Four Years After September 11

24 MB MP3

We got exactly the kind of system we paid for. After 911 there was debate about what we should do, but every governor, every state, everybody wanted a piece of the pie … the vast majority of it went to give out aid to state and local governments … every nickel or federal dollar that we gave New Orleans is now under six feet of water.

James Carafano

It’s been four years and a day.

We’ve created a new cabinet-level department. We’ve instituted a new hierarchy for the intelligence community. (Or at least have begun to do so.) We’ve agreed — uneasily, perhaps, but the laws are there — to give up certain civil liberties in return for security. And we’ve fought two wars… and counting.

So, in the wake of this anniversary, and even without a storm-ravaged Gulf Coast foremost in our minds, it’s fair to ask where we are, as a nation, with respect to security and terrorism and, more generally, our ability to deal with disasters of all kinds, be they from devious minds or capricious winds.

Once again the questions pile up faster than anyone can answer: What were we supposed to have learned from September 11? What have we learned? How safe are we? And how safe do we feel, which doesn’t seem like such an irrelevant or unfair question four years into our War on Terror. What exactly has changed since the morning of September 11, 2001?

We want to believe that the national security implications of Hurricane Katrina aren’t as terrifying as they appear. We want to believe that, had there been a radiological bomb attack in the French Quarter instead of a catastrophic storm in the Gulf (a storm that wasn’t exactly a surprise attack), we would have seen a more cohesive response, a more effective evacuation, and more sure-handed leadership. But do we have reason to be optimistic?

James Ridgeway

The Washington correspondent for the Village Voice

Author of the forthcoming The Five Unanswered Questions About 9/11

[In a studio in Washington, DC]

James Carafano

Senior Fellow for National Security and Homeland Security at the Heritage Foundation

[On the phone from Washington, DC]

Related Content

  • A caller just asked Jim Ridgeway whether President Clinton had been offered opportunities to strike at Bin Laden, and neither Jim nor Chris could verify that. How about the August 1998 missile strike (see News/Hour. And here were some explicit opportunities listed by the Times of London between 1998 and 2000 (new article, which to my understanding verifies information that was mostly known). To be fair, Clinton wasn’t the only President who missed a chance to target a wanted terrorist. Slate wrote extensively about the Bush administration’s decision not to target Zarqawi before the Iraq war.

    Who knows how either of these acts would have changed history, though.

  • shpilk

    The main reason why we cannot find the kernel of truth in historcal terms, especially for 9/11, the war in Iraq and now for Katrina is that people who were irresponsible, negligent or criminally culpable are trying to cover their own rear ends.

    This is all about politics – if the opposition party held control of Congress, we would have had a lot more answers. In the case of 9/11, there is information being suppressed by the Federal govt to this day. Lot’s of it.

    Just ask Sibel Edmonds ..


    Why was the National Guard on scene while the rain was still falling from Frances in 2004, in FL {two months before the election}? George Bush was in FL two days after the storm hit distributing ice and MREs then.

    What changed?

  • shpilk

    {Sibel Edmonds would be an EXCELLENT guest for your show}

  • shpilk

    re: Katrina

    Come on folks – we got what Grover Norquist promised .. and it all drowned in a bathub. Rich people have insurance and got away from the pain and suffering.

    This is ALL ABOUT politics, class warfare ala Norquist and policy choices.

  • joel

    The real heros re. Katrina are the amazing meteorologists of the NWS. They spelled the whole thing out for anyone interested DAYS before thestorm hit the beach. Given thestakes, preparations should have been made AHEAD of time and unmade afterwards if unneeded. I am really full of listening to people whining that the needed aid could not be mobilezed instantly when they had four days warning before the fact

  • joel

    Did anyone get Michael Brown’s past salary back before they let him get away? It seems to me that, since Mr. Brown admitted his culpability in presenting himself as a competent in his slinking away when, in reality the whole time, he was an incompetent, he owes this society of tax payers a whole lot of money.

