Accuracy in Media

If Sheikh Muhammad Gemeaha, who until recently was the U.S. representative of Egypt’s Al-Azhar University in New York City, is typical of westernized and educated Muslims, one has to view with alarm the future of American relations with Egypt and other ostensibly friendly Moslem countries. Sheikh Gemeaha, who had also served as Imam of the Islamic Cultural Center and mosque in New York, was interviewed for an unofficial web site of Al-Azhar University on October 4, shortly after his return from America. He claimed that he had left because life for Muslims in America had become unbearable. The interviewer asked him if he and his family had suffered harassment, noting that the media had reported firing on mosques, harassment of Muslim women, and Arabs being murdered in the streets.

“Zionist Media” To Blame

“It’s true,” Gemeaha replied. “The Muslims are being persecuted by the people and the federal government. This is the result of the bad image of Muslims created by the Zionist media, and of their presenting Islam as a religion of terrorism. That is why the Americans have linked the recent incidents to Islam. I personally have suffered; my home was attacked, and my daughters were harassed.” He said he confronted a group attacking his home, telling them that what they were doing was uncivilized and a twofold crime: letting the criminals go free and attacking the innocent. “It became clear to me,” he said, “that they knew very well that the Jews were behind these ugly acts (the 9-11 attacks) while we, the Arabs, were innocent…. When I asked them whether they had the courage to talk about it openly, they said, ‘You know very well that the Zionists control everything and that they also control political decision-making, the big media organizations, and the financial and economic institutions. Anyone daring to say a word is considered an anti-Semite.'”

He then proceeded to display his anti-Semitism, saying, “You see these people (the Jews) all the time, everywhere, disseminating corruption, heresy, homosexuality, alcoholism and drugs. There are strip clubs, homosexuals and lesbians everywhere. They do this to impose their hegemony and colonialism on the world. Now they are riding on the back of the world powers. These people always seek out the superpower of the generation and develop coexistence with it. Before this, they rode on the back of England and on the back of the French Empire. After that, they rode on the back of Germany, but Hitler annihilated them because they betrayed him and violated their contract with him.”

Asked about the reaction of the American people, Gemeaha said, “Unfortunately this incident made the American people hate everyone who is Muslim or Arab. What can you expect when you think, first off, that 50,000 have died and the Arabs are celebrating?….Of course, you would want revenge. This is what the Jews plotted and planned. They used the Arabs to carry it out.” Asked for proof of that, Gemeaha responded, “All the signs indicate that the Jews had the most to gain from an explosion like that. They are the only ones capable of planning such acts. First of all, it was found that the automatic pilot was neutralized a few minutes before the flight….Second, the black boxes were found to contain no information… Third, America has the most power-ful intelligence apparatuses, the FBI and the CIA…How did the (perpetrators) manage to infiltrate America without their knowledge? Fourth, Jews control decision-making in the airports and in the sensitive centers in the White House and the Pentagon. Fifth, to date America has presented no proof incriminating Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.”

“A Cruel And Bizarre Story”

No anti-Semitic calumny was too absurd for Gemeaha. He said Jewish doctors were poisoning Muslim children in U.S. hospitals. He claimed 4000 Jews had skipped work at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, implying they were forewarned. James Zogby, chairman of the Arab American Institute, denounced this as “a cruel and bizarre story.” Gemeaha asserted that police arrested “a group of Jews rejoicing in the street at the time of the incident,” adding, “This news item was hushed up immediately after it was broadcast….The Jews who control the media acted to hush it up…. If it became known to the American people, they would have done to the Jews what Hitler did.”

Gemeaha claims the war will be the end of America because Allah will wreak his vengeance upon us. But after concluding that Allah “has proved to the American people what the truth is,” he says, “Therefore, I believe that the future of the Muslims in the U.S. will be glorious.”

A COLOSSAL INTELLIGENCE FAILURE

“Why didn’t we know about September 11? We were deaf, dumb and blind. We were asleep at the switch.” That is the view of Oliver “Buck” Revell, former associate deputy director of the FBI. Speaking in Dallas, Revell said, “The United States failed to recognize impending disaster because its federal law enforcement is a dysfunctional montage.”

Evidence of that is seen in the handling of a search for two of the hijackers initiated by the CIA 15 days before they crashed American Flight 11 into the Pentagon. On Aug. 27, the CIA sent a high-priority message to the FBI, the INS, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the State Dept. and Customs. An FBI official said the CIA requested only that the INS put four men on a special watch list immediately. It informed the recipients that all four were suspected terrorists with ties to the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, an arm of Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda.

