Sunday, August 01, 2004

Repeat Show: 9/11 Panel Points to Institutional-failure - The Times of India

LEADER ARTICLE
Repeat Show: 9/11 Panel Points to Institutional-failure - The Times of India
: "Repeat Show: 9/11 Panel Points to Institutional-failure
K SUBRAHMANYAM

[ MONDAY, AUGUST 02, 2004 12:00:00 AM ]

The 9/11 Commission has held that the most important failure of the US administration was one of imagination. "We do not believe", says the commission, "leaders understood the gravity. The terrorist danger from bin Laden and Al-Qaida was not a major topic for policy debate among the media or in the Congress. Indeed, it barely came up during the 2000 presidential campaign".


Nine years before the 9/11 attack, the Senate foreign relations sub-committee, under the chairmanship of senator John Kerry, looked into the affairs of the Pakistani Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). The sub-committee concluded: "The CIA developed important information on BCCI and inadvertently failed to provide it to those who could use it... Unanswered questions include, but are not limited to, the relationship between BCCI and Banco Nazionale del Lavoro, the alleged relationship between the late CIA director William Casey and BCCI, extent of BCCI's involvement in Pakistan's nuclear programme. Documents pertaining to BCCI's use to finance terrorism, to assist the builders of a Pakistani nuclear bomb, to finance Iranian arms and related matters have been sealed in the UK by British intelligence and remain unavailable to US investigators".

Not only was there no follow-up on these observations, this failure has not even figured in the present presidential campaign though the then chairman of the Senate sub-committee is the present Democratic presidential candidate. The 9/11 Commission has observed: "Al-Qaida's new brand of terrorism presented challenges to US governmental institutions that they were not well-designed to meet". But the commission did not investigate the 20-year-old relationship between the Casey-led CIA and Pakistani entities. Nor did it focus on the US permissiveness towards BCCI operations, including its financing of terrorism, Pakistani nuclear programme, illegal arms sales and the activities of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence which installed the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 1994. The commission has referred to the interests of American oil companies in developing a pipeline through Afghanistan, and the consequent negotiations between US officials and the Taliban regime. Given this long relationship between the CIA and jehadi groups, and the American attitude to ISI activities, should there be any surprise that US governmental institutions were not well prepared to meet the Al-Qaida challenge?

The degree of permissiveness in relation to weapons of mass destruction is evident from the official US assertion that Washington came to know about A Q Khan's proliferation only in the last few years. The Kerry report, as mentioned before, referred to BCCI's involvement in proliferation. According to Khan's own confession, a worldwide network of proliferation, involving North Korea, China and various western European countries, had been going on for two decades. Yet, the premier US intelligence agency claims to have been unaware of it. And this, when the country spends billions of dollars annually on a counter-proliferation programme.

In 1998, the US Congress set up a new commission to examine all the available intelligence concerning the threat from ballistic missiles. The commission had Donald Rumsfeld, the present defence secretary, as its chairman and Paul Wolfowitz, the present deputy defence secretary, as a member. The commission singled out Iran, Iraq and North Korea as the greatest threats to the US. Though Pyongyang was specifically named, the missile-for-uranium-enrichment exchange between North Korea and Pakistan escaped the notice of the US intelligence and, therefore, of the Rumsfeld commission.

China started supplying missiles to Pakistan from 1992, a fact admitted to by Islama-bad in its own senate in 1993. Yet, the Clinton administration maintained till 2000 that it was unable to make a determination on the transfer of missiles from China to Pakistan. According to Bob Woodward's Plan of attack, the US didn't possess adequate human intelligence (humint) assets in Iraq, which led to the wrong assessment on Iraqi WMD. Steve Coll's book, Ghost Wars reveals that the CIA didn't have sufficient 'humint' assets in Afghanistan to help in the capture of bin Laden. The CIA has also attributed its surprise regarding India's nuclear tests to the lack of humint assets in India in 1998.

While Pakistan proliferated WMDs to North Korea, Iran and Libya, it was the beneficiary of Chinese M-9, M-11 and North Korean Nodong missiles. The 9/11 Commission admits that the movement of bin Laden from Sudan to Afghanistan could not have taken place without the knowledge and acquiescence of the ISI. Indeed, a large number of Al-Qaida cadres came to bin Laden's training camps via Pakistan. The present performance of the CIA would seem to replicate the failures from an earlier era: Having never operated in Shah's Iran, it got all its intelligence from SAVAK. No wonder, the US was taken completely by surprise when the Shah was overthrown.

In the current instance, the US security establishment seems to have been excessively preoccupied with the oil producing countries of West Asia. Pakistan, a non-oil producer, was simply used to spread Jehadism, develop weapons of mass destruction and acquire missiles. The neocons paid very little attention to the Afghanistan-Pakistan region which had no oil.

The 9/11 attack which was planned by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, under the overall direction of bin Laden, had its origins in this non-oil producing region."

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