Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Reflections on 9-11

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By Cindy Sheehan

The 7th anniversary of September 11, 2001 is approaching and it seems like a good time to reflect on what our nation has lost since that tragic day and what we can do to go forward.

I do not think that anyone alive on that day will forget the shock that struck our nation when the symbols of US capitalism and militarism were struck out of the clear blue sky. I was in panic mode for a few days, because I did not hear from Casey who was stationed at Ft. Hood on that day and his base went into lock-down and he was too busy to call. Even though we mourn with our fellow Americans, the loss of over 3000 innocent people and the pain their families have had to deal with, the attacks of 9-11 have touched every American.

There are several ways to look at 9-11:

• 9-11 was planned and executed by the US government.
• BushCo did not plan 9-11, but they knew it was going to happen and did nothing to prevent it and, in fact, may have allowed it to
• 9-11 was planned and executed by a group of 17 terrorists (14 of them from Saudi Arabia) without the fore knowledge of the US
government and we were attacked because the terrorists "hated our freedoms and democracy."

Whichever of the theories is true, one thing is for sure: the Bush regime's response to 9-11 was woefully inept and criminal and many people have been killed, wounded, displaced or destroyed because of the Bush regimes' exploitation of the tragedy to use ultra-violence against the innocent people of two nations in response to a criminal act perpetrated by a few. Watching the recent RNC was a reminder of 9-11 hysteria used to justify implementing the Project for a New American Century and excusing BushCo for the crimes they have committed on the non-existent graves of our brothers and sisters who perished that day and whose remains were never recovered.

Instead of taking a hard and critical look at the corporate-imperialistic policies of our government and trying to objectively figure out why we were attacked, we set off on a nationalistic flag waving fervor of mass fear that was only to be cured by shopping, traveling and allowing George and Dick to make a demented response to it. After 9-11 our country lost a real opportunity to search our souls and make amends to the world for our greed and violence. An apt response would have been to punish the perpetrators of the crime in a court of law and not by rabidly seeking the first country to destroy. Attacking Afghanistan was like bombing Sicily to oblivion for the crimes of the Mafia. Attacking Iraq was just for neocon kicks.

George Bush was handed a Presidential Daily Briefing in Crawford, Texas on August 6th, 2001, that read: "Osama bin Laden determined to strike in the United States." According to journalist Ron Susskind, Bush told the agent who delivered the message: "Okay, you've covered your ass." Instead, our collective asses are twisting in the wind of the abuses and excesses of the last 7 years.

Our economy is being destroyed by 7 years of seemingly endless occupations that have made Dick and his cronies wealthy, but have harmed the rest of us. The price of gas has almost tripled since 9-11, thus causing all other consumer goods to skyrocket. People are losing their jobs and homes because this war economy cannot be sustained with Monopoly money printed and devalued to cover our rising deficits. We have become the worlds' worst debtor nation and our treasury is trillions in debt.

Our famous "freedoms" that the terrorists "hated" have been eroded due to the PATRIOT ACT, the Military Commissions Act and the violent response to protest from our robo-clad police state. We can be guaranteed that any call, email or text message that we send or receive is being read and if we dare protest we will be pepper-sprayed, maced, tear gassed, tasered, or beaten with a Billy club by our employees: law enforcement; authorized by our other employees: government.

My opponent, Nancy Pelosi, has cooperated and collaborated with the Bush regime to allow torture and incarceration without due process and NSA spying on Americans without warrants. She opens her Gucci bag and doles out billions for his War OF Terror while sitting in her mansion, children and grandchildren out of harms way, while our country implodes and Iraq and Afghanistan burn. She has legitimized BushCo's crimes and refuses to hold them accountable for the destruction they have unleashed upon our world.

It's not only time for new leadership in our government, but it's time for a new 9-11 Commission that has subpoena power and is not facilitated by the crooks who either perpetrated the crime and/or collaborated with it. Government abuses cannot be credibly investigated by government commissions: A citizen's investigation that is independent from the federal government and where people like George and Dick will actually have to give their testimony in the light of day, under oath and not holding hands, must be empowered and empanelled.

If you agree with me that a new 9-11 investigation is warranted, please contribute to my campaign to unseat Vichy-Pelosi who would never agree to investigate her buddy Bush for any crimes, much less the crime of our new century.

But most importantly, Cindy for Congress sends our deepest condolences to those who lost family member on 9-11 and anyone else on this planet who have lost their jobs, homes, or lives due to George's tragic response to the tragedy of 9-11.

My son is one of the ones whose life was ended prematurely. I mourn deeply for him each day, but the way forward is towards healing, peace, accountability, environmental sustainability, and economic equality and away from the violence and greed that has colored every aspect of our lives since that sad day.

Al Franken Wins Primary for Minnesota Senate Seat

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The comedian Al Franken won the Democratic nomination for Senate in Minnesota on Tuesday, setting up a showdown with the incumbent Republican senator, Norm Coleman.

Mr. Franken, who gained fame as a cast member of “Saturday Night Live,” easily beat six other candidates. Mr. Coleman trounced his only opponent, an expatriate living in Italy.

Mr. Franken’s celebrity has both helped and hurt him. His coast-to-coast recognition enabled him to amass impressive financing for a first-time candidate, but archives full of racy material provided ammunition to Republicans and his most visible Democratic rival, Priscilla Lord Faris, a lawyer.

Ms. Lord Faris, part of a well-regarded family in state Democratic politics, criticized Mr. Franken for “angry and offensive public behavior” and said he would be too easy a target for Mr. Coleman and his allies.

With most precincts reporting, Mr. Franken had 65 percent of the vote to 29 percent for Ms. Lord Faris.

“Norm Coleman has become Washington,” Franken said. “He’s the Washington guy, and I’m going to be fighting for Minnesotans.”

Mr. Coleman sought to make the race about experience in public office.

“Minnesotans have a clear choice on experience,” he said. “Minnesotans have a clear choice in terms of record of working with others.”

Dean Barkley won a spot on the ballot for the Independence Party, which is a major party in Minnesota.

In the New Hampshire Senate race, Senator John E. Sununu, a Republican, and former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, easily won their primaries.

In the District of Columbia, former Mayor Marion S. Barry Jr. easily held off four challengers in the Democratic primary for City Council. Mr. Barry is expected to win a second four-year term in November in the overwhelmingly Democratic city.

Federal Shortfall To Double This Year

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By Lori Montgomery

Next President To Inherit Deficit Of $500 Billion

A weak economy and a sharp increase in government spending will drive the federal budget deficit to a near-record $407 billion when the budget year ends later this month, and the next president is likely to face a shortfall in January of well over $500 billion, congressional budget analysts said yesterday.

A deficit of that magnitude could severely constrain the next administration's agenda, regardless of whether Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the Republican candidate, or Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), his Democratic opponent, wins in November. Each has promised billions in new tax cuts or new spending. The expanding deficit also will increase the national debt and could impair future economic growth, particularly if lawmakers are forced to pay down that debt by raising taxes.

This year's deficit will be more than double last year's $161 billion, and it will rise from 1.2 percent of the gross domestic product to nearly 3 percent. If the next president extends some or all of President Bush's signature tax cuts, as both candidates have promised, annual deficits could balloon to as much as 5 percent of the economy, rivaling the dark fiscal days of the early-1990s and those of the Reagan administration, said Peter Orszag, director of the Congressional Budget Office.

The budget picture is likely to grow even bleaker once government analysts factor in the anticipated costs of the Treasury Department's decision last weekend to take over struggling mortgage-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Orszag declined yesterday to attach a price tag to the takeover, under which Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. has pledged to invest as much as $200 billion to keep the companies solvent. However, Orszag said Paulson's action has bound the government so tightly to the two companies that he will incorporate them directly into the federal budget when he reexamines the nation's fiscal picture in January.

The massive companies, which together hold or guarantee about half the nation's 12 million residential mortgages, claimed more than $1.5 trillion in debt at the end of the second quarter. Because that debt is backed by a nearly equal amount in assets, Orszag said it will not significantly increase the nation's indebtedness.

Orszag said it was also unclear how the takeover will affect the annual budget deficit. Government accounting methods do not reflect the risk inherent in assuming control of billions of dollars worth of mortgage-backed securities in the middle of the worst housing bust since the Great Depression. As a result, budget analysts said it is possible that the takeover could add tens of billions of dollars to the deficit -- or little to nothing.

"One of the ironies of what we're experiencing is the shortcomings in the way in which the federal government currently accounts for credit transactions. When you engage in actions that do contain risk, it can look like there's a profitable opportunity because the system does not reflect the cost of risk," Orszag said.

The complex question of how to value the companies and their assets on the government's books will be decided in coming weeks. Meanwhile, the White House budget office has yet to decide whether to follow Orszag's lead and fully incorporate the companies into its budget, an act that could increase the perception of complete government control.

Regardless of the White House's decision, the government's underlying financial condition is likely to get worse, an administration budget official said. "Treasury will still have to raise money to keep these guys whole," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly. "We will be spending money on these companies. It would be hard to say we're going to make money on this."

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers were less focused on the implications of taking over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac than on casting blame for the rapidly rising deficit.

"This is a doubling by the Democratic Congress, and Congress controls the purse strings," said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.).

Democrats called that assertion preposterous, noting that much of the increase was the result of measures that received strong Republican support: one to return billions of dollars to taxpayers as part of the economic stimulus package and another to increase war funding. Bush signed legislation this summer to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through the rest of his presidency, bringing total Iraq spending to more than $650 billion and the total for Afghanistan to nearly $200 billion.

"So they're fully responsible for the increase in the deficit," said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.). "All of this happened on their watch, under their president."

