What would you say....
....if you found out that the US government knew about terrorist threats such as dirty bombs and missle attacks on civilian aircraft as well as the fact that our intelligence services were not up to the task of protecting from terrorism in 1977! How would you react if you found out that Richard Nixon was the President who formed a committee to study the problem and make recommendations?
Nearly three decades before the Sept. 11 attacks, a high-level government panel developed plans to protect the nation against terrorist acts ranging from radiological "dirty bombs" to airline missile attacks, according to declassified documents obtained by The Associated Press.Why were we caught with our pants down 24 years later?
"Unless governments take basic precautions, we will continue to stand at the edge of an awful abyss," Robert Kupperman, chief scientist for the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, wrote in a 1977 report that summarized nearly five years of work by the Cabinet Committee to Combat Terrorism.
The group was formed in September 1972 by President Nixon after Palestinian commandos slaughtered 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games. The committee involved people as diverse as Henry Kissinger to a young Rudolph Giuliani, the once-secret documents show.
.Eventually, the group's influence waned as competing priorities, a change of presidents ushered in by Watergate, bureaucratic turf battles and a lack of spectacular domestic attacks took their toll.We were caught with our pants down because selfish desires of government officials were more important to them than the safety of American citizens and the Presidents that succeeded Nixon weren't as prescient as he was. (Despite his faults and despicable behavior in Watergate, Nixon did have some good points.)
But before that happened, the panel identified many of the same threats that would confront President Bush at the dawn of the 21st century.
The experts fretted that terrorists might gather loose nuclear materials for a "dirty bomb" that could devastate an American city by spreading lethal radioactivity.
The committee did some very good work, however.
Committee members identified commercial jets as a particular vulnerability, but raised concerns that airlines would not pay for security improvements such as tighter screening procedures and routine baggage inspections.Is it possible that, if these changes had been made in the seventies or eighties that 9/11 may never have happened? We'll never know.
"The trouble with the plans is that airlines and airports will have to absorb the costs and so they will scream bloody murder should this be required of them," according to a White House memo from 1972. "Otherwise, it is a sound plan which will curtail the risk of hijacking substantially."
The intelligence problems "uncovered" by the Senate Intelligence Committe have been known for quite some time.
Though the CIA routinely updated the committee on potential terrorist threats and plots, task force members learned quickly that intelligence gathering and coordination was a weak spot, just as Bush would discover three decades later.If all this sounds like deja vu' all over again, it's because it is.
Long before he was mayor and helped New York City recover from the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, Giuliani told the committee in May 1976 that he feared legal restrictions were thwarting federal agents from collecting intelligence unless there had been a violation of the law.
Giuliani, who at that time was the associate deputy attorney general in President Ford's Justice Department, suggested relaxing intelligence collection guidelines — something that occurred with the Patriot Act three decades later
Other committee members said that obstacles to intelligence gathering were more bureaucratic than legal.
Our representatives will never make the hard choices unless we demand that they do. Unfortunately, we didn't make any demands of them until after 3000 people had died on 9/11.
We ignored the murders of Barbara Ertle, David Berger, Cleo Noel, Michael Nadler, Harold Rosenthal, Robert O.Waring, Gail Rubin, Richard Fishman, Eli Haze'ev, Anne Van Zanten, Grace Cutler, Aharon Gross, 241 Marines killed in Beirut, Serena Sussman, William Buckley, 18 members of the US Air Force in Spain, 2 US servicemen in Aukar, Lebanon, Charles Hegna, William Stanford, Robert Stethem, Leon Klinghoffer, 5 Americans in Rome, 4 Americans in Athens, 2 US soldiers in Berlin, Gali Klein, Col. William Higgins, 89 Americans on PanAM flight 103, a US contractor in Turkey, Victor Marwick, a US Air Force sergeant in Turkey, Frank Darling, Bennett Lansing, six Americans in the World Trade tower, Jacqueline Keys Van Landingham, Gary C. Durell, Alisa Flatow, an American in Kashmir, Joan Davenny, 5 Americans in Riyadh, 3 Americans in Jerusalem, 2 Americans in Tel Aviv, David Boim, Yaron Ungar, 19 US military in the Khobar Towers, Dhahran, an American in Sudan, an American in Paris, an American in Jerusalem, 4 Americans in Karachi, Dov Driben, 12 Americans in Nairobi, 100 Americans in Nantucket, Massachusetts, Hillel Lieberman, 13 American sailors on the USS Cole, Eish Kodesh Gilmor, Kobi Mandell, Samuel Berg, Sarah Blaustein, Shoshana Greenbaum all before 9/11. (In case you're not counting, that's almost 500 Americans killed by terrorists before 9/11.)
It was only when terrorists killed almost 3000 more on 9/11 that we woke up and began to demand action from our legislators. Will we go to sleep again? We will assume that our legislators are acting in our best interests? Or will we demand that our legislators put aside petty jealousies and self interests and work to keep us safe?