The 9/11 enigma: Losing Osama and everything else, in the fog of war
That was pretty exciting there, at least for a while: the Northern Alliance was closing in on Osama bin Laden, or so we were told, and the battle of Tora Bora was going to be Al Qaeda’s Gotterdammerung: the Mad Sheik’s last stand. They heard Osama’s voice giving commands to his beleaguered troops over the radio, and brought in specialists to verify his DNA in case he fell in battle. Pundits argued over whether he should be tried in one of those special military tribunals, and headlines screamed: Osama Cornered! Bin Laden Finished! There’s No Escape! Closer and closer the US and its Afghan allies crept, until, at last … victory evaporated into the mist, along with OBL himself. Welcome to the “new war,” the Surreal War, where nothing – including “victory” – is quite what it seems….
THE DISAPPEARING SHEIK
Suddenly, we are told, his trail went cold, and our hi-tech, hi-falutin’ multi-billion dollar military machine can’t seem to find him anywhere. Like so much else in our crazy mixed-up post-9/11 world, what we thought we knew turns out to have been an illusion. Our great “victory,” hailed by the pundits, seems equally illusory, dispelled by the news that the Northern Alliance is letting the Taliban leaders go free. In a culture which, as one Pentagon type put it, “has a history built on bartering,” the disappearance of Mullah Omar – along with Osama – is highly suspicious, to say the least.
A HOLLOW VICTORY
As the Taliban, and Al Qaeda, melt into the wild country of Central Asia, the triumph of the West seems strangely hollow – particularly to George W. Bush and his political advisors, who have no doubt seen that poll in which 70-plus percent say it won’t be a real victory unless we get Osama.
A ONE-DAY WONDER
We are constantly being told how “everything is different now,” but have even the laws of nature changed? Events no longer seem to have a beginning, a middle, and an end – they simply erupt, and then fade away in our collective memory, like dreams dimly recalled in the morning. So much about the post-9/11 world seems oddly inconclusive, like a ball of yarn made up entirely of loose ends. There was, for example, the story about the mysterious financial transactions that took place just prior to 9/11. Unusual amounts of money were bet on the possibility that airlines and insurance companies would stand to lose a lot of their value in the coming weeks. Remember that one? It was a one-day wonder, with several stories telling us that the whole thing was being “investigated,” and then – nothing.
SO HURRY UP, ALREADY
Well, next to nothing. Last I heard (Sunday), German computer experts were still “working ’round the clock to unlock the truth behind an unexplained surge in financial transactions made just before” 9/11. But they’ve been working ’round the clock since practically The Day After: so what’s the big delay?
NEW FRONTIERS FOR WAR PROFITEERS
You’ll recall that these lucky – or else very knowledgeable – investors reaped more than $2.5 million in profits by trading options on United Airlines stock, although they never showed up to claim their profits. It was around the end of September when the story broke, and we were told that regulators and law-enforcement agents in the US and Europe were investigating “unusual patterns” in so-called put-options and “short sales” – financial instruments which amount to placing a bet that the price of a particular stock or commodity will fall. It wasn’t just airline stocks that were involved, but also insurance providers and companies resident in the World Trade Tower: Morgan Stanley Dean Witter and Merrill Lynch, among others. Such activity skyrocketed in the three trading days before 9/11. “This smells real bad,” said one stock market maven to the San Francisco Chronicle.
A FRESH WIND BLOWS
But the stench hasn’t lingered, at least not in the public consciousness – and the media is too busy transcribing government press releases with one hand and saluting with the other to bother following up on the story. The New York Times reported that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had found a “benign” explanation for what seemed to be “terrorist insider trading,” while the bureaucrats averred that they were “pursuing all credible leads”: and then, like so much else in our oddly insubstantial post-9/11 universe – nothing.
PRESUMING TOO MUCH
Whomever made those investments almost certainly had at least some foreknowledge of the 9/11 catastrophe. Was it Osama bin Laden’s broker? His wealthy Arab backers’? The Chronicle piece ended with the speculation of unnamed “experts” who claimed that all the “likely candidates” just had to be “affluent Arabs.” Why is this necessarily so? The co-authors of the piece didn’t exactly say, asserting only that it was “presumed.” But surely, if we have learned anything in the past four months, it is that we have to throw out all the old assumptions and preconceptions in this, our “new” war. As related in my last two columns, I can think of a few others who might have had a clue that certain airline stocks were going to take a deep plunge.
