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Five Years Later
Change Was Gonna Come

Almost all our assumptions about how 9/11
would alter our lives forever turned out to be wrong 

VICKI HADDOCK / San Francisco Chronicle 10sep2006

[A must-read: David Ray Griffin speaking on the collapse of the World Trade]


Top: Onlookers flee the area of Park Row when the World Trade Center’s south tower collapses. Associated Press file photo, 2001, by Amy Sancetta
Bottom: The area is back to normal, but the skyline is forever changed. Associated Press photo by Amy Sancetta

Five autumns ago, the future was suddenly infused with fright. New York City lay freshly disemboweled, the Pentagon ripped open, nearly 3,000 innocents dead. And the soul of America shuddered, but it was also stirred.

What lay ahead, we anxiously asked. As we grasped for answers, a sort of conventional wisdom began to gel. We started to formulate policies, revise routines and recalibrate our lives based on a set of assumptions about the years to come.

[Podcast: 9/11 five years later — Has much changed?]

Almost all of those assumptions turned out to be wrong.

In the shell-shocked autumn of 2001, we were certain that the next major terrorist attack on U.S. soil was just around the corner, and likely to be followed by another and another. That Osama bin Laden could run but he couldn't hide. It was a new era of bipartisanship! Irony was dead! Cocooning was in! The world was on our side.

We anticipated thousands of ripples: skyscrapers passe, volunteerism renewed, patriotism soaring on eagles' wings.

And we believed it when we said: "This changes everything." Ah but ... .

On last year's anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, 4 out of 10 Americans said that their lives had indeed changed in that moment, and that things for them hadn't and wouldn't return to normal, according to a CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll. But some analysts suspect that people still tend to exaggerate the personal residual effects of the catastrophe. If you didn't lose a loved one, if you don't live in Manhattan, if you're not Muslim, if you're not in the military, it's quite possible that Sept. 11 really didn't change your life much.

You might roll out of bed a bit warier each morning and check the news first thing, you might allow extra time at the airport, your backpack might be searched at a ballgame — but none of that fulfills the earth-shattering pronouncements that it was the end of life as we knew it.

In some ways, the reverberations have been profound. Had there not been a 9/11, one could argue, there would have been no Iraq war, no Bush re-election and no cementing of a conservative Supreme Court.

Most of the forecast changes, however, simply have not happened — not yet anyway. Some are occurring, but only incrementally. Other transformations, predicted to be long-term, dissipated after a few weeks as American society, like spandex, snapped back to its previous shape.

Assumption 1: More cataclysmic attacks were imminent.

A month after the Sept. 11 attacks, a Gallup Poll showed 85 percent of Americans expected another strike in the United States "over the next several weeks."

Uneasiness permeated the air, stoked by scary media stories about "global jihad" — scenarios about a suitcase-toting terrorist detonating a dirty bomb in New York City, or infecting himself with smallpox and passing the deadly contagion crowds at Disneyland.

As if to amp up the paranoia, letters arrived at media outlets and on Capitol Hill containing anthrax, infecting 22 people, killing five, and depleting supplies of the antibiotic Cipro. The cover of the New York Post depicted Abraham Lincoln in his memorial, wearing a gas mask. Sally Quinn of the Washington Post wrote that she was buying one, too.

While the panic on the East Coast was nowhere near as palpable on the West Coast, some Bay Area customers did purchase gas masks from Fry's Electronics, and the International Spy Shop in San Francisco sold suits to withstand a nuclear or chemical attack.

In the intervening years, we've witnessed a rise in terrorist attacks elsewhere around the globe. At least two planned attacks on U.S.-bound aircraft were reportedly thwarted — the first by fellow passengers of would-be shoe-bomber Richard Reid, and the latest by British investigators who unraveled an alleged plot to blow up as many as 10 planes.

But, hallelujah, a second wave hasn't hit U.S. soil.

Assumption 2: We would heed the wake-up call of Sept. 11 and make unprecedented strides to secure our safety against terrorists.

It would be wrong not to give the United States some credit for successfully evading further attacks to date. A Congressional Budget Office analysis noted the federal government would spend nearly $50 billion on homeland security last year, almost triple the amount spent prior to the 2001 attacks. The Bush administration consolidated several agencies into a new Department of Homeland Security. Airport security has been strengthened, cockpit doors bolted, and air marshals patrol the skies.

Sufficient smallpox vaccine has been produced, emergency-response systems revised, bureaucratic barriers between intelligence agencies dismantled.

"This country is safer than it was prior to 9/11. We've taken a lot of measures to protect the American people," President Bush declared last month, before adding, "Obviously we still aren't completely safe."

Indeed: Last month's terrorist scare revealed that the government still has no method in place to detect liquid explosives. Only a tiny fraction of shipping containers are screened after arriving in the nation's ports, and chemical plants remain alarmingly unprotected. The 9/11 Commission that indicted the government for a "failure of imagination" produced 41 recommendations that remain largely unfulfilled.

But to many Americans, the most startling revelation of our woeful inadequacy to respond to a large terrorist assault came last summer, when Hurricane Katrina walloped the Gulf Coast and turned New Orleans into a living hell.

Assumption 3: Osama bin Laden was a dead man walking.

In the shadow of Sept. 11, the president uncorked Wild West rhetoric directed at the mastermind of al Qaeda: He was wanted "dead or alive," we would smoke him out of his cave, he could run but he couldn't hide. A Gallup Poll showed 78 percent of Americans believed then that U.S. forces were likely capture or kill bin Laden.

But five years later, he continues to surface in periodic audiotapes and videos taunting the United States, and he is hiding rather effectively, perhaps in Pakistan near the Afghan border.

