Both the 9/11 and Benghazi disasters were preventable. Warnings on both were clear and from highly reliable sources. Here, the similarities end. On 9/11 the White House ignored warnings from heads of state and allies and breached our national security. The White House then covered it up by (1) blocking an investigation for a year and (2) stonewalling the 9/11 Commission throughout its lifetime. The 9/11 Commission report was politicized and damaging evidence omitted. Neither responsibility nor accountability has ever been established for 9/11.
On Benghazi, the State Department immediately set up a high level independent review panel on Benghazi and cooperated with the investigation as opposed to a cover-up. Responsibility was taken and accountability established.
The differences in the damage done to our country by 9/11 and Benghazi are astronomical. Below are the 9/11 advance warnings as documented in the book, The Right-Wing Threat to Democracy.
9/11 ADVANCE WARNINGS
Situation at Bush presidential transition:
• Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden had made previous attacks, declared war twice and specified all U.S. citizens as legitimate targets.
• Both President Clinton and the CIA Director informed President Bush that Al-Qaeda would be the gravest and most immediate threat to U.S.
• Clinton had the White House Counterterrorism Chief report directly to him; Bush downgraded him.
• Clinton authorized a CIA death warrant to capture or kill Bin Laden. Bush twice refused to reissue it.
• Clinton developed a seeing-eye unmanned aircraft to spy on and fire missiles at al-Qaeda. It sat idle at 9/11 due to bureaucratic infighting of Bush officials.
• Clinton took steps to crack down on terrorism funding. Bush abandoned them.
• Clinton personally received daily reports on al-Qaeda activities. Bush did not.
• Clinton developed a bold plan to retaliate against the USS Cole attack when responsibility was confirmed. The plan became a victim of not “invented here” and turf wars. Bush finally used the plan after 9/11.
Two national commissions, one on terrorism and the other on national security for the 21st century warned the White House that (a) a major terrorist attack was inevitable, (b) the U.S. was vulnerable, and (c) many lives might be lost
The 21st century Commission urged creation of a Homeland Security Agency. Bush rejected it and told Congress he would put the Vice-President in charge of a “national effort” to deal with domestic terrorist attacks. This effort did not get off the ground.
The chairman of the commission on terrorism said in a February 2001 speech that the Bush administration was:
“…paying no attention to the problem of terrorism … what they will do is stagger along until there’s a major incident and then suddenly say, ‘Oh my God, shouldn’t we be organized to deal with this?’ … They’ve been given a window of opportunity … and they’re not taking advantage of it".
From March to August, specific warnings came from three heads of state and a number of other countries of a catastrophe about to befall our nation. By summer of 2001, these warnings had reached a crescendo. For example,
Israel warned that a “major attack on the U.S. was imminent” and gave us a
list of terrorists residing in the U.S. Four actual hijackers were on the list.
England and Prime Minister Tony Blair warned us twice of a very serious threat involving multiple airplane hijackings and that Al-Qaeda was in final stages of preparing an attack.
Jordan gave us the code name of the attack, “The Big Wedding,” and deemed the information so important that the message was sent through the King’s men and again through German intelligence.
Russia’s Vladimir Putin had his intelligence people warn President Bush in the “strongest possible terms” that pilots were in training for suicide missions on U.S. targets.
Germany warned of terrorist plans to hijack commercial aircraft and use them as missiles.
France echoed the earlier Israel warning.
Egypt warned that 20 al-Qaeda members had slipped into the U.S. Four were training to fly.
Egypt also had informants inside al-Qaeda and warned that attacks were in the advanced stages.
Bin Laden expressed regret during this time that the Twin Towers did not come down during the first attack in the 90’s.
In late June, CIA Director Tenet sent an intelligence summary to the White House
reporting: “It is highly likely that a significant al-Qaeda attack will occur within several weeks.” He added: most of the al- Qaeda network is anticipating an attack…” Based on a review of all source reporting over the last five months:
“We believe that (bin Laden) will launch a significant attack against U.S. and/or Israeli interests in the coming weeks. The attack will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties … Attack preparations have been made. Attack will occur with little or no warning… This is going to be a big one."A June 30th CIA briefing to top administration officials disclosed that Bin Laden operatives expected the attack would have dramatic consequences of catastrophic proportions. By July, the CIA Director said the warnings could not "get any worse."
Based on communications intercepts and other top-secret intelligence, the CIA Director developed a compelling case and took the unusual step of making a hurried and unscheduled visit to the White House in July to brief the President’s national security team once more.
He urged a military attack to remove al-Qaeda from its sanctuary in Afghanistan and asked for covert authority for his organization to proceed against Bin Laden and his lieutenants. The CIA Director said the time to act was now, at that very moment – military and covert – to thwart Bin Laden.
No action was taken, but Attorney General Ashcroft did start flying expensive charters rather than commercial aircraft because of an “official threat assessment”.
The President did not take military and covert action against al-Qaeda, did not check out Muslim students in U.S. flying schools or require commercial airlines to put locks on cockpit doors and did not inform the public of the imminent danger of aircraft hijacking.
In August, the CIA Director made a special trip to Crawford Texas to brief the President on the FBI arrest of the man who would have been the 20th hijacker. He was arrested with a lot of unexplained cash and was hurriedly learning how to take off and land a Boeing 747.
The President and CIA Director declined to acknowledge this trip, but the meeting has since been confirmed. The President remained on his month-long vacation.
In a later book, former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld acknowledged that the President presided “over a national security process that was marked with incoherent decision-making and policy drift.”
Among the most serious omissions from the Commission reports were:
-- The repeated warnings from heads of state and foreign allies of the upcoming attacks and anticipated use of hijacked aircraft as weapons.
-- The CIA Director’s final desperate act in July pleading with the White House to make an immediate response to the high level al-Qaeda threat.
-- No assessment of top level preparedness, presidential leadership or the national security apparatus, thereby violating its own mandate to assess U.S. preparedness.
-- No mention of the absence of any public warnings of imminent attacks on the United States.
A number of 9/11 widows rejected the “simplistic conclusion” of the Commission that there was a failure of imagination and lack of understanding of the gravity of the threat.
On film and in a book and newspaper article, two 9/11 Commissioners and the White House Chief Counter-terrorism Coordinator have acknowledged White House responsibility for the 9/11 catastrophe. Commissioner Bob Kerrey said:
"The promise I made to keep this out of the campaign is over. Mr. President, you knew they were in the United States. You were warned by the CIA. You knew in July they were in the United States. You were told again in August that it was a dire threat. Didn’t do anything to harden our border security. Didn’t do anything to harden airport security. Didn’t do anything to engage local law enforcement ... and didn’t warn the American people. What did you do? Nothing as far as we can see.”The White House Chief Terrorism Coordinator said in an article:
“The historical record is pretty clear by now that Bush did virtually nothing about the repeated warnings to him that those cataclysmic attacks were coming. Unfortunately, I can personally attest to that”.The CIA Director later confided to Bob Woodward of the Washington Post that “he had sounded the loudest warning he could – it hadn't been heeded.” State of Denial
(pp. 49-52 and 79-80)