Friday, December 14, 2007

Connecting The 9/11 Dots: Dead Cutouts, Destroyed Tapes, And The Hidden Assumption That Poisons Everything

Destroyed Tapes

According to Gerald Posner at Huffington Post:
On December 5, the CIA's director, General Michael V. Hayden, issued a statement disclosing that in 2005 at least two videotapes of interrogations with al Qaeda prisoners were destroyed. The tapes, which the CIA did not provide to either the 9/11 Commission, nor to a federal court in the case of Zacarias Moussaoui, were destroyed, claimed Hayden, to protect the safety of undercover operatives.
It was the lamest excuse in the world, but it got Posner riffing.
One of the al Qaeda suspects whose tapes were destroyed ... was Abu Zubaydah [photo], the top ranking terror suspect when he was tracked and captured in Pakistan in 2003. In September 2006, at a press conference in which he defended American interrogation techniques, President Bush ... mentioned Abu Zubaydah by name.

Bush acknowledged that Zubaydah, who was wounded when captured, did not initially cooperate with his interrogators, but that eventually when he did talk, his information was, according to Bush, "quite important."
Posner describes a ruse used by the Americans to get Abu Zubaydah to talk to them.
The wounded Zubaydah was transferred to Afghanistan under the ruse that he had actually been turned over to the Saudis. The Saudis had him on a wanted list, and the Americans believed that Zubaydah, fearful of torture and death at the hands of the Saudis, would start talking when confronted by U.S. agents playing the role of Saudi intelligence officers.

Instead, when confronted by his "Saudi" interrogators, Zubaydah showed no fear. Instead, according to the two U.S. intelligence sources that provided me the details, he seemed relieved. The man who had been reluctant to even confirm his identity to his U.S. captors, suddenly talked animatedly. He was happy to see them, he said, because he feared the Americans would kill him. He then asked his interrogators to call a senior member of the Saudi royal family. And Zubaydah provided a private home number and a cell phone number from memory. "He will tell you what to do," Zubaydah assured them.
Are you with us so far? Abu Zubaydah was being protected by a high-level Saudi royal.

What does that mean? Maybe what you think, maybe not!

Here's Posner again:
That man was Prince Ahmed bin Salman bin Abdul-Aziz, one of King Fahd's nephews, and the chairman of the largest Saudi publishing empire.

Several hours after [Zubaydah] first fingered Prince Ahmed ... some of the secrets of 9/11 came pouring out. In a short monologue, that one investigator told me was the "Rosetta Stone" of 9/11, Zubaydah laid out details of how he and the al Qaeda hierarchy had been supported at high levels inside the Saudi and Pakistan governments.
Keep in mind that this is coming from Posner and the "Rosetta Stone" may need considerable translation after he gets through with it. Still, his report contains information of great interest. (And that's my emphasis, above and below.)
[Zubaydah] named two other Saudi princes, and also the chief of Pakistan's air force, as his major contacts. Moreover, he stunned his interrogators, by charging that two of the men, the King's nephew, and the Pakistani Air Force chief, knew a major terror operation was planned for America on 9/11.
Pay close attention now.
All four identified by Zubaydah are now dead.
What does that mean? Maybe not what you think.

Posner has more details:
As for the three Saudi princes, the King's 43-year-old nephew, Prince Ahmed, died of either a heart attack or blood clot, depending on which report you believe, after having liposuction in Riyadh's top hospital; the second, 41-year-old Prince Sultan bin Faisal bin Turki al-Saud, died the following day in a one car accident, on his way to the funeral of Prince Ahmed; and one week later, the third Saudi prince named by Zubaydah, 25-year-old Prince Fahd bin Turki bin Saud al-Kabir, died, according to the Saudi Royal Court, "of thirst." The head of Pakistan's Air Force, Mushaf Ali Mir, was the last to go. He died, together with his wife and fifteen of his top aides, when his plane blew up -- suspected as sabotage -- in February 2003. Pakistan's investigation of the explosion -- if one was even done -- has never been made public.
The death of the third Saudi is particularly stunning. Not a lot of 25-year-old princes die of thirst.

Connecting The Dots

I've written once or twice in the past, incorrectly (as I now see it), that the unwritten rule of 9/11-related journalism in post-democratic America seems to be "You can point out as many 'dots' as you like, provided that you link them together with a false narrative."

I was wrong about the rule. A "false narrative" isn't good enough. You can point out as many 'dots' as you like, provided that you link them together with an acceptable false narrative.