Although U.S. forces have obliterated many al Qaeda training camps, polls show less than half of Americans expect that bin Laden himself will ever pay for Sept. 11. We've had to settle for justice, American-style: An episode of the raunchy cartoon "South Park" in which its main characters kill bin Laden earned a 2002 Emmy nomination for Outstanding Animated Program. Does that count?

Assumption 4: We were no longer Democrats and Republicans: we would all be Americans.

Partisan politicians who had exchanged mostly cursory words in conflict suddenly found themselves on Sept. 11, 2001, sharing the same bunker and confronting the same horror. When they emerged together on the Capitol steps, they linked arms and sang "God Bless America."

Within a week, Congress jointly authorized $40 billion in emergency spending and gave Bush the authority to respond with force. The Senate's two leaders, Democrat Tom Daschle and Republican Trent Lott, made an unprecedented joint statement. "The president asked for our unity," Daschle said. "We want President Bush to know — we want the world to know — that he can depend on us." Lott added: "Tonight there is no opposition party."

But the partisan cracks soon resurfaced on questions like whether a huge tax cut to stimulate the economy should favor the wealthy. And while the Democrats were calculating that backing Bush would make them popular, his guru Karl Rove was devising ways to turn terrorism into a political weapon to woo "soccer moms" now reborn as "security moms."

By the 2002 midterms, the GOP defeated Democrat Max Cleland of Georgia — a wounded war hero — by deploying ads picturing him with bin Laden. By 2004, Daschle, too, was voted out. Bush won re-election in a climate of political polarization.

With the 2006 midterm elections approaching, a memo to GOP candidates reportedly advised, "In the days to come, you should move to question your opponent's commitment to the defeat of terror." The Web site of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee features a video depicting bin Laden while emphasizing an increase in terrorism, concluding, "Feel safer? Vote for change."

Feel bipartisan? Not anymore.

Assumption 5: Irony, cynicism, schlock and frivolity were "so Sept. 10."

In the initial spasms of grief, we did sometimes feel as if we would never again laugh — recalling Theodor Adorno's post-Holocaust reflection that "To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric."

Nervous movie studios pushed back release dates, canceled some scripts and heard that it might be a decade before a disaster film could show a building imploding. Media company Clear Channel circulated a list of songs it suggested not be played, including "Bennie and the Jets," "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," "Dust in the Wind" and any song by Rage Against the Machine.

"I think that literally overnight the personalities of people have been significantly changed," Scott Mahalick, a radio programming vice president for Citadel Communications, told the Los Angeles Times. "It's hard to imagine ever again being guiltlessly wowed by Hollywood pyrotechnics," wrote Chicago Tribune movie reporter Mark Caro. "It's the end of the age of irony. Things that were considered fringe and frivolous are going to disappear," declared Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter.

For a couple of weeks, the satirical paper the Onion, David Letterman, "Saturday Night Live" and "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" went dark. When they returned, it was timidly. The Onion's big scoop was that hugging in America was up 76,000 percent. Letterman's first top 10 list was "things that rhyme with hat." And Stewart dispensed with mocking Bush's intellect, telling his audience, " 'Subliminable' is not a punch line anymore. One day it will become that again, Lord willing ... because it will mean that we have ridden out the storm."

American life is, as philosopher George Santayana characterized it, a powerful solvent: "It seems to neutralize every intellectual element, however tough and alien it may be, and to fuse it in native good will, complacency, thoughtlessness, and optimism."

So reports about the death of frivolity and irony were premature. Within months, NBC was airing a special edition of "Fear Factor" featuring Playboy centerfolds, "Who Wants to be Millionaire" cloned itself all over prime time, and Paris Hilton was a household name. The cultural zeitgeist has elevated phony newsmen whose entire modus operandi is irony: Stephen Colbert's "Colbert Report" on Comedy Central defending Bush against "the war-on-terror factinistas."

Nor have movies, TV and video games avoided destruction out of respect for Sept. 11. The miniseries "10.2" demolished not one city but three; "The Day After Tomorrow" depicted a trifecta of disasters: an earthquake, a tidal wave and a blizzard.

Two weeks after the film "World Trade Center" opened, it was beaten at the box office by "Snakes on a Plane" and "Talladega Nights."

Assumptions 6, 7, 8, 9and 10: Otherwise known as life goes on...

Americans were touched by the outpouring of worldwide empathy after Sept. 11, but it didn't last. The Bush administration's air of international arrogance, and in particular its invasion of Iraq in 2003, aroused bitter resentment. From continent to continent, the latest research by the Pew Global Attitudes Project finds the U.S. reputation abroad at a low point.

A momentary aversion to high-rise buildings didn't last — the architectural race to scrape the sky proceeds. Nor could we stay in our cocoons very long. Even the airline industry rebounded.

While attendance spiked at churches, synagogues and mosques immediately after Sept. 11 and the percentage of Americans who thought religion was "gaining influence" nearly doubled to 70 percent, the effect faded fast. Charitable donations plummeted to pre-Sept. 11 levels. Polls show the uptick in patriotism was slight.

"If you were a social scientist from Mars and were given a whole bunch of social indicators with which to assess recent history ... there's really nothing that would make a social scientist say, 'Oh wow, something changed forever after Sept. 11 of 2001,' " said Claude Fischer, professor of sociology at UC Berkeley.

Perhaps there's nothing remarkable about the fact that we mourned, we healed, we began to rebuild and we ended up not far from where we began. Perhaps it's our notoriously short attention span. Perhaps it's essential for our survival.

