CONSPIRACY THEORIES ON CAPITOL HILL
By Vin Suprynowicz
In fact, a calm and methodical analysis of whether and where U.S. intelligence failed--with an eye to streamlining coordination between agencies, shifting focus away from outdated Cold War targets, and making real and useful changes in domestic security--is a useful function of congressional oversight.
But is that what's now brewing in Washington?
Informed by White House spokesman Ari Fleischer that President Bush was told of "non-specific" threats of hijackings by Al-Qa'ida during a CIA briefing while on vacation on his Texas ranch last August, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), on Thursday, May 16, called on President Bush to release to congressional investigators "the entire briefing that he was given," as well as a recently revealed pre-September 11 FBI memo from the agency's Arizona office that warned of suspicious activity by Arabs at U.S. flight schools.
Threatening to broaden the scope of current post mortems, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-MO) added that Congress needs to find out, in hearings open to the public, what Bush and other officials knew, when they knew it, and what they did with the information.
Digging through the old Democratic Party trunk in search of something that will reverse the party's fortunes in the upcoming Fall elections, it appears Gephardt has stumbled on a moth-eaten 1970s-era playbook. The parallel to demands that the public be told "what the President knew, and when he knew it" during the Nixon era--referring in that case to the scandalous White House cover-up of the break-in at Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate Hotel--is unmistakable.
But come now. Do these opportunist congressional Democratic scandalmongers really believe President Bush was told in advance and in detail about the terrorists September 11 plans, only to pause, stroke his chin, and cynically instruct his black-hatted henchmen down on the ranch, "You know what, boys? Let's not do a thing. Let them blow up the World Trade Center. As I lead this nation in our righteous war of retribution, my populasrity ratings will soar. It'll also provide a good excuse to finally give the Israelis a green light to massacre every Palestinian Arab from Jenin to Bethlehem. I never did like those people; they don't shave. And by the way, remind me to go short on airline stocks"?
Heavens! Were the Masons, the Bilderbergers, the British Royals, the Elders of Zion, and the boys from Skull & Bones brought in to play their parts?
If the Democratic Party leadership is now prepared to embrace such a wild conspiracy theory, they should say so outright.
Senator Kit Bond (R--MO) rightly branded Daschle's and Gephardt's "effort to blow this up into a scandal" as irresponsible. "Their unspoken implication is that the President knew these attacks were coming and did nothing," Bond said.
In fact, just as tracing your way back out of a maxe is easier after you've solved it, so backtracking a security lead can make it appear the evidence was "hard to miss" at the time, when, in fact, the clue in question was just one snowflake in a blizzard of similar-seeming and mostly misleading raw data being processed.
Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta says his agency had received "general information relating to threats" last Summer, mostly "as they related to airline operations overseas...." At an appearance in St. Louis, Mineta told reporters: "There was really no specificity to the information we received at that time."
Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, confirms that his panel received the same general warning, which "was not specific in its content."
Calm and systematic hearings with an eye to reforming intelligence gathering, and particularly the coordination and evaluation of raw data, are in order. But are the very senators now grandstanding about "what the President knew," in fact, willing to do their own jobs, adopting new paradigms to make use of what they learn?
If Senator Daschle and Congressman Gephardt are really willing to shake things up in order to make Americans safer without eroding our freedoms, why aren't they embracing the demand of the pilots' union that air crews be armed for the defense of themselves and their planes, in place of the absurd ongoing massive strip-searching of law-abiding American air passengers in search of "deadly" toenail clippers--a practice which not only violates constitutional rights, but also damages the economy by making air travel less convenient and more expensive?
Please don't tell me they're letting mere political expediency--protecting their credentials as "gun control advocates" among soccer moms--trump national security in a de facto time of war.
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Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editor of the daily LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, publisher of the monthly newsletter, PRIVACY ALERT, a monthly contributor to SHOTGUN NEWS, and the author of SEND IN THE WACO KILLERS and THE BALLARD OF CARL DREGA.
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