Joe Conason's Journal

The 9/11 intelligence breakdown was even worse than we thought.

By Salon Staff

Published September 18, 2002 6:26PM (EDT)

Report will steam Rice
The L.A. Times says today's 9/11 congressional hearing will signal renewed support for voting an independent investigation before the midterm election. The story also indicates -- in direct contradiction of widely publicized statements by National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice -- that "the [committee] report will include newly declassified intelligence materials showing that U.S. spy agencies had more warning than they have previously acknowledged that terrorists might attack U.S. soil and use aircraft as weapons."

Blair (a bit further) behind Bush
Tony Blair's divergence from the president's current position on Iraq is recorded here: "We have got to keep up the pressure to make sure the weapons inspectors actually go in -- not just that [Saddam] says they can go in but they actually go in and that they can do their job."

A ruse by any other name
The stock market's swan dive has left conservatives at a loss to justify their enthusiasm for privatizing Social Security. With a few principled exceptions, they prefer not to try. Instead they obfuscate, they misdirect, they change the subject -- and if that doesn't work, they smoothly prevaricate. Hearing their version of recent history, you would suppose that no proposal to privatize the nation's most popular government program has ever existed -- and certainly not a scheme supported by President Bush and those compassionate congressional Republicans.

"No one," says a Liddy Dole campaign spokeswoman indignantly, "is talking about 'privatization.'" Perhaps not, but they all used to talk about it, including Madame Dole, when the Dow looked healthier. As various GOP candidates seek to conceal or deny their own past support of Bush's privatization plan, its original promoters at the Cato Institute are helpfully sanitizing the files. Over the past few weeks those highly principled, fiercely independent libertarians have quietly changed the name of their 7-year-old effort to redirect Social Security funds to the private sector. Like their Republican patrons, however, they find it easier to deceive than to explain: "On August 14, 1995, the Cato Institute launched its Project on Social Security Choice, the largest undertaking in the organization's history." That is false. What Cato inaugurated in August 1995 was known as the "Project on Social Security Privatization" from then until about two weeks ago. Obviously the Stalinists no longer have a monopoly on rewriting inconvenient history. But these right-wing revisionists are incompetent as well as dishonest. Anyone who noses around their Web site will soon find plenty of lingering evidence that "privatization" is exactly what they've been talking about at Cato and in the GOP. Here's a fine example of the genre from 1998, when racial pseudo-scientist Charles Murray argued that Social Security in its present form is "immoral." No doubt the moral choice is to hand over the billions of dollars managed by the social insurance system -- and the people who depend on that money for survival -- to the impeccable professionals on Wall Street.

Rushing to judgment
How did Rush Limbaugh determine that the members of the alleged al-Qaida cell in Buffalo are definitely guilty? He heard that they were all registered Democrats. That's no joke. "Al-Qaeda Terrorists Urge: Vote Democrat!" was the headline on the radio reactionary's Web site. They are indicted, not convicted, but that doesn't faze "El Rushbo." He's a mindless inciter who cherishes the Constitution only insofar as it protects his own privileges. Though he was raised in a family of lawyers and judges, concepts like the presumption of innocence are meaningless to this entertainer. Exactly what crime the Buffalo residents may have committed isn't clear; their bail hearing today may reveal a more plausible case that they are "terrorists," but the FBI has explicitly stated that they were not planning any overt acts. For Rush, it's all just another chance for cheap demagoguery. Under mug shots of the five Arab-Americans on his site is a clever caption: "Remember the Reagan Democrats? Meet the Al-Qaeda Democrats."

In the same item, Limbaugh whines that Bill Clinton used the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 to "tar his political opponents," meaning himself. But one of the Buffalo News stories linked on his site includes this passage from a New Republic article, describing an al-Qaida recruitment tape: "Bin Laden's fighters shoot off anti-aircraft guns and rocket-propelled grenades ... and shoot at images of (then) President Clinton." Shooting at Clinton? Maybe they're really Limbaugh Democrats.
[11:45 a.m. PDT, Sept. 18, 2002]

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