At a 2001 requiem in San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, the Rev. Alan Jones quoted a line from Samuel Beckett that proved to be the most accurate forecast of the next five years:

"I can't go on. I'll go on."

source: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/09/10/ING1RKFAAJ107.DTL 10sep2006


Bush Continues to Wield Power 

BOB EGELKO / San Francisco Chronicle 10sep2006


President Bush declares the end of major combat in Iraq on May 1, 2003, with a thumbs up from the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln moored off the California coast. Associated Press file photo by J. Scott Applewhite

President Bush declares the end of major combat in Iraq on May 1, 2003, with a thumbs up from the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln moored off the California coast. Associated Press file photo by J. Scott Applewhite

The story of U.S. law since Sept. 11, 2001, is a story about power — who wields it, who contests it and who has the last word.

There are subplots — debates about secrecy, the treatment of noncitizens and the shifting balance between liberty and security. But the predominant force shaping the law in the past five years has been President Bush's assertion of supreme legal as well as political authority as commander-in-chief in the war on terror.

Bush has ordered the National Security Agency to intercept phone calls between Americans and suspected foreign terrorists without the court warrants required by Congress in 1978. He has ordered foreigners and at least two U.S. citizens detained as "enemy combatants'' and argued that courts have no power to review their imprisonment or interrogation.

He has dramatically increased the use of the state-secrets defense against lawsuits challenging his actions, arguing that some government operations, including National Security Agency surveillance, are too sensitive to be judged in court. And in presidential signing statements he has claimed the power to reinterpret or disregard hundreds of laws passed by Congress, frequently saying they would interfere with his constitutional authority over foreign policy.

UC Berkeley law Professor John Yoo, who as a Justice Department lawyer was one of the Bush administration's chief legal theorists, summarized its view in his forthcoming book, "War by Other Means":

"We are used to a peacetime system in which Congress enacts the laws, the president enforces them, and the courts interpret them. In wartime, the gravity shifts to the executive branch.''

Congress has largely gone along, occasionally grumbling about presidential intrusions on its turf but offering little opposition. The most notable exception — an amendment in December prohibiting the cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of foreign captives — was met with a signing statement by Bush saying he would ignore the ban when necessary to combat terrorism.

The real resistance has come in a handful of rulings from the nation's courts, including the Supreme Court. The high court has a 7-2 majority of Bush's fellow Republicans, but remains protective of its role as the final arbiter of the law.

When the court ruled in 2004 that prisoners held as enemy combatants had the right to challenge their confinement in a U.S. court, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor observed that "a state of war is not a blank check for the president.''

In a more far-reaching ruling in June, the court struck down Bush's military tribunals for captives at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, saying the president — despite his claim of overriding constitutional authority — was bound by U.S. laws governing military trials and by the human-rights guarantees of the Geneva Conventions.

Lower courts have also delivered some rebuffs. In July, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker of San Francisco rejected the administration's argument that a privacy-rights suit against AT&T, for allegedly enabling government interception of customers' telephone and e-mail messages, would endanger national security if allowed to proceed. Dismissing the suit at the outset "would sacrifice liberty for no apparent enhancement of security,'' Walker said.

U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor of Detroit echoed Walker's dismissal of the state-secrets defense in her Aug. 17 ruling that found the National Security Agency surveillance program in violation of Congress' 1978 warrant requirement, as well as constitutional guarantees of free speech and privacy. She threw in a lecture for Bush: "There are no hereditary kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution.''

Even some critics of the administration say they've been surprised by the rulings.

"As a historical matter, courts typically defer to the president in times of crisis,'' said David Cole, a Georgetown University law professor. Judges are reacting, he said, to Bush's assertion that "in effect, he is above the law.''

"Even conservative judges are offended by the president claiming a very un-American power to act outside of the restraints of the other two branches,'' said Glenn Greenwald, an attorney and author of "How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values From a President Run Amok.''

Yoo, the former Justice Department lawyer, said he was both surprised and appalled by the Supreme Court's conclusion that suspected terrorists must be tried under the rules of the Geneva Conventions.

The ruling "threatens judicial micromanagement not just of the trial of enemy combatants, but of the way the United States detains, interrogates and even targets them for attack,'' Yoo said in his book, due to be published next month. "This is something entirely new in American history.''

Pepperdine University law Professor Douglas Kmiec, a former Justice Department official under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, said judges are stepping outside their normal roles — and probably outside their areas of expertise — for understandable reasons.

The judges seem "fearful that the rule of law has been subverted, either by Congress' neglect or the president's aggressiveness, and feel duty-bound'' to administer "civics lessons'' to elected officials, said Kmiec, who called such sermons heartfelt but misplaced.

Despite the court setbacks, Bush has achieved post-Sept. 11 changes in the law that have enhanced the powers of both the government and the presidency.

Most notably, there was the USA Patriot Act, which sailed through Congress six weeks after the terrorist attacks. A 342-page collection of dozens of measures — assembled, as Yoo described it, from a Justice Department "wish list'' — the act expanded federal agents' authority to seize business and financial records, conduct electronic surveillance, share intelligence information with prosecutors, and jail and deport noncitizens or bar them from entering the country.

To exercise those powers, authorities would generally have to show that the suspect had some connection to terrorism, a terrorist group or a terrorist investigation. For foreigners seeking to enter the United States, the government would have to show they advocated terrorist causes.

Many of the changes were modest, but their combined weight aroused concern among some small-government conservatives, who joined civil-liberties groups in sounding alarms about secret searches of ordinary Americans' homes, library records and bank accounts.

Bush won congressional renewal of portions of the law that were about to expire this year, and says the Patriot Act has been crucial in thwarting terrorist plots. The claim is difficult to evaluate because of the secrecy in which much of the law is carried out.

Search warrants are issued by a court that meets in secret, librarians and business owners are barred from revealing that their records have been seized, and the government has released little information on its implementation of the law, even to Congress. When lawmakers attached an amendment this year ordering reports to Congress on certain types of searches, Bush issued a signing statement effectively nullifying the requirement.

The new laws "may have made us hugely safer or they may have had no effect at all. There's no way of knowing,'' said Stanford University law Professor Pamela Karlan.