In January, congressional budget analysts had estimated the deficit would be only $219 billion by year's end. By July, however, the White House was predicting that the number would spike to $389 billion because of new spending. Yesterday, the congressional analysts upped it even further, saying the increase over 2007 had been driven equally by two factors.

The weak economy has clobbered corporate profits, halting the growth of tax collections. And spending has jumped sharply, in part because of tax rebates, as well as a hike in expenditures to cover unemployment insurance and deposits of insolvent financial institutions.

This year's deficit will rival the record of $413 billion set in 2004. With the economy expected to remain sluggish for at least the next several months, the Congressional Budget Office projects that next year's deficit will rise to $438 billion. But Orszag said that number could easily climb to $540 billion if Congress acts in the coming months, as expected, to restrain the growth of the alternative minimum tax and to extend a variety of expiring business tax breaks.

Despite the gloomy budget outlook, Democrats said they would press ahead with plans for a second stimulus package of about $50 billion, a proposal opposed by Republicans but supported by Obama. "We would probably be in a worse situation if we didn't do a second stimulus," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who heads the Joint Economic Committee.

Economic advisers to the presidential campaigns said the big deficits would do little to change their plans for cutting taxes or, in Obama's case, for increasing spending on priorities such as health care and education. "A weak economy is not the time to dramatically reduce your budget deficit," said Jason Furman, an adviser to Obama, who wants to extend some of Bush's tax cuts. "The top priority is creating jobs and getting the economy going again."

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, an economic adviser for McCain, acknowledged that the deeper budget hole will make it much harder for McCain to keep his promise to balance the budget while extending all of Bush's tax cuts. "But that doesn't mean the first and best thing to do is raise taxes," Holtz-Eakin said. "The best thing to do is get the economy going again and create jobs."

Mocking Constitutional Rights

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By Nat Parry

On the third day of the Republican National Convention, GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin mocked Barack Obama for believing that individuals accused of terrorism actually have rights under the law.

"Al-Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America,” Palin said, “and he’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights.”

The implication was that those suspected of being terrorists have no rights under domestic or international law. The line elicited thunderous approval from the party faithful gathered in St. Paul, Minnesota.

As the GOP delegates cheered, civil libertarians were reminded of the contempt that the Bush administration has shown to basic legal principles in its prosecution of the “war on terror,” and the resounding approval these policies have gotten from the Republican Party as a whole.

Perhaps viewers at home even nodded in agreement when thinking of the “catastrophic harm” that some individuals would like to inflict on America, and how important it is to keep America safe at all costs.

But just outside the convention hall, police offered a stark reminder of how important those rights are, especially considering how broadly the term “terrorism” can be applied to just about anyone who speaks out against government policies.

Over several days of the convention, primarily peaceful Americans protesting the war in Iraq and the broader Republican agenda were targeted by aggressive police decked out in full riot gear and armed with Tasers, pepper spray, rubber bullets and tear gas.

An activist convergence center was raided, as were the homes of several protest organizers, and demonstrators were attacked, manhandled and arrested. [See’s "Storm Troopers at the RNC."]

In the jails, protesters were mistreated and even tortured, some claim.

A 19-year-old protester named Elliot Hughes alleged at a press conference that he had been beaten unconscious by police, who then banged his head against the floor to wake him up. They then moved him to a separate cell where they put a hood over his head with a gag and used pain-compliance holds on him for about an hour and a half.

His injuries were severe enough that he checked himself into a hospital after being released from jail.

Journalists Arrested

Several independent journalists were also arrested and manhandled, including Pacifica’s Amy Goodman, the host of “Democracy Now!”

As Goodman describes what happened to her and two of her colleagues, “I was at the Xcel Center on the convention floor, interviewing delegates. I had just made it to the Minnesota delegation when I got a call on my cell phone with news that Sharif (Abdel Kouddous) and Nicole (Salazar) were being bloody arrested, in every sense.

“Filmmaker Rick Rowley of Big Noise Films and I raced on foot to the scene. Out of breath, we arrived at the parking lot. I went up to the line of riot police and asked to speak to a commanding officer, saying that they had arrested accredited journalists.

“Within seconds, they grabbed me, pulled me behind the police line and forcibly twisted my arms behind my back and handcuffed me, the rigid plastic cuffs digging into my wrists. I saw Sharif, his arm bloody, his credentials hanging from his neck.

“I repeated we were accredited journalists, whereupon a Secret Service agent came over and ripped my convention credential from my neck. I was taken to the St. Paul police garage where cages were set up for protesters. I was charged with obstruction of a peace officer. Nicole and Sharif were taken to jail, facing riot charges.”

While what happened to Amy Goodman was no doubt deplorable as was the abuse that protesters endured in jail, what could be perhaps more chilling to the average American is the fact that other participants in the RNC protests are actually facing terrorism charges – on little to no actual evidence.

’Furthering Terrorism’

On the same day that Palin gave her speech mocking the rights of terror suspects, eight alleged leaders of an anti-authoritarian activist group called the RNC Welcoming Committee were formally charged with "Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism."

The eight are being prosecuted under a 2002 Minnesota state law modeled on the USA Patriot Act. They now face up to over seven years in prison under the terrorism enhancement charge, with the only evidence against them apparently the testimony of law enforcement officials who infiltrated their organization.

Under the 2002 state law, a crime is considered to "further terrorism" if it is "intended" to "terrorize, intimidate, or coerce a considerable number of members of the public in addition to the direct victims of the act."

If accused of "furthering terrorism," individuals face a 50 percent increase in the maximum penalty they would receive for committing similar crimes (such as vandalism) that are not "intended" to "coerce" the public.

The language of the Minnesota law is eerily similar to the original Patriot Act, passed hastily in the aftermath of 9/11. Section 802 of the Patriot Act defines domestic terrorism as “activities that (A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the U.S. or any state; (B) appear to be intended (i) to influence policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (ii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and (C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S. …”

Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Bar Association have long objected to this definition, particularly the provision of (B)(i). The prohibition against seeking to influence government policy by “intimidation” is so vague and so subjective that virtually any act of civil disobedience or confrontational protest could fit under the definition, the critics have said.

Now it is clear that these concerns were valid.

While there have been other cases in which activists have been investigated by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and otherwise treated as “terrorists,” the arrest of these eight individuals clearly marks an escalation of what some have called “the criminalization of dissent,” and what others see as the merger of domestic law enforcement and the larger “global war on terror.”


The case of the “RNC 8” reminds those engaged in protest activities that they need not actually commit a crime to be accused of terrorism.

As the National Lawyers Guild points out, “The criminal complaints filed by the Ramsey County Attorney do not allege that any of the defendants personally have engaged in any act of violence or damage to property. The complaints list all of [the] alleged violations of law during the last few days of the RNC … and seeks to hold the eight defendants responsible for acts committed by other individuals.”

In other words, without a shred of physical evidence, and based solely on the testimony of police officers who infiltrated the RNC Welcoming Committee, these individuals are being held responsible for the alleged criminal actions of others simply because they were involved with a group that advocated disrupting the RNC with confrontational acts of protest.

At best, it can be considered guilt by association.

But if Sarah Palin and the Republican Party were to have their way, these individuals would not even have the ability to challenge these charges in court.

After all, they are accused of terrorism, and as the Republicans have made clear, those accused of terrorism don’t have any rights – not even the right to habeas corpus, a centuries-old legal tradition that affords the accused the right to face their accuser and challenge their detention in a court of law.

This is a point that Barack Obama actually made as a follow-up to Palin’s comment at the RNC. Obama, who used to teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago, said on Sept. 8 that captured terror suspects deserve at least the right to file writs of habeas corpus challenging their detention.

Calling it “the foundation of Anglo-American law,” he said the principle of habeas corpus “says very simply: If the government grabs you, then you have the right to at least ask, ‘Why was I grabbed?’ And say, ‘Maybe you’ve got the wrong person.’”

In the case of the RNC 8, the principle may be even more fundamental than that. Without the right of habeas corpus, these individuals would never be able to face their accusers and see the evidence against them – which, according to their lawyers is nothing more than the accusations of police officers who infiltrated their organization.

But considering the direction that law enforcement has been heading, and the ever-growing equation of protest activism with “terrorism,” it is not inconceivable that someday defendants such as the RNC 8 may not even have the chance to defend themselves in court.

It is especially chilling how enthusiastically Sarah Palin’s mockery of Americans’ constitutional rights was received in St. Paul by the convention delegates.

And with the relative silence that the story of RNC protests and police abuse has received in the mainstream media, it is doubtful many would even notice if constitutional rights continue to be rolled back.

Revelations of an Abu Ghraib Interrogator

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By Aaron Glantz

Few people have thought as much about the morality of the U.S. occupation of Iraq than Joshua Casteel, a former U.S. Army interrogator who served at Abu Ghraib prison in the wake of the detainee abuse scandal there.

Once a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and raised in an evangelical Christian home, Casteel became a conscientious objector while he was stationed at the prison.

It wasn't the kind of abuse shown in the famous graphic images that made him feel morally compelled to leave the military -- Casteel says that kind of behaviour had ceased by the time he showed up in June 2004 -- but the experience of gleaning information speaking to the detainees in their own language.

Those experiences, and the spiritual awakening Casteel experienced inside the walls of the prison, are contained in "Letters from Abu Ghraib", a compendium of e-mail messages he sent home from the prison, which was published last month by Iowa's Essay Press.

The e-mails, compiled in a lean 118-page volume, are less concerned with the details of prison operations than their moral implications. By what right, the former interrogator asks, does one derive the authority to question prisoners as part of a military occupation?