It said that two of the suspects, Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, were in this country, Almihdhar having flown into New York’s JFK on July 4 and Alhazmi having flown into Los Angeles on Jan. 15, 2000. The other two, whose names have not been disclosed, were not believed to be in the U.S. The CIA says the message was coded “IMMEDIATE,” the second highest priority. The FBI denies this, saying there was no indication that it was a matter of great urgency. The L.A. Times, in an Oct. 18th story, quoted one FBI official as saying, “If the cable says ‘Don’t let them in the country’ and they’re already in the country, what’s the point of bringing this up now?” Nevertheless, the FBI claims it took action when its counter-terrorism unit received the message.

Aggressive action consisted of sending agents to Marriott hotels in New York and Sheraton hotels in Los Angeles to see if Khalid Almihdhar had registered, because that was where he said he would be staying in New York, and the Los Angeles Sheraton was the address he gave on a previous trip. That previous entry was on Jan. 15, 2000, when he arrived in Los Angeles on the same flight as Nawaf Alhazmi.

Almihdhar had been videotaped in Malaysia meeting with bin Laden agents in Dec. 1999 or early Jan. 2000. Alhazmi was probably with him at that time. The L.A. Times says that a simple check of California Department of Motor Vehicle records showed that the two of them had lived at several addresses in the San Diego area. They were both taking flight lessons at a San Diego flying club as late as last May. Almihdhar apparently took a trip abroad in May or June, returning on July 4, landing at JFK. He had a VISA credit card in his own name. He used it on August 27 to buy his ticket on American Flight 11 so he could help crash it into the Pentagon.

Questions That Call For Answers

How well did the CIA, FBI, INS and State Department deal with the apprehension or surveillance of these two men? Here are some questions that call for answers. Assuming the Malaysian Intelligence Service informed the CIA reasonably promptly that they had evidence that Almihdhar had met with bin Laden agents in Dec. 1999 or soon thereafter, why did the CIA wait until Aug. 27, 2001 to ask that he be put on a watch list? Since he and Alhazmi arrived in L.A. on the same flight, why was no effort made to determine if he and Almihdhar were partners in crime? Journalists have found out quite a bit of information about Almihdhar and Alhazmi-several addresses where they lived in the San Diego area, Alhazmi’s phone number, the San Diego flying club where they took flying lessons together, and at least one credit card transaction. Alhazmi’s phone number was in the 2001 San Diego phone book. It took only a few minutes to find it on the Internet. Don’t the FBI and CIA know how to do that?

What If They Had Done It Right?

Why didn’t the FBI tell its San Diego field office that the CIA wanted Almihdhar and Alhazmi watched if not apprehended? If the CIA had sent its message to the FBI just a year earlier, the field office should have had no trouble locating those two suspected terrorists. It should have been able to find that both of them were taking flying lessons. A report to Washington that two suspected terrorists were trying to learn how to fly commercial airliners might have caused intelligence analysts to raise the question of why. They might have recalled Project Bojinka or even the attempted hijacking of an Air France airliner in 1994, by four Muslims who wanted to crash it into the Eiffel Tower but who failed because they didn’t know how to fly the plane. Why didn’t the CIA send its urgent message to State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, which is responsible for issuing or denying visas to foreigners? The head of the bureau testified that more suspected terrorists could have been stopped if the CIA and FBI had provided them with more intelligence information. She called it a “colossal intelligence failure.” Since the CIA message was sent to State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, why didn’t they share it with the Bureau of Consular Affairs when they saw that it was not on the distribution list?

A Second Pearl Harbor

The September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have evoked comparisons with Pearl Harbor. There was also a colossal intelligence failure on December 7, 1941, and we suffered heavy losses of lives and ships as a result. Hearings were held to determine who was responsible for that failure. The commanding officers of our forces based in Hawaii got the blame even though Washington knew, but had not told them, that Japan was going to start a war with us that morning, not by declaration, but by attacking our forces in the Pacific.

We had advance warning of the 9-11 attack, but our intelligence agencies failed to take seriously what they had been told about Project Bojinka in 1996. The October 1 Newsweek described that plot to hijack planes and crash them into buildings, adding, “At the time, FBI officials thought the plans were grandiose and farfetched. Now they look like blueprints.”

THE ENEMY IN OUR MIDST
By Cliff Kincaid

The House of Representatives considered creating a “Commission on Preparedness and Performance of the Federal Government for the September 11 Acts of Terrorism.” It would assess the performance of our intelligence agencies and hold them ac-countable. But when the bill came to the House floor on October 5, Rep. Porter Goss successfully moved to change the name to “Commission on National Security Readiness.” It would “review the national security readiness of the United States to identify structural impediments to the effective collection, analysis, and sharing of information on national security threats, particularly terrorism.”