Secrecy has spread to other areas of the law.

The administration, citing security concerns, has sought to introduce secret evidence at military tribunals for terrorist suspects, has withheld names of hundreds of noncitizens rounded up after Sept. 11 and closed the doors on their deportation hearings, has held dozens of people without charges as material witnesses, and has reclassified thousands of documents previously made public.

"We've had a reduction in the ability of the citizenry to monitor the government, along with a dramatic increase in the government's ability to monitor the citizens,'' said Gene Healy, a lawyer and editor with the libertarian Cato Institute.

Nonetheless, said Pepperdine's Kmiec, most Americans seem to agree with the Bush administration that their basic rights — speech, religion, due process of law — have been preserved and that the government has struck the proper balance between individual freedom and national safety.

Kmiec said he generally agrees with those conclusions, with one exception: the government's restrictions on the civil liberties of noncitizens.

Under post-Sept. 11 laws and regulations, foreigners, particularly from the Middle East, are subject to new reporting requirements, can be held for extended periods and deported for technical violations, can be denied entry for the views they advocate, and — according to the administration — can be held prisoner indefinitely in U.S. enclaves on foreign soil when suspected of terrorism.

Georgetown's Cole, who has represented noncitizens in court cases and written a book, "Enemy Aliens,'' about their treatment, said the government has chosen the path of least resistance.

"You can say to citizens, 'We're not going to take away your liberty,' " he said. " 'We're going to take away someone else's liberty for your security.' ''

source: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/09/10/INGKSKV5TR1.DTL 10sep2006


Terrorism Timeline

8:46 a.m. — American Airlines Flight 11 with 92 people aboard crashes into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.

9:03 a.m. — United Air Lines Flight 175, with 65 people aboard, crashes into the south tower. Authorities would eventually report that more than 2,700 people, from 90 countries, died as a result of the two crashes.

9:30 a.m. — President Bush issues statement from Sarasota, Fla., saying there has been "an apparent terrorist attack" on the United States.

9:37 a.m. — American Airlines Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon, killing the 64 people on board and 125 people in the nation's military headquarters. The Capitol and White House are evacuated.

9:59 a.m. — South tower of World Trade Center collapses into the streets, sending hundreds of onlookers running for their lives.

10:03 a.m. — United Airlines Flight 93 crashes into a Pennsylvania field, killing all 44 on board after passengers struggled with hijackers believed to be intent on crashing the aircraft into the Capitol or the White House. All commercial aircraft are grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration.

10:28 a.m. — The World Trade Center's north tower collapses, releasing a massive cloud of debris and smoke.

4 p.m. — Government sources begin to link the attacks to Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network of terrorists.

8:30 p.m. — Bush, back in the White House, addresses the nation, saying, "Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America."

Sept. 12, 2001 — In a spontaneous show of unity and patriotism, the American flag is visible everywhere the day after the attacks, hung on front porches, flying from automobile antennas, draped from overpasses, pasted to bumper stickers, worn on clothing and backpacks.

Sept. 13, 2001 — Commercial air travel resumes with new security regulations and procedures. Secretary of State Colin Powell says bin Laden is the "prime suspect" in the terrorist attacks.

Sept. 14, 2001 — The Justice Department releases the names of the 19 hijackers who commandeered the planes and crashed them.

Sept. 16, 2001 — Bush promises crusade to "rid the world of evildoers."

Sept. 17, 2001 — Stock market reopens for first day since attacks, and the Dow Jones industrial average plunges 684.81, or 7.1 percent. After six days of cancellations, the Major League Baseball season resumes, with the song "God Bless America" replacing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch.

Sept. 18, 2001 — United Nations Security Council calls on the Taliban leaders in Afghanistan to turn over bin Laden, who has been operating from within that country. They refuse.

Sept. 20, 2001 — Bush creates the Office of Homeland Security and appoints Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge as its head.

Oct. 5, 2001 — Photo editor for the National Enquirer newspaper dies of anthrax poisoning in Boca Raton, Fla. A co-worker is ill with the disease, and the newspaper office is closed when anthrax is found in the building.

Oct. 12, 2001 — Anthrax mailed to NBC anchor Tom Brokaw infects an employee at the network's New York office, it is announced. Anthrax in an ABC office in New York infects an employee's 7-month-old son, who visited the building in late September.

Oct. 15, 2001 — Anthrax contained in an envelope mailed to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle infects 31 staffers in that office. Other anthrax infections are found in postal workers and a CBS news staffer. Two Washington postal workers die.

Oct. 24, 2001 — U.S. Postmaster General John Potter tells Americans, "There are no guarantees that mail is safe." He warns people to wash their hands after handling mail.

Oct. 7, 2001 — The United States launches attack on al Qaeda camps and Taliban installations in Afghanistan.

Dec. 1, 2001 — John Walker Lindh, a 20-year-old Marin County resident, is arrested in Afghanistan after having served with Taliban forces.

Dec. 22, 2001 — Richard Reid, a passenger on a Paris-to-Miami flight, tries to light explosives in his shoes but is subdued by flight attendants and passengers.

March 13, 2002 — Ridge announces a color-coded warning system that will alert Americans to terror danger levels. Red will be the most severe, followed by orange, yellow, blue and green.

March 15. 2002 — Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta says the motto of airport screeners for the new Transportation Security Administration is "no weapons, no waiting."

July 15, 2002 — Lindh pleads guilty in federal court to having aided the Taliban and is sentenced to 20 years in prison.

March 1, 2003 — The suspected mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — Khalid Shaikh Mohammed — is arrested in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, near the capital, Islamabad.

March 16, 2003 — Bush declares, "The dictator of Iraq and his weapons of mass destruction are a threat to the security of free nations.''

