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Saturday, October 02, 2004

The WTC Collapse: A Crime Scene Never To Be Investigated

The following is a collection of audio and video materials related to the collapse of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Among other things, it includes this reference to "WTC 'Investigation'? A Call to Action" by Bill Manning, Editor-in-Chief of Fire Engineering, an American firefighters' professional publication.

In his initial article, Mr Manning calls for a full investigation of the WTC collapse scene.
There are many, many questions to be asked by us about the World Trade Center collapse and its implications on high-rise firefighting across the nation. Some questions are political, many are technical, others are philosophical. Here are a few (in no particular order) to think about.

* Given the typical resources of most fire departments, can we be expected to handle every high-rise fire thrown at us? When was the last time your city manager asked you for a complete list of resources that you need to fight a high-rise fire, including personnel? When was the last time a high-rise building owner asked if you would like him to install a special "firefighter elevator" for your exclusive use during a high-rise fire? When was the last time a building code committee called up a "downtown" battalion chief and asked him what he thought of the unlimited area and height provisions found in all of the model building codes-is it OK if we allow a 400-story building in your battalion, Chief? The bottom line is, Can we really handle high-rise fires adequately? Who are we kidding? Isn't this the "big secret" that Chief Vincent Dunn has been talking about for years?

* Beware the truss! Frank Brannigan has been admonishing us for years about this topic. It has been reported that the World Trade Center floors were supported by lightweight steel trusses, some in excess of 50 feet long. Need we say more?

* Modern sprayed-on steel "fireproofing" did not perform well at the World Trade Center. Haven't we always been leery about these materials? Why do many firefighters say that they would rather fight a high-rise fire in an old building than in a modern one? Isn't it because of the level of fire resistance provided? How much confidence do we have in the ASTM E-119 fire resistance test, whose test criteria were developed in the 1920s? ASTM E-119 is an antiquated test whose criteria for fire resistance do not replicate today's fires.

* The defend-in-place strategy was the wrong strategy at the World Trade Center. Many of those who ignored the directions to "stay where you are" are alive today because they self-evacuated. Do you still use defend-in-place strategies for large high-rise fires? When should you use them, and when should you not?

* We can see live broadcasts from Afghanistan, but we can't communicate via radios in many high-rise buildings. What gives?

There are many more questions, more than we have answers for. What is clear is that things must change. Where do we begin? By putting things in perspective. The World Trade Center disaster was

* The largest loss of firefighters ever at one incident.
* The second largest loss of life on American soil.
* The first total collapse of a high-rise during a fire in United States history.
* The largest structural collapse in recorded history.

Now, with that understanding, you would think we would have the largest fire investigation in world history. You would be wrong. Instead, we have a series of unconnected and uncoordinated superficial inquiries. No comprehensive "Presidential Blue Ribbon Commission." No top-notch National Transportation Safety Board-like response. Ironically, we will probably gain more detailed information about the destruction of the planes than we will about the destruction of the towers. We are literally treating the steel removed from the site like garbage, not like crucial fire scene evidence.

The World Trade Center disaster demands the most comprehensive detailed investigation possible. No event in our entire fire service history has ever come close to the magnitude of this incident.
Both Fire Engineering articles date back to January 2002. It was by then already clear to the fire professionals that there was nothing resembling a proper investigation taking place. In fact, in this accompanying article Mr Manning condemns what was happening at the WTC scene in no uncertain terms as he tries to draw parralels to other high-profile fires.
Did they throw away the locked doors from the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire? Did they throw away the gas can used at the Happyland Social Club Fire? Did they cast aside the pressure-regulating valves at the Meridian Plaza Fire? Of course not. But essentially, that's what they're doing at the World Trade Center.

For more than three months, structural steel from the World Trade Center has been and continues to be cut up and sold for scrap. Crucial evidence that could answer many questions about high-rise building design practices and performance under fire conditions is on the slow boat to China, perhaps never to be seen again in America until you buy your next car.

Such destruction of evidence shows the astounding ignorance of government officials to the value of a thorough, scientific investigation of the largest fire-induced collapse in world history. I have combed through our national standard for fire investigation, NFPA 921, but nowhere in it does one find an exemption allowing the destruction of evidence for buildings over 10 stories tall.

Hoping beyond hope, I have called experts to ask if the towers were the only high-rise buildings in America of lightweight, center-core construction. No such luck. I made other calls asking if these were the only buildings in America with light-density, sprayed-on fireproofing. Again, no luck-they were two of thousands that fit the description.

