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George W. Bush and Article 125.10 of the New York State penal code

Joseph Murtagh

George W. Bush and Article 125.10 of the New York State penal code


 “It’s amazing what you see when you look” – Yogi Berra


October 8, 2006 -- On May 17, 2002, President Bush presented a trophy to the United States Air Forces Academy Falcons, and during the award ceremony, he made some comments about 9/11.  “Had I known that the enemy was going to use airplanes to kill on that fateful morning,” he said, “I would have done everything in my power to protect the American people.”[i]


Ever since 9/11, Bush has done his utmost to convince the American public that the techniques used by the attackers caught the government completely by surprise, but the truth is there is absolutely no good reason why the Bush administration shouldn’t have known that the enemy could use “airplanes to kill on that fateful morning.”  The possibility that foreign enemies might attack America using planes as weapons was common knowledge in U.S. intelligence circles going back at least to the spring of 1998, when terrorism specialists presented an analysis of security threats to the FAA, warning that hijackers might commandeer commercial airliners and fly them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the White House.[ii]  And it was in 1998 too that counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke chaired a tabletop exercise at the White House, outlining a scenario where anti-American militants would fill a Learjet with explosives, and then fly it on a suicide mission toward a target in Washington, DC.[iii]  Likewise, in 1999 a report prepared by U.S. intelligence warned that Al-Qaeda could “crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the CIA, or the White House,” while later in the same year British intelligence told a liaison staff at the U.S. embassy that bin Laden was planning to attack America using “commercial aircraft,” in “unconventional ways,” “possibly as flying bombs.”[iv]  As Paul Pillar, the former deputy director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, told the Los Angeles Times in October 2001, “The idea of commandeering an aircraft and crashing it into the ground and causing high casualties?  Sure, we’ve thought of it.”[v]


So why didn’t Bush think of it?  At the very least, one wonders what the point of having intelligence agencies is if the President of the United States isn’t going to pay any attention to them.  Bush wants us to believe that he and his administration were kept in the dark about the terrorist threat for his first nine months of office, but the truth is he was told of it, repeatedly.  A story that’s gotten a lot of attention in the media lately is Bob Woodward’s revelation in his new book State of Denial that George Tenet warned Condaleeza Rice of imminent terrorist attacks in the summer of 2001, but what’s not being mentioned is that Tenet’s was only one out of a blizzard of warnings that the Bush administration received – and ignored – in the months leading up to 9/11. 


On December 14 2000, for instance, a federal panel chaired by former Virginia governor James Gilmore told then-president elect Bush that a terrorist attack on American soil was inevitable and urged him to bolster U.S. preparedness within one year, and yet no action was taken.[vi]  Only one month after that came the final report of the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century, a bipartisan team put together in 1998 by then-President Bill Clinton and then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich to study the threat of terrorism.  The report was co-chaired by Senators Gary Hart (D) and Warren Rudman (R), both of whom personally briefed Condaleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, and Colin Powell on their findings, and yet was completely ignored by all three, even though it contained fifty recommendations on how to fight terrorism in the U.S.  In fact, according to Senator Hart, in March of 2001 when Congress introduced legislation implementing some of the commission’s recommendations, the White House actually shut it down.[vii]  Between January and September of 2001, Bush was briefed no less than 40 times on Al-Qaeda.[viii]  In late June of 2001, both George Tenet and Richard Clarke warned Condaleeza Rice of an impending strike on U.S. soil, and on July 6 Clarke again told Rice to prepare for 3-5 simultaneous attacks, with no apparent response.[ix]  On July 10 came Tenet’s second warning to Rice, but still, nothing.[x]  In mid-August, Cofer Black, head of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, after telling an audience at the Department of Defense’s annual convention, “We are going to be struck soon, many Americans are going to die, and it could be in the US,” complained that top government officials weren’t taking warnings by the intelligence community seriously.[xi]  Perhaps he was referring to a few days earlier that August, when, while vacationing in Texas, President Bush received the by now notorious memo warning that Bin Laden was planning on striking targets in the U.S., and which called for the President to take immediate action.  Far from taking immediate action, however, that afternoon, President Bush went fishing.[xii]    


