Washington insiders are abuzz with speculation about when the next shoe
will drop. The first, revelations that President Bush hid from the
public warnings of the terrorist attacks of September 11 Bush received as
early as last August, has already put the Bush Administration into full
damage control mode. But no one inside the beltway believes for an
instant these revelations will be the end of the story.
The defense offered by Bush and his surrogates, that the information
was "unspecific," and that the exact nature of the attacks "couldn't have
been anticipated," has already unraveled in the face of contradictory
reports and events. These events demonstrate conclusively that the
exact nature of the attacks was easily anticipated, and that the FBI knew
exactly where to look for likely conspirators: America's flight schools.
Still, even these revelations, and the Bush administration's clumsy
denials, are not the real story.
The real story is the certainty that any highly publicized
investigation into the intelligence gathering process will reveal the truth about
the Bush Administration's counter-terrorism activities in the months
preceding the September 11 terrorist attacks. It is there that the next
shoe will drop, since any publicized investigation into the FBI's
counter terrorism activities prior to September 11 terrorist attacks leads,
inexorably, to the deceased FBI Deputy Director, John P. O'Neill. Since
the Bush Administration also knows what is likely to be revealed if
John O'Neill ever becomes the focus of the inquiry, the battle over the
scope of the coming Congressional investigation has become the political
knife fight that will determine the fate of the Bush Presidency.
John P. O'Neill had been not only a Deputy Director at the FBI, he had
also been Osama bin Laden's main antagonist from within US law
enforcement. O'Neill had investigated the bombings of the World Trade Center
in 1993, a US base in Saudi Arabia in 1996, the US embassies in Nairobi
and Dar-Es-Salaam in 1998, and the USS Cole last year. In short, John
P. O'Neill had been the point man for the FBI on Al Qaeda. It is
simply impossible to examine the FBI's role in pursuing terrorism prior to
9/11 without examining the work of John O'Neill in detail. However,
John O'Neill will never testify before Congress. He had quit the agency
just two weeks prior to the September 11 attacks to serve as Director of
Security at the World Trade Towers, where he died in the attacks. But
John O'Neill's story did not die with him.
French intelligence analysts Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie
claim to have met O'Neill several times last summer, and reported in their
book, "bin Laden: Hidden Truth" that O'Neill had complained bitterly
that the US State Department - and behind it the oil lobby who make up
President Bush's entourage - blocked his attempts to prove bin Laden's
guilt. They quote O'Neill as stating "The main obstacles to investigate
Islamic terrorism were US oil corporate interests, and the role played
by Saudi Arabia in it." They also charge that shortly after assuming
office the Bush administration slowed down FBI investigations of Al
Qaeda and terrorism in Afghanistan in order to do a deal with the Taliban
for an oil pipeline across Afghanistan.
Any inquiry into these charges would require the Congress not only to
interview O'Neill's colleagues, but also to sort through all of the
correspondence and memoranda between the FBI, the White House, and the
State Department. Ultimately, it may prove impossible to prove or refute
the charges of the French authors. However, the charges are likely to
pass the smell test of the American public.
Bush has proven beyond a shadow of anyone's doubt his fealty to the
industry. The deal for an oil pipeline across Afghanistan is now a
fact, complete with shiny new bases all over central Asia for the US
military to use while guarding it. The Bush family's long standing business
dealings with Saudi rulers is well documented, as is the fact that 15
of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals. When combined with the fact
that the Bush administration allowed bin Laden's relatives to fly out of
the US in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, at a time when all
commercial domestic air traffic was shut down, a pattern becomes clear.
Even if the French author's accounts of John O'Neill cannot be
established as fact, the mere broad dissemination of them, when combined with
all of the other, easily available information, will be more than
sufficient to fatally cripple the Bush presidency.
While the French author's charges were briefly aired on CNN by Paula
Zahn in a conversation with former UN weapons inspector Richard Butler
last winter, they have been otherwise ignored by the major newspapers and
network news broadcasts. As such, they have not received nearly the
publicity of the more recent revelations concerning the warnings Bush
received prior to the attacks. This will change radically if these
charges are aired and investigated as part of a Congressional inquiry into
the conduct of the FBI prior to September 11.
Unfortunately for the Bush Administration, D.C. insiders are betting
that even with Republicans in control of the House of Representatives,
the investigation will happen, and it will be both bi-partisan and
comprehensive. Bush's surrogates are already trying to change those odds,
terming the inquiry a "fishing expedition" in public and strong arming
GOP congressional representatives in private, but so far, the public has
not lost its appetite for more information. The battle for the
public's perception of this inquiry will certainly become a centerpiece of the
fall political season, since if the Democrats gain a majority in the
House this fall, a wide ranging investigation becomes an absolute
certainty. If democracy under George Bush stays true to form, look for the
Supreme Court to involve itself in a number of these congressional races.