March 20, 2003 — The United States, acting without the approval it sought from the United Nations, attacks Iraq. Bush says the destruction of the regime of President Saddam Hussein is "a vital part" of the war on terrorism.

April 9, 2003 — The fall of Baghdad. U.S. Marines enter city and tear down statue of Hussein.

May 1, 2003 — Clad in flight suit and helmet, Bush lands on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln and declares "the tyrant has fallen and Iraq is free." It is, he says, "one victory in a war on terror that began on Sept. 11, 2001 and still goes on." A banner on the carrier declares, "Mission accomplished."

Dec. 13, 2003 — Hussein is captured by U.S. soldiers, having been found hiding in a hole in the ground at a farmhouse near the city of Tikrit.

March 11, 2004 — Al Qaeda-linked terrorists explode 10 bombs that rip through commuter trains at three Madrid stations, killing nearly 200 people and wounding 1,400.

March 24, 2004 — In a joking reference to the fact that U.S. forces had found no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Bush shows the audience at the Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner a slide photo of himself searching the oval office on hands and knees and says, "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere."

April 8, 2004 — Then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice acknowledges to the 9/11 commission that Bush received a briefing a little more than a month before Sept. 11 that was titled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States," but she says "no silver bullet" could have staved off the attacks.

June 25, 2004 — Michael Moore's documentary film "Fahrenheit 9/11" opens in crowded theaters. The film criticizes Bush's response to the Sept. 11 attacks and features a segment in which the president is notified of the terrorism during a classroom visit in Florida, and then spends seven minutes reading to the children from a book titled "The Pet Goat" before leaving to attend to the crisis.

July 22, 2004 — The 9/11 commission headed by former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean and Indiana Rep. Lee Hamilton issues its 567-page report, which becomes a best-seller in paperback. It concludes the government was unprepared for the attack and recommends sweeping changes, none of which are implemented before the November election.

Nov. 2, 2004 — Bush is re-elected after a campaign focused on his leadership in preventing another terrorist attack.

July 7, 2005 — Bombs planted on a bus and the subway in London kill 52 people. British-born Pakistanis are arrested and charged.

Oct. 1, 2005 — The government begins the 2006 fiscal year, in which $49.9 billion is budgeted for homeland security.

Dec. 14, 2005 — 9/11 Commission Vice Chairman Hamilton says, "We believe that another attack will occur. It's not a question of if. We are not as well-prepared as we should be."

Jan. 19, 2006 — Bin Laden warns Americans via an audiotape that al Qaeda is planning more attacks on the United States. There have been more than 15 audio and video messages from him since the Sept. 11 attacks.

February 2006 — Columbus, Ohio, police dogs wearing Kevlar vests are cited as one example of money wasted by homeland security. A $100,000 grant to a child pornography tip line is another.

March 8, 2006 — Congress renews most of the provisions of the Patriot Act, which the Bush administration says is necessary for keeping America safe from terrorists, but which civil libertarians decry as intrusive and unnecessary.

March 20, 2006 — After three years, the war in Iraq continues. It has claimed the lives of more than 2,300 U.S. troops, and 33,000 to 37,000 Iraqis. Bush says the struggle is an essential part of the war on terror.

June 29, 2006 — Bin Laden lauds slain Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al Qaeda military commander in Iraq, as a "brave knight" and a "lion of jihad."

June 29, 2006 — U.S. Supreme Court rules that the power of the president to set the trial rules for prisoners held as terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is limited. Trials, the court says, are subject to the Geneva Conventions and regulation by Congress.

Aug. 10, 2006 — British intelligence officials say they have disrupted a plot by British-born young men of Pakistani descent to explode bombs on as many as 10 London-U.S. jetliners during midflight. Immediately, liquids are banned from carry-on luggage on flights to and from the United States and the United Kingdom.

source: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/09/10/INGEQKS38N1.DTL&type=printable 10sep2006

Political Capital Shrinks 

MARC SANDALOW / San Francisco Chronicle 10sep2006


Washington — Five years after the Sept. 11 attacks solidified Republicans as the nation's majority party, the politics of fear is losing its punch.

Although terrorism thrusts itself into nearly every campaign for federal office, there are signs that the issue is losing its power to move voters as it has in the two national elections since 2001.

Last month's frenzy over the foiled plot to blow up U.S.- bound airplanes illustrates how blase Americans have become about political posturing over terror.

The alleged plot from London and new restrictions for carry-on luggage consumed the news media and provoked antagonistic barbs from both political parties. But it was only days before the front-page news was overtaken by the latest on JonBenet Ramsey's unsolved murder, leaving no sign of a perceptible change in either party's standing.

"It hardly created a ripple," said Charlie Cook, a political analyst who publishes a nonpartisan election newsletter.

When the Pew Foundation asked 1,506 adults in August which single issue they would most want to hear a candidate talk about, only 1 in 50 responded "terror."

Analysts attribute the terror issue's diminished intensity to several factors, including President Bush's struggles in Iraq and with Hurricane Katrina, which have shattered his popularity and raised doubts about his ability to lead the fight on terrorism. Emboldened Democrats believe they have neutralized the GOP's advantage on the issue by overcoming their post-Sept 11 hesitation and aggressively challenging Bush on national security.

And perhaps most important, as the immediacy of the attacks fades, Americans are less scared than they used to be.

Even as both parties sound alarm, 1,800 days and two federal elections after one of the most terrifying days in the nation's history, many voters have come to accept fear-laced campaign rhetoric as routine.

"They've seen this movie before, and more of them know they are getting their chain yanked," said Garry South, a Democratic consultant in California, who pointed to the White House as the worst offender.

"If Karl Rove believes all he has to do is dust off the old game plan and accuse Democrats of being soft on terror, of coddling terrorists, I don't think that's going to work this year," South said.

