During the last six years the President and Vice-President have adopted a failing strategy to combat terrorism, have taken us to war unnecessarily, have ignored pressing domestic needs and have changed our world image from the most-admired country to one of the least-admired. These top officials pose the greatest danger to our country in decades and would have been replaced long ago had a parliamentary-style system of government existed here.
In the U.S. we remove high officials from office through impeachment which is decided by a majority in Congress. Framers of our Constitution wisely included impeachment provisions for those officials who manage to evade our powerful checks and balances. They can be impeached for treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.
There is a growing list of impeachable offenses being widely debated around the country, as well as among veteran groups and in government (at least 11 states and 85 cities have introduced or passed resolutions to petition for impeachment of both the President and Vice- President). The offenses include: taking the nation to war under false pretenses, diluting new laws and undermining legislative branch authority with signing statements, illegal wiretapping; and obstructing justice over firing of U.S. attorneys. This article adds yet another, a monumental disregard for extraordinary warnings of the 9/11 attack — a grave breach of official duty.
For a full year following 9/11, the President opposed an independent investigation. Under pressure from 9/11 families, the Congress finally established the 9/11 Commission. The Commission was comprised of former politicians rather than experts. They were evenly divided politically –” five Republicans and five Democrats, but chaired by a Republican. During much of the Commission’s existence, they suffered from lengthy delays, maddening restrictions and disputes with the White House over access to sensitive documents and witnesses.
As the 2004 election approached, partisan disunity broke out among the Commissioners over presidential responsibility for 9/11. To maintain unity, they agreed to include only facts and leave readers to draw their own conclusions. This private agreement was not disclosed by the Commission in its report or in briefings to Congress and the media. The agreement contravened the Commission’s statutory requirements for:
- A full and complete accounting of the circumstances surrounding the attacks.
- U.S. preparedness for the attacks.
- Findings and conclusions for corrective action.
The facts in the Commission’s report (along with those from other key sources) show that the Bush White House received unprecedented warnings of an impending attack and did not try to prevent it. By spring, “the drum beat” had begun; by summer the warnings had reached a “crescendo”; and by the end of July, the CIA Director told the 9/11 Commission that the warnings “could not get any worse.” Some predicted the actual method of attack –” the hijacking of commercial aircraft.
Intelligence reporting consistently described the upcoming attacks “as occurring on a calamitous level … causing the world to be in turmoil”. When the warnings reached a high peak of urgency in July, the CIA Director rushed to the White House to brief the National Security Advisor about an expected attack in several weeks — it “will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties and will occur with little or no warning … this is going to be a big one.” Bin Laden’s goal is “the destruction of the United States.” He urged the White House to go on the offense and preemptively attack Afghanistan. He asked for covert authority to go after bin Laden and his organization — the same request he had been made three months earlier. In late summer, the warnings continued:
- The King of Jordan sent a message that aircraft would be used in a major attack inside the U.S. To make sure it got through, he sent the same message through another country. (After 9/11, the administration got Jordan to rescind the warning.)
- Germany warned us that commercial aircraft would be hijacked for use as weapons.
- President Putin of Russia warned of suicide pilots in training for attacks on U.S.
- President Mubarak of Egypt warned that a bin Laden attack on America was in the advanced operational stages. Another Egyptian warning a month earlier reported that 20 al-Qaeda members had slipped into U.S. –” four of them training to fly.
- England warned us twice –” once about multiple airplane hijackings. Prime Minister Blair was involved.
- Israel intelligence sent a list of 19 terrorists inside the U.S. planning to carry out an attack in the near future. Four were 9/11 hijackers.
Counterterrorism officials described the warnings as “the most urgent in decades.” Two of the officials considered resigning in order to go public with their concerns. The Commission report does not discuss the specific warnings shown above or why the White House did not respond. The report did confirm that government agencies never mobilized a response, got direction, or had a plan. But, it didn’t explain why.