It's an important question to ask and timely too given the steady growth in the number of Iraqi prisoners in U.S. custody over the course of its occupation of Iraq. Pentagon statistics show the U.S. military now holds over 24,000 "security detainees" in Iraq -- more than double the number incarcerated by Coalition at the time of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal four and a half years ago.

U.S. forces are holding nearly all of these persons indefinitely, without an arrest warrant, without charge, and with no right to any type of open legal proceedings. It's perhaps a mark of the failure of the United States' political and religious establishments that it falls to a U.S. Army Specialist like Joshua Casteel to wrestle with the moral difficulties of these massive imprisonments. "Letters from Abu Ghraib" shows how the ethical failures of their leaders affect soldiers on the ground.

When he first arrives at Abu Ghraib's interrogation centre, Casteel tells his family he really loves his work. "I see my job much more as a Father Confessor than an interrogator," he writes, "As a Confessor you cannot coerce a person to reveal that which they wish to hide. A Confessor's aim is to help the one confessing to be sincere, to arrive at the kind of contrition that actually desires self-disclosure -- and to that end, empathy and understanding go a long way."

But Casteel, who prays daily and considers "keeping the liturgy with others and taking the Eucharist -- Communion" to be "the most important part of the week," begins to feel uncomfortable after just a few weeks on the ground.

"The weight of the job sometimes is more painfully present to me than at other times," he writes a month into the deployment. He is uncomfortable "exploiting" prisoners for their "intelligence" value rather then interacting with them as fully equal human beings.

Making matters worse is that many of the detainees he interrogated turned out to be completely innocent.

"I was constantly being asked, 'Why am I being held here? I want answers!'" Casteel told IPS. "But that was my job. We were supposed to be finding answers to our questions, but we kept being put into situations that were incredibly puzzling because talking to people was like trying to get blood from a turnip. They were the ones that had a greater justification for the need to have answers."

Faced with such a dilemma, Casteel turns to an army chaplain for help. "We talked, I vexed and I summoned whatever strength we could conclude upon to go back to my interrogation...He prayed me back into combat," Casteel writes. "I was no longer afraid to demand authority, to play upon certain weaknesses of my detainee, and to question in a most heated fashion -- because ultimately, I thought, it would lead me to a more accurate assessment of the veracity of his statements.'

"I transgressed no lines of 'proper conduct,' but I certainly, and without hesitation, used a man's anxieties, weaknesses and fears, and my particular place of power and dominance to assess him according to his word...And I even left with what I thought was a clearer picture of the man I was assessing -- perhaps to his benefit. So, why did I feel like a complete failure?"

The answer to his question comes in October 2004, five months into his tour at Abu Ghraib.

"I had an interrogation with a 22-year-old Saudi Arabian who was very straightforward that he had come to Iraq to conduct jihad," Casteel said. "We started having a conversation about religion and ethics and he told me that I was a very strange man who was a Christian but didn't follow the teachings of Jesus to love my enemy and pray for the persecuted...I told him that I thought he was right and that there was a massive contradiction involved with me doing my job and being a Christian."

"I wanted to have a conversation with him about ethics and the cycle of vengeance and how idiotic it was that his people said it was okay for him to come and kill me and my people told me it was okay to kill him," he said in an interview. "Why is it that we can't find a different path together?"

Since that type of conversation was not possible as a U.S. Army interrogator, Joshua Casteel filed an application for discharge as a conscientious objector. Much to his surprise, his command endorsed it, and offered to speed his transition out of the Army. He now hopes to serve as a bridge between conservative Christians and the antiwar left.

He hopes "Letters from Abu Ghraib" will "give conservative Christians an unfiltered picture of one Christian's wrestling with violence and also help the secular world get a backstage pass to the way a conservative Christian operates."

Since his discharge, Casteel converted to Catholicism, attracted by the Church's tradition of "social teaching," and has worked with other like-minded Catholics to push the Church play a more active role in bringing the war to an end.

He's excited his book has been assigned to students at a number of Catholic high schools in the Midwest and the former interrogator has been invited to speak at religious schools from New Jersey to Colorado.

"Catholics are 30 percent of the military. They're equally 30 percent of Congress," he said. "The Vatican had a strong rebuke of the Iraq war but the Iraq war could not have happened were it not for Catholics. Christ has turned up in the people of Iraqi bodies and it's Iraq that's getting crucified and it's largely Christian America that's allowed to be prosperous in the midst of it."

*IPS correspondent Aaron Glantz is author of the upcoming book "The War Comes Home: Washington's Battle Against America's Veterans".

The Red White and Blue Roots of Terrorism

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By Peter Chamberlin

As far as I know, nobody has focused upon the real roots of the war on terror, which are also the solution to it—American-sponsored terrorism. Paid military extremist types, trained by us to carry-out attack missions upon civilians are terrorists, our terrorists. They attack civilians, often women and children, as an indirect method of warfare, to topple governments who oppose American expansion. Has anybody questioned what military challenge the world would face today, if the US suddenly stopped all of these covert programs that perpetrate most of the world's "terrorism"?

If the CIA/Mossad simply stopped training, arming, financing and transporting the (mostly Islamic) fighters/mercenaries all over the world (as it has been deeply in the business of doing for the past thirty or more years), would world peace then break-out? If our government was not in the business of killing the people whose relatives then make war against American and allied forces, would our soldiers be fighting anywhere in the world?

Pick any ongoing conflict in the world and see if you do not see the secret hands of the United States/Israel busily at work fanning the flames. These flames are the legends which feed the American homeland political fires, giving the "war on terror" the popular support it must have to continue its churning destruction, which, even now, is escalating.

To those who "have eyes to see," it is obvious that the secret CIA terrorism that ignites the terror war also drives our electoral process. The hometown "heroes" of the war inspire support for either presidential candidate and his congressional supporters who seem most supportive of the "heroic" war effort. If the CIA minions were not driving the terror war and the fear that fuels national support for the genocidal fight, there would be little to no support for continuing the fight against terrorism. How much "terrorism" would then be left to fight?

The most vital example of American state terrorism being translated into war and regime change is Pakistan, which is also currently the hottest spot in the government plan to ignite world war. It is here where you can clearly see the circular logic that fuels the terror war. American-funded "Islamists" are destabilizing Pakistan to justify American intervention to seize Pakistani nukes before the American-funded "Islamists" can get their hands on them.

The ongoing series of cross-border attacks upon Pakistan and the recent Pakistani/American "brainstorming" session aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Indian Ocean mark a new phase in the war to takeover Pakistan. The escalation of the terror war to include Pakistan was announced by Bush today, where Pakistan was proclaimed a new war theater, like Iraq and Afghanistan:

"They are all theaters in the same overall struggle. In all three places, extremists are using violence and terror in an attempt to impose their ideology on whole populations," Bush said in the advance text.

George W. Bush
[Bush could not have spoken more truthfully if he had tried. The "extremists" who are using violence and terror are America's extremists. All those who are being accused and targeted by America's cross-border raiders are the extremists like Jalaluddin Haqqani, whom we have trained and supported in the past. The areas being targeted in Bajaur and S. Waziristan are the locations of our (CIA) former training camps and American/Saudi-funded madrassas. Most of the other raids have targeted Baitullah Mehsud and his men (who are also tied to secret American training programs), who move freely throughout the region promoting the terrorism that will justify American actions, in possession of the most-advanced communication gear and possibly even satellite intelligence. Pakistan's army should read the signs.]

Bush carried-on with his confession:

"Defeating these terrorist and extremists is in Pakistan's interest because they pose a mortal threat to Pakistan's future as a free and democratic nation," Bush added in the prepared remarks.

"Defeating these terrorist and extremists is also Pakistan's responsibility because every nation has an obligation to govern its own territory and make certain that it does not become a safe haven for terror," he reiterated.

If only he had admitted that the extremists were our extremists..

By this line of thinking it seems clear that we can most successfully oppose the war to create an American-dominated New World Order by exposing the American terror component of that war.

Another criminal US missile strike inside Pakistan

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By Peter Symonds

A third US missile strike in less than a week inside Pakistan again underscores the danger that the escalating war in Afghanistan will spread into its neighbour. At least 20 people died on Monday when up to five missiles fired from US unmanned Predator drones hit a madrassa or religious school and a compound in North Waziristan—part of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the border with Afghanistan.

The strike on the village of Daande Darpkhel targetted Jalaluddin Haqqani, who established the school and backed the Taliban following the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. His son Sirajuddin is now reportedly leading the Haqqani militia and has been accused by the US military of being behind a series of assaults inside Afghanistan, including an attempt on the life of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and a suicide bomb attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul.

Pakistani intelligence officials told the Associated Press yesterday that four foreign militants were among those killed but provided no evidence. The dead included Jalaluddin Haqqani’s wife and sister, several other women and at least four children. Some 15 to 20 people were wounded, mostly women and children, and were taken to the hospital in nearby Miram Shah. Another of Jalaluddin Haqqani’s sons, Badruddin, told the Pakistani media that neither his father nor Sirajuddin were in the compound at the time.

The religious school known as “Madrassa Mumba-i-Uloom” was built in the 1980s when Haqqani was involved in the Mujaheddin, the CIA-backed jihad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. According to the Washington Post, Haqqani received millions of dollars in funding from the US and Saudi Arabia, and personally trained thousands of religious zealots to join the war in Afghanistan.

The school, however, was closed after being raided by the Pakistani military at least three times over the past several years. An article on the Asia Times web site today described the raid on the Haqqanis as “perplexing,” noting that the father and son were “known by people in the area to have left the tribal region as they were on the US radar”.

The targetting of the Haqqani compound was calculated to send a message to newly elected Pakistani President Asif Al Zardari that the US would not tolerate any let up in the military crackdown on Islamist militants in the FATA region. Washington has directly accused Pakistani military intelligence—the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI)—of maintaining links with various pro-Taliban militias, including Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son.

