Accuracy in Media

Coverage of Condoleezza Rice’s 9/11 testimony focused on what she said about the memo of planned al-Qaeda attacks on the U.S.  She called it historical, but the memo referred to recent terrorist surveillance of federal installations, “preparations” for hijackings, and on-going investigations of al Qaeda in the U.S.  But another concern?which got far less media attention?was her flawed listing of terrorist attacks on the United States.  The list ignored the most significant mass murder of American civilians before 9/11?the 1988 Pan Am 103 bombing. 

“The terrorist threat to our nation did not emerge on September 11, 2001,” Rice said.  “The attack on the marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983, the hijacking of the Achille Lauro in 1985, the rise of al Qaeda and the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, the attacks on American installations in Saudi Arabia in 1995 and 1996, the East Africa bombings of 1998, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole in 2000.  These and other atrocities were part of a sustained, systematic campaign to spread devastation and chaos and to murder innocent Americans.”

Rice’s only mention of Libya in her testimony was to suggest that Libya’s announcement about giving up weapons of mass destruction programs was due in part to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.  But that announcement has been thrown into doubt by reports that Libya may be concealing some of its programs from inspectors.

Rice subsequently apologized for not including the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in that list of terrorist incidents.  She told Pan Am family members that, “we listed the major attacks committed by al Qaeda or other terrorist groups such as Hizballah.  We did not include attacks that were the work of a government, such as the Libyan government’s bombing of Pan Am 103.  This was a mistake.”

The list also omitted the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.  Rice apparently buys into the Clinton theory that this was a domestic terrorist incident.  Plenty has been published over the years about foreign connections to this bombing, but a good source is the new book, The Third Terrorist, by Jayna Davis.  Rice’s failure to mention this evidence shows how an intelligence failure from the Clinton days has been carried forward by the Bush administration. 

It’s fine for Rice to apologize for omitting Pan Am 103, but something more than an apology is due Daniel and Susan Cohen, who lost their only daughter, Theodora, in the bombing.  They recently wrote a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft asking him to follow through on his promise to consider indicting Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi for murder in that case.  They received in response a letter referring to the death of their “son” and claiming there was no evidence of “a federal offense” in the bombing.  No federal offense?  One hundred eighty-nine Americans died in that bombing.  The letter was from something called the “Correspondence Management Staff” in the “Office of Administration” in the Justice Department.  The letter had no signature on it?no personal response to an American family victimized by terrorism and still seeking justice for their daughter?not their son?16 years later.

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