According to the Commission report, CIA briefings to the President and Vice-President addressed the Al-Qaeda threat 40 times before 9/11. Headlines in these briefings included “Bin Laden threats are real”, “Bin Laden Planning High Profile Attacks” and “Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.”
Just before the 9/11 attack, the National Security Council placed on the President’s desk a strategy aimed at eliminating al-Qaeda in 3 to 5 years. Such a strategy could not possibly confront an imminent threat, one where the CIA Director said “The system was blinking red.”
Several months before 9/11 the President had rejected a national security commission recommendation to establish a Department of Homeland Security. Instead, he asked Vice-President Cheney to oversee an effort to respond to domestic attacks. At 9/11 time, the Vice-President had not established a capability to respond to domestic attacks.
Had the President tried to defend against the imminent threat, his role as Commander-in-Chief might still be in tact. Instead, he went on a month-long vacation in August. He did not put the nation in a crisis mode; he did not call a cabinet meeting; he did not pursue military options; he did not give the CIA the requested covert authority; he did not prepare for suicide hijacking of commercial aircraft; he did not strengthen passenger screening; and he did not shore up glaring aircraft vulnerabilities, such as cockpit doors.
Time Magazine’s The Secret History of 9/11 concluded that there was a systematic collapse in the administration’s national security apparatus. The Terror Timeline book went further:
“The public record reflects that the extreme focus on terrorism in place at the end of the Clinton administration dropped dramatically under the Bush administration. With few exceptions, little attention was paid to terrorism, even as the number of warnings reached unprecedented levels.”
The official Commission report assesses blame across government and, therefore, holds no one accountable. The Commission report also claims that the most important failure was “one of imagination.” But, how could this be true, when a host of foreign nations had pointed to the actual means of attack?
Commissioner Bob Kerrey said the President did “nothing as far as we can see.” However, Kerrey did not make this remarkable statement until after the presidential election and well after release of the Commission report. (See film 9/11: Press for Truth.)
To comply with its statutory mandate, the Commission had no alternative but to assess the job done by the President and his national security team in preparing the country for unparalleled warnings of the upcoming attack. The report contains no such assessment. Instead, it focuses on bureaucratic mistakes at lower levels of government and misses the big picture. The Commission’s leadership was given an opportunity to comment on this material and declined.
The Commission should have dealt with Presidential leadership and the President’s duty as Commander-in-Chief. His leadership would have stimulated a new level of energy, creativity, and cooperation within and among federal and local agencies and strengthened protection of commercial aircraft. With reenergized government surveillance and public participation, the country would have been much better prepared to avert the horrible tragedy.
In the end, the measures taken by the President should have shown a government in action, anxious to protect its people and determined to make it difficult for the terrorists to succeed. The critical issue is the President’s lack of response to the warnings, his absence of leadership when it really counted, and the White House cover-up since then. It was this dereliction of duty that gave the President the excuse for the war in Iraq –” a war that Congress has been powerless to stop.
When our framers inserted the language “high crimes,” they had in mind such things as grave breaches of official duties, criminal negligence, abuses of public office, great crimes against society and great and dangerous offenses that subvert our Constitution. While most of these grounds apply here in one way or another, a grave breach of official duty seems to be the most relevant one:
The President, as Commander-in Chief, (1) did not respond to unprecedented warnings of the 9/11 disaster, (2) conducted a massive cover-up instead of accepting responsibility and (3) exploited the tragedy to justify a misguided war and gain a second term.
Reasons for removal of the President and Vice-President go far beyond impeachment issues. Both have become increasingly irrelevant and have lost public trust and confidence in their ability to command. To replace them, Congress should authorize an accelerated presidential election.
Since much of Congress acts more out of fear than conviction, the author does not have much hope that the President and Vice-President actually will be impeached. He does hope, however, that the 9/11 issue will be aired sufficiently enough to hold them accountable for being irresponsible in the face of the greatest threat information in our history. Also, 9/11 families deserve the truth — the President of the United States was in position to spare their loved ones and did not even try.