Sunday, March 13, 2011

Still in the Dark About 9/11

Still in the Dark About 9/11


By Robert Scheer


March 9, 2011


Ignorance is the real victor in the president's

reluctant decision to abandon the effort to bring the

alleged perpetrators of the 9/11 terrorist attack to

account in civilian court. The significance of a fair

and public trial would be to reveal to the world the

motives and makeup of those we must defeat, and yet the

very people in this country who claim to be the most

militant in combating terrorism have been the most

energetic and effective in stifling that inquiry.


It must be said that Barack Obama deserves credit for

attempting to show the world that truth will triumph

and justice will prevail when even the most dastardly

offenders are given their day in court. But faced with

a shrill Republican-led opposition in Congress that

succeeded in banning the trials on U.S. soil, the

president reluctantly reversed the decision he had made

upon taking office to halt military commission trials

of those detained at Guantanamo. The announcement

Monday by Defense Secretary Robert Gates rescinding the

ban on the military trials also called for the

indefinite imprisonment of those Guantanamo inmates

thought to be too dangerous to be released but against

whom the government doesn't have enough evidence to

obtain convictions. The shortcomings of the military

commission trials was denounced by Senate Judiciary

Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who said such

proceedings fall "far short of core constitutional

values by failing to provide judicial review of cases

considered by the review board' and to guarantee

"meaningful assistance of counsel" to those accused.


But it is not the rights of the accused, important as

they are, that should be the main concern here. Rather

it is the right-indeed, need-of the American public to

learn the truth about the motives, financing and

methods of those who are alleged to have torn at the

heart of our social fabric. What led 15 solid citizens

of our ally Saudi Arabia to hijack those planes under

direction of their Western-educated leaders is still

murky. How did our allies in the war against Soviet

communism in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden and Khalid

Sheikh Mohammed, come to mastermind that savage attack

on America? It is startling that, almost a decade after

the attack, we still must rely for our understanding of

what happened on a narrative informed not by the full

disclosure revealed by the evaluation of a vetted

record and robust cross-examination in open court of

the key witnesses but rather by the unexamined and

unquestioned reckoning of the facts supplied by the

government officials who interrogated and indeed

tortured the prisoners, most significantly Mohammed.


What the public has been led to believe about the

events of 9/11 is most fully encapsulated in the report

of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission, appointed by

President George W. Bush. But the Bush administration

denied the commission access to the prisoners whose

testimony, elicited after torture, provided the basic

narrative as to how Sept. 11, 2001, came to be. That

fatal flaw in the investigation was clearly conceded in

a box on Page 146 of the official 9/11 Commission

report containing a disclaimer that the key chapters

"rely heavily on information from captured al Qaeda

members" and admitting that the commission was

dependent on hearsay reports from the interrogators as

to what those witnesses actually said.


"We submitted questions for use in the interrogations

but had no control over whether, when, or how questions

of particular interest would be asked. Nor were we

allowed to talk to the interrogators so that we could

better judge the credibility of the detainees and

clarify ambiguities in the reporting. We were told that

our requests might disrupt the sensitive interrogation process."


Much of that story was derived from the waterboarded

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was slated to be tried in

Manhattan in civilian court until Congress derailed

that possibility. As a result, the mystery of what led

him from a small North Carolina Baptist college to

fight alongside the United States in Afghanistan and

then turn against this country may never be known-along

with who financed and directed his journey and that of

the hijackers he is said to have guided. For a decade,

we have been obsessed with a terrorist enemy that we

still barely comprehend. Ignorance is not bliss.



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