The missile strike itself was an act of sheer thuggery, designed to intimidate and terrorise the local population, regardless of whether it was successful in killing the Haqqanis. Two other missile strikes took place last Thursday and Friday in North Waziristan, killing at least four and five people respectively. In the raid on Friday, at least three children died when a missile destroyed a house in the village of Goorweck Baipali.

The missile attacks follow the first confirmed ground assault by US troops inside Pakistani territory last Wednesday. Helicopter-borne Special Forces commandos landed in the village of Jalal Khei in South Waziristan in the early hours of the morning and attacked three compounds. At least 20 people, including women and children, died in the attack, which provoked anger not only among local tribes but across Pakistan.

The US attacks signal a marked escalation of operations inside Pakistan. As if to underscore the point, US President Bush told a gathering at the US National Defence University yesterday that parts of Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan were “all theatres in the same overall struggle”. He reiterated the US demand that the Pakistan government suppress Islamist groups, declaring: “Defeating these terrorists and extremists is also Pakistan’s responsibility because every nation has an obligation to govern its own territory and make certain that it does not become a safe haven for terror.”

The intensification of US strikes inside Pakistan threatens to further destabilise the country. Pakistani President Zardari has pledged his full support for the bogus “war against terrorism” but confronts growing demands for action to prevent US attacks. Last week, the Pakistani parliament passed a resolution condemning the US raid in South Waziristan and warning of “retaliation with full force”. The overwhelming majority of the Pakistani population is opposed to the US occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq.

On Saturday, NATO military supplies being transported through Pakistan to Afghanistan were held up for several hours. Despite later official denials, Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar told the press that the halt had been in response to US attacks on Pakistani territory. Whether deliberate or not, the delay underscores the dependence of the US and NATO military in landlocked Afghanistan on supply lines through Pakistan. The only existing alternative route is via air through Russia and Central Asia, which is currently restricted to non-lethal supplies and reliant on Washington’s increasingly fraught relations with Moscow.

France issued a statement yesterday warning that US strikes were generating hostility inside Pakistan and undermining NATO operations inside Afghanistan. Foreign ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier told the press: “Not only are these creating human tragedies but also situations that have counterproductive effects on the political dynamics that we would like to see, and that means a partnership between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the international community.”

Writing on the Asia Times web site today, analyst Gareth Porter pointed out that the Bush administration had ignored warnings last month by the US National Intelligence Council (NIC) that military operations inside Pakistan carried a high risk of destabilising the government and the military. Former defence intelligence officer Patrick Lang said the US intelligence community had issued “a pretty clear warning” against last week’s Special Forces raid. “They said, in effect, if you want to see the Pakistani government collapse, go right ahead,” he explained.

Another unnamed source said that the White House was warned that if US ground operations continued over a longer period of time, the NIC believed they could threaten the unity of the Pakistani army. A large proportion of the officers serving in the FATA region are Pashtun—the same ethnicity as the local tribes and those over the border inside Afghanistan. In previous battles between the Pakistani military and local tribes since 2001, scattered reports have appeared of Pashtun officers refusing to fight or threatening outright mutiny.

The Bush administration’s reckless determination to proceed despite the obvious political dangers highlights the desperate situation confronting the US inside Afghanistan, where American and NATO casualties are continuing to rise amid an escalating anti-occupation insurgency and widespread local opposition to the continued presence of foreign troops.

Record corporate bailout reveals the bankruptcy of American capitalism

Go to Original
By Barry Grey

The US government takeover of the mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac has dealt a shattering blow to the ideology of market capitalism, which has been used for decades to justify a relentless assault on the working class and a vast transfer of wealth to the American ruling elite.

The endless invocations of the virtues of private enterprise, individual entrepreneurship and self-reliance, used to demonize socialism and defend a system that exploits the vast majority for the benefit of a financial elite, have been exposed as frauds. When it comes to big capital, losses are socialized. Only profits remain private.

The same forces who year after year have inveighed against “big government” in order to justify the removal of all legal impediments to the accumulation of corporate profits and private fortunes, and carry out the destruction of social safeguards for the working class, have engineered a massive expansion of government power to safeguard the interests of the financial elite.

The bailout has as well exposed the real relations of political power and influence behind the façade of American democracy. The largest government bailout of private companies in world history—whose ultimate cost to taxpayers is likely to reach hundreds of billions—was sanctioned in advance by the Democratic Congress and given instant approval by the leadership of both parties and both of their presidential candidates.

There have been no investigations into the greatest financial scandal in world history. Neither party has any interest in bringing to light the swindling and skullduggery of the Wall Street moguls, because they are both bound hand and foot to those responsible for the financial debacle.

What has been revealed is the existence in the United States, behind the increasingly tattered veneer of democratic institutions, of a plutocracy—the political rule of the rich. When it comes to the basic interests of the financial aristocracy, both parties and all of the official institutions of society snap to attention and do the bidding of their Wall Street masters.

The bailout of the two mortgage giants—which account for 80 percent of new home mortgages in the US—is a demonstration of the historic failure of American capitalism and the profit system on a global scale. It was precipitated by the deepest economic crisis since the Depression of the 1930s, whose epicenter is the United States. The Bush administration moved to take over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac under conditions of a rapid erosion of international confidence in the solvency of not only these two companies, but of the United States government itself.

Over the past several months, global investors, including central banks and government investment funds, primarily in Asia and Russia, have been dumping their vast holdings in mortgage-backed securities issued by the US government-sponsored firms. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have a combined liability of $5.3 trillion in mortgage-backed securities which they own or guarantee. The run on their assets has not only intensified the crisis of the two companies, which are massively leveraged and have suffered billions of dollars in losses as a result of the collapse of the US housing market, it has thrown into question the status of all US government debt, including US Treasury bonds.

The US, by far the world’s largest debtor nation, with a current account deficit of nearly $800 billion, is sustained by the inflow of hundreds of billions of dollars from abroad. It currently imports $1 trillion in foreign capital every year, or over $4 billion every working day.

But the assumption by the US government of the debts of the two mortgage companies, while averting an immediate financial meltdown, only compounds the crisis of American capitalism. As Martin Wolf, the financial correspondent of the Financial Times, wrote on Tuesday, “As a result, US housing finance has been brought under direct government control and, in the process, the gross liabilities of the US government, properly measured, have increased by $5,400 billion, a sum equal to the entire publicly held debt and 40 percent of gross domestic product.”

At a stroke, US sovereign debt has doubled and is now roughly equal to America’s gross domestic product. On July 14, one day after US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson called for legislation to give him unilateral and unlimited powers to use public funds to rescue Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Wall Street Journal editorialized on the implications of a government bailout of the two companies. It wrote: “But with financial woes mounting, some investors are betting they may profit from weighing the unthinkable question: Could the US government default?”

This immense increase in US government indebtedness can only further undermine international confidence in the credit-worthiness of US Treasury bonds, resulting in a further decline in the dollar and a sharp increase in the interest paid by the US to borrow from its international creditors.

The claims made by the Bush administration, echoed by the US media, that the bailout of the two mortgage finance companies will consume at most $200 billion in public funds—itself a massive amount that eclipses previous corporate bailouts, including the $160 billion bailout of the savings and loans industry less than two decades ago—are not credible. An indication of the sums envisioned by US policy makers is the fact that the legislation passed last July giving Paulson the power to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac raised the US debt limit by $800 billion, increasing the cushion between the debt limit and current government indebtedness to $1.1 trillion.

Some sense of the social priorities of the US ruling elite and its two parties can be gleaned from a comparison between the sums being extended to bail out just these two companies and those allocated by the federal government in 2008 for education ($67.5 billion), unemployment benefits ($37.3 billion), highways and mass transit ($53.1 billion) and housing ($7.4 billion).

Moreover, the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is only the prelude to a far broader use of public funds to bolster the balance sheets of major corporations. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and his Republican opponent John McCain are both supporting a $50 billion bailout of the US auto companies, which will inevitably entail further cuts in jobs and wages. And the plunge of the Wall Street investment bank Lehman Brothers toward bankruptcy—the firm’s stock fell by 45 percent on Tuesday—poses another rescue operation similar to the $29 billion bailout of Bear Stearns last March.

It is already being widely broached that the government establish a permanent mechanism for using taxpayer funds to buy billions of dollars in failing assets from major banks and financial companies. The Wall Street Journal wrote on Tuesday, “Creating a government-backed entity to buy up these assets could jump-start the market for home loans and relieve banks and other financial institutions, which are taking big hits to their balance sheets as they fall in value.”

The Financial Times sounded the same theme, declaring, “The US government might end up having to support the recapitalization of a much wider range of financial institutions in order to curb the credit crunch.”

These statements give the lie to the attempt to portray Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as aberrations, which in their reckless speculation and pursuit of super profits departed from the norm. On the contrary, they typify the financial parasitism and outright criminality that have become pervasive characteristics of the workings of American capitalism and the social physiognomy of the US corporate elite.

The operations of the two government-sponsored firms are entirely in line with the unbridled speculation, based on an immense expansion of debt, that has become the hallmark of American capitalism. Their role in the housing and credit boom that has now come crashing down was of a piece with the creation of the vast edifice of paper values, engineered through the so-called “securitization” of debt, which sustained the super profits and immense salaries raked in by Wall Street.

In the wake of the bailout, press reports have noted the bloated salaries of the companies’ CEOs. Before they were sacked as part of the government takeover, Fannie Mae CEO Daniel Mudd and Freddie Mac chief Richard Syron took in between them $29.5 million over the several years they headed their respective corporations. And they stand to receive another $29 million as part of their exit packages.