HARD DRIVE SECRETS
In the one follow-up article, a Reuters piece by Erick Kirschbaum, the focus is on the efforts of a German computer company that specializes in recovering information stored on hard drives. Out of the rubble of the World Trade Center nearly 40 disk drives have been found remarkably intact, their contents retrieved 100 percent by the German company, Convar. Investigators hope to answer the question asked in the article: “Were criminals responsible for the sharp rise in credit card transactions that moved through some computer systems at the WTC shortly before the planes hit the twin towers?”
FROM TERRORISM TO – CREDIT CARD FRAUD?
This is an entirely new angle: we are off the suspicious pattern of short selling, and onto something else – a credit card scam that would sound fairly ordinary if it wasn’t tied up with the worst terrorist attack in American history. Is this something an Islamist fanatic would plan, or does it seem more like a more prosaic rip-off thought up by some organized crime kingpin?
MYSTERY OF THE FAST-MOVING MILLIONS
In any case, according to Reuters, the key to the mystery of who profited from foreknowledge of 9/11 is supposedly contained in these damaged hard drives. Richard Wagner, a data retrieval expert at Convar, the company contracted to recover this vital data, says “illegal transfers of more than $100 million might have been made immediately before and during the disaster.” This must mean the massive wave of stock option purchases and short-selling. Furthermore, he says:
“There is a suspicion that some people had advance knowledge of the approximate time of the plane crashes in order to move out amounts exceeding $100 million. They thought that the records of their transactions could not be traced after the main frames were destroyed.”
PRIVATIZING THE POLICE
But what about the promised SEC investigation, and that agency’s reportedly “benign” explanation for all these financial shenanigans? The bureaucrats have yet to share their explanation with the rest of us. Meanwhile, their investigation appears to have been abandoned early on, and then, strangely, privatized, i.e. taken over by certain unnamed private companies, and narrowly focused on the unusually high volume of suspicious transactions which took place that fateful morning. Yet the crime of the century was planned and executed over a period of at least five years, according to various “experts” and government officials, plenty of time to build up a highly profitable post-9/11 portfolio. While there may be important clues lodged in yet-to-be-recovered hard drives – or forever lost in the rubble – the record of the market in the weeks and months preceding 9/11 is surely just as valuable, if not more so.
WHO’S GUARDING THE HEN-HOUSE?
So why isn’t it being followed up? Where oh where are our much-vaunted government “regulators,” who – according to the liberal-leftie myth – are supposed to be guarding the market and protecting us from the alleged evils of unregulated capitalism – or is this a case of the fox “guarding” the hen-house?
THE SURREALIST WAR
In the new world, everything is wrapped in the near impenetrable mist of a San Francisco morning. Call it “the fog of war,” or a smokescreen, depending on your politics and proclivities, but whatever it is, it blurs the edges off facts and gives life in wartime a certain surrealistic air. Remember how the President told us we might not always hear about the real action in this new and different kind of war. Everything important is a secret, and the apparent ease and even inevitability of our glorious victory overseas is muted by a sense of all-pervasive fear at home. The alarm is sounded, suddenly in the night, but never do we hear the “all clear.” What silent battles are taking place on the home front as we celebrate the taking of Tora Bora? I’m almost afraid to find out….
UNDER COVER OF NIGHT
Shrouded in mystery as the post-9/11 world seems, a few details stand out in sharp relief, and sometimes the sun even breaks through, for a moment, throwing light on the sort of people who do their best work under cover of darkness. Part four of Carl Cameron’s Fox News special report on Israeli undercover operations in the US is one such a beam of illumination.
STUMBLING ON THE TRUTH
From Cameron we learn that nearly 200 Israelis have been rounded up by law enforcement because they are “suspected of belonging to an ‘organized intelligence-gathering operation.'” Most, we are told, have since been deported to Israel, but “some” are still in custody. In this, the final segment of this amazing expose, we learn how law enforcement stumbled on the Israeli spy operation in the midst of a routine drug bust.
