One of the first thoughts that surfaced in almost every American mind, as we sat in stunned silence in front of our TV sets on September 11 and watched the Twin Towers fall, was ?How could our intelligence agencies not have had any warning about this?? We later learned that the CIA and FBI spend a great deal of their time in jealous backbiting and that each agency tries to withhold information from the other.
Unknown Country recently reported that, according to the French newspaper Le Figaro, a CIA agent met with Osama bin Laden in the summer, when bin Laden was a patient at the American hospital in Dubai. Although this was before the recent terrorist attacks on the U.S., at that time bin Laden was still Number One on America?s Most Wanted list. We can only assume that permission to detain him didn?t filter up through the bureaucracy until he?d checked out and gone back to Afghanistan. The CIA denied that the meeting had taken place, but Le Figaro is one of the world’s most prestigious newspapers.
We?ve also learned that attorney David Schippers, former Chief Counsel to the House Judiciary Committee was recently a guest on a radio show where he said he had advance warning about the September 11 attacks and he tried to bring this to the attention of Attorney General John Ashcroft, but was prevented by an underling who didn?t seem interested.
According to Schippers, FBI agents told him that ?The targets were going to be Washington, the White House and the Capitol Building, and that they were going to use airliners to attack them.?
Schippers? response to this was ?First of all, I tried to see if I could get a Congressman to go to bat for me and at least bring these people [the FBI agents] out there and listen to them. I sent them information and nobody cared. It was always, ?We?ll get back to you??Then I reached out and tried to get to the Attorney General, when finally we got an attorney general in there that I would be willing to talk to. And, again, I used people who were personal friends of John Ashcroft to try to get him. One of them called me back and said, ?Alright I have talked to him. He will call you tomorrow morning.? This was like a month before the bombing. The next morning I got a call. It wasn?t from Ashcroft. It was from somebody in the Justice Dept?I started telling him the situation and he said, ?You know we don?t start our investigations at the top? Let me look into this and I will get back to you.? As I sit here today, I have never heard from him.?
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Now the Washington Post reports that the CIA not only feuds with the FBI, there has also been constant friction between the military and the CIA over the war. Senior Air Force officials say that as many as 10 times over the last six weeks, the Air Force believed it had located top Taliban and al Qaeda members but was unable to receive clearance from the CIA to fire in time to hit them.
The problems were caused by delays due to a cumbersome approval process. ?We knew we had some of the big boys,? according to one Air Force officer. ?The process is so slow that by the time we got the clearances, and everybody had put in their 2 cents, we called it off.?
The Air Force officers say the CIA requires that almost every significant target involving the al Qaeda and Taliban leadership be approved by their officials or by more senior officials in Washington. At one point in October, a Taliban military convoy was moving north to reinforce positions facing the front lines of the Northern Alliance. Air Force targeters thought it was a prime target that would easy to hit. But they couldn?t get approval to fire.
The CIA has waged its own ground war in Afghanistan. Air Force officers monitoring Kabul and other sites in Afghanistan have been occasionally surprised to see an explosion, only to learn later that the CIA was firing a missile. ?Something would happen, and we would say, ?What was that??? an officer says.
The Air Force claims the CIA actions have prolonged the war. U.S. Special Forces troops are now being forced to go into Afghanistan on the ground to pursue members of the al Qaeda terrorist network and Taliban leaders who could have been killed from the air earlier in the campaign.
A senior defense official has responded by saying the Air Force officers have failed to recognize the political context of the war which meant we have to exercise extreme care to avoid civilian casualties. They need to realize that ?there?s a delicate strategic balance. For the United States to maintain the coalition and to not have international opinion turn against it, there probably had to be a concern? to minimize civilian casualties more than is usually done in warfare. ?For people to say we missed opportunities, that to me oversimplifies the situation.?
The Air Force describes it this way: ?Imagine you have a target in sight, you have to wake up people in the middle of the night, and they say, ?Uhhhhh.? It?s a scandal.?
Unknowncountry.com opinion: The CIA should not be entangled into the military chain of command. It is clearly harming our war effort. Targeting decisions should be military decisions, answerable to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Commander in Chief, not to civilian elements under the control of the State Department.
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