Yet both parties appear intent on using terrorism as an election issue.

Rove, the president's chief political aide, made that much plain in a speech to the Republican National Committee early this year when he declared that "Republicans have a post-9/11 worldview — and many Democrats have a pre-9/11 worldview."

"That doesn't make them unpatriotic, not at all. But it does make them wrong — deeply and profoundly and consistently wrong," Rove said.

More recently, GOP Chairman Ken Mehlman branded the Democrats as the party of "retreat and defeat — even as our nation faces an ideological enemy as dangerous as any we faced in the 20th century." Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, was quoted by the Tooele Transcript Bulletin newspaper as saying Middle East terrorists are "waiting for the Democrats here to take control, let things cool off and then strike again."

And on the day London authorities arrested men suspected of plotting to blow up U.S.-bound airplanes, the GOP distributed a fundraising appeal from former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani that declared: "In the middle of a war on terror, we need to remain focused on furthering Republican ideas more than ever before."

But the tactics that helped Bush win re-election and the party expand its majorities in Congress do not appear to be having the same effect in 2006.

Democrats, emboldened by public disapproval of the GOP, have lashed into Bush in a way they steadfastly refused to do for years after the Sept. 11 attacks, and polls show little advantage to either party.

The day after the London arrests, Sen John Kerry, D-Mass., called it a "stark reminder of ... the failure of leadership" in the White House, a charge echoed by at least a dozen other party leaders.

"We're not going to let their charges go unanswered," House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said in an interview, insisting that Democratic candidates around the country will aggressively challenge the GOP's national security record.

"I don't know how long our country can afford George Bush when it comes to national security," Pelosi said. "What you'll see is no hesitation on anyone's part to take them on."

Democrats are disputing Bush's description of Iraq as central to the "war on terror,'' instead labeling the $300 billion conflict a wasteful diversion.

"For the cost of two days in Iraq we could screen 100 percent of all air cargo on passenger planes," Pennsylvania Democratic congressional candidate Joe Sestak said during the party's weekly radio address in mid-August. "With what we spend in five days in Iraq, we could ensure that all of the cargo entering our ports is screened for dangerous radioactive weapons. The status quo is unacceptable."

Some Democrats used the politics of fear themselves when they blasted the White House this winter for agreeing to allow a firm headquartered in Dubai to manage several East Coast ports.

"The Dubai port scandal opened a lot of people's eyes. It was the national security equivalent of Katrina," said Phil Singer, a strategist for the Senate Democratic campaign committee.

Polls suggest the Republicans' long-held advantage on national security has steadily eroded from as much as a 25 percentage point edge two years ago to a near dead heat. As a measure of Bush's low standing on foreign policy, the National Journal magazine recently asked 74 Republican insiders, including former top party officials and consultants, whom they most trust on foreign policy. Bush received just 11 percent of the votes, half as many as Arizona Sen. John McCain.

The low standing means that reminders of potential threats — such as the airplane bombing scare in August — do not automatically help GOP candidates.

"When the president had enormous credibility on national security, anytime the spotlight shifted to (terror) it worked to his benefit and the benefit of Republican candidates," Cook said. "But after Hurricane Katrina, deficits, the war in Iraq and other issues hurt his broader perception, security is no longer a strong suit. Fighting terror really is no longer a Republican asset."

Some in the GOP say Democrats are taking a big risk by pushing security.

"Democrats have a terrible weakness in that they do not seem up to the challenges of national security that dates back to Lyndon Johnson," said Cliff May, president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a conservative think tank. People may be less scared than they were immediately after Sept. 11, May said, "but if so, it's illusion and denial."

Bush's recent series of speeches and the five-year remembrances of Sept. 11 may stir emotions. Yet the evolution of the fight against terrorism from crisis into just one of many issues in the larger political mix is a sign that many Americans have moved on.

source: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/09/10/INGEQKS38N1.DTL&type=printable 10sep2006

World View of Attacks Varied

San Francisco Chronicle 10sep2006


The events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the five years that followed have shaped and altered the way the world looks at the United States. The prevailing theme: mistrust and aversion toward the world's only superpower. Here, three correspondents around the world describe how the perception of the United States has changed — and what the consequences might be.

In the Far East
By Jehangir S. Pocha

It's not generally remembered in the United States that China was one of the few countries where students lit fireworks and celebrated through the night when the Sept. 11 attacks occurred. Many explanations were offered, but the most plausible is the deepening resentment this ancient but wounded nation bears toward the brash superpower of the United States.

China's simmering anti-Americanism is different from Europe's. The protesters who blockade U.S. embassies in European capitals rage against the new America that President Bush molded in response to the attacks, because they see it as nurturing the atavistic forces of mercantilism, militarism and prejudice, which they believe twice ruined Europe.

The Chinese who rejoiced as the twin towers crumbled didn't really find anything objectionable about U.S. power. They just resented the fact that they weren't the ones wielding it, and so they cheered the people who, for that one day, turned the tables on China's strategic competitor.

Seeing the schism between the two nations is sometimes hard. China has adopted all the superficial trappings of American consumerism, from Gap jeans to sports cars, and officials confess that the United States is the model that inspires Chinese planners. But a closer look reveals that this imitation is not a form of flattery, just a pragmatic shortcut to success.

China knows Maoism led it astray and sees U.S. economics as a more assured means to development. But the ultimate goal of most people in China is to restore their country to its antique greatness, something most of them believe will be impossible unless American power diminishes.

The predominant view in China of the attacks is that they spelled the beginning of the end of the American Empire. If President Bush's post-Sept. 11 power plays — the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the attempt to subdue Iran — are deeply unpopular, it's partly because they are seen as attempts to recapture, even extend, U.S. authority.