But these sums are by no means exceptional. The Financial Times reported last week that compensation for major executives of the seven biggest US banks totaled $95 billion between 2005 and 2007.

The collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is a paradigm of the US economy as a whole. Over the past three decades, the decay of American capitalism has taken the form of a vast growth of financial parasitism. At its heart, this involves the separation of wealth creation from the creation of real value in the production process. The American ruling elite has largely dismantled the productive base of the US economy, ruthlessly downsizing manufacturing at the cost of millions of jobs and the destruction of working class living standards, in order to reap higher profits from increasingly reckless forms of financial speculation.

The indices of the growth of financial speculation in the US economy are staggering: In 1982, the profits of US financial companies accounted for 5 percent of total after-tax corporate profits. In 2007, they made up 41 percent of corporate profits.

This process has generated ever greater levels of social inequality, the most telling symptom of the degenerate state of the US profit system. A report by the Congressional Research Service, updated July 31, provides a measure of the ever growing chasm between the ruling elite and the broad mass of the American people. It states that the share of national income accounted for by the top 1 percent of earners (as reported on tax returns) reached 21.8 percent in 2005—a level not seen since 1928. The report further noted that in 2006, corporate profits totaled 12.4 percent of national income, a level not reached in 50 years.

The cost of the ever-expanding bailout of American big business will be borne squarely by the working class. Even in the midst of growing unemployment and poverty and a flood of home foreclosures, there is much talk in the media about the American people “living beyond their means.”

That the next administration, whether headed by McCain or Obama, will sharply intensify the assault on working class living standards was spelled out by the New York Times, which editorialized Tuesday: “Senators John McCain and Barack Obama have both voiced support for the bailout, which shows good judgment. But what the next president will need to worry about, and both candidates need to talk about, is the depth of the country’s economic problems. It will take discipline and sacrifice to address them.”

The only alternative to a rapid lowering of working class living standards and the only rational and progressive solution to the financial crisis is a socialist program of nationalization of the entire financial system under the democratic control of the working people, with provisions to secure the investments of small depositors and share-holders. The wealth and resources of the country must be developed and allocated to meet the social needs of the population, not the money-mad strivings of financial speculators.

This policy can be carried out only through the independent political mobilization of the working class in opposition to the two-party system and the financial aristocracy which it serves. The Socialist Equality Party is dedicated to the building of such a mass socialist movement of the working class.

Empire and Imperialism and the USA

Go to Original
By James Petras

Modern empires and therefore imperialism which constructs them are ubiquitous: Whether through large-scale multinational corporations or through technologically advanced massive military power, the peoples and nations of the worlds confront the problem of great concentration of corporate and state power on an unprecedented scale. This stark reality and the evidence of US prolonged wars of conquest and occupation has forced a general recognition of the relevance of the concept of imperialism to understanding global power relations. Only a decade ago writers, intellectuals and academics discarded imperialism and empire in favor of ‘globalization’ – to describe the world configuration of power. But globalization with its limited focus on the movement of multinational corporations could not explain the centrality of the state in establishing and imposing favorable conditions for the ‘movement’ or expansion of multinationals. Corporate globalization could not explain wars of conquest, like the first Gulf War, or wars of occupation or colonization, such as the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Nor could globalization explain the large-scale, long-term expansion of Chinese public corporations throughout Africa and the vast extraction of raw materials and sale of finished goods. By the new millennium, the language of empire even entered the vocabulary of the Right, the practitioners and ideologues of imperialist power. Contemporary imperial conflicts had their effects: Imperialism and empire once again became common language on the Left, but in many cases poorly understood, at least in all of its complexities and structures.

This essay clarifies some of the basic theoretical and practical features of contemporary imperialism, which are poorly understood. There are at least five major aspects of the political economy of imperialism that focus our attention in this book:

(1) Imperialism is a political and economic phenomenon. The multinational corporations (MNC) operate in many countries, but they receive their political support, economic subsidies and military insurance from the imperial state (IS) concerned with the MNC. The IS negotiates or imposes trade and investment agreements favorable to the MNC. At the same time the IS uses the MNC to influence overseas regimes to concede military bases and submit to its sphere of influence. Imperialism is the combined forceful overseas expansion of state and corporations.

(2) There are multiple forms of empire building. While all imperial states possess military and economic apparatuses, the political and economic driving force behind the construction of a global empire vary according to the nature of the governing class of the imperial state. In the contemporary world there are essentially two types of empire building – the US military-driven empire building and the Chinese economic empire. The US governing class today is made up of a powerful militarist-Zionist ideological elite, which prioritizes war and military force as a way of extending its domination and constructing client/colonial regimes. China and other newly aspiring economic empire builders expand overseas via large-scale, long-term overseas investments, loans, trade, technical aid and market shares. Obviously the US militarist approach to empire building is bloodier, more destructive and more reprehensible than market-driven empire building. However the structure of power and exploitation, which result from both types of empire, is a political-economic system, which oppresses and exploits subject peoples and nations.

(3) Imperialism has multiple interacting facets, which mutually reinforce each other: The mass media and culture in general are weapons for securing consent and/or acquiescence of the masses in pursuit of empire building which prejudices their material and spiritual existence. Imperialism cannot be isolated and reduced to simple economic reductionism. Economic exploitation is only possible under conditions of subjective subordination and that refers to education, entertainment, literature and art as terrains of class relations and class struggle linked to the empire.

(4) The social, ideological and political loyalties of the political elite, which direct the imperial state, determines the tactics and strategy which will be pursued in empire building. One cannot automatically assume that the political leadership will prioritize the interests of the MNCs in every region of the world at all times. When imperial leadership has divided loyalties with another state imperial policies may not coincide with the interests of the MNCs. Under these special circumstances of rulers with divided imperial loyalties, the ‘normal’ operations of the imperial state are suspended. The case of Zionist power in the US imperial state is a case in point. Through powerful and wealthy socio-political organizations, representation on powerful Congressional committees and strong presence in senior Executive offices (Pentagon, State Department, National Security Council, Homeland Security, Justice, Treasury) and the mass media, the Zionist elite dictates US Middle East policy. The US military serves Israeli colonial-expansionist interests even at the expense of the major US oil companies which are prevented from signing billion-dollar oil contracts with Iran and other oil-rich countries at odds with Israel.

(5) The world of competing imperial countries has created complex international organizations, which conflict, compete and collaborate. They operate on all levels, from the global to the cities and villages of the Third World. Imperialist powers enter and exploit through a chain of collaborator classes from the imperial center through international organizations to local ruling, economic and political classes. The imperial system is only as strong as its local collaborators. Popular uprisings, national anti-colonial struggles and radical mass movements, which oust local collaborators, undermine the empire. Anti imperialists attempt to establish diverse ties among imperial competitors and among the newly emerging powers to isolate the US military-centered empire.

Was America Attacked by Muslims on 9/11?

Go to Original
By David Ray Griffin

Much of America’s foreign policy since 9/11 has been based on the assumption that it was attacked by Muslims on that day. This assumption was used, most prominently, to justify the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is now widely agreed that the use of 9/11 as a basis for attacking Iraq was illegitimate: none of the hijackers were Iraqis, there was no working relation between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, and Iraq was not behind the anthrax attacks. But it is still widely believed that the US attack on Afghanistan was justified. For example, the New York Times, while referring to the US attack on Iraq as a "war of choice," calls the battle in Afghanistan a "war of necessity." Time magazine has dubbed it "the right war." And Barack Obama says that one reason to wind down our involvement in Iraq is to have the troops and resources to "go after the people in Afghanistan who actually attacked us on 9/11."

The assumption that America was attacked by Muslims on 9/11 also lies behind the widespread perception of Islam as an inherently violent religion and therefore of Muslims as guilty until proven innocent. This perception surely contributed to attempts to portray Obama as a Muslim, which was lampooned by a controversial cartoon on the July 21, 2008, cover of The New Yorker.

As could be illustrated by reference to many other post-9/11 developments, including as spying, torture, extraordinary rendition, military tribunals, America’s new doctrine of preemptive war, and its enormous increase in military spending, the assumption that the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked by Muslim hijackers has had enormous negative consequences for both international and domestic issues.1

Is it conceivable that this assumption might be false? Insofar as Americans and Canadians would say "No," they would express their belief that this assumption is not merely an "assumption" but is instead based on strong evidence. When actually examined, however, the proffered evidence turns out to be remarkably weak. I will illustrate this point by means of 16 questions.

1. Were Mohamed Atta and the Other Hijackers Devout Muslims?

The picture of the hijackers conveyed by the 9/11 Commission is that they were devout Muslims. Mohamed Atta, considered the ringleader, was said to have become very religious, even "fanatically so."2 Being devout Muslims, they could be portrayed as ready to meet their Maker---as a "cadre of trained operatives willing to die."3

But this portrayal is contradicted by various newspaper stories. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Atta and other hijackers had made "at least six trips" to Las Vegas, where they had "engaged in some decidedly un-Islamic sampling of prohibited pleasures." These activities were "un-Islamic" because, as the head of the Islamic Foundation of Nevada pointed out: "True Muslims don’t drink, don’t gamble, don’t go to strip clubs."4

One might, to be sure, rationalize this behavior by supposing that these were momentary lapses and that, as 9/11 approached, these young Muslims had repented and prepared for heaven. But in the days just before 9/11, Atta and others were reported to be drinking heavily, cavorting with lap dancers, and bringing call girls to their rooms. Temple University Professor Mahmoud Ayoub said: "It is incomprehensible that a person could drink and go to a strip bar one night, then kill themselves the next day in the name of Islam. . . . Something here does not add up."5

In spite of the fact that these activities were reported by mainstream newspapers and even the Wall Street Journal editorial page,6 the 9/11 Commission wrote as if these reports did not exist, saying: "we have seen no credible evidence explaining why, on [some occasions], the operatives flew to or met in Las Vegas."7

2. Do Authorities Have Hard Evidence of Osama bin Laden’s Responsibility for 9/11?

Whatever be the truth about the devoutness of the hijackers, one might reply, there is certainly no doubt about the fact that they were acting under the guidance of Osama bin Laden. The attack on Afghanistan was based on the claim that bin Laden was behind the attacks, and the 9/11 Commission’s report was written as if there were no question about this claim. But neither the Bush administration nor the Commission provided any proof for it.