Comprehensive disaster investigations mean increased safety. They mean positive change. NASA knows it. The NTSB knows it. Does FEMA know it?

No. Fire Engineering has good reason to believe that the "official investigation" blessed by FEMA and run by the American Society of Civil Engineers is a half-baked farce that may already have been commandeered by political forces whose primary interests, to put it mildly, lie far afield of full disclosure. Except for the marginal benefit obtained from a three-day, visual walk-through of evidence sites conducted by ASCE investigation committee members- described by one close source as a "tourist trip"-no one's checking the evidence for anything.
When an arson or a murder occurs, it is routine procedure to thoroughly investigate the scene. Apparently, not so when an arson takes close to 3,000 lives.

What Sibel Edmonds Meant To Say

Given severe restrictions imposed on what the former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds is allowed to say, we can only speculate as to what information she was trying to convey before she was fired from her job and prohibited from disclosing the nature of her allegations. The allegations were, however, severe enough to cause US Attorney General John Ashcroft to place restrictions on pretty much all those in the know, including the members of US Congress.

This analysis is the best attempt I have seen thus far at trying to figure out what Sibel Edmonds had learned during her brief tenure at the FBI. It is a bit cryptic, as is the only mode in which Sibel Edmonds can communicate. Since she can not state many things directly, her interviewers often have to pose questions in hypotheticals. This is a very interesting account, effectively alleging high-level corporate and governmental association between the US and Turkish circles involved in weapon trade, drug trade and money laundering.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Security State of The Union

The world changed on September 11, 2001, we've been told. A war is fought against a stealthy and cunning enemy, an enemy who would stop at nothing to destroy the American way of life. And, we've been told, we have no other option but to prevail in this epic struggle.

So, how secure are we? Well, three years after 9/11 it looks like we are not that secure at all, possibly far less so than on that very tragic day. Thanks to The Nation's Ari Berman, we now know that not only is the FBI translation unit woefully inadequate, but also so is the CIA's unit dealing with Osama bin Laden.
The bin Laden unit is stretched so thin that it relies on inexperienced officers rotated in and out every 60 to 90 days, and they leave before they know enough to be able to perform any meaningful work, according to a letter the C.I.A. officer has written to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.

"There has been no systematic effort to groom Al Qaeda expertise" among C.I.A. officers since Sept. 11, 2001, according to the letter, written by Michael F. Scheuer, the former chief of the agency's bin Laden unit and the author of a best-selling book that is critical of the Bush administration's handling of the war on terror.

Excerpts from Mr. Scheuer's letter were read publicly by Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, on Tuesday at a Senate hearing on the confirmation of Porter J. Goss as director of central intelligence. Congressional officials later provided a copy of the letter to The New York Times.
One would tend to think that the issue of a falsified intelligence document that affected the Administration's decision to go to war against Iraq is an issue with a significant bearing on the US national security. One would also think that this is an issue the country's security services would pursue vigorously. Maybe they did, but it is apparently the case that a journalist easily managed to speak to Rocco Martino, the source of the forged Niger uranium document, but the FBI did not.

The roster of various security flaws in the US national security system could be continued. However, I believe the above examples are sufficient grounds to ask whether there is any real activity in progress to make our nation more secure, or whether all we have is just a large-scale sham which the Administration uses as a smokescreen to pursue its objectives, both foreign and domestic. It also seems to be legitimate to ask whether some of those objectives run counter to both the law of this nation, as well as true interests of its citizens.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

A Victim of War?

Victoria Claudette Matthew may be one of the youngest victims of the war in Iraq. She has never been to Iraq, however, her father has,- he was a US soldier fighting in the war there. And he is almost certainly a casualty of that war,- in spite of Pentagon's likely failure to classify him as such as his ailments were not caused by a direct combat hit.
In early September 2003, Army National Guard Spec. Gerard Darren Matthew was sent home from Iraq, stricken by a sudden illness.

One side of Matthew's face would swell up each morning. He had constant migraine headaches, blurred vision, blackouts and a burning sensation whenever he urinated.
In June, Matthew contacted the Daily News and asked us to arrange independent laboratory screening for his urine. This was after The News had reported that four of seven soldiers from another National Guard unit, the 442nd Military Police, had tested positive for depleted uranium (DU).

The independent test of Matthew's urine found him positive for DU - low-level radioactive waste produced in nuclear plants during the enrichment of natural uranium.