In all of this, the human tragedy that occurred on Sept. 11 is often forgotten by people in China, not least because the anniversary of the attacks roughly coincides with the Chinese lunar festival when most of them are busy hunting for the best moon cakes.

But they also find the United States' mourning of the nearly 3,000 lives that were lost in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania excessive, because most families in China are still coping with the trauma of the Maoist years, when more than 40 million people perished, and the entire country was plunged into chaos.

Sept. 11 might have changed Americans' world, but China is a world unto itself, with its own pain, anger and aspirations. Reconciling the conflicting realities of the world's only superpower and the nation most expected to become the next superpower will prove harder as their paths to greatness cross.

Jehangir S. Pocha is a member of the Chronicle Foreign Service.

In Europe
By Ruth Ciesinger

It is very hard not to cry when you read the transcripts of the last words people trapped in the World Trade Center spoke to phone operators while facing their death. Their fate was horrible, the attack monstrous, and five years later sympathy for the victims has not diminished in Germany. But the attitude toward the American government has changed. In the days after 9/11, hundred of thousands of Germans marched silently in the streets, attended church services in memory of the dead and brought flowers to the American embassy. There was an overwhelming sense among Germans that they had been attacked as well, especially when it became clear the assassins had plotted most of the attacks while some of them were living untroubled by police or any other authorities in Hamburg.

Seventeen months later, more than 1 million Germans marched through the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin again. This time not in silence but shouting slogans like "U.S. out of Iraq" and "No blood for oil."

There was a feeling shared by many that the memory of those slaughtered on Sept. 11 had been misused — because Washington was not able to provide any reliable proof of a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.

However, justifying war with terrorists' threats, to paraphrase Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz, had become a continuation of politics by other means. And Germans, with their experience of a Nazi regime and being center stage in two world wars, were especially sensitive to that, even if Saddam Hussein was considered a gruesome dictator. While German air-force soldiers went into combat in 1999 in Kosovo for the first time since World War II, there was never any notion, not even among conservative politicians, of Germany's joining the "coalition of the willing" in Iraq.

A novice political journalist when 9/11 occurred, I, like many of my countrymen, was startled at how easy it was to talk of invading another country, because it suggested that diplomacy — talking, negotiating, containing — no longer had a place in resolving crises.

Maybe now the pendulum is swinging back. On the lunatic fringe there is talk of invading Iran, but at least there are also objections raised that the consequences would be too severe, that perhaps war might not be the answer.

It would be good fortune if sanity prevailed in that crisis, not just for the United States and Iran, but also for the sake of the transatlantic relationship between the United States and Germany.

Now, many Germans, just like many other Europeans, are angry at a United States they had wanted to embrace with sympathy. But there is ambiguity in that. The same people in the small East German village of Trinwillershagen who protested the announced visit in July of "war criminal" George W. Bush could barely contain themselves when the president of the most powerful nation in the world actually got there.

Yes, one can agree with the oft-stated notion that during the past five years the U.S. government itself has become one of the great dangers to peace and stability. On the other hand, I wonder what severe actions some Germans would have supported if a suicide bomber had blown up a soccer stadium here during the World Cup.

Ruth Ciesinger is a political editor for the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel in Berlin. She worked at The Chronicle on an Anna Maria and Stephen M. Kellen Fellowship.

In the Middle East
By Michael Young

How many times, in the years since the Sept. 11 attacks, has someone fretted aloud that the United States has "lost Arab hearts and minds"? Truth be told, there was never anything to lose.

Despite the fact that many Arabs have voiced an expedient mantra — "We like America, but not its policies" — it's difficult to remember a time when the United States held claim to their hearts or minds. What has damaged U.S. status most in the Middle East is not the emotional sympathy it has failed to earn; it is the perception of deep incompetence that has accompanied its various efforts in the region since 2003.

The invasion of Iraq always was the right idea implemented in the clumsiest of ways. That 9/11 demanded a radically new approach to the Arab world was obvious. That this new approach required advancing Arab democracy — because it was the absence of freedom that had spurred Islamist violence — was equally obvious.

One might disagree on the grounds that this sounds a trifle too neoconservative an argument. But American coddling of Arab despots was for decades the centerpiece of criticism leveled against successive U.S. administrations not by conservatives, but by Arab liberals and denizens of the political left — those who most vociferously denounced the Iraq invasion.

Where the Bush administration erred was in allowing bureaucratic rivalries, disconnected agendas, poor planning and much else to derail the Iraqi mission. Machiavelli was right that it's better for a prince, or in this case a superpower, to be feared than loved. This isn't to recommend wanton U.S. violence, which is usually a sign of political ineptitude. But "fear" can mean something more than fright; it can mean concern by America's enemies that whatever action they take against it will fail, because on the other side is a country whose reactions will be subtle yet proficient.

But Machiavelli also said a prince must avoid being hated, and the United States undoubtedly is hated in the Arab world. The way out of this dilemma is to prove competence: Set achievable goals, stick to them, but also focus on maintaining democracy. Hatred is manageable if supplemented by respect.

Michael Young is opinion editor at the Daily Star newspaper in Lebanon and contributing editor to Reason magazine. E-mail us at insight@sfchronicle.com.

Jehangir S. Pocha is a member of the Chronicle Foreign Service. Ruth Ciesinger is a political editor for the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel in Berlin. She worked at The Chronicle on an Anna Maria and Stephen M. Kellen Fellowship. Michael Young is opinion editor at the Daily Star newspaper in Lebanon and contributing editor to Reason magazine. E-mail us at insight@sfchronicle.com.

source: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/09/10/INGT5KU2FK1.DTL 10sep2006

INFORMANTS TELL TERRORIST TALES Informants Have Exerted Unusual Power DEMIAN BULWA / San Francisco Chronicle 10sep2006

From Lodi to New York, many terrorism investigations since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have shared a similar plot line.

