Not preventing 9/11 is nothing to campaign on

The attacks of Sept. 11 occurred more than three years ago. Several studies, most notably the 9/11 Commission Report, have proven that there were glaring intelligence failures as well as errors in judgment by government officials that bungled chances to stop the attacks in time. Yet not a single official has been reprimanded or held accountable for these obvious failures.

Now a Central Intelligence Agency report is said to clearly name individuals at fault, but the newly appointed Director of Central Intelligence Porter Goss, confirmed by the Senate on Sept. 22, is withholding the report.

Goss, a former Republican member of the House of Representatives, was nominated for his position by President George W. Bush. When the first report officially assigning guilt likely points at members of the Bush administration for at least part of the blame is withheld, it has something to do with next week’s election.

Robert Scheer first reported the study in a column on Oct. 19 in the Los Angeles Times. Scheer quoted several intelligence committee members saying the report had been finished in June only to be “stalled,” first by temporary CIA Director John McLaughlin and now by Goss.

The study was commissioned by a congressional intelligence committee, and withholding the finished report until after the election not only puts the oversight the committee is supposed to have over the CIA at risk, it is also illegal as it holds Congress in contempt.

For those who have followed the highly questionable way in which the Bush administration has been handling the investigation of the largest terrorist attacks this country has ever witnessed, this hardly comes as a surprise.

The Bush administration has been stonewalling any investigation of the Sept. 11 attacks since the beginning.

It opposed the formation of the 9/11 Commission, only to reverse course when political pressure was building. Some may call this a flip-flop, but alas.

When the administration finally agreed to allow a commission to investigate the attacks, Bush nominated former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to oversee it. To suggest that Kissinger — a former national security adviser and later Secretary of State to President Richard Nixon — could lead a bipartisan commission after he had exhibited a strong inclination for keeping the American public in the dark during the Nixon years was more than counterproductive. It clearly exhibited the drive by the administration to keep the details surrounding the attacks as closely under wraps as possible. Needless to say, Kissinger was not appointed to head the commission.

Once the commission was finally up and running, the administration kept withholding vital information and released papers slowly.

Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice at first said she could not testify in front of the Commission, only to appear when political pressure was rising. It was only then that the commission found out about a confidential memo dated Aug. 6, 2001 warning the president about imminent attacks by al-Qaida and bearing the title, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” By that point it became apparent the Bush administration had been right in assuming a commission would make it look bad.

President Bush himself only agreed to appear in front of the commission after a similar tug of war: Only behind closed doors and with Vice President Dick Cheney. Every other official was interviewed individually. Most notably, the president appeared in front of the commission while not under oath.

The only person to officially take blame for what happened on Sept. 11, 2001 was former security adviser Richard Clarke after resigning his post at the White House. He had repeatedly warned about impending attacks but had been largely ignored by the administration. Toward the end of the Clinton administration, a similar warning unequivocally identified al-Qaida as the largest threat the United States was facing. It was dismissed as “Clinton nonsense,” as Clarke put it.

After Clarke accepted blame, the response from the Bush administration was a swift character assassination to discredit Clarke. The message from Bush was clear: We do not accept dissent from our ranks.

At this point it is obvious the administration, and especially Bush, is unwilling to accept any blame.

For such a secretive administration to even consider running on its “achievements” in the so-called war on terror is more than disturbing. After ignoring warnings for months, it is now claiming it will be the better choice in protecting America while not showing any indication it has learned from past mistakes. Any such claim can simply not be taken seriously.

Sebastian Meyer is a junior majoring in geography and is the Oracle Opinion Editor.