March 2011, Week 2


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Sat, 12 Mar 2011 18:07:45 -0500
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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

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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