And this isn’t even counting the warnings from overseas.  In the months leading up to 9/11, urgent reports of attacks against U.S. targets landed in the lap of the Bush administration from the German government.  And the Israeli government.  And the Jordanian government.  And the Egyptian government.  And the British government.  And the Italian government.  And the Indian government.  And the Russian government.  And the French government.  And the Argentinean government.  Even the Taliban warned them![xiii]  In fact, so intense had the warnings become that in the summer of 2001 John Ashcroft stopped flying on commercial airplanes because of an FBI “threat assessment,” and at the G8 summit in Genoa, Italy on July 20-21, Bush slept offshore on an aircraft carrier because there was concern that Osama bin Laden might fly airplanes packed with explosives into the embassy hotel.[xiv] 


Surely Bush isn’t so stupid that he couldn’t have known the reason he wasn’t sleeping in the hotel.  As disturbing as it is that the President and Attorney General of the United States would take precautionary measures to ensure their own personal safety without extending the same courtesy to the citizens it is their job to protect, the fact remains that before 9/11 the prevailing atmosphere at the White House was so rife with warnings that it would have been impossible for members of the Bush administration not to know of the threat of terrorism.  And yet again and again after the attacks the Bush administration denied any prior knowledge whatsoever.  “Never in anybody’s thought processes,” said Bush to reporters on September 16, 2001, “did we ever think that the evil doers would fly not one but four commercial aircraft into precious US targets ... never.”[xv]  On the same day Vice President Dick Cheney said that there had been “no specific threat involving really a domestic operation or involving what happened, obviously—the cities, airliner and so forth.”[xvi]  On May 15, 2002, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters “the President did not receive information about the use of airplanes by suicide bombers.”[xvii]  And the following day, National Security Advisor Condaleeza Rice said, “I don’t think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon, that they would try to use an airplane as a missile.”[xviii]


These are simply boldfaced lies.  Not only was the Bush administration informed of the threat beforehand, but also many of the warnings were specific as to target and technique.  In June of 2001, for instance, the German intelligence agency BND warned the U.S. that Middle Eastern militants were planning to hijack commercial aircraft and fly them into “American symbols.”[xix]  A report from Jordanian intelligence in the summer of 2001 that was deemed so important it was relayed from King Abdullah’s own men to Washington stated that a major attack against the U.S. was in the workings, and that aircraft would be used as weapons.[xx]   And in August Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the U.S. that suicide pilots were training to attack national landmarks.[xxi]  “We had clearly warned them,” the head of Russian intelligence said later, “but they didn’t pay the necessary attention.”[xxii]     


The Bush administration has been lying through its teeth about 9/11 all along.  The issue is important because with the knowledge they did have they could have taken constructive steps.  For instance, they could have gone after terrorism in the months before 9/11.  They could have scrambled fighter jets the morning of the attacks to deal with the problem immediately instead of letting hijacked airplanes fly around in U.S. airspace for nearly two hours.  They could have released an announcement warning the public of terrorism so that when the planes hit the towers the people inside would have known to get out of the buildings, and not return to their workplaces, as they were instructed to do by the authorities. 


They could have done any of these things, but instead, they did nothing. 


Therefore, the Muckraker Report is now calling on the state of New York to bring charges against the Bush administration for violation of article 125.10 of the New York State penal code, according to which an individual is guilty of criminally negligent homicide, when, through a failure to act, he causes the death of another person.  Criminally negligent homicide is a class E felony, which carries a prison sentence of at least three years.[xxiii]  Multiply this by 2726, the number of people who died in the World Trade Center, and we arrive at a minimum sentence of 8178 years.


The person to prosecute such a case is Eliot Spitzer, the Attorney General of New York State.  Angered by the failure of the 9/11 Commission to answer many of their questions, as well as by the astonishing fact that no criminal investigation of 9/11 has ever taken place, on November 19, 2004 a group of survivors, emergency workers, and 9/11 families submitted a Citizens’ Complaint and Petition to Spitzer’s office, citing probable cause for an independent grand jury investigation to examine unsolved crimes in connection with the 9/11 attacks.  Curious to know what the status was of this Complaint, on October 5, 2006 I placed a call to the New York State Attorney General’s Office.  I spoke on the phone with an individual who wishes to remain anonymous, which after checking the records assured me that nothing had been done.  “I can tell you for sure the case never went anywhere,” I was told.    


How could this be, when evidence of the government’s wrongdoing is only a few clicks of the mouse away?  We can only hope that Spitzer’s decision to ignore the 9/11 families was due to his not wanting to jeopardize his chances of winning the gubernatorial race in New York State, and that in the great likelihood he does become governor of New York this November the so-called “sheriff of Wall Street” will live up to his reputation by ordering an independent investigation into what from all appearances has been a massive cover-up at the highest levels of the U.S. government.       