An informant posing as an Islamic radical gets close to one or more Muslim men. The informant spouts anti-American rhetoric, speaks favorably of terrorism or even offers to provide supplies or weapons. If he is successful in drawing out his targets, arrests are made, even if the suspects lack a firm plan or the means to carry out an attack.

Other steps that authorities have taken since 2001 to head off terrorist strikes — such as airport screenings and stepped-up surveillance of landmarks, ports and public transportation — have garnered plenty of attention. But the use of informants has figured more prominently in arrests of suspected plotters.

The scenario has placed informants in an important and contentious role. Though informants have long been central to infiltrating organized crime, they have exerted unusual power in terror probes, according to experts who have followed the investigations. Many of the resulting criminal cases have rested heavily on conversations, not overt actions.

Defense attorneys say informants are often under intense pressure to deliver a case because they are either being paid or have agreed to cooperate to avoid punishment for their own crimes. Some plots wouldn't have hatched at all without an informant's provocation, say the attorneys, though they concede that such saber-rattling is not illegal.

"In order to open a dialogue with radicals, to a certain extent (the informant) has to share their rhetoric," said Brian Jenkins, a terrorism expert and senior official at the Rand Corp. think tank in Santa Monica. "The fact that an informant engages in radical rhetoric is not evidence that he is a provocateur — it's a prerequisite to establishing his credentials."

However, Jenkins said, "the difficulty is that a lot of these angry young men who are susceptible to this ideology are constantly fantasizing about operations. They may even engage in planning attacks that in all probability are going to remain in the realm of fantasy."

The use of informants is a sore subject among many Muslims in the Bay Area. Some say the whole community should not be targeted because of the actions of a few extremists, and they worry that such scrutiny could alienate ordinary Muslims and make them reluctant to volunteer information to law enforcement.

"That's probably not the best way to do it," said Irfan Rydhan, a board member for the South Bay Islamic Association in San Jose, who compared the use of informants in mosques to the government's infiltration of activist groups in the 1960s.

"I can understand why they're thinking like that — the main stereotype is that Muslims are causing all the problems," Rydhan said. "But we Muslims in America are the bridge to the greater Muslim community in the world. Law enforcement should be openly talking to us."

Rydhan stressed that his mosque and its imam had a strong relationship with authorities. FBI agents recently had dinner at the mosque during a monthly "family night" and took questions from members.

U.S. Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, addressing the American Enterprise Institute in May, said the Justice Department had charged 435 people and had won 253 convictions in cases related to international terrorism since September 2001.

Citing a computer-aided review of data, the Washington Post reported that most of the defendants were charged with minor crimes unrelated to terrorism. But McNulty said his agency had used "the full arsenal of tools Congress has given us," including immigration charges.

Informants are a recurring theme in high-profile terrorism prosecutions. In Portland, Ore., a man posing as a Taliban supporter helped convict six Portland residents of conspiring to join the radical group in Afghanistan. In Detroit, questions about an informant's credibility helped overturn convictions of Muslims accused of being members of a suspected terror cell.

Reports indicate that informants were central to the arrests in Canada in June of 17 people suspected of planning to use fertilizer to make truck bombs.

At a federal trial earlier this year, defense attorneys argued that 24-year-old Pakistani immigrant Shahawar Matin Siraj had been radicalized over the course of a year by a 50-year-old informant before Siraj suggested blowing up a New York subway station in 2004.

The older man, posing as the son of an Islamic scholar and as a determined terrorist, showed photos to Siraj of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib and offered to provide explosives, defense attorney Martin Stolar said.

"My client was very easily manipulated. The idea of doing something violent had been drilled into him by the informant," Stolar said in an interview. "His response was to say, 'How about this idea?' But it was never going to happen."

However, prosecutors showed that Siraj had a history of espousing violence, including in tape-recorded talks with the informant. A federal jury rejected Stolar's claim that Siraj had been entrapped and convicted him.

In Lodi, the FBI assigned 33-year-old informant Naseem Khan to infiltrate the city's only mosque, even after discovering that he had falsely told agents that he had seen three of the world's most notorious terrorists there, including al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Khan, posing as a man interested in holy war, focused on two Pakistani clerics who were in Lodi on religious visas. Then in the summer of 2002, he came across Hamid Hayat, 23, who displayed enthusiasm for militant groups and kept what prosecutors called a "jihadi scrapbook" of news clippings. The men became best friends, at least in Hayat's mind.

At one point, Khan berated Hayat for not going to a terrorist training camp in Pakistan, and told him to "be a man" and "do something." Khan testified later that he had scolded Hayat "as a way to make him talk."

Hayat was convicted of providing material support to terrorists by allegedly attending a camp in Pakistan. He faces up to 39 years in prison at a sentencing later this year.

Hayat's attorney, Wazhma Mojaddidi, argued that Hayat had not been to the camp and said the FBI had not kept a tight enough leash on Khan. She said the informant had a financial incentive to incriminate Hayat. The FBI paid Khan more than $225,000.

"The informants in these cases are being trusted more than traditional informants," Mojaddidi said. "I guess the FBI considers them to have more specialized knowledge about the culture. But what that does is give them more power than they should have in these investigations."

McGregor Scott, the U.S. attorney for California's eastern district, which includes Lodi, said agents had handled Khan legally and properly.

"Oftentimes, the best evidence is what comes from the mouth of a suspect in an unguarded moment," Scott said in a recent interview.

"In the terrorism context, typically the people we are investigating are Muslim males, and those can be self-contained communities," Scott said. "The use of an informant who fits into that self-contained community can be a very effective law enforcement tool in these investigations."

source: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/09/10/INGT5KU2FI1.DTL 10sep2006

[A must-read: David Ray Griffin speaking on the collapse of the World Trade]

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