Saturday, August 05, 2006

Seven Days

From 1998 to 2001, there was a show named “Seven Days” on network TV. It is now in syndication, and my teenage daughter loves it. The premise of the show is that the hero, Frank Parker, works for a secret government agency that has the capability to send him back in time one week, so that he can undo whatever the evil villains have done to us.

The pilot episode aired last week. It showed how Jack was recruited (from a mental hospital) to travel seven days back in time. And what was the horror he had to literally undo? Someone had taken an airplane and flown it into the White House.

All of which set my mind to thinking. It made me recall a time in 2004, when, in response to pressure from the families of 9-11 victims,* the White House reversed its policy and allowed Condoleeza Rice to testify before the Independent National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, commonly referred to as the 9-11 commission. She reiterated her previous statement that: “No one could have imagined them taking a plane, slamming it into the Pentagon into the World Trade Center, using planes as a missile.”

Maybe so, but 6 years earlier, someone had imagined them taking a plane and slamming it into the White House, using a plane as a missile.

As I pointed out in Cheney admits guilt, I consider it an admission of guilt when someone charged with planning for contingencies fails to imagine outcomes. This rule applies with equal force when the outcome is flying planes into the WTC, levees breaching, or levels of violence in Iraq, to name three examples where the administration has used this lame excuse. It also applies when the government we installed in Iraq, dominated as it is by Shi’ites, forms a military alliance with Shi’ite Iran, as I reported here.

Here’s the bottom line, the current administration is weak – hell, I’d go all the way to incompetent – when it comes to national security. The irony is not that King George ostensibly succeeded in an election by running on this issue. Rather, it is that Karl Rove still thinks Republicans can win on it in 2008.

Of course, the evidence I have submitted here relies on recognizing the failures of imagination as incompetence. But as it turns out, there is evidence beyond what is in the re-runs of Seven Days, that there actually was no failure of imagination.

On September 11, 2001 many branches of our defense community were engaged in exercises, a fact which figures prominently in the several conspiracy theories that have emerged since that dreadful day.

One of those exercises was a pre-planned simulation to explore the emergency response issues that would be created if a plane were to strike a building. This exercise was not being coordinated by first responders nor even by some agency like FEMA. Rather it was being conducted by the CIA. They’re the guys who are tasked with assessing and responding to international threats.**

But worse, this week, Vanity Fair reported on 30 hours of never-before-released tapes from the control room of NORAD's Northeast headquarters. What is revealed is confusion and chaos, perhaps not entirely surprising considering the circumstances, but very much at odds with the story told by NORAD to the 9-11 Commission.

This week the Ed Schultz radio show had one of the 9-11 commissioners, Richard Benviniste as a guest. Here’s some of my unofficial transcript:
Question: Do you believe there was a deliberate effort to mislead the commission on exactly what actions took place at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001?

Benveniste: Let me respond this way: The initial account which was provided to us in our first hearing was inaccurate in important aspects. We had to divert attention and investigative efforts (which was precious to us because of the time constraints under which we were operating) to get the correct story. And we increased our staffing from one person to seven in order to go out into the field and get the NORAD records, which challenged and conflicted with the initial story we had received.

Question: Did they lie to you?

Benveniste: That implies that there was a deliberate effort to mislead. I am not going to cross that bridge at this moment. They certainly provided a story that was inexact, it was incorrect in many important aspects.

That story, I think, had its genesis in an initial press release that came out of the Defense Department. And it would seem to me, if I were a betting person, that the initial press release then dictated how the public affairs people and then the leadership at NORAD responded to official inquiries about their actions. That was a terrible mistake from the standpoint of those who were investigating this, and I think the reputations of those involved.
Mr. Benveniste went on to say that the matter was referred to the Inspector Generals of the Defense Department, in the case of NORAD, and the FAA.
We now know the story. We don’t know why we got an inconsistent version. NORAD went so far as to publish a book, entitled, I think it was, Air War over America in which they recounted this bogus story of how they were tracking the two flights and how they were ready to shoot them down. That never happened. So I think they went ahead and tried to burnish their reputation by suggesting facts that didn’t exist.
I could tell you that no one could have imagined that the government would have lied to us or engaged in a cover-up of its own incompetence. But as Nixon once famously said, “It would be wrong.”

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

*Which, by the way, is why a certain witch named Ann Coulter subjected them such a venomous attack.

**When the AP reported this story, it said that the simulation was of a civilian aircraft “accidentally” crashing into the building after a mechanical failure.

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