Goss, R-Florida, is a former CIA covert operations officer. He was supported by Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., who argued passionately that it would be wrong to hold anyone responsible for this colossal intelligence failure. He declared, “I think it is a slap in the face at the intelligence community for those people who want to get their pound of flesh against whomever, the CIA director, the FBI director, people in the defense intelligence community, to drag them before the public and require them to ‘fess up with whatever happened.”

Rep. Peter Deutsch, D-Florida, agreed no one should be blamed for the intelligence failure, but he pointed out that Tom Clancy had written about hijackers crashing a plane into a building in one of his novels. AIM bought space in the Washington Times to run a column headlined, “Why the Bojinka Blackout?”a question aimed at nearly all the media, including the Washing-ton Times. It said, “Those at the CIA and FBI responsible for this catastrophic intelligence failure should be replaced, but that won’t happen if the media don’t show the public how they dropped the ball.”

Hiring Gays, Ignoring Terrorists

Washington Times editorial page editor Helle Bering wrote a column asking how George Tenet, the director of Central Intelligence, survived in the face of the agency’s failure to disrupt the terrorist attacks. “Somehow Mr. Tenet seems to have protected status,” she wrote. “Why? Who protects him?” Seymour Hersh, a liberal prize-winning investigative journalist, said in a scorching article in the Oct. 8th New Yorker that Tenet is protected by senior Democratic senators. He used to work for them when he was on the staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He also served on the National Security Council under Clinton.

Sen. Richard Shelby, the ranking Republican on the Intelligence Committee has called for Tenet’s resignation, but it does not appear that President Bush is listening. Critics speak scathingly of CIA employees sewing diversity quilts and celebrating Gay Pride Day. Tenet revealed last year that the CIA was actively recruiting homosexuals. A group called the “Agency Network of Gay and Lesbian Employees” exists at the CIA, and the “Gay Pride” event drew about 100 homosexual employees from the CIA and the National Security Agency.

Rep. Goss was asked to comment on this by the Washington Post. He said he was ambivalent: “I’m not going to make a moral judgment whether it’s a good thing or bad thing.” But other critics are less reticent. They criticize the deadening bureaucracy, the feminization of the agency, and the incompetence of many of its agents.

Under Tenet, the agency has been trying to improve its image by collaborating with Hollywood on new television shows and films. The London Guardian reported, “The CIA hopes that three new television series and five new films in which the agency is featured in a mainly flattering light will help to change its image as a shadowy organization specializing in dirty tricks and assassinations.”

“The agency is throwing a red carpet reception for the premiere of one of these films. The new starring role for the CIA coincides with the agency’s decision to employ a full-time entertainment liaison officer, himself a former CIA officer in Latin America, and to throw open the doors of its headquarters to film-makers. The policy seems to have paid off, with scriptwriters rewriting history to present an upbeat portrait of the agency. The shows are seen as a way of telling American taxpayers that the CIA provides value for money at a time when security budgets may be tight.” The most prominent new TV show, “The Agency,” airs on CBS on Thursday nights. The first episode showed CIA agents saving the life of Cuban Communist dictator Fidel Castro. The Guardian reports that another episode will show the CIA going after Arab terrorists.

Bureaucracy Captures Mueller

Over at the FBI, the new director, Robert Mueller, insisted that the FBI had no reason to suspect Islamic extremists were training at U.S. flight schools. But Dale Davis, the vice president of Airman Flight School in Norman, Oklahoma, told the Boston Globe that FBI agents visited his flight school two years ago to ask questions about a former student who had been identified as an associate of bin Laden. Three weeks before the September 11 attacks, Davis said FBI agents showed up at his facility asking questions about Zacarias Moussaoui, who had been arrested in Minnesota for visa violations.

Moussaoui wanted to learn how to fly large jet aircraft, but had no interest in learning how to take off and land. He had specifically asked for information about flying in New York air space. The New York Times reports that FBI and Justice Department lawyers rejected requests from agents in Minneapolis for a warrant to search Moussaoui’s computer and phone records. French intelligence had informed the bureau on August 27 that Moussaoui had “Islamic extremist beliefs” and had visited Pakistan, perhaps en route to Afghanistan. Officials from the FBI and CIA were unable to determine whether Moussaoui represented any threat until after September 11. Only then did the FBI find that Moussaoui had compiled a large amount of data on crop-dusting aircraft. This led the government to ground all crop-dusting flights in the U.S. He is still in custody, and he is still not talking.