BUGGING THE COPS
In 1997, the feds were ready to swoop down on a drug gang based in Los Angeles. The target was run by an Israeli organized crime syndicate with branches in New York, Miami, Las Vegas, Canada, Israel, and even Egypt. Their specialty: coke, ecstasy, and “sophisticated white-collar credit card and computer fraud.” But there’s a problem: the feds’ plan has gone awry, the bad guys remain elusive, and no one can figure out why. At least, not until the feds discovered that the Israeli Mafia had bugged their communications, and had each and every one of them under surveillance – even home phones. In what is perhaps a bit of an understatement, classified documents uncovered by Fox News aver that
“This compromised law enforcement communications between LAPD detectives and other assigned law enforcement officers working various aspects of the case. The organization discovered communications between organized crime intelligence division detectives, the FBI and the Secret Service.”
OUR OLD FRIEND AMDOCS
Yikes! The feds went into a state of panic, and immediately turned to what many had considered the potential source of a major security breach to begin with: our old friend Amdocs, the Israeli-owned company that, for all practical purposes, generates billing for all the calls made in this country. While the company protests its innocence, Cameron echoes many in law enforcement who think Amdocs’ secrets somehow got into the “wrong hands.”
ECSTASY AND TERROR: THE DRUG CONNECTION
Speaking of Israeli drug gangs that specialize in coke, ecstasy, and marijuana, what about the six members of an international drug ring nabbed in the shadow of the World Trade Center even as it burned? When firefighters went into 300 Albany Street, two blocks north of the WTC, two hours after the towers fell, they discovered Zwi Haim Harris, who for some reason was intent on sticking around. The firefighters turned him over to the cops, because they thought he was acting “suspiciously.” When the cops arrived, Harris told them he lived there, and led them to an apartment. The police saw marijuana on a table, and, upon further investigation, found more than 3,000 ecstasy pills, hashish, marijuana, and all kinds of drug paraphernalia.
They also raided other locations, and rounded up more members of the gang, including Yigal Dobakrov, 37, of Brooklyn, in possession of 50,000 ecstasy pills worth $1.25 million. Dobakrov is an Israeli citizen whose role is depicted by Manhattan district attorney Robert Morganthau as overseeing drug importation to America and seeing to it that the money is shipped back to Israel. The Dobakrov gang has been indicted on drug-related charges, but, in the context of Cameron’s report, their apprehension that day could be seen in a new light.
TYING UP LOOSE ENDS
I don’t want to seem obsessive about this or anything, but a good number of these loose ends in the story of how 9/11 was allowed to happen center around a shadowy Israeli connection to the horrific events of 9/11. The above raises a good number of questions, but, like a scene glimpsed on a foggy day, a few details standing out in stark relief only suggest a much larger picture.
ATTACK OF THE ART STUDENTS
Another odd detail is the story about those bands of Israeli “art students” who suddenly appeared at government buildings, and even defense installations, in the wake of 9/11. On October 1, Houston’s KHOU TV reported that “Federal Buildings could be in jeopardy, in Houston and nationally.” The 11 News “Defenders” investigative team uncovered evidence of “a curious pattern of behavior” by groups of students claiming to be Israeli “artists.” They showed up at the Houston headquarters of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the federal building, the federal prosecutor’s office, loaded down with artwork for sale: but that, law enforcement sources said, appeared to be a cover for casing these buildings. In some cases, these “students” tried to enter secure areas, unobserved, and they even showed up at the homes of federal employees.
So here we have yet another massive breach of security by “Middle Eastern-looking men,” all claiming to be Israelis. It sounds like something out of some cheap paperback thriller, or, perhaps, the Theater of the Absurd: such is life in the nightmare world of the new millennium. Gee, when they told us “everything has changed,” they weren’t kidding, were they?
LIFE IMITATES ART
According to an email obtained by KHOU TV and sent by an official of the Federal Protective Service, federal sites around the nation “experienced an inundation of art solicitations at office buildings by students claiming to be selling Israeli art.” The pattern, it seemed, had occurred a few weeks previously in Atlanta, Georgia. The Houston reporters also cite another federal memo revealing that the same thing happened in New York, Florida, and six other states: “and, even more worrisome, at 36 Department of Defense sites.” So what, as they say, is up with that?
A STREET MUGGING
As far as I know, this report was never followed up – not by the Houston TV station, not by the national media, not by anybody anywhere. It is like a mugging carried out under cover of night: the sweeping headlights of a passing car may briefly illuminate the crime scene, but the street is soon swallowed up in darkness. We get, at best, only a hurried glimpse of the perpetrators, who skulk off undetected.
