Blogs > Liberty and Power > Report Omits Key Player-Foreign Policy

Jul 27, 2004 12:52 pm

Report Omits Key Player-Foreign Policy

Although the 9/11 commission’s investigation has won praise in the media for being bipartisan, on balance it has not made us safer. The commission discovered new information to rewrite the history of the Sept. 11 attacks, uncovered government incompetence that should make Americans wonder if those attacks could have been prevented and made some useful recommendations. But the panel avoided the most important question surrounding the attacks—their underlying cause.

The commission showed that the Bush administration, in the months prior to Sept. 11, had much more warning of an impending terrorist attack than previously known. The panel also correctly criticized the performance of U.S. intelligence, diplomacy, law enforcement, aviation security and the military prior to or on that horrible day. Finally, the commission made useful recommendations to safeguard American liberties—rejecting a dangerous new domestic spy agency and arguing for improved congressional oversight of intelligence and homeland security agencies.

But like many government and quasi-government bodies after Sept. 11, the 9/11 commission focused on dubious recommendations about what the authorities could do to improve their response to terrorism instead of the more important question of what the government could do to reduce the chances of an attack in the first place. For example, the commission recommended creating a new national counterterrorism center to coordinate foreign and domestic intelligence on terrorism and a new national intelligence director, who would control the myriad of intelligence agencies and their budgets. Like the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, however, both of these proposed reforms would add a layer of bureaucracy, exacerbating the governmental coordination problems discovered by the commission itself. To fight small, agile terrorism groups, the government should cut the excessive number of intelligence bureaucracies, not create more.

The director of central intelligence, in addition to being the president’s chief adviser on intelligence and the head of the CIA, is already supposed to be riding herd on the existing 15 intelligence agencies. Yet the director is not allowed to make the critical personnel and budgetary decisions concerning those agencies because they are parts of other organizations. The Department of Defense, for example, controls 85 percent of the intelligence budget. Instead of creating a new national intelligence chief, the director should just be given the powers required to do his current job.

To reduce the coordination and communication problems among intelligence agencies that occurred prior to Sept. 11, the excessive number of intelligence agencies should be streamlined and consolidated. Intelligence units in the Departments of Energy (which analyzes nuclear matters), State (which analyzes information related to U.S. foreign policy) and Treasury (which deals with information affecting U.S. fiscal and monetary policy) could be merged into the CIA. FBI counterespionage functions and Coast Guard Intelligence could be merged into the intelligence unit of the Department of Homeland Security. The intelligence arms of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps could be subsumed into the Defense Intelligence Agency, as could the National Reconnaissance Office (which builds satellites and coordinates collection of satellite and aerial intelligence), the National Security Agency (which collects signals intelligence from electronic transmissions) and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (which does satellite imagery and mapping).

The greatest flaw in the commission’s analysis and recommendations, however, was one of omission. The panel did not address the underlying causes of the Sept. 11 attacks. Dealing with the underlying causes is the only way to reduce the chances of terrorist attacks in the first place.

In his statement upon release of the commission’s report, Thomas Kean, the commission’s chairman, incorrectly opined that the terrorists hate America and its policies. Even al Qaeda does not hate America per se. The group’s statements indicate that it hates U.S. foreign policy toward the Middle East, especially the U.S. government’s propping up of corrupt Arab regimes. Furthermore, repeated polls in the Islamic world (including two polls in “friendly” Arab countries released last week by the University of Maryland and the Arab American Institute and Zogby International) indicate that the United States is hated not for its culture, technology or freedoms—as President Bush would have us believe—but for its foreign policy. The president has further inflamed that hatred with his illegitimate invasion of a sovereign Iraq—a nation that had no weapons of mass destruction and that the 9/11 Commission said had no “collaborative relationship” with al Qaeda.

It is from this sea of hatred that the blowback terrorism of a small minority of individuals emanates. Ending longstanding U.S. government meddling in the Middle East would do more than any of the commission’s recommendations to reduce terrorist attacks on innocent Americans.

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Pat Rogers - 7/27/2004

i wanted to believe the most altruistic positive things about the 9/11 Commission but then I put all of this together after reading the following contention in the report.