Two weeks after 9/11, Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking to Tim Russert on "Meet the Press," said he expected "in the near future . . . to put out . . . a document that will describe quite clearly the evidence that we have linking [bin Laden] to this attack."8 But at a press conference with President Bush the next morning, Powell reversed himself, saying that although the government had information that left no question of bin Laden’s responsibility, "most of it is classified."9 According to Seymour Hersh, citing officials from both the CIA and the Department of Justice, the real reason for the reversal was a "lack of solid information."10

That same week, Bush had demanded that the Taliban turn over bin Laden. But the Taliban, reported CNN, "refus[ed] to hand over bin Laden without proof or evidence that he was involved in last week’s attacks on the United States." The Bush administration, saying "[t]here is already an indictment of Osama bin Laden" [for the attacks in Tanzania, Kenya, and elsewhere]," rejected the demand for evidence with regard to 9/11.11

The task of providing such evidence was taken up by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who on October 4 made public a document entitled "Responsibility for the Terrorist Atrocities in the United States." Listing "clear conclusions reached by the government," it stated: "Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, the terrorist network which he heads, planned and carried out the atrocities on 11 September 2001."12

Blair’s report, however, began by saying: "This document does not purport to provide a prosecutable case against Osama Bin Laden in a court of law." This weakness was noted the next day by the BBC, which said: "There is no direct evidence in the public domain linking Osama Bin Laden to the 11 September attacks. At best the evidence is circumstantial."13

After the US had attacked Afghanistan, a senior Taliban official said: "We have asked for proof of Osama’s involvement, but they have refused. Why?"14 The answer to this question may be suggested by the fact that, to this day, the FBI’s "Most Wanted Terrorist" webpage on bin Laden, while listing him as wanted for bombings in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, makes no mention of 9/11.15

When the FBI’s chief of investigative publicity was asked why not, he replied: "The reason why 9/11 is not mentioned on Usama Bin Laden’s Most Wanted page is because the FBI has no hard evidence connecting Bin Laden to 9/11."16

It is often claimed that bin Laden’s guilt is proved by a video, reportedly found by US intelligence officers in Afghanistan in November 2001, in which bin Laden appears to report having planned the attacks. But critics, pointing out various problems with this "confession video," have called it a fake.17 General Hamid Gul, a former head of Pakistan’s ISI, said: "I think there is an Osama Bin Laden look-alike."18 Actually, the man in the video is not even much of a look-alike, being heavier and darker than bin Laden, having a broader nose, wearing jewelry, and writing with his right hand.19 The FBI, in any case, obviously does not consider this video hard evidence of bin Laden’s responsibility for 9/11.

What about the 9/11 Commission? I mentioned earlier that it gave the impression of having had solid evidence of bin Laden’s guilt. But Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, the Commission’s co-chairs, undermined this impression in their follow-up book subtitled "the inside story of the 9/11 Commission."20

Whenever the Commission had cited evidence for bin Ladin’s responsibility, the note in the back of the book always referred to CIA-provided information that had (presumably) been elicited during interrogations of al-Qaeda operatives. By far the most important of these operatives was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), described as the "mastermind" of the 9/11 attacks. The Commission, for example, wrote:

Bin Ladin . . . finally decided to give the green light for the 9/11 operation sometime in late 1998 or early 1999. . . . Bin Ladin also soon selected four individuals to serve as suicide operatives. . . . Atta---whom Bin Ladin chose to lead the group---met with Bin Ladin several times to receive additional instructions, including a preliminary list of approved targets: the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the U.S. Capitol.21

The note for each of these statements says "interrogation of KSM."22

Kean and Hamilton, however, reported that they had no success in "obtaining access to star witnesses in custody . . . , most notably Khalid Sheikh Mohammed."23 Besides not being allowed to interview these witnesses, they were not permitted to observe the interrogations through one-way glass or even to talk to the interrogators.24 Therefore, they complained: "We . . . had no way of evaluating the credibility of detainee information. How could we tell if someone such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed . . . was telling us the truth?"25

An NBC "deep background" report in 2008 pointed out an additional problem: KSM and the other al-Qaeda leaders had been subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques," i.e., torture, and it is now widely acknowledged that statements elicited by torture lack credibility. "At least four of the operatives whose interrogation figured in the 9/11 Commission Report," this NBC report pointed out, "have claimed that they told interrogators critical information as a way to stop being "-tortured.’" NBC then quoted Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, as saying: "Most people look at the 9/11 Commission Report as a trusted historical document. If their conclusions were supported by information gained from torture, . . . their conclusions are suspect."26

Accordingly, neither the White House, the British government, the FBI, nor the 9/11 Commission has provided solid evidence that Osama bin Laden was behind 9/11.

3. Was Evidence of Muslim Hijackers Provided by Phone Calls from the Airliners?

Nevertheless, many readers may respond, there can be no doubt that the airplanes were taken over by al-Qaeda hijackers, because their presence and actions on the planes were reported on phone calls by passengers and flight attendants, with cell phone calls playing an especially prominent role.

The most famous of the reported calls were from CNN commentator Barbara Olson to her husband, US Solicitor General Ted Olson. According to CNN, he reported that his wife had "called him twice on a cell phone from American Airlines Flight 77," saying that "all passengers and flight personnel, including the pilots, were herded to the back of the plane by . . . hijackers [armed with] knives and cardboard cutters."27

Although these reported calls, as summarized by Ted Olson, did not describe the hijackers so as to suggest that they were members of al-Qaeda, such descriptions were supplied by calls from other flights, especially United 93, from which about a dozen cell phone calls were reportedly received before it crashed in Pennsylvania. According to a Washington Post story of September 13,

[P]assenger Jeremy Glick used a cell phone to tell his wife, Lyzbeth, . . . that the Boeing 757’s cockpit had been taken over by three Middle Eastern-looking men. . . . The terrorists, wearing red headbands, had ordered the pilots, flight attendants and passengers to the rear of the plane.28

A story about a "cellular phone conversation" between flight attendant Sandra Bradshaw and her husband gave this report:

She said the plane had been taken over by three men with knives. She had gotten a close look at one of the hijackers. . . . "He had an Islamic look," she told her husband. 29

From these calls, therefore, the public was informed that the hijackers looked Middle Eastern and even Islamic.

Still more specific information was reportedly conveyed during a 12-minute cell phone call from flight attendant Amy Sweeney on American Flight 11, which was to crash into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.30 After reaching American Airlines employee Michael Woodward and telling him that men of "Middle Eastern descent" had hijacked her flight, she then gave him their seat numbers, from which he was able to learn the identity of Mohamed Atta and two other hijackers.31 Amy Sweeney’s call was critical, ABC News explained, because without it "the plane might have crashed with no one certain the man in charge was tied to al Qaeda."32

There was, however, a big problem with these reported calls: Given the technology available in 2001, cell phone calls from airliners at altitudes of more than a few thousand feet, especially calls lasting more than a few seconds, were not possible, and yet these calls, some of which reportedly lasted a minute or more, reportedly occurred when the planes were above 30,000 or even 40,000 feet. This problem was explained by some credible people, including scientist A.K. Dewdney, who for many years had written a column for Scientific American.33

Although some defenders of the official account, such as Popular Mechanics, have disputed the contention that high-altitude calls from airliners were impossible,34 the fact is that the FBI, after having at first supported the claims that such calls were made, withdrew this support a few years later.

With regard to the reported 12-minute call from Amy Sweeney to Michael Woodward, an affidavit signed by FBI agent James Lechner and dated September 12 (2001) stated that, according to Woodward, Sweeney had been "using a cellular telephone."35 But when the 9/11 Commission discussed this call in its Report, which appeared in July 2004, it declared that Sweeney had used an onboard phone.36

Behind that change was an implausible claim made by the FBI earlier in 2004: Although Woodward had failed to mention this when FBI agent Lechner interviewed him on 9/11, he had repeated Sweeney’s call verbatim to a colleague in his office, who had in turn repeated it to another colleague at American headquarters in Dallas, who had recorded it; and this recording---which was discovered only in 2004---indicated that Sweeney had used a passenger-seat phone, thanks to "an AirFone card, given to her by another flight attendant."37

This claim is implausible because, if this relayed recording had really been made on 9/11, we cannot believe that Woodward would have failed to mention it to FBI agent Lechner later that same day. While Lechner was taking notes, Woodward would surely have said: "You don’t need to rely on my memory. There is a recording of a word-for-word repetition of Sweeney’s statements down in Dallas." It is also implausible that Woodward, having repeated Sweeney’s statement that she had used "an AirFone card, given to her by another flight attendant," would have told Lechner, as the latter’s affidavit says, that Sweeney had been "using a cellular telephone."

Lechner’s affidavit shows that the FBI at first supported the claim that Sweeney had made a 12-minute cell phone call from a high-altitude airliner. Does not the FBI’s change of story, after its first version had been shown to be technologically impossible, create the suspicion that the entire story was a fabrication?

