Families of the 3,000 people who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack welcomed release July 24 of a House-Senate intelligence report that outlined specific warnings to the FBI and CIA of an imminent attack which they did nothing to prevent.

David Potorti, spokesperson for September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, whose brother died in the World Trade Center, was at the Capitol Hill news conference where the 900-page report was released.

“We met with FBI Director Robert Mueller,” he said. “We met with Sen. Bob Graham. We attended the press conference. Everyone said ‘This is not about blame.’ It was so odd that nobody is being blamed. How can this many people die and it’s nobody’s fault? Unless we have some kind of accountability I fear it could happen again.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) assailed Bush administration secrecy in delaying the report and blocking the release of 28 pages. Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) also condemned the secrecy, adding, “The attacks of Sept. 11 could have been prevented” if the FBI, CIA and law enforcement agencies had shared what they knew about al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

Said Potorti, “I would encourage Pelosi to be even more critical. This administration is far too secretive.”

The report revealed that the FBI had obtained an intelligence document in December 1998 which stated, “Plans to hijack U.S. aircraft proceeding well. Two individuals had successfully evaded checkpoints in dry run at N.Y. airport.”

The report disclosed that two of the hijackers, Khalid Almidar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, were known to the CIA and had settled in San Diego where they had numerous contacts with an FBI informant. A Saudi agent, Omar al-Bayoumi, befriended the two and supplied them with money. He “had access to seemingly unlimited funding from Saudi Arabia,” said the report.

An unidentified FBI agent testified that if the CIA had told them what they knew about Almidar and al-Hazmi, “it would have made a huge difference.”

But nuggets of information like this are few in the report, and lawmakers and the families blamed George W. Bush for blocking release of the 28 pages which reportedly expose Saudi Arabia’s close ties to the terrorists.

“In fact, the political wrangling over what should be classified resulted in a seven-month delay between the report’s filing (December 2002) and release (July 2003),” said a statement by Potorti’s group. “We believe that such delays are unacceptable at a time when America remains a target of al Qaeda. … We hope that similar wrangling will not delay the May 2004 release of the report to be made by the independent commission.”

They were referring to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States chaired by former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean. Already, that commission has complained that the Pentagon and Justice Department are impeding their attempts to investigate the attack.

Former Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.), a triple-amputee Vietnam veteran defeated by a Republican smear campaign last November that impugned his patriotism, charged that Bush deliberately held up the report because he feared it would contradict claims of an Iraqi tie to al Qaeda. “The administration wanted to get the war in Iraq in and over … before it came out,” Cleland said. “The administration sold the connections (between Iraq and al Qaeda) to scare the pants off the American people and justify the war. There’s no connection.”

Another group, the Family Steering Committee for the 9/11 Independent Commission, prepared a list of “unanswered questions” on their web site. The first question is: “What connections did our government have with the terrorists prior to 9/11?” Other questions concern “State Department negotiations with the Taliban re: pipeline through Afghanistan … Interaction with the Taliban and/or bin Laden … CIA training and arming of terrorists.”

Potorti said, “Those are the questions our government should be asking.” He added, “Everything the peace movement said has been proven true. There was no Iraqi involvement in Sept. 11. This war has turned out to be a giant recruitment poster for al Qaeda.” Potorti has just written a book entitled, “September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows: Turning Our Grief into Action for Peace.”

Washington-based investigative writer, John Judge, told the World, “This report focused solely on intelligence failures and that is a very slippery slope. It implies that the solution is to increase funding for the FBI and CIA, to allow them wider powers. It poses a greater threat to our civil liberties without making us more secure. The real answers lie in deeper questions about intelligence and foreign policy, not building this security fortress state.” Judge is co-founder of 9/11 Citizens Watch.

No doubt the Bush administration wants to protect the Saudi royal family, he said, but they also want to protect themselves. “The Bush family is in bed with the Saudis and have been for a long time,” said Judge. George Bush (the elder) sat on the Board of the Carlyle Group, a huge defense contractor, right alongside members of the bin Laden family.

The Saudi government, furious over the report, sent Foreign Minister Prince Saud Faisal to meet with Bush at the White House July 29. Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who also attended, demanded that the 28 pages be released. “Saudi Arabia has nothing to hide,” he told reporters. “We can deal with questions in public but we cannot respond to blank pages.”

The author can be reached at greenerpastures21212@yahoo.com

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