Released at the end of January was Philip Shenon’s latest book, The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation, an extract of which appeared recently in the Sydney Morning Herald. Shenon, a New York Times journalist, describes how the CIA and other US intelligence outfits tried to bring to the administrations attention strong warnings regarding pending ‘al Qaeda terrorist attacks’ with a strong possibility that these attacks may well be on America itself. Shenon describes the frustration George Tenet, then the CIA director, and Richard A. Clarke, then chief counter terrorism advisor to the US National Security Council, experienced in trying to alert senior members of the Bush administration, particularly then National security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, and even George Bush himself, of the dangers the ‘intelligence’ were telling them was ahead.
Shenon’s story revolves around the way this anomaly of the Bush administrations apparent disinterest in the intelligence being presented to them was overlooked at the 9/11 Commission. The problem is; the story discusses only conflicts of personalities of some of the major players – and in the case of the Tenet and Bush relationship, the problems of having too close a relationship. Shenon puts these problems forward as the reasons why the intelligence didn’t get through – basically a break-down in communications due to various personality conflicts.
What Shenon ignores entirely, however, is the reasons why Bush, Rice and the others were so disinterested in the new intelligence coming in. Shenon also fails to explain why the intelligence relating to an imminent strike on America should start coming in almost daily at the same time as Bush becomes president in January 2001 and then increases even further when Ariel Sharon gets elected Prime Minister of Israel a couple of months later in March 2001. Could it be that the election of Bush and then Sharon signalled the start of events that culminated in the events of 9/11? Was the ‘chatter’ the likes of Tenet and Clarke were trying to convey to the Bush administration originating from ‘al Qaeda’ or was it as a result of murmurings that originated from sources that had nothing to do with ‘al Qaeda’ and a lot more to do with others with connections and influence within the Bush and Sharon governments that were outside of the normal intelligence institutions of the state? Did Bush, Rice and the others ignore the advice of their intelligence organisations because they knew exactly what was going on anyway and where it was really coming from?
A lot of questions; none of which Philip Shenon is game to answer.