So, let's note one thing,- a soldier comes home severely sick, it is a known fact that he had been in a war zone where a dangerous radioactive agent had been used, and it takes the efforts of a news publication to get him tested for that agent. Am I the only one having trouble determining whether what we have here is a case of some incredible incompetence,- or a cover-up?

Unfortunately, Spec. Mathew's medical problems were not the only misfortune his family has had to deal with since he came home from the war.

Shortly after his return, his wife, Janice, became pregnant. On June 29, she gave birth to a baby girl, Victoria Claudette.

The baby was missing three fingers and most of her right hand.

Matthew and his wife believe Victoria's shocking deformity has something to do with her father's illness and the war - especially since there is no history of birth defects in either of their families.

While at the moment there does not appear a solid scientific proof to the effect that baby Victoria has been affected by her father's war injuries, there appears to be more than enough circumstancial evidence to study such a possibility. I believe an independent study of the effects of depleted uranium is in order immediately. If such a study concludes that effects of depleted uranium do in fact cause the sort of problems the Mathews are experiencing, than both the soldiers affected directly and their family members affected indirectly by that hideous menace must be recognized, and compensated, as casualties of war.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

RNC: One Journalist's Journey

Emmanuel Goldstein is an independent journalist and Editor of 2600 who was arrested along with hundreds of others while he was covering the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City. This is his account of that experience. I think this is a very powerful piece showing that the activities of various security forces in the city at the time were more of a political than law-enforcement variety.

I have commented on this topic before, and Mr Goldstein's account seems to only reinforce my earlier impression of what this was about,- a well-planned operation whose primary aim was discouraging and intimidating those wishing to express a dissenting opinion in a public venue.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Could They Come Up With a Lamer Excuse?

I have recently written about the problems which still dog the FBI translation effort. As reported by the BBC, there are some really curious details to the situation.
Another problem for the FBI is limited computer storage capacity.

In some cases, potentially crucial surveillance material is being automatically deleted before it can be reviewed, the audit found.
This is truly mind-boggling. Our industrial data centers maintain terrabytes upon terrabytes of data, yet the FBI can not get enough storage for its needs. Are we to believe that the FBI can not afford a file swapping portal the size of one of the numerous on-line portals where users can swap audio and video files?

Realistic Anti-Terrorism Training

While on many fronts the "War on Terror" appears to be little but empty rhetoric, here is something that looks like real effort. The US Department of Homeland Security is buying a nearly abandoned town of Playas, New Mexico for use as a staging ground for simulated terror attacks.

This is certainly a welcome move, though it is a bit unclear why it took over three years for such obviously needed initiative to materialize. Given the negligible price,- $5m,- it is really strange that a similarly abandoned piece of real estate has not been acquired elsewhere at a similarly low price.

The Fake Cowboy in The White House

Cowboy boots and a cowboy hat does not a cowboy make. That appears to be the message of this Eric Baard's Village Voice expose.

It is interesting how an easily image can be created that many think of as being near-authentic while in actuality there is little if anything to back it up. As Mr Baard aptly observes,
...liberals from both coasts and Europeans who derisively call Bush a "cowboy" foolishly insult not Bush, but one of America's prime ennobling myths. Instead of ridiculing the myth exploited by George W. Bush, they may want to measure him against it.
In fact, I would be hard-pressed to find a reason to liken a scion of a privilleged family who spent most of his life in corporate boardrooms and corridors of power to a cowboy, a rugged man who, as Johnny Cash put it, "rides point for all the great and small", in an environment barely suitable for survival, let alone any sort of creature comforts.

Baard's article presents a good analysis of the ethical underpinnings of the cowboy image.
"The idea of the American cowboy is the direct lineal descendant of the chivalric knight," observes Bonnie Wheeler, a medievalist in cowboy country. "The only serious difference is that your status doesn't depend on your social class."

"Our president," she says, "is neither a knight nor a cowboy. He doesn't believe in taking care of the little guy, nor does he have the restraint or dignity of the cowboy."

Children of Bush's generation grew up knowing of the Cowboy Code, which echoed the chivalric one. It was written by screen cowboy Gene Autry. In real life too, this lifelong Democrat was the kind of white-hat cowboy our president presents himself to be. Autry was the son of an itinerant cattle driver and horse trader in rural Texas and Oklahoma. He was a recreational small-aircraft pilot, but during World War II he paid for his own flight lessons on larger planes so he could serve in the Air Transport Command on the war front, instead of being stuck at a domestic base. Ultimately he flew explosive supplies (ammunition and fuel) over the Himalayas. A grateful U.S. Army bestowed a singular honor on Autry: He alone was allowed to wear his cowboy boots in uniform.