THEIR MAFIA, AND OURS
It makes perfect sense that a foreign intelligence agency would ally itself with criminal elements in this country, particularly if they share a national allegiance. The US cooperated with the American Mafia, in going after Castro, so why shouldn’t the Israelis recruit their own gangsters to do their dirty work? Carl Cameron’s report, while fragmentary, provides the basis for tying together a lot of these loose ends. The Israeli “art students,” the Dobakrov gang (which specializes in computer and credit card “white collar crime” as well as drugs), the byzantine financial intrigues that took place prior to 9/11, the penetration of our communications system by Israeli agents and Israeli organized crime; the 200 Israeli detainees – it all adds up to a covert Israeli operation whose role is, at this point, indeterminate – but almost certainly not entirely benevolent.
COMBAT OR COLLABORATION
Whether Israeli intelligence was watching, overseeing, collaborating with or combating the Bin Ladenites is an open question, at least until our own government comes clean with (or discovers) the facts. That the Israelis had some significant foreknowledge and involvement in the events preceding 9/11 seems beyond dispute. And here’s the clincher….
In a September 13 New York Times column, “Inside the Bunker,” William Safire related a conversation with an unnamed “high White House official,” who told him that “a threatening message received by the Secret Service was relayed to the agents with the president that ‘Air Force One is next.’ According to the high official, American code words were used showing a knowledge of procedures that made the threat credible.” Safire claims this information was confirmed by Carl Rove, who told him Bush was going to return to Washington before the Secret Service “informed him that the threat contained language that was evidence that the terrorists had knowledge of his procedures and whereabouts.”
If the Bin Ladenites knew that much – in the same way those West Coast Israeli gangsters knew every move the feds were going to make before they made it – then how did they know it without the help of a foreign intelligence agency? And which foreign intelligence agency has penetrated even the supposedly “secure” White House phone system – so that they no doubt had recordings of the “phone sex” that went on between Clinton and his odalisque?
HOW MANY EVIL ONES?
What we know about the real story of September 11, 2001, seems so much more interesting than the mythological tale being promoted by the War Party, which needs a story of Evil Ones and a Nation Caught Unawares to justify a war of vengeance. But who and what is the Evil One? Is there only one, or is the world literally swarming with bad guys, evil ones who would stop at nothing to advance their national cause at the expense of the US?
Oh, I can hear the chorus of yelping even now – “Why, this is nothing but a conspiracy theory!” Yet the horror of 9/11 was conceived and carried out by a Bin Ladenite conspiracy, one utilizing the same methods as the Israeli Mafia in penetrating supposedly “secure” US Government communications systems. Given what we know, it is not unreasonable to suspect that these two groups acted in some sort of collusion, or at least in tandem with each other, in what could have been a provocation, or a sting operation, that got out of hand: we heard Bin Laden say on the famous captured video that he didn’t expect the twin towers to completely disintegrate, and was pleasantly surprised when that happened.
Did a rogue element of Israeli intelligence – driven to desperation by what they viewed as America’s abandonment of Israel – have advance notice of the 9/11 terror blitz? I wouldn’t be surprised in the least – would you? At this point nothing surprises me: and that is what I think they mean when they say “everything has changed.” Yes, the times they are a-changin’ – and I don’t like it any better than you.
A GENERAL RULE
This is not only a “conspiracy theory,” my critics will cry, it is “anti-Semitic” as well,” one that, absurdly, seeks to blame the Jewish state for the destruction of the World Trade Center and the attack on the Pentagon. The issue of blame is settled: clearly, Bin Laden and his associates are responsible. But there are degrees of blame, and, as it turns out, it wasn’t just the top leadership of Al Qaeda who had September 11 marked on their calendars. My contention is that the role of the Israelis in all this, whatever it turns out to have been, was not determined by their Jewishness but by their interests as a state. Every state acts to preserve itself, that is, it acts in accordance with what policymakers define as the national interest, Israel included – perhaps more than most. This general rule ought to include the United States, although, unfortunately, this is not always the case. Especially, one might add, when it comes to Israel.
Where is Congress in all this? They are too busy scrambling to get onboard the war profits bandwagon and making sure their home districts and pet constituencies get their “fair share” of the loot to notice that their country is being sold down the river.
UNDER A BARREL
Where is the media – and why are they hiding this story under a barrel? Our valiant scribes are too busy blaming John Lindh Walker’s ditzy hot-tubbing New Age-y parents for his rejection of Western hedonism in favor of faith, family values, and country – the country of the Taliban, that is.