Four years after the 9/11 attacks there are four theories of what happened. These theories can be summarized as follows:
SNAFU- Situation normal- all fucked up.
LIHOP- Let it happen on purpose.
MIHOP- Made it happen on purpose.
NTSHMA- Nothing to see here, move along.
There are subsets of these categories, but they basically encompass all the various theories of what went wrong. The prevailing attitude of the American public is best expressed as SNAFU. The 9/11 Commission’s explanation falls into the SNAFU category.
The Commission didn’t deny that we issued 52 FAA warnings, that certain agencies were hot on the trail of some of the hijackers, or that we received an abundance of warnings from informants and foreign intelligence agencies. In fact, the Commission admits that everyone’s ‘hair was on fire’, and that Bush received a rather specific warning on August 6th, 2001 that warned of hijackings “or…other attacks”.
Their explanation for why none of this enabled us to prevent 9/11 is that the intelligence agencies did a terrible job of sharing information. Massive governmental incompetence is, for many, a simple fact of life. It’s normal. But it’s all fucked up. For those that are skeptical of the explanatory power of the SNAFU, the reaction to Hurricane Katrina is a remarkable counterpoint. Even with several days of warning and several planning exercises, the government still completely dropped the ball.
It’s entirely possible that 9/11 was nothing more than the biggest SNAFU since the Battle of Little Big Horn. But there are real problems with the official story told by the administration, the FBI, and the Commission. And this leads many to subscribe to either the LIHOP or MIHOP theories.
Distinguishing between LIHOP and MIHOP is virtually impossible without access to the thinking of the principles involved. 9/11 was a covert, clandestine operation. It was carried out by Arabic speaking suicide terrorists. We know that from cockpit transmissions. We know that Usama bin-Laden has taken credit for ordering the attacks. What we don’t know, for sure, is who UBL was working for. Was he working for elements within Pakistan’s ISI, an intelligence agency with extremely close historical ties to the CIA? Was he working for elements within Saudi intelligence, another agency with extremely close historical ties to the CIA? Was he working for rogue elements, possibly retired, from within our own Defense Intelligence Agency? Was he tipped off that we would be running multiple war games on September 11th? Zawahiri spent a year in the custody of Russian authorities. Was he flipped, and turned into a Russian agent?
One could go crazy speculating on such matters. And, the bottom line is that we probably will never have definitive answers to these questions. It’s entirely possible that UBL and Zawahiri were not in the employ of any intelligence agency, and that they managed to carry out one of the most successful clandestine operations in history all on their own, and for the reasons they declared: as punishment for the Iraqi sanctions, our military presence in Saudi Arabia, and our pro-Israel policies.
So, while we can speculate about who made 9/11 happen on purpose, we can never be sure which intelligence agencies were involved, if any. But, we can assess whether or not the Bush administration (at the highest levels) had information that a plot was afoot, and whether they did anything to stop it. Did they let it happen on purpose? Was the only surprise the scope of the destruction? And here, the circumstantial evidence has been building ever since the August 6th memo was revealed back in May of 2002. Richard Clarke said the Bush administration did nothing about the threat. He would know. But doing nothing about terrorism is different from letting something happen on purpose.
Perhaps the strongest case for LIHOP/MIHOP is the war in Iraq. How on Earth would the Bush administration have justified the war in Iraq if not for the 9/11 attacks and the anthrax scare? The anthrax was traced back to Fort Detrick, Maryland, which is operated by the Pentagon, and then the investigation was stalled. Is it a coincidence that someone from the Pentagon mailed anthrax in the days after 9/11? Is that a normal reaction to the tragedy?
Another extremely curious question is Bush’s behavior at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School as the attacks unfolded. He claimed that he assumed the first plane was a small-plane, piloted by a ‘terrible pilot’. But we know he was briefed on the threat of terrorist suicidal hijacking a month before the attacks. How could he make the assumption that many of us made? How could he not immediately think about:
A clandestine source said in 1998 that a Bin Laden cell in New York was recruiting Muslim-American youth for attacks.
We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a [deleted text] service in 1998 saying that Bin Laden wanted to hijack a U.S. aircraft to gain the release of “Blind Shaykh” ‘Umar’ Abd aI-Rahman and other U.S.-held extremists.
Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.
The FBI is conducting approximately 70 investigations throughout the U.S. that it considers Bin Laden-related. CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our embassy in the UAE in May saying that a group or Bin Laden supporters was in the U.S. planning attacks with explosives.
It seems to me that a report of a plane (of any size) crashing into the World Trade Center would have been interpreted as a likely terrorist event by anyone who had been told that an attack was imminent, that al-Qaeda was training hijackers for attacks, and that buildings in NYC were being scoped out. If Bush didn’t figure it out himself, Condi Rice should have told him, or Andy Card, or George Tenet. Instead he shrugged it off and decided to read a book about a goat to children. Even when he was informed that a second plane had hit the WTC, no one thought to interrupt his photo-op. Why?
As we remember the victims of 9/11 today, we only know one thing for sure. Condi Rice’s claim that “no one could have imagined that terrorists would hijack commercial planes to use as missiles to attack key US government buildings” has been rendered inoperative. The NTSHMA (nothing to see here, move along) theory is the only theory we can definitively rule out.