For example ...

Peter Lance tells the shocking tale of Ali Mohamed, an al Qaeda agent who worked with Egyptian intelligence and then a succession of American national security agencies. As Lance describes it, Ali Mohamed was a brilliant enemy -- sharp enough to infiltrate all these top-level national security agencies! (Lance can't call it what it looks like: Ali Mohamed was an al Qaeda liaison to American and Egyptian intelligence).

Or think of Christopher Ketcham finally breaking into "the alternative media" (i.e. Counterpunch, Democracy Now!) with the story of the "dancing Israelis". These were the "employees of an Israeli moving company" who were caught photographing themselves celebrating the destruction of the twin towers on the morning of 9/11 -- and later turned out to be Mossad agents! As Ketcham tells it, and Alexander Cockburn pats himself on the back for it, the story finally "comes out" as "the Israelis were probably spying on the terrorists". (Well then why were they dancing? It looks a lot more like the Israelis were running the terrorists! But Ketcham cannot say that.)

Gerald Posner has been doing well so far, laying out the dots. But watch what happens next:
Zubaydah is the only top al Queda operative who has secretly linked two of America's closest allies in the war on terror -- Saudi Arabia and Pakistan -- to the 9/11 attacks.
"You're getting hot!" as the kids would say.

Gerald Posner leads us to the very brink before he feels the heat:
Why does Bush, and the CIA, continue to protect the Saudi Royal family and the Pakistani military, from the implications of Zubaydah's confessions?
But then he gets out of the kitchen in a hurry, veering off into the realm of utter nonsense:
It is, or course, because the Bush administration desperately needs Pakistani and Saudi help, not only to keep Afghanistan from spinning completely out of control, but also as counterweights to the growing power of Iran. The Sunni governments in Riyadh and Islamabad have as much to fear from a resurgent Iran as does the Bush administration.
So there you go: a false narrative that's more ludicrous than it is plausible:

We were attacked by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan ... so we retaliated against Afghanistan and Iraq ... because we were afraid of Iran!!

Were Posner not so inclined to see all his dots through the official prism, he might not even ask
Why does Bush, and the CIA, continue to protect the Saudi Royal family and the Pakistani military?
... or having asked, he might answer in an entirely different way.

The Hidden Assumption

The hidden assumption is one everybody has to make, if they want to get published, although there is no evidence at all to support it. The assumption stays hidden by necessity; if any writer explained that his or her analysis were based on this assumption then critical readers (if any) might be inclined to request supporting evidence. And since no such evidence exists (and in fact a great deal of counter-evidence exists), the question would be somewhat inconvenient.

The problem with hidden assumptions in general, of course, is that if they're wrong, they can mess up everything that depends on them -- and, because they're hidden, you'd never know it. And that's just what's happened to our media -- even many very non-mainstream reporters buy into the hidden assumption.

If you have a hidden assumption and it's wrong, then when you go to connect the dots you will not be able to do so. You'll only get partway there, and you'll be left asking "unanswerable" questions like "Why does this happen?" and "What does that mean?"

In this case the unanswerable question is of the form "Why does X protect Y and Z?"

Without the hidden assumption, other observers -- people looking at the same dots but not through the same prism -- can see that X, Y and Z are cooperating quite nicely, thank you very much.

The hidden assumption that poisons all mainstream (and much "alternative") analysis is the idea that the Bush administration and the CIA didn't want 9/11 to happen.

If you just throw away the prism -- drop the hidden assumption and look at the dots on their own -- the picture gets a lot clearer.

Indeed it becomes quite apparent that Bush and the CIA continue to protect the Saudi Royal family and the Pakistani military because they cooperate so nicely!

Dead Cutouts

The basic idea of a cutout is that it insulates and isolates the perpetrators from their dirty deed. Rather than do something yourself, you hire an operative to do it for you. Or even better, you get somebody else -- a cutout -- to hire him. Then the operative won't even know who he's working for, let alone why he's being asked to do whatever it is that you're asking him to do.

Once the job is done, it's easy to destroy the chain of evidence: if you can't eliminate the operatives, you simply eliminate the cutouts. Poof! Now there's no trail leading back to the perpetrators!

It's not all that complicated, and it's been done successfully many times before, so it's a poor investigator who ignores the possibility...

Not to be overly racist or anything, but white guys with Ivy League backgrounds can't exactly go to the Middle East and recruit terrorists. So they work at a distance -- by proxy -- through cutouts.

