Bush's Four Anti-Terror Successes All Fictional
President Bush claimed in his State of the Union speech to have prevented four terrorist plots. Phew! It's a good thing
to know that we tossed out our Bill of Rights for some actual REASON – I mean other than turning Iraq into a training
ground for terrorism.
Except that we didn't.
1.-"We stopped an al Qaeda plot to fly a hijacked airplane into the tallest building on the West Coast."
An October 8, 2005, LA Times story, headlined "Scope of Plots Bush Says Were Foiled Is Questioned," cited "several
counter-terrorism officials" as saying that "the plot never progressed past the planning stages.... 'To take that and
make it into a disrupted plot is just ludicrous,' said one senior FBI official….At most it was a plan that was stopped
in its initial stages and was not an operational plot that had been disrupted by authorities."
On Feb. 10, 2006, the LA Times quoted a "US official familiar with the operational aspects of the war on terrorism," who
said that "the Library Tower plot was one of many Al Qaeda operations that had not gone much past the conceptual
stage….The official spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying that those familiar with the plot feared political
retaliation for providing a different characterization of the plan that that of the president."
Michael Scheuer, an al Qaeda expert in the CIA's counter-terrorism center, told the Voice of America: "This doesn't
sound like anything that I would recall as a major threat, or as a major success in stopping it….My impression [was that
the National Security Council] culled through information to look for something that resembled a serious threat in 2002.
It doesn't strike me, either as someone who was there or as someone who has followed al Qaeda pretty closely, that this
was really a serious sort of effort."
A February 10, 2006 Washington Post story cited "several U.S. intelligence officials" who "said there is deep
disagreement within the intelligence community over the seriousness of the Library Tower scheme and whether it was ever
much more than talk."
A February 10, 2006, New York Daily News story cited one senior counterterrorism official who said: "There was no
definitive plot. It never materialized or got past the thought stage."
Back on June 17, 2004, the New York Daily News quoted John Pistole, the FBI's counterterrorism director. Asked to
comment on a CIA agent's statement that "I think we've probably prevented a few aviation attacks against both the East
and West coasts," Pistole at first said he was "not sure what [the CIA] was referring to." The Daily News reported that
"Even after consulting CIA officials, Pistole still would not call the alleged threat uncovered in the summer of 2003 an
2.-"We uncovered an al Qaeda cell developing anthrax to be used in attacks against America."
An October 31, 2006, Washington Post article describes al Qaeda's efforts as well short of "developing" and the case to
tie them to the anthrax attacks in the United States as leading nowhere. A September 25, 2006, Washington Post article
describes the FBI's investigation of the anthrax attacks in the United States as still open, but just barely active. If
that investigation has reached any conclusion, or if Bush has discovered a plot of some other attacks that were
prevented, he should produce evidence of such.
3.-"Just last August, British authorities uncovered a plot to blow up passenger planes bound for America over the
Well, the British "authorities" did arrest two dozen people at the insistence of the Bush Administration, but numerous
reports found consensus among experts that those arrested could not have possibly mixed together on an airplane the
liquid explosives they allegedly planned to use. And common sense suggested that if they had managed such a
sophisticated plot, it was unlikely anyone else was working on the same thing (the assumption that prevents us all from
traveling with toothpaste and deodorant unless sealed in a proper protective plastic bag, and leads to government
employees carelessly tossing deadly dangerous toothpaste tubes into trashcans in the middle of unsuspecting crowds).
Craig Murray, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, summed this case up well:
"None of the alleged terrorists had made a bomb. None had bought a plane ticket. Many did not even have passports, which
given the efficiency of the UK Passport Agency would mean they couldn't be a plane bomber for quite some time. In the
absence of bombs and airline tickets, and in many cases passports, it could be pretty difficult to convince a jury
beyond reasonable doubt that individuals intended to go through with suicide bombings, whatever rash stuff they may have
bragged in internet chat rooms.
"What is more, many of those arrested had been under surveillance for over a year - like thousands of other British
Muslims. And not just Muslims. Like me. Nothing from that surveillance had indicated the need for early arrests. Then an
interrogation in Pakistan revealed the details of this amazing plot to blow up multiple planes - which, rather
extraordinarily, had not turned up in a year of surveillance. Of course, the interrogators of the Pakistani dictator
have their ways of making people sing like canaries. As I witnessed in Uzbekistan, you can get the most extraordinary
information this way. Trouble is it always tends to give the interrogators all they might want, and more, in a desperate
effort to stop or avert torture. What it doesn't give is the truth."
4.-"We broke up a Southeast Asian terror cell grooming operatives for attacks inside the United States."
Was this the one broken up in 1995, before Bush, when we still had much of our Bill of Rights intact? Is this the
"tallest building on the West Coast" story by another name in order to expand the list? I've seen a lot of reports on
Bush's speech, but no explanation of what he's talking about here.
5.-Of course, such claims are not new:
They follow the pattern of the Padilla radiation bomb claim. The announcement of that supposed success was made at a
time when Bush needed a boost in the media, even though the man had been locked up for a month already; and then the
charges were later dropped. Keith Olbermann once ran a segment highlighting the suspicious timing of ten such
announcements, each one of which ended up amounting to nothing at all. Olbermann's story left out plenty of more recent
examples, but then, so did Bush's speech. Have we forgotten the heroic way in which he saved the Sears Tower already?
Richard Matthews provided research assistance for this article.