September 15, 2006

9/11: When Bush went AWOL (again)

White House lied about threat to Air Force One:
The phony Air Force One story not only exposes the duplicitous methods of the Bush administration, it also underscores the shamelessness and complicity of the media. When the White House came out with the story of a terrorist phone threat against the president’s plane, the media uncritically repeated it, with banner headlines and chilling segments on the evening news. As it has throughout the present crisis, the media functioned unabashedly as a propaganda arm of the government.

But when the White House, two weeks later, retracted the story, most networks failed to even report the fact, as did leading newspapers such as the New York Times. The Washington Post, for its part, buried the government’s about-face on its inside pages. No media outlet made an issue of this incriminating admission, or discussed its broader implications.

Well before the official retraction, it was widely accepted in the Washington press corps that the administration had made up the Air Force One story. In her column in the September 23 New York Times, Maureen Dowd noted that Karl Rove had “called around town, trying to sell reporters the story— now widely discredited —that Mr. Bush didn’t immediately return to Washington on Sept. 11 because the plane that was headed for the Pentagon may have really been targeting the White House, and that Air Force One was in jeopardy, too” (emphasis added).

Dowd and her colleagues believed the government was lying, but the public had no way of knowing the story was not credible since the news media refused to openly challenge it.

There may be another reason for the silence of the press. The story handed out on September 12 by Rove, Fleischer and other White House officials raised issues even more explosive and potentially damning than Bush’s feckless behavior on September 11.

Safire pointed to one such question in his September 13 New York Times column. Referring to the White House claim that the terrorists had knowledge of secret information about Air Force One, Safire asked: “How did they get the code-word information and transponder know-how that established their mala fides? That knowledge of code words and presidential whereabouts and possession of secret procedures indicates that the terrorists may have a mole in the White House—that, or informants in the Secret Service, FBI, FAA, or CIA.”

Safire’s entirely valid question as to how a supposed terrorist could have knowledge of such top-secret and sensitive information has never been taken up by the media at large, or addressed by the government.

If, indeed, such a phone call took place, it would raise an alternate theory of contact between the terrorists and one or another agency of the government at least as plausible as that suggested by Safire: Namely, that the call was not a threat, but rather a tip-off from an informant for the US who had knowledge of the plans and activities of the terrorists.
So if there was a coded threat, how did the terrorists get the codes?

On the other hand, if there was no coded threat, why was Bush kept out of Washington for so long? Was it Bush's decision? Was he terrified? Or was it Cheney and/or Rove's decision to keep him out of the way? And if so, why?


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