This is about more than having a big ranch. Like the knight, the cowboy is an ideal to which people aspire, Wheeler says, regardless of its mundane historical origins. And Autry's code still carries resonance in red states.
Baard proceeds to underline the differences between what would be dictated by the Cowboy Code of Conduct vs our President's actions.
Here's how Bush stacks up against the Cowboy Code:

1 The Cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage. The doctrine of preemptive war, the centerpiece of Bush policy in Iraq and for the "war on terror," is one for the black hats. In 1902, five years before Gene Autry was born, Owen Wister's bestselling novel The Virginian elevated the cowboy to a national symbol. "It's not a brave man that's dangerous. It's the cowards that scare me," a card dealer observes early in the book. "I never like to be around where there's a coward. You can't tell. He'll always go to shooting before it's necessary, and there's no security who he'll hit." When the Virginian is forced into a climactic duel, the villain shoots first. Only then does the Virginian return fire and make a clean kill.

Though the Virginian continually countered dastardly deeds done by the villain Trampas, he always acted magnanimously when he had the upper hand. American Cowboy magazine asked its readers to explain why we still need cowboys, noting that, thanks to western movies, "for decades, folks of all descriptions have admired and tried to emulate him." U.S. Army Corporal Randy Melton of the 1st Cavalry Division replied from Baghdad, "If those guys who did all that crazy stuff to the 'terrorist POWs' grew up sitting on a horse instead of in front of a TV playing video games, maybe they would have conducted themselves with a little more dignity." Melton added, "Every time my platoon corralled a couple of 'bad guys,' it's easy to get angry with them. But we always treat them with dignity, whether they deserve it or not."

Unfortunately, the sadistic abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and the violations at Guantánamo Bay and Afghanistan didn't start with a few young soldiers raised on Mortal Kombat. According to probes by the Army itself, it stems from specific policies crafted in the White House and carried out by Pentagon generals and consultants.

2 He must never go back on his word, or a trust confided in him. Soldiers commit their lives to the commander in chief's judgment and care. Bush sent them into a war of choice, not necessity, and one based on misleading rhetoric, and they landed in Iraq without so much as enough sets of body armor to shield them. At the same time, he pushed to cut soldiers' pay and cut veterans' benefits. The Bush administration has also extended terms of service, effectively drafting soldiers who've already done their duty.

On the home front, the Bush administration has used the Patriot Act to prune back the very liberties he swore to uphold and protect.

3 He must always tell the truth. Ersatz cowboy George W. Bush hasn't. The two key issues facing America today are the war and the economy. He misled the nation into the Iraq war with false claims of imminent danger. He promised that his tax cuts wouldn't result in deficits and then said deficits would be "small and short term." The federal deficit is now enormous, estimated at over $400 billion, and looks likely to last years.

4 He must be gentle with children, the elderly, and animals. Children are being ground under the heels of those fancy boots. Bush is relaxing safeguards against the neurotoxin mercury, which is particularly dangerous to the growing brains and nervous systems of fetuses and children, and the Clean Air Act has been stripped of key provisions to control coal-fired power-plant emissions known to cause respiratory illnesses like asthma.

If Johnny Cash were still alive, I doubt he would lionize George W Bush as a cowboy hero. And it sounds like there is a good reason for that.

FBI: Three Years On, Same Problems

Those who have followed the terror-related events in the recent years likely remember various publications relating to how inefficient various US security services were prior to 9/11. Various flaws were exposed in the way those services, including the FBI, handled terror-related investigations. One crucially important component,- translation of foreign-language materials potentially relevant to FBI criminal and terrorism-related investigations,- was found to be severely inadequate.

Well, three years later things are hardly any better.
The FBI does not have enough translators to handle a growing backlog of documents and intercepts in Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and Pashto, a federal audit said on Monday, confirming criticism by U.S. elected officials and experts.

An unclassified summary of a July 2004 report by the U.S. Justice Department's inspector general said while the FBI has increased the number of translators of languages used in the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan, it still cannot keep up with the backlog of material flowing into the system.

So, is there an explosive growth of the amount of materials that need to be translated? There is some, but it appears to be rather moderate.

According to the report, the FBI's electronic surveillance intercepts in Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and Pashto -- languages used in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan -- has increased by 45 percent from 2001 to 2003.

Translation growth rates in those languages are expected to increase by at least 15 percent a year.