This suspicion is reinforced by the FBI’s change of story in relation to United Flight 93. Although we were originally told that this flight had been the source of about a dozen cell phone calls, some of them when the plane was above 40,000 feet, the FBI gave a very different report at the 2006 trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker. The FBI spokesman said: "13 of the terrified passengers and crew members made 35 air phone calls and two cell phone calls."38 Instead of there having been about a dozen cell phone calls from Flight 93, the FBI declared in 2005, there were really only two.

Why were two calls still said to have been possible? They were reportedly made at 9:58, when the plane was reportedly down to 5,000 feet.39 Although that was still pretty high for successful cell phone calls in 2001, these calls, unlike calls from 30,000 feet or higher, would have been at least arguably possible.

If the truth of the FBI’s new account is assumed, how can one explain the fact that so many people had reported receiving cell phone calls? In most cases, it seems, these people had been told by the callers that they were using cell phones. For example, a Newsweek story about United 93 said: "Elizabeth Wainio, 27, was speaking to her stepmother in Maryland. Another passenger, she explains, had loaned her a cell phone and told her to call her family."40 In such cases, we might assume that the people receiving the calls had simply mis-heard, or mis-remembered, what they had been told. But this would mean positing that about a dozen people had made the same mistake.

An even more serious difficulty is presented by the case of Deena Burnett, who said that she had received three to five calls from her husband, Tom Burnett. She knew he was using his cell phone, she reported to the FBI that very day and then to the press and in a book, because she had recognized his cell phone number on her phone’s Caller ID.41 We cannot suppose her to have been mistaken about this. We also, surely, cannot accuse her of lying.

Therefore, if we accept the FBI’s report, according to which Tom Burnett did not make any cell phone calls from Flight 93, we can only conclude that the calls were faked---that Deena Burnett was duped. Although this suggestion may at first sight seem outlandish, there are three facts that, taken together, show it to be more probable than any of the alternatives.

First, voice morphing technology was sufficiently advanced at that time to make faking the calls feasible. A 1999 Washington Post article described demonstrations in which the voices of two generals, Colin Powell and Carl Steiner, were heard saying things they had never said.42

Second, there are devices with which you can fake someone’s telephone number, so that it will show up on the recipient’s Caller ID.43

Third, the conclusion that the person who called Deena Burnett was not her husband is suggested by various features of the calls. For example, when Deena told the caller that "the kids" were asking to talk to him, he said: "Tell them I’ll talk to them later." This was 20 minutes after Tom had purportedly realized that the hijackers were on a suicide mission, planning to "crash this plane into the ground," and 10 minutes after he and other passengers had allegedly decided that as soon as they were "over a rural area" they must try to gain control of the plane. Also, the hijackers had reportedly already killed one person.44 Given all this, the real Tom Burnett would have known that he would likely die, one way or another, in the next few minutes. Is it believable that, rather than taking this probably last opportunity to speak to his children, he would say that he would "talk to them later"? Is it not more likely that "Tom" made this statement to avoid revealing that he knew nothing about "the kids," perhaps not even their names?

Further evidence that the calls were faked is provided by timing problems in some of them. According to the 9/11 Commission, Flight 93 crashed at 10:03 as a result of the passenger revolt, which began at 9:57. However, according to Lyzbeth Glick’s account of the aforementioned cell phone call from her husband, Jeremy Glick, she told him about the collapse of the South Tower, and that did not occur until 9:59, two minutes after the alleged revolt had started. After that, she reported, their conversation continued for several more minutes before he told her that the passengers were taking a vote about whether to attack. According to Lyzbeth Glick’s account, therefore, the revolt was only beginning by 10:03, when the plane (according to the official account) was crashing.45

A timing problem also occurred in the aforementioned call from flight attendant Amy Sweeney. While she was describing the hijackers, according to the FBI’s account of her call, they stormed and took control of the cockpit.46 However, although the hijacking of Flight 11 "began at 8:14 or shortly thereafter," the 9/11 Commission said, Sweeney’s call did not go through until 8:25.47 Her alleged call, in other words, described the hijacking as beginning over 11 minutes after it, according to the official timeline, had been successfully carried out.

Multiple lines of evidence, therefore, imply that the cell phone calls were faked. This fact has vast implications, because it implies that all the reported calls from the planes, including those from onboard phones, were faked. Why? Because if the planes had really been taken over in surprise hijackings, no one would have been ready to make fake cell phone calls.

Moreover, the FBI, besides implying, most clearly in the case of Deena Burnett, that the phone calls reporting the hijackings had been faked, comes right out and says, in its report about calls from Flight 77, that no calls from Barbara Olson occurred. It does mention her. But besides attributing only one call to her, not two, the FBI report refers to it as an "unconnected call," which (of course) lasted "0 seconds."48 In 2006, in other words, the FBI, which is part of the Department of Justice, implied that the story told by the DOJ’s former solicitor general was untrue. Although not mentioned by the press, this was an astounding development.

This FBI report leaves only two possible explanations for Ted Olson’s story: Either he made it up or else he, like Deena Burnett and several others, was duped. In either case, the story about Barbara Olson’s calls, with their reports of hijackers taking over Flight 77, was based on deception.

The opening section of The 9/11 Commission Report is entitled "Inside the Four Flights." The information contained in this section is based almost entirely on the reported phone calls. But if the reported calls were faked, we have no idea what happened inside these planes. Insofar as the idea that the planes were taken over by hijackers who looked "Middle Eastern," even "Islamic," has been based on the reported calls, this idea is groundless.

4. Was the Presence of Hijackers Proved by a Radio Transmission "from American 11"?

It might be objected, in reply, that this is not true, because we know that American Flight 11, at least, was hijacked, thanks to a radio transmission in which the voice of one of its hijackers is heard. According to the 9/11 Commission, the air traffic controller for this flight heard a radio transmission at 8:25 AM in which someone---widely assumed to be Mohamed Atta---told the passengers: "We have some planes. Just stay quiet, and you’ll be okay. We are returning to the airport." After quoting this transmission, the Commission wrote: "The controller told us that he then knew it was a hijacking."49 Was this transmission not indeed proof that Flight 11 had been hijacked?

It might provide such proof if we knew that, as the Commission claimed, the "transmission came from American 11."50 But we do not. According to the FAA’s "Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events," published September 17, 2001, the transmission was "from an unknown origin."51 Bill Peacock, the FAA’s air traffic director, said: "We didn’t know where the transmission came from."52 The Commission’s claim that it came from American 11 was merely an inference. The transmission could have come from the same room from which the calls to Deena Burnett originated.

Therefore, the alleged radio transmission from Flight 11, like the alleged phone calls from the planes, provides no evidence that the planes were taken over by al-Qaeda hijackers.

5. Did Passports and a Headband Provide Evidence that al-Qaeda Operatives Were on the Flights?

However, the government’s case for al-Qaeda hijackers on also rested in part on claims that passports and a headband belonging to al-Qaeda operatives were found at the crash sites. But these claims are patently absurd.

A week after the attacks, the FBI reported that a search of the streets after the destruction of the World Trade Center had discovered the passport of one of the Flight 11 hijackers, Satam al-Suqami.53 But this claim did not pass the giggle test. "[T]he idea that [this] passport had escaped from that inferno unsinged," wrote one British reporter, "would [test] the credulity of the staunchest supporter of the FBI’s crackdown on terrorism."54

By 2004, when the 9/11 Commission was discussing the alleged discovery of this passport, the story had been modified to say that "a passer-by picked it up and gave it to a NYPD detective shortly before the World Trade Center towers collapsed."55 So, rather than needing to survive the collapse of the North Tower, the passport merely needed to escape from the plane’s cabin, avoid being destroyed or even singed by the instantaneous jet-fuel fire, and then escape from the building so that it could fall to the ground! Equally absurd is the claim that the passport of Ziad Jarrah, the alleged pilot of Flight 93, was found at this plane’s crash site in Pennsylvania.56 This passport was reportedly found on the ground even though there was virtually nothing at the site to indicate that an airliner had crashed there. The reason for this absence of wreckage, we were told, was that the plane had been headed downward at 580 miles per hour and, when it hit the spongy Pennsylvania soil, buried itself deep in the ground. New York Times journalist Jere Longman, surely repeating what he had been told by authorities, wrote: "The fuselage accordioned on itself more than thirty feet into the porous, backfilled ground. It was as if a marble had been dropped into water."57 So, we are to believe, just before the plane buried itself in the earth, Jarrah’s passport escaped from the cockpit and landed on the ground. Did Jarrah, going 580 miles per hour, have the window open?58 Also found on the ground, according to the government’s evidence presented to the Moussaoui trial, was a red headband.59 This was considered evidence that al-Qaeda hijackers were on Flight 93 because they were, according to some of the phone calls, wearing red headbands. But besides being absurd for the same reason as was the claim about Jarrah’s passport, this claim about the headband was problematic for another reason. Former CIA agent Milt Bearden, who helped train the Mujahideen fighters in Afghanistan, has pointed out that it would have been very unlikely that members of al-Qaeda would have worn such headbands:

[The red headband] is a uniquely Shi’a Muslim adornment. It is something that dates back to the formation of the Shi’a sect. . . . [I]t represents the preparation of he who wears this red headband to sacrifice his life, to murder himself for the cause. Sunnis are by and large most of the people following Osama bin Laden [and they] do not do this.60

We learned shortly after the invasion of Iraq that some people in the US government did not know the difference between Shi’a and Sunni Muslims. Did such people decide that the hijackers would be described as wearing red headbands?