[i] U.S. President.  2002.  Remarks.  “Remarks on Presenting the Commander in Chief’s Trophy to the United States Air Forces Academy Falcons, May 17, 2002.”  Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents 38, no. 20.  20: May: 837-838 http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/05/20020517-1.html

[ii] Fainaru, Steve.  2002.  “Clues Pointed to Changing Terrorist Tactics.”  Washington Post.  19 May.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentId=A39166-2002May18&notFound=

[iii] Kaplan, Fred.  2004.  “Show Me the Money.”  Slate.  22 July.  http://www.slate.com/id/2104208/

[iv] Solomon, John.  “1999 Report Warned of Suicide Hijack.”  Associated Press.  18 April. http://www.prisonplanet.com/1999_Report_Warned_of_Suicide_Hijack.htm

Rufford, Nicholas.  2002.  “MI6 Warned US of Al-Qaeda Attacks.”  Sunday Times (London).  9 June.  http://www.propagandamatrix.com/mi6_warned_us_of_al_qaeda_attacks.htm

[v] Braun, Stephen.  2001.  “Haunted by Years of Missed Warnings.”  Los Angeles Times.  14 October. http://www.911readingroom.org/bib/whole_document.php?article_id=105

[vi] Vise, David A.  2000.  “Panel Calls for Creating Counterterrorism Agency.”  Washington Post.  15 December.   http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A7529-2000Dec14?language=printer

[vii] Tapper, Jake.  2001.  “We Predicted It.”  Salon.  12 September. http://dir.salon.com/story/politics/feature/2001/09/12/bush/index.html

[viii] CNN.  2004.  “Transcript of Rice’s 9/11 Commission Statement.”  19 May.  http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/04/08/rice.transcript/

[ix] Newsweek.  2001.  “The Secret Reasons for the Alert.”  22 July. http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=104&STORY=/www/story/07-22-2001/0001538191&EDATE=  Gellman, Barton.  2002.  “Before 9/11, Unshared Clues and Unshaped Policy.”  Washington Post.  17 May. http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A30176-2002May16?language=printer  Johnston, David and Eric Schmitt.  2004.  “Uneven Response Seen on Terror in Summer of 2001.”  New York Times.  4 April.  http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=F60911FF3A5D0C778CDDAD0894DC404482

[x] Elliot, Michael.  2004.  “They Had a Plan.”  Time.  4 August. http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101020812/story.html

[xi] U.S. Congress.  House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.  2002.  Unclassified Testimony of Cofer Black.  107 Cong., 2nd sess. http://www.fas.org/irp/congress/2002_hr/092602black.html

[xii] Wallace, Kelly.  2001.  “Bush Vacation Puts Spotlight on Tiny Crawford.”  CNN.  7 August.  http://archives.cnn.com/2001/ALLPOLITICS/08/06/bush.crawford/

[xiv] CBS News.  2001.  “Ashcroft Flying High.” 26 July.  http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2001/07/26/national/main303601.shtml  Sanger, David.  2001.  “A NATION CHALLENGED: THE CONSPIRACY; 2 Leaders Tell of Plot to Kill Bush in Genoa.”  New York Times.  26 September.  http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=F40715F8385E0C758EDDA00894D9404482 

[xv] U.S. President.  2001.  “Remarks on Arrival at the White House and an Exchange with Reporters on September 16, 2001.”  Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents 37, no. 38.  24 September: 1322-1324.  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010916-2.html

[xvi] Aita, Judy.  2001.  “UN General Assembly Pledges Solidarity Against Terrorists.”  Washington File.  12 September. 


[xvii] Sanger, David.  2002.  “BUSH WAS WARNED BIN LADEN WANTED TO HIJACK PLANES.”  New York Times.  16 May.     http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=F30913FA3A5D0C758DDDAC0894DA404482

[xviii] White House.  2002.  “National Security Advisor Holds Press Briefing.”  16 May. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/05/20020516-13.html

[xix] Cameron, Carl.  2002.  “Clues Alerted White House to Potential Attacks.”  Fox News.  17 May.   http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,53065,00.html

[xx] Cooley, John K.  2002.  “Other Unheeded Warnings Before 9/11?”  Christian Science Monitor.  23 May. http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0523/p11s01-coop.html

[xxi] Cameron, Carl.  2002.  “Clues Alerted White House to Potential Attacks.”  Fox News.  17 May. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,53065,00.html

[xxiii] Findlaw for Legal Professionals.  http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/nycodes/c82/a28.html

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