May 17, 2002


FORESEEABILITY, REVISITED: Okay, I had a long and (well, maybe) erudite post on all this, which Blogger promptly ate. But those who say that such an attack was unforeseeable need to reflect on the fact that it was already foreseen:

WASHINGTON (AP) - Exactly two years before the Sept. 11 attacks, a federal report warned the executive branch that Osama bin Laden's terrorists might hijack an airliner and dive bomb it into the Pentagon or other government building."Suicide bomber(s) belonging to al-Qaida's Martyrdom Battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives (C-4 and semtex) into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency or the White House," the September 1999 report said.

The report, entitled the "Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism: Who Becomes a Terrorist and Why?," described the suicide hijacking as one of several possible retribution attacks al-Qaida might seek for the 1998 U.S. airstrike against bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan.

The report noted that an al-Qaida-linked terrorist first arrested in the Philippines in 1995 and later convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing had suggested such a suicide jetliner mission.

Here's a link to the report, which even features a big picture of the World Trade Center.

Now I don't expect that Bush, or Rice, or Rumsfeld, or Ashcroft would have -- or should have -- read this report. But someone should have, and -- knowing that Al Qaeda had actually planned such an attack -- might have considered the possibility that a planned hijacking might be more than "traditional" in nature, so that once the word got out that Al Qaeda might be planning a wave of hijackings, this idea might have occurred to someone.

This isn't the complicity that Cynthia McKinney is bloviating about, but it is an example of a breakdown in thinking about these things. And it's why -- despite TAPPED's pro-Administration spin -- I do think that it's an insult to our intelligence for Administration officials to keep saying that the 9/11 attacks were simply unimaginable.

To some degree, as several correspondents have pointed out, this is beside the point. The way to respond to terrorism is to put an end to nations sponsoring or harboring terrorists. That's absolutely right, but it doesn't excuse silly attempts to avoid responsibility. (Thanks to reader Jim Loan for the link).

UPDATE: Reader Casey Abell thinks I'm too hard on Bush:

Love the blog. But didn't you notice the date on that report? Last time I checked, in 1999 the "executive branch" consisted of Bill Clinton and Al Gore and other people like that. Bush and Ashcroft and Rumsfeld and Rice weren't hanging out at the White House.

I realize that the AP is biased and doesn't want to mention Clinton in their story, though they criticize Bush by name. But there's no reason for you to follow their lousy example. Pile the abuse on both administrations.

Equal-opportunity abuse. It's a wonderful thing.

Well, yeah, and I think there's plenty of evidence that the Clinton Administration didn't take Al Qaeda seriously enough despite plenty of reason to do so. But I was just arguing that the Administration's claims that they couldn't have anticipated that sort of an attack -- or non-"traditional" hijackings in general -- don't hold water.