And it doesn't take much imagination to conceive the notion that the Pakistani military and Saudi royals would make fabulous cutouts. It's almost impossible to overestimate the plausibility of the denial they can provide. Who would ever guess that the terrorists were actually working for the Americans? Not even most "intelligence analysts"!

Well, some might guess, eventually ... but not many ... and it would take them a long time ... and by then it might already be too late ... because the chain of evidence can be so easily broken ... well, guess what?

Pay close attention now:
All four identified by Zubaydah are now dead.
The cutouts are gone; the trail is dead; long live the usurpers!

One End Or The Other

But the trail is not so dead after all. You can still follow it, from one end or the other.

You can start in Washington. People who don't want certain things to happen don't react with statements like "Lucky me, I hit the trifecta" when they do happen. Not even once. Certainly not over and over.

Or you can start in Saudi Arabia. If you look at the visa applications served up by the 9/11 terrorists, you can see how much inside help they were expecting. And the help they were expecting -- the help they got -- wasn't coming from the Saudis.

Essential insight into Saudi "complicity" comes from Mike Springmann, who spent many years working for the State Department. For eighteen months he was the visa officer at the American Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. There, Springmann did the required short and sweet interviews with visa applicants. Some of them fell far short of meeting the requirements and Springmann would refuse them visas. And every now and then -- even though the final decision was supposed to be his -- he would be overruled.

Springmann came to find out that almost everyone in the Consulate at Jeddah was either working for the Clandestine Service or else married to someone who was. Intelligence infiltration of diplomatic stations is commonplace, of course, but Springmann says it was "all but three" out of "about 20" at one point, and such overwhelming numbers are very unusual.

Springmann was being overruled because the CIA was recruiting terrorists throughout the Middle East and sending them (via Jeddah) to the US for training, before inserting them into Afghanistan (via Pakistan).

The same system could have been used to insert terrorists into the US for an operation, couldn't it?

But the system described by Springmann is no longer in service, so there's no need to be concerned. Right? Wrong! They've changed it since Springmann's time, making it even easier to get wannabe-terrorists into the USA.

Here's how it works now: If the applicant comes through Jeddah via a trusted travel agency, there's no need for an interview. All such applications are granted.

In other words,
Dear Terrorist: Welcome to the USA, and have a nice flight!!
Mike Springmann explained to Alex Jones how it works:
Mike Springmann: According to the Los Angeles Times, fifteen of the nineteen people, the Saudis who were allegedly responsible for flying planes into the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon, they got their visas from the Consulate at Jeddah. Now, according to a journalist I know in Florida, this was done through a new wrinkle in the visa procedures there. At the time I was running the visa section, I personally interviewed at least one member of the family or just about everyone who wanted to travel to the States. They had switched things so that the [visa applications] would be submitted, in many instances, through travel agencies, that were approved by the Consulate. And, according to a conversation that I had had with [former Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Special Agent] Celerino Castillo, some years ago, on an article I was researching, it was old agency ploy to put passports of his people in with legitimate trade groups or travel groups coming from travel agencies and send them to the Consular section.

Alex Jones: Couldn’t somebody, if it’s just a name at a travel desk or a travel agency, just show up with a fake ID and then board?

Mike Springmann: Yeah, you could do that. The way it was explained to me is that they would go to the travel agency and say I want to go to the United States - either get me a visa, I have to visit relatives there, I have business there, etc. And they would simply send a package of passports and visa applications over to the Consular section. And because they came from a reputable source, people didn’t look too closely at it, I guess.
The retaliation against Mike Springmann for speaking this freely has been unusual; and the careers of the people who were overruling him have been unusual too. You can read more about all of this at my new "other" blog, "Visas For Terrorists: Springmann of Arabia", where I have been busy squirreling away articles by and about Mr. Springmann as well as documents supporting what he's said in those articles.

After a while the unusual begins to seem a bit more explicable. After a while, the hidden assumption becomes visible, and at that point it falls away -- pulled down by the weight of its own absurdity.

Or as Springmann himself says:

Face the Facts, Stupid ... It’s Government Policy


[further reading]

Springmann: A Sin Concealed – The Visas for Terrorists Program


NRO : Visas that Should Have Been Denied

Springmann: Consul General Filled Out Visa Applications For Pakistanis With Forged Passports

[and much much more at]

Visas For Terrorists: Springmann of Arabia