2004-09-03 / Columnists

From the Editor’s Desk

By Howard Schwach

With every passing week, I trust the federal government less and less.

It’s not the fact that Bush promised that Iraq had lots of weapons of mass destruction and no such weapons ever showed up.

It’s not that Bush promised that his tax cuts would help the middle class and would heat up the economy. We knew that was not true going in.

It’s not that Bush and his wealthy business partners have moved so many jobs to other nations that American workers are suffering by the millions. We knew that was going to happen as well.

It’s not even that young American men and women are dying in Iraq, although this whole thing is beginning to have the same scent that Vietnam did in the mid-1960’s.

It’s more personal than WMD or screwing the middle class or outsourcing. It sure looks like the government, in the guise of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has been treating Rockaway and the rest of the nation like a mushroom, keeping us in the dark and shoveling manure over us in copious amounts. It’s American Airlines Flight 587, which crashed on the corner of Beach 131 Street and Newport Avenue in Belle Harbor on November 12, 2001, only two months and one day after two like flight purposefully flew into the World Trade Center buildings.

For nearly three years now, the NTSB has been working with the hypothesis that, for one reason or another (depending on whether you listen to American Airlines or to Airbus Industries — the company that build the Airbus 300 that became American’s flight 587) the first officer who was flying the plane simply over controlled the rudder and ripped it from the plane.

The eyewitness accounts of dozens of Rockaway residents, many of them cops and firefighters accustomed to seeing flame and experiencing tragedy, that the plane was falling apart long before the tail fell off and that there was fire and smoke on varying parts of its fuselage shortly after it took off from JFK’s Runway 31 Left that morning.

The NTSB says that it found no evidence of fire or explosion in the “twisted metal” that was all that was left of the plane and several local homes.

The agency discounted eyewitness testimony as being “unreliable.”

This week, however, those who say they saw an explosion, smoke and fire on the plane and those who found debris from the plane spread over a wide area far from the crash site have reason to believe that they may have been right and that the NTSB is covering up the real reason for the crash.

A captured al Queda operative has reportedly told Canadian intelligence officials that a ‘shoe bomber” flying on a Canadian passport brought down flight 587 on that beautiful November day.

According to published reports and to a number of Internet news sites, the unnamed operative, who was captured by the Canadians, told agents from the Security Intelligence Service (roughly equivalent to our FBI) that the shoe bomber, named Abderraouf Jdey, had trained alongside him in an Afghanistan terrorist training camp along with a number of men who subsequently died in the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001.

Those published reports say that the source revealed that Jdey, a Montreal resident, used the same sort of shoe bomb that was taken from Richard Reid by passengers and crew when he tried to use it on a later flight.

Do the published reports make certain that shoe bomber Jdey brought down the flight, killing all 260 passengers and crew on the plane as well as five locals on the ground? Of course not.

Do the reports, however, cast some doubt on the government’s insistence that it was an accident and give credibility to those who saw the plane breaking up in the air? Of course!

The government responded predictably to the reports.

Unnamed federal officials told the papers that it was unlikely that Jdey, who is also known as “Farouk the Tunisian” by our government, has anything to do with the crash.

Ted Lopatkiewicz, the main spokesperson for the NTSB, said “We have seen no evidence of anything other than an accident,” he said. “It appears, at least the evidence that we have, is that a vertical fin came off, not that there was any kind of event in the cabin.”

Lopatkiewicz, who is a very nice gentleman and one who I am in semi-constant contact with, has been saying the same thing for more than two years. Perhaps he even believes it.

The first report of the terrorist’s revelations came in a distinguished Canadian newspaper, The National Post.

According to the National Post, a secret report exists that says the unnamed terrorist used his Canadian passport to board the plane at JFK and then conducted a “suicide mission” shortly after the plane took off.

If the report is correct, that would account for the eyewitness accounts, for the parts of the plane found in Jamaica Bay and for the debris found on the roof of the Rockaway Sunset Diner. It would account for the crew seat belt found far from the crash scene and for the two engines popping off the A300 prior to the crash. One engine landed on Beach 128 Street and the other in Bulloch’s Gas Station on Beach 129. The plane crashed two blocks further west.

After I saw the story, I rechecked the passenger list for the fated flight. There was no passenger named either Abderraouf Jdey nor any other Canadian aboard the flight. I doubt that Mohammed Atta or the other WTC hijackers used their real names or nationality either, but who really knows whether this story is true or not. It is generally tough to keep a conspiracy of silence at this level quiet for any length of time, but I lived through Watergate and Vietnam and can’t rule out the possibility that the terrorist is telling the truth.

The 9/11 Commission has something of the same problem. Lots of material that found its way into the commission’s final report came from captured al Qaedia operatives. The question on everybody’s mind was, “How can we trust those who have sworn to destroy our nation?”

The report says, “Chapters 5 and 7 rely heavily on information obtained from captured al Qaedia members. A number of thse ‘detainees’ have firsthand knowledge of the 9/11 plot. Assessing the truth of statements by these witnesses — sworn enemies of the United States — is challenging. Our access to them has been limited to the review of intelligence reports based on communications we received from the locations where the actual interrogations take place.”

It was good enough for the government commission to accept those statements once they were channeled through the intelligence community.

Why, then, can’t we accept the information given by the unnamed Canadian source the same way?

By the way, the 9/11 Commission noted that Jdey, who went to Canada from Tunisa in 1995, went to Afghanistan and trained with some of the terrorists who brought down the WTC. Khalid Sheikm Mohammed, the planner for the WTC attack, told American officials that Jdey was part of a “second wave and the FBI Issued an alert for the man in 2002. A spokesperson for the government said at that time that Jdey “was being sought in connection with possible terrorist threats to the United States.”

Perhaps the source is lying. Perhaps not. The Canadian report says that the information came from “a source of unknown reliability.” That he was known to our own intelligence community, and they were looking for him after September 11, says volumes, as far as I am concerned.

All I am saying that is his information opens up some possibilities that need to be explored fully prior to the NTSB’s final report sometime in the near future.

Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton, Tony Weiner and Greg Meeks should all be pushing for a reopening of the investigation based on the new reports.

“Trust the NTSB, they know what they are doing,” we have been told over and over again by federal politicians and agencies. We worry, however, that those agencies are more focused on saving the airline industry than in finding the truth at a time when truth is what we need from our government more than anything else.

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