in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region.”
The retired general also said that the use of intelligence provided ample time for actions that could have decreased the severity of the attack. Downing said, “Intelligence did provide warning of the terrorist threat to U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia. As a result, those responsible for force protection had both time and motivation to reduce vulnerabilities. However, it was not enough. Tactical details were needed and they could only have been provided by human intelligence.”
The Embassy Bombings:
Several US and Israeli sources, including ABC News and the Tel Aviv newspaper Ha’aretz, reported Wednesday that a US informant in Kenya had warned the American government two weeks before the blast that the Nairobi embassy had been targeted for a bomb attack.
The informant was a contact of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service, but when American officials checked with Mossad about the reliability of the source, they were advised to treat the report with skepticism. No special security measures were taken at the embassy…
A second warning was provided four days before the explosion, according the Nation, the English-language daily newspaper published in Nairobi. A security guard working near the Nairobi embassy saw a man videotaping the building, protected by two bodyguards. When the cameraman saw he had been observed, he and his escorts jumped into a car and sped away. The security guard reported the incident to guards at the embassy, who seemed uninterested. Even though, according to ABC News, all American facilities in the Middle East and South Asia had been put on security alert against a threatened terrorist attack, no special security measures were ordered in East Africa even after the second report.
The Bombing of the USS Cole:
The Pentagon commission that declared there was no intelligence glitch that left the USS Cole open to attack was unaware that a suspected terrorist had warned the FBI of a plot to attack a U.S. warship in Yemen years before the bombing.
Pentagon officials continued Wednesday to downplay the significance of the warning, noting it was two years old and came from a suspect being questioned in the U.S. Embassy bombing in Kenya who was seeking to make a deal with U.S. authorities…
“The warning was uncorroborated, of unknown accuracy, from an undisclosed source,” a senior defense official said, noting the suspect, Mohamed Rashed Daoud al-‘Owhali, was seeking a plea bargain with U.S. prosecutors…
When the Pentagon’s Cole Commission released its report on January 9, one of the retired officers who headed the commission, Adm. Harold Gehman, said, “We found no credible intelligence that could have predicted the attack on board the USS Cole.”
But through a spokesman, Gehman said Wednesday the commission was not aware of the 1998 warning, in which a suspect being questioned in the U.S. Embassy bombing in Kenya told the FBI of plans for a possible rocket attack against a U.S. warship in Yemen.
The simple fact of the matter, Oliver, is that the time to revamp the way our intelligence services work started years ago, during, ahem, another administration. It was not until the Patriot Act that our security agencies were allowed to share information- and we know how you and your candidate feel about that bill.
The WTC and Pentagon bombings were a tragedy- and I don’t think, as others have stated, that it could have been prevented with the pre 9/11 mindset that everyone had, so unlike Oliver, I am not going to sit here and level idiotic charges against the Clinton administration. However, the fact that Oliver and his brethern find nothing embarassing about launching political witch hunts, bereft of facts, long on innuendo, says something about the modern Democratic party.
Oh- and btw Oliver- those changes that took place to our intelligence services? Your candidate is against them- or at least their renewal.
BTW- I might note that the President is 100% correct- now isthe time to revamp the intelligence agencies. In fact, that sort of used to be the point of the 9/11 commission before Oliver and the rest of the partisan left hijacked it to use as a weapon against the President. Remember their mandate:
The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also known as the 9-11 Commission), an independent, bipartisan commission created by congressional legislation and the signature of President George W. Bush in late 2002, is chartered to prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, including preparedness for and the immediate response to the attacks. The Commission is also mandated to provide recommendations designed to guard against future attacks.