It’s easier to bury uncomfortable facts than to confront them. So this September 11, the ceremonies marking the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., will simply honor the dead. In Manhattan, tourists and mourners will gather where the World Trade Center Towers once stood, lowering their heads in memory of the 2,606 who perished there. The services won’t reflect the view that the attacks might well have been prevented.
But for hundreds of families and a growing number of former FBI agents, the grief of another 9/11 ceremony will be laced with barely muted rage: There remains a conspiracy of silence among high former U.S. and Saudi officials about the attacks.
“It’s horrible. We still don’t know what happened,” said Ali Soufan, one of the lead FBI counterterrorism agents whom the CIA kept in the dark about the movements of the future Al-Qaeda hijackers. To Soufan and many other former national security officials, the unanswered questions about the events leading up to the September 11, 2001, attacks dwarf those about the assassination of John F. Kennedy, because “9/11 changed the whole world.” It not only led to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the fracturing of the Middle East and the global growth of Islamic militantism but also pushed the U.S. closer to being a virtual homeland-security police state.
“I am sad and depressed about it,” said Mark Rossini, one of two FBI agents assigned to the CIA’s Osama bin Laden unit, who says agency managers mysteriously blocked them from informing their headquarters about future Al-Qaeda plotters present in the United States in 2000 and again in the summer of 2001. “It is patently evident the attacks did not need to happen and there has been no justice,” he said.
The authors of a new book on 9/11 hope to refocus public attention on the cover-up. Thoroughly mining the multiple official investigations into the event, John Duffy and Ray Nowosielski find huge holes and contradictions in the official story that 9/11 was merely “a failure to connect the dots.”
Duffy, a left-leaning writer and environmental activist, and Nowosielski, a documentary filmmaker, have nowhere near the prominence of other journalists who have poked holes in the official story, in particular Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, the Pulitzer Prize–winning book that was turned into a gripping multi-part docudrama on Hulu earlier this year.
But Duffy and Nowosielski come to the story with a noteworthy credential: In 2009 they scored an astounding video interview with Richard Clarke, a White House counterterrorism adviser during the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. In it, Clarke raged that top CIA officials, including director George Tenet, had withheld crucial information from him about Al-Qaeda’s plotting and movements, including the arrival in the U.S. of future hijackers Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi. In The Watchdogs Didn’t Bark: The CIA, NSA, and the Crimes of the War on Terror, the authors assemble a compelling case of a government-wide cover-up of Saudi complicity in the affair…
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