Former FBI director Louis Freeh said earlier this year that the bureau's counterterrorism effort before the Sept. 11 attacks was plagued by an inability to afford enough translators in languages like Arabic and Farsi.

Wow, those translators must charge an arm and a leg... Sort of like them Enron executives. Is that why we can afford to fight a war in Iraq which has already cost us in excess of US$100B, yet can not afford enough FBI translators. How many do we need anyhow?

According to the audit cited above,

"Despite the infusion of more than 620 additional linguists since Sept. 11, 2001, the FBI reported that nearly 24 percent of ongoing FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) counterintelligence and counterterrorism intercepts are not being monitored," the report said, referring to court-authorized eavesdropping by the U.S. government.
So, let us try to calculate what it would take to really fix the problem. Let us say that every new linguist hired for the program would receive a annual salary of US$100,000 (likely, an exaggerated estimate). Let us assume that training and support for that linguist would cost nine times as much, so let us assume that each new hire is going to cost US taxpayers US$1M. Thus, to hire and sustain an additional 10,000 translators (as opposed to the 620 that actually were added) would cost us US$10B a year. That is not a small amount, but relative to our defense budget (about US$400B a year), as well as the cost of the war in Iraq, that is small change. Let us also not forget that the problem lies not only in an insufficient number of translators but, according to Sibel Edmonds, also in corruption, protectionism and incompetence in their ranks.

In her letter to Thomas Kean, Chairman Of The 9/11 Commission, Edmonds, a former FBI translator fired for blowing the whistle on her employer, alleges deliberate obfuscation and artificial deceleration of the translation process by the FBI,- things that can be considered acts of sabotage or obstruction of justice.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11 we, the translators at the FBI’s largest and most important translation unit, were told to slow down, even stop, translation of critical information related to terrorist activities so that the FBI could present the United States Congress with a record of ‘extensive backlog of untranslated documents’, and justify its request for budget and staff increases. While FBI agents from various field offices were desperately seeking leads and suspects, and completely depending on FBI HQ and its language units to provide them with needed translated information, hundreds of translators were being told by their administrative supervisors not to translate and to let the work pile up ( please refer to the CBS-60 Minutes transcript dated October 2002, and provided to your investigators in January-February 2004). This issue has been confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee ( Please refer to Senator Grassley and Senator Leahy’s letters during the summer of 2002, provided to your investigators in January-February 2004). This confirmed report has been reported to be substantiated by the Department of Justice Inspector General Report (Please refer to DOJ-IG report Re: Sibel Edmonds and FBI Translation, provided to you prior to the completion of your report).
So if what Sibel Edmonds alleges is indeed the case, there is likely some room for improvement within the translation unit.

The fact that three years after the tragedy of 9/11, in spite of all the official talk about our resolve to fight the "War on Terror", we still do not have an adequate capacity to translate,- and thus, to understand,- what our potential enemies in this war are talking about is an outrage. And I mean "outrage",- not "bureaucratic inefficiency", not "an issue". This is something we as a society must not allow to continue; this is a severe problem that needs to be addressed in the shortest possible order, and those whose job it was to prevent this situation from occurring have utterly failed us. Those officials must be relieved of their duties, and the ability to translate documents relevant to terror investigations must be viewed as nothing less than a top national security priority.

Monday, September 27, 2004

No Time For Truth- We've Got a War to Fight

America stands by its citizens. No matter where they happen to be, if an American falls victim to crime, we will do our best to hunt down those responsible and bring them to justice. That should especially true if the victims were Americans serving their nation when they were attacked,- soldiers, diplomats or others on an official mission.

We have all heard this entirely proper sentiment. Our public officials don't tire of telling us how tough they are on crime, whatever its source.

Almost a year ago, on October 15, 2003 three Americans working for the US Embassy in Israel were killed in a roadside bombing in Gaza. According to this CNN report,
The victims were employed by the U.S. Embassy in Israel to provide security while U.S. officials traveled to Gaza to interview Palestinian students who have applied for Fulbright scholarships in the United States.
Based on other sources I have read at the time, the attack was facilitated by means of a large remotely-controlled bomb. The attack happened during daylight, so in all likelihood the operator who detonated the device was able to see diplomatic decals on the vehicles comprising the American convoy. And, as former Assistant Secretary of State Jamie Rubin correctly observed,
...the Palestinian Authority, although they disagree with us on so much, desperately want the Americans there and realize that it's an attack on them as much as it is a tragedy for the American diplomats involved.
So it is natural to expect both American and Palestinian authorities to be willing and ready to do what it takes to locate those responsible and bring them to justice. However, the reality of the situation appears to be a bit different.

