Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

11 Sivan 5762 - May 22, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
A Concept that Must be Changed

The vile suicide attacks last September 11 which brought down the twin towers of the World Trade Center along with another 47 story building, stunned the United States and changed the way it and much of the world thinks about the future course of events. Yet it has now come to light that American security services had pointed to the possibility many times previously. Nothing was done; the scenarios were not even thought about to prepare a reaction.

According to a report from the Library of Congress dated September 1999, to the National Intelligence Council of President Bill Clinton, a "suicide bomber belonging to Al Qaeda's Martyrdom Battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the CIA or the White House."

An FBI agent in Phoenix, Kenneth Williams, in a memo dated July 5 of last year -- barely two months before September 11 -- noted that several Islamic radicals in his area were enrolled in flight schools and seemed unusually interested in security arrangements at airports. Though none of the radicals surveyed in the memo had anything to do with the terrible hijackings, Williams urged the FBI to do a nationwide review of all flight schools to see if Al Qaeda was up to something.

CIA chief George Tenet, in response to a request by President Bush about what Al Qaeda might do within the United States, sent a report on August 6 of last year to the US President outlining a number of possibilities, including hijacking airliners.

All this now looks quite different than it appeared to those who read the information at the time. Clinton and his advisors deemed the scenarios "not actionable." The FBI, it is known, thought that undertaking a national investigation was too big a project. They had plenty of work already and did not consider the speculation an immediate enough threat to take any action right away.

Most of this information has been kept from public knowledge in the eight months since the attacks. It is profoundly embarrassing to the top officers of the organizations involved, including the US President.

In retrospect it is easy to see how the hints and bits of information could have led one to take steps that would have headed off the tragedy. However, the failure was not a simple one of connecting a few dots, but rather a massive blindness that results from a preconception about the world that is resistant to change until it is shocked by something like the massive attacks.

It happened in Israel before the Yom Kippur War, when the political and intelligence leadership was so convinced that it was impossible for the Arab countries to make war with Israel that they ignored obvious preparations. It apparently happened in the US as well, where the authorities just seemed to have felt that such a massive, suicidal attack is the stuff of movies or perhaps it is believable in some far-off corner of the world, but is far from what could happen in real life -- and especially in the United States of America!

We know that the proper way to look at such events is from the perspective that there is a Divine hand that directs the course of history. It was evident in the stunning destruction and now it is emphasized by the apparent warnings that went unheeded. The mightiest country that has ever existed in the world was painfully hurt by a group of terrorists armed with box cutters.

We must work as hard as we can to avoid such events, but no amount of human will, determination or even money will be successful without Help from Above.

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