Christopher Whitcomb, a 15-year FBI veteran, was asked during a panel discussion at the Heritage Foundation what had gone wrong with the FBI. He could find nothing wrong with its performance. “Nobody in the world wants terrorism to stop more than the FBI,” he said. “They’re doing everything humanly possible to stop it.” He said that “unless we’re going to give up every civil liberty we have, it’s going to be impossible to stop every one of these attacks.” Whitcomb misses the point that because the FBI failed to take Project Bojinka seriously, it neglected to take the steps necessary to prevent its execution.

The Bin Laden Network

The FBI’s intelligence failure should cause us to examine the bureau’s performance in other cases. One about which questions abound is the 1994 Oklahoma City bombing. Stephen Jones, a lawyer for executed bomber Timothy McVeigh, devotes several pages in his book to possible connections between Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden, and the other convicted bomber, Terry Nichols. He cites an eyewitness account of Nichols, who was married to a Filipino, meeting with Yousef and his associate Abdul Murad in the Philippines in the early 1990s. But Jones says, “At some point after they’d caught McVeigh and Nichols, and certainly by the time of the grand jury indictment in August 1995, someone high up in the government had ordered they were simply going to drop all the rest. And by 1996, the last words anyone on the prosecution side wanted to hear were others unknown.” “Others Unknown” is the title of Jones’ book about the case.

The government had insisted it was pursuing others involved in the plot but it stopped at McVeigh and Nichols. Retired FBI special agent Ivian C. Smith says he never understood why the bureau dropped its pursuit of “John Doe No. 2,” an accomplice of McVeigh. The same witness who identified McVeigh had also identified John Doe No. 2, who had a swarthy complexion and may have been from the Middle East. An all points bulletin for him was cancelled on the same day it was issued. McVeigh and Nichols were then denounced as right-wingers linked to the militia and President Clinton launched a campaign against conservative talk radio for supposedly inspiring the bombing.

In testimony before Congress last February, CIA director Tenet described Osama bin Laden and his network as “the most immediate and serious threat” to the United States. He said that “Islamic militancy is expanding, and the worldwide pool of potential recruits for terrorist networks is growing?” But this was only half the story. Since the attacks on New York and Washington, our media have been reporting that two of our allies, Saudi Arabia and Britain, have been instrumental in sponsoring or financing this network.

The CBS 60 Minutes show noted that bin Laden, the Taliban and the Saudis represent a brand of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism. It is the state religion in Saudi Arabia. It is an ultra-puritanical form of Islam that has large numbers of adherents in 20 countries. Correspondent Ed Bradley reported, “At the core of Wahhabism is Saudi Arabia, which spends hundreds of millions of dollars promoting this ideology, which forbids any form of music, dance or movies. Those who drink alcohol can be flogged and anyone who commits adultery can face execution.” Saudi Arabia has been promoting this fanatical religious ideology by investing in religious schools and educational institutions around the world. An expert on Islam said this movement is prone to violence, even terrorism, because of its extreme nature.

“The Enemy Is Among Us”

The Washington Post has drawn attention to Britain’s role as a base of operations for terrorists. A story on September 27 noted that Britain, which has a large Muslim population, “has long served as a base for militant Islamic fundamentalist groups, including the network of Osama bin Laden?London was the base of operations for Khaled al-Fawwaz, said to be a top bin Laden lieutenant and a recruiter of young men for al Qaeda military units.” An October 7 story suggested that Britain had a deliberate policy of hosting Arab dissidents and suspected terrorists. “By hosting the dissidents, the theory went, Britain was also buying itself immunity from acts of terrorism on its soil,” the paper reported. An Arab journalist was quoted as saying, “It’s a political game that can be effective as long as you know how to play it, but it can also come back to haunt you.”

The warning that such a policy could come back to haunt Britain was starting to be taken seriously earlier this year after a police raid on a house in London uncovered a plot by bin Laden’s network to release deadly sarin nerve gas in the London underground train network. That’s when the British government passed a new counter-terrorist law banning support for some radical organizations.

President Clinton said it is “terribly wrong” to think of an “inevitable clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West. Morgan Norval, a former Marine and author of Triumph of Disorder, a 1999 book about the Islamic terrorist threat, says this clash threatens our very survival. He warns that Islamic terrorists see Islam taking the place of communism as the foe of Western civilization. His book warned that we are “wide open” to terrorist attacks and that “terror cells” exist in America. He said, “The enemy is among us.”

What You Can Do

Send the enclosed cards or your own cards or letters to Lou Boccardi, President and CEO, Associated Press, John W. Madigan, Chairman, Tribune Company and Peter R. Kann, Publisher, The Wall Street Journal.




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