As recently reported by IsraelInsider,
Musa Arafat, the newly appointed head of PA Military Intelligence and a cousin of PA chairman Yasir Arafat, told Reuters (Sept. 22, 2004) that "Palestinian security forces know who was behind the killing of three Americans in Gaza nearly a year ago but cannot act against the factions while fighting with Israel continues."
This is a curious twist. What Mr Arafat is effectively saying is that while his country is at war, justice should wait. And clearly we in the US have every right to be outraged by this attitude.

However, this is also time for some self-reflection. For instance, even when it comes to one of the greatest crimes ever perpetrated on the American soil,- the 9/11 terrorist attack,- our authorities seem to be less than forthcoming in uncovering the truth and bringing those responsible to justice. As David Johnson wrote in The New York Times on July 26, 2003,
Senior officials of Saudi Arabia have funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to charitable groups and other organizations that may have helped finance the September 2001 attacks, a still-classified section of a Congressional report on the hijackings says, according to people who have read it.

The 28-page section of the report was deleted from the nearly 900-page declassified version released on Thursday by a joint committee of the House and Senate intelligence committees. The chapter focuses on the role foreign governments played in the hijackings, but centers almost entirely on Saudi Arabia, the people who saw the section said.

The Bush administration's refusal to allow the committee to disclose the contents of the chapter has stirred resentment in Congress, where some lawmakers have said the administration's desire to protect the ruling Saudi family had prevented the American public from learning crucial facts about the attacks. The report has been denounced by the Saudi ambassador to the United States, and some American officials questioned whether the committee had made a conclusive case linking Saudi funding to the hijackings.
The US government's attempts to decelerate, if not outright stop, any meaningful attempts on the part of the public to learn the truth about 9/11 were by far not limited to the famous "28 pages". The Administration was at first not particularly enthusiastic about the proposal to empanel an independent commission to probe the events of 9/11.
After initially opposing the independent commission, the White House now says it supports it. But it has differences with the families and congressional leaders about the commission's leadership and its subpoena power.

Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has indicated he won't let the commission be considered in Congress until an agreement is reached with the White House.

"Our frustration level has never been higher," said Beverly Eckert of Voices of Sept. 11.

The relatives and their congressional supporters said they are waiting to hear back from the White House.

"We left the meeting with the ball not just in the White House's court, but firmly with them at the free throw line with a couple of seconds left in the game," said Rep. Tim Roemer, D-Ind.

The main sticking points continue to be provisions governing the commission's subpoena power and leadership, which the White House fears could lead to partisan squabbling and finger-pointing. Bush objects to a provision that would allow five members of the 10-person commission, split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, to issue a subpoena. The administration also wants its only member on the commission to be the sole chairperson, instead of being co-chair with a Democratic appointee.
So, why such opposition? Clearly, the Administration may have been embarrassed about some things that a truly independent commission with unlimited subpoena powers could have uncovered,- but isn't discovering all those responsible an objective important enough to forgo such considerations? Can we ever win this "War on Terror" the Administration claims to be fully committed to unless we know exactly what the enemy has done to succeed? And isn't "fingerpointing",- given the accusing finger of justice is pointed at those guilty,- precisely the objective, too?

However, some people, occupying very powerful positions in the Administration, tend to think differently. According to this January 29, 2002 CNN report,

President Bush personally asked Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle Tuesday to limit the congressional investigation into the events of September 11, congressional and White House sources told CNN.
It is also curious to hear why this must be so, according to Mr Bush's second-in-command, Vice President Dick Cheney.
Tuesday's discussion followed a rare call to Daschle from Vice President Dick Cheney last Friday to make the same request.

"The vice president expressed the concern that a review of what happened on September 11 would take resources and personnel away from the effort in the war on terrorism," Daschle told reporters.
So, according to Mr Cheney, while the war is on, we "ain't got no time for courtroom out here" (quoting, to the best of my recollection, Staff Sergeant Barnes from Platoon). And it certainly doesn't look like Mr Cheney would be too upset if a thorough investigation of 9/11 were never conducted.

So, I wonder if Musa Arafat is being original in what he is saying,- or is the just borrowing some from Mr Cheney's repertoire? Whatever the case is here, while justice is being sacrificed on the altar of politics, we will likely never know the truth about the tragic death of either the three Americans in Gaza, or the nearly 3,000 people who died on 9/11.

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