6. Did the Information in Atta’s Luggage Prove the Responsibility of al-Qaeda Operatives?

I come now to the evidence that is said to provide the strongest proof that the planes had been hijacked by Mohamed Atta and other members of al-Qaeda. This evidence was reportedly found in two pieces of Atta’s luggage that were discovered inside the Boston airport after the attacks. The luggage was there, we were told, because although Atta was already in Boston on September 10, he and another al-Qaeda operative, Abdul al-Omari, rented a blue Nissan and drove up to Portland, Maine, and stayed overnight. They caught a commuter flight back to Boston early the next morning in time to get on American Flight 11, but Atta’s luggage did not make it.

This luggage, according to the FBI affidavit signed by James Lechner, contained much incriminating material, including a handheld flight computer, flight simulator manuals, two videotapes about Boeing aircraft, a slide-rule flight calculator, a copy of the Koran, and Atta’s last will and testament.61 This material was widely taken as proof that al-Qaeda and hence Osama bin Laden were behind the 9/11 attacks.

When closely examined, however, the Atta-to-Portland story loses all credibility.

One problem is the very idea that Atta would have planned to take all these things in baggage that was to be transferred to Flight 11. What good would a flight computer and other flying aids do inside a suitcase in the plane’s luggage compartment? Why would he have planned to take his will on a plane he planned to crash into the World Trade Center?

A second problem involves the question of why Atta’s luggage did not get transferred onto Flight 11. According to an Associated Press story that appeared four days after 9/11, Atta’s flight "arrived at Logan . . . just in time for him to connect with American Airlines flight 11 to Los Angeles, but too late for his luggage to be loaded."62 The 9/11 Commission had at one time evidently planned to endorse this claim.63 But when The 9/11 Commission Report appeared, it said: "Atta and Omari arrived in Boston at 6:45" and then "checked in and boarded American Airlines Flight 11," which was "scheduled to depart at 7:45."64 By thus admitting that there was almost a full hour for the luggage to be transferred to Flight 11, the Commission was left with no explanation as to why it was not.

Still another problem with the Atta-to-Portland story was the question why he would have taken this trip. If the commuter flight had been late, Atta, being the ringleader of the hijackers as well as the intended pilot for Flight 11, would have had to call off the whole operation, which he had reportedly been planning for two years. The 9/11 Commission, like the FBI before it, admitted that it had no answer to this question.65

The fourth and biggest problem with the story, however, is that it did not appear until September 16, five days after 9/11, following the collapse of an earlier story.

According to news reports immediately after 9/11, the incriminating materials, rather than being found in Atta’s luggage inside the airport, were found in a white Mitsubishi, which Atta had left in the Boston airport parking lot. Two hijackers did drive a blue Nissan to Portland and then take the commuter flight back to Boston the next morning, but their names were Adnan and Ameer Bukhari.66 This story fell apart on the afternoon of September 13, when it was discovered that the Bukharis, to whom authorities had reportedly been led by material in the Nissan at the Portland Jetport, had not died on 9/11: Adnan was still alive and Ameer had died the year before.67

The next day, September 14, an Associated Press story said that it was Atta and a companion who had driven the blue Nissan to Portland, stayed overnight, and then taken the commuter flight back to Boston. The incriminating materials, however, were still said to have been found in a car in the Boston airport, which was now said to have been rented by "additional suspects."68 Finally, on September 16, a Washington Post story, besides saying that the Nissan had been taken to Portland by Atta and al-Omari, specified that the incriminating material had been found in Atta’s luggage inside the Boston airport.69

Given this history of the Atta-to-Portland story, how can we avoid the conclusion that it was a fabrication?

7. Were al-Qaeda Operatives Captured on Airport Security Videos?

Still another type of evidence for the claim that al-Qaeda operatives were on the planes consisted of frames from videos, purportedly taken by airport security cameras, said to show hijackers checking into airports. Shortly after the attacks, for example, photos showing Atta and al-Omari at an airport "were flashed round the world."70 However, although it was widely assumed that these photos were from the airport at Boston, they were really from the airport at Portland. No photos showing Atta or any of the other alleged hijackers at Boston’s Logan Airport were ever produced. We at best have photographic evidence that Atta and al-Omari were at the Portland airport.

Moreover, in light of the fact that the story of Atta and al-Omari going to Portland was apparently a late invention, we might expect the photographic evidence that they were at the Portland Jetport on the morning of September 11 to be problematic. And indeed it is. It shows Atta and Omari without either jackets or ties on, whereas the Portland ticket agent said that they had been wearing jackets and ties.71 Also, a photo showing Atta and al-Omari passing through the security checkpoint is marked both 05:45 and 05:53.72

Another airport video was distributed on the day in 2004 that The 9/11 Commission Report was published. The Associated Press, using a frame from it as corroboration of the official story, provided this caption:

Hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar . . . passes through the security checkpoint at Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Va., Sept. 11 2001, just hours before American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon in this image from a surveillance video.73


Lawsuit to Ask That Cheney's Papers Be Made Public

Go to Original
By Christopher Lee

Months before the Bush administration ends, historians and open-government advocates are concerned that Vice President Cheney, who has long bristled at requirements to disclose his records, will destroy or withhold key documents that illustrate his role in forming U.S. policy for the past 7 1/2 years.

In a preemptive move, several of them have agreed to join the advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington in asking a federal judge to declare that Cheney's records are covered by the Presidential Records Act of 1978 and cannot be destroyed, taken or withheld without proper review.

The group expects to file the lawsuit today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. It will name Cheney, the executive offices of the president and vice president, and the National Archives and chief archivist Allen Weinstein as defendants.

The goal, proponents say, is to protect a treasure trove of information about national security, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, domestic wiretapping, energy policy, and other major issues that could be hidden from the public if Cheney adheres to his view that he is not part of the executive branch. Extending the argument, scholars say, Cheney could assert that he is not required to make his papers public after leaving office. Access to the documents is crucial because he is widely considered to be the most influential vice president in U.S. history, they note.

"I'm concerned that they may not be preserved. Whether they've been zapped already, we don't know," said Stanley I. Kutler, an emeritus professor and constitutional scholar at the University of Wisconsin Law School.

Former vice president Walter F. Mondale, whose papers are being declassified and shipped to the Minnesota Historical Society, said the fate of Cheney's records bears watching.

"I think you'd have to be very worried about it," said Mondale, who is not a party to the lawsuit. "Under Bush and Cheney, they've used every opportunity to assert executive privilege."

Cheney has not disclosed his plans for his papers, nor has he argued publicly that any are exempt from the 1978 law. Congress passed the law after the Watergate scandal to ensure that the country's highest elected officials preserve their papers for public review.

"The Office of the Vice President currently follows the Presidential Records Act and will continue to follow the requirements of the law, which includes turning over vice presidential records to the National Archives at the end of the term," Cheney spokesman Jamie Hennigan said in an e-mail.

Kutler and others, including the American Historical Association and the Society of American Archivists, are not reassured. Their lawsuit contends that President Bush sought to improperly narrow the scope of the records law in a 2001 executive order that declares, in part, that the statute "applies to the executive records of the Vice President."

Scholars say "executive records" is a term that is not found in the original act, and that seemingly opens the door to withholding some documents on the grounds that they are "non-executive" records -- legislative records, for instance. It raised red flags because Cheney has frequently argued that his office is not part of the executive branch but rather is "attached" to the legislative branch by virtue of the vice president's role as president of the Senate.

"I think this has been in the works since then, but nobody really focused on it," said Anne Weismann, chief counsel for the ethics group.

The group wants the Archives to abandon its interpretation that legislative records of vice presidents are personal property and not covered by the presidential records law.

Gary M. Stern, general counsel for the Archives, said he has shared the group's concerns with the White House.

"We have no reason to think that anything will happen differently with this vice president than has happened with any other," Stern said, "which is, the records that they create in their White House office and with their White House staff will come to us as vice presidential records under PRA."

Former vice president Al Gore's papers, for instance, are maintained at an Archives facility in Washington, he said.

Martin J. Sherwin, a history professor at George Mason University and a plaintiff in the case, said it will be impossible to measure Cheney's influence without access to the records.

"It horrifies me as a citizen to think our government can operate in total secrecy during the administration and then, after the administration, remain in secrecy," he said.

For years, Cheney has resisted revealing any aspect of the inner workings of his office; he has shielded information such as the names of industry executives who advised his energy task force, his travel costs and details, and Secret Service logs of visitors to his office and residence. Since 2003, his office has refused to comply with an executive order requiring entities in the executive branch to file annual reports on their possession of classified data, at one point blocking an inspection by officials from the Archives.

The Presidential Records Act, inspired by Nixon's attempt to withhold from Congress and perhaps destroy some of his records and tapes after Watergate, first applied to the Reagan administration. For the first time, it provided for the preservation of vice presidential records.

The law established a process for providing public access to presidential and vice presidential records through the Freedom of Information Act, beginning five years after an administration ends. Presidents and vice presidents can restrict access to certain records, notably those involving national security, for up to 12 years.

Archives officials say they have met with White House staff members to discuss the records transfer. The agency has leased a 60,000-square-foot building near Dallas to archive records temporarily until Bush's presidential library is completed at Southern Methodist University.

"There have been no red flags that have gone up for us about records-management procedures and getting ready to turn records over to us," said Susan Cooper, an Archives spokeswoman.

Joel K. Goldstein, a constitutional scholar and expert on the vice presidency at the St. Louis University School of Law, said Cheney faces a tough sell if he argues that many of his documents are not "executive records."

"When a vice president is sitting there in the West Wing and participating at the highest levels in the work of the executive branch, and when the main reason somebody like Vice President Cheney wants to be vice president is to help drive the car, it's a little bit anomalous to say you're not part of the executive branch," said Goldstein, who is not part of the lawsuit.