"Al Qaeda has been alleged to have used a variety of illegitimate means, particularly drug trafficking and conflict diamonds, to finance itself.While the drug trade was a source of income for the Taliban, it did not serve the same purpose for al Qaeda, and there is no reliable evidence that Bin Ladin was involved in or made his money through drug trafficking.128"

"(note 128). Doug Wankel interview (Mar. 15, 2004); Frank G. and Mary S. briefing (July 15, 2003). Although some reporting alleges that Bin Ladin may have been an investor, or even had an operational role, in drug trafficking before 9/11, this intelligence cannot be substantiated. Ibid. Frank G. interview (Mar. 2, 2004). No evidence indicates any such involvement in drug trafficking, and none of the detained al Qaeda operatives has indicated that this was a method of fund-raising."

The news stories:

13 Octo 1998
Source: Seattle Times (WA)

The State Department report said poppy production has increased dramatically in Kandahar province, which is both the heartland of the Taliban movement and the base of operations for Osama bin Laden, the radical Saudi exile whom U.S.  officials accuse of running one of the largest terrorist networks in the world.

U.S.  intelligence agencies have received "credible reports" that members of bin Laden's security forces protect drug shipments and might have traded guns for drugs on a small scale, U.S.  officials said.

Dec 1998
Source: Indian Express (India)

The fields of the eastern Afghan district of Shinwar look empty now.  The summer's heat has left them dry and brown, and the seeds recently sown in their dusty soil have yet to shoot.  In six months, Shinwar will be a riot of pink and white as the spring crop bursts into flower.  The crop will be opium and the farmer will be Osama bin Laden, the most wanted terrorist in the world.  Bin Laden, accused by the United States of bombing two of their embassies in East Africa this summer and a string of other attacks, sees heroin as a powerful new weapon in his war against the West, capable of wreaking social havoc while generating huge profits, according to sources in eastern Afghanistan and in Pakistan.

March 1999
Source: Daily Telegraph (UK)

OSAMA BIN LADEN, the world's most wanted terrorist, is buying child slaves from Ugandan rebels and using them as forced labour on marijuana farms in Sudan to fund his international terrorism network.

New evidence indicates that bin Laden, who masterminded the bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania last August, has made Sudan the centre of his global empire.

Dec 1999
Source: Herald, The (UK)

But the bulk of his income comes from acting as middleman and fixer for the Afghan opium producers.  According to the United Nations, Afghanistan supplies 75% of the world's opium and its heroin derivatives in a narcotics' trade worth an estimated UKP4bn to UKP6bn a year.

The Taleban religious fanatics who control 85% of Afghanistan need the cash to fund their never-ending civil wars.  They gave bin Laden refuge because he had connections with the Chechen and Russian mafias and their access to money-laundering in the West.

According to Middle Eastern intelligence sources, bin Laden rakes off anything up to UKP500m a year from his pivotal role in the drugs' trade.  It is more than enough to underwrite the cost of mujahideen training camps in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan and the provision of weapons for bin Laden's personal war against the US and its allies.

30 Dec 2000
Source: Times of Central Asia

Other intelligence reports say that the agreement between Bin Laden and the Taliban on the one hand, and the Russia Mafia on the other, goes beyond the barter of nuclear weapons for opium.

A Russian intelligence report has disclosed that Mafia gangs have managed to monopolize the production of opium, as well as the right to "supervise its quality", in several heroin factories in Kotieh and Peshawar near the Pakistan border, Zarni near Iran, and Mazar-e Sharif near Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.  Therefore, security services fear that the Mafia has formed an alliance with the Taliban and other extremist organizations in Afghanistan.  The Mafia will use its large smuggling networks to flood the world with heroin in exchange for small nuclear weapons to be used for terrorist operations against targets in several areas.

Dec 2000
Source: Times of India, The (India)

This fight becomes less effective when it is not in America's backyard--when they stem from distant countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Myanmar and Thailand where drugs have often provided the sustenance for arms procurement for groups ranging from Osama Bin Laden's cadres to others like the Lakshar-e-Toiba, sundry Kashmiri militant groups to the Tamil Tigers.

14 Sep 2001
Source: Ottawa Citizen

Even Osama bin Laden may have his hands in the drug trade.  According to a Russian report, Mr.  bin Laden has bankrolled Chechen gunmen in Dagestan with funds generated from heroin trafficking.

22 Sep 2001
Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press

There are strong signs al-Qaida has profited handsomely from the opium trade, with fighters used as smugglers and to protect smugglers, said Sen.  John Kerry, D-Mass., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Al-Qaida's part in drug trafficking likely continued at least until Afghanistan's ruling Taliban cracked down on opium production last year, Kerry said.  Opinion varies on the extent of the crackdown.

21 Sep 2001
Source: Associated Press

"The illegal drug trade is the financial engine that fuels many terrorist organizations around the world, including Osama Bin Laden," Hastert said.