2004-09-10 / Editorial/Opinion

From the Editor’s Desk

By Howard Schwach

Tomorrow will be the third anniversary of one of the most difficult events in American history – rivaling Pearl Harbor in its intensity and even eclipsing it in terms of lives lost.

I was too young to remember Pearl Harbor (I had just turned two the month prior to the Japanese attack), but I do remember exactly what I was doing on other historic dates – the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, VE-Day, VJ Day, John F. Kennedy’s announcement of the Cuban blockade, his assassination, the assassinations of RFK and MLK, the final day of our involvement with Vietnam and, finally, September 11 and November 12, 2001. I hope that there are not many more days that I have to store in my memory that impact us as those days did.

In the three years since the attack there has been much talk about the “war on terrorism” and on who is to “blame” for the attack.

The prestigious “9/11 Committee” appointed by the president to come to conclusions about the attack and to make recommendations for insuring that it did not happen again has filed that report. The bottom line is that our intelligence agencies failed us big time. The Central Intelligence Agency did not get any of the signals from overseas and the Federal Bureau of Investigation did not follow up promising leads at home.

Worst of all, none of the agencies tasked with keeping terrorism at bay cooperated with the other agencies tasked with the same thing. Each agency kept its information closely-held and each had only a little piece of the puzzle. Had they shared information, the puzzle might well have been solved before the attack.

Of course, hindsight is always 20-20 and we might have been attacked just as we were in any case, even if the various agencies had cooperated with each other.

The problem is, of course, that none of the hearings or the reports of the hindsight has made us any safer.

Nor, apparently has it made us much smarter.

We still go along in our politically-correct way, attempting to mollify those who want to destroy us because others might be angered or inconvenienced should we do what we really ought to do.

And, increasingly, it seems that the terrorism question might be intricately linked with the other horrendous event of the year 2001 – the crash of American Airlines Flight 587.

More is known now than was known even last week about the Canadian report that a shoe bomber brought down flight 587 despite government assurances that it was an accident.

Follow the bouncing ball.

In 1991, a man named Abderraouf Jdey went from his home in Tunisia to live in Canada. He stayed in Canada until 1995, when he became a Canadian citizen. Shortly thereafter, he left for Afghanistan, where he trained in a terrorist camp alongside a number of the terrorists who took part in the September 11 attacks and three other men – Richard Reid, Zacarias Moussaoui and Mohammed Mansour Jabarah.

While in Afghanistan, Jdey recorded a “martyrdom” video, affirming his desire to destroy the United States.

He returned to Canada in the summer of 2001 and was reportedly removed from the September 11 plan and assigned instead to “a second wave of attacks” on the United States by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (better known as KSM).

In early 2002, the FBI issued an alert seeking Jdey’s whereabouts. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft told a news conference at the time that Jdey was one of seven possible al-Qaeda terrorists sought in connection with possible terrorist threats in the United States. His picture and bio remain on the FBI’s website and in post offices around the nation.

Jdey has not been spotted since the September 11 attacks, however.

Mohammed Mansour Jabarah, a Canadian citizen, was arrested in Oman for his part in an attempt to bomb the United States and Israeli embassies in Singapore in 2002.

Officials in Singapore said that he ordered members of his cell to buy 17 tons of ammonium nitrate to use in making car bombs.

After his arrest, Jabarah admitted to his part in the plot and his knowledge of the 9/11 plot prior to the attack.

He was brought back to the United States to testify against shoe bomber Richard Reid.

CNN has reported that Reid reported to KSM and that Jabarah was with Reid in Afghanistan when the shoe bomb attack was planned. His testimony reportedly helped to convict Reid in federal court.

The CNN report also says that Jabarah met with Osama bin Laden two months before being sent to Southeast Asia. He is reported as having been involved with every major al Qaeda attack, beginning with the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

He is also the “source of unknown reliability” that said that Jdey used a shoe bomb like Reid’s to bring down American Airlines Flight 587.

According to the National Post, one of Canada’s most prestigious newspapers, intelligence operatives from that nation spent five days interrogating Jabarah in 2002.

Jabarah told his interrogators that he had been told by Abu Abdelrahman, another high-level al Qaeda operative that both the assassination of the Northern Alliance leader in Afghanistan and the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 were operations by his organization, ordered by KSM.

Although Jdey has not been seen since early 2001, the government still says that it is unlikely that Jdey had anything to do with the crash of flight 587.

The NTSB continues to say that there is no evidence that there was any event in the plane’s cabin that led to the crash, that it was an accident caused by an episode of wake turbulence and the First Officer over-controlling the plane’s rudder.

The final NTSB report on the crash will most likely come sometime between the November election and the third anniversary of the crash.

There will be no mention of Jdey or terrorists. Will we never learn?

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