    Come to think of it, I wonder why anyone pays their taxes until the IRS presents them with a bill for work well done and completed and approved by the payers. I thought most people operated in that mode. Am I missing out onsimething?

  • Umm, it’s called the federal budget?

    And even if Brown had admitted “in presenting himself as a competent,” there’s no job in America where someone is docked money already paid out. Under Brown’s stewardship, FEMA did manage to serve 150 declared disasters in the last 30 months. Granted, only now when we really needed FEMA to go above and beyond the call of duty did his inexperience really manifest itself.

    There’s only so many resources that the Senate staff has to vet executive appointments. I wonder whether anyone had thought of seeking the help of thousands of citizen-researchers. I’ve tossed most of the DSCC correspondence I get, but I can’t recall single instance where they asked party volunteers to help investigate appointments. Maybe there is a website somewhere which does this?

  • shpilk

    Finally, there is the familiar question of ouright fraud ..

    “FEMA under Brown’s management inappropriately gave away $30 million in disaster relief funds to people in the Miami, Florida, area even though they were not affected by Hurricane Frances, which made landfall more than 100 miles away”

    Wonder where that money ended up?

  • Potter

    There is no accountability period. I hope this link to Mike Luckovich’s cartoon “The Blame Game” works:

    A political animal should repond more quickly to sinking approval numbers than FEMA to a disaster.

    In any case, I don’t think Bush can invoke 9/11 the way he did before Katrina.

    Regarding disasters such as Katrina: I think if was James Carafano who said that the federal government was not ready for a situation in which the local governments would be so overwhelmed such that help would be needed immediately. I am at a loss for words…..

    He also gave the rudiments of what good planning for disaster might be, starting on the federal level and then fanning out to the local level. I would have liked to hear him expand on that.

  • On topic (I hope), Newsweek has put together an excellent timeline/narrative in this week’s issue about the whereabouts of the Mayor/Governor/President, titled How Bush Blew It; Keith Olbermann presented it on Countdown this evening. They certainly got people to talk off-the-record in much shorter a time than the 9/11 investigations.

    Many questions are answered, such as why the military took a relatively long time to get there, as compared to, and I quote this directly, “Looters and well-armed gangs, like TV crews, moved faster.”

    (What were the TV crews shooting with, other than with videocameras?)

  • neils

    I just listened to the Opensource Podcast of the interview with James Ridgeway, and although his Five Unanswered Questions may be a good start I was distressed that he seemed to avoid the more difficult questions underlying the apparent cover-up of what really happened on 9/11. Some of these troubling questions include:

    What was the actual cause for the collapse of the two towers at the WTC as well as the implosive collapse later that afternoon of the 47 story WTC 7 office building that was not struck by a plane? Steeel frame buildiongs have never before collapsed from fire, yet on 9/11 this is alleged to have occured three times. Numerous witnesses reported explosions preceding the collapses, and video clips of the towers and of WTC 7 appear to show explosive plumes consistent with explosive charges detonating as the buildings collapsed. Who placed the explosives? When? Why?

    What impact did the air defense exercises held on 9/11 that pulled planes out of the region and simulated additional hijackings on air traffic control radar have on the events of 9/11? Were these exercises and the events of 9/11 purely coincidental?

    Even if the alert came too late to intercept the planes that hit the WTC, why wasn’t the plane that hit the pentagon nearly an hour after the North tower was struck, and after it was known that two planes had hit the WTC, shot down given that there were interceptors based within ten minutes flying time of the pentagon?

    Many eyewitnesses reported that the flight over Pennsylvania was shot down. Are they correct?

    How were the alleged hijackers identified so quickly? Why have at least six subsequently been reported alive?

    How strong is the evidence that the alleged cell phone conversations from flight attendants and passengers, for which tapes have never been produced and footnotes have been suppressed in the 9/11 report, ever took place?

    Why didn’t the Secret Service not immediately remove the Presidnet, an obvious target in a terrorist attack, from the school in Florida?

    I respect Mr. Ridgeway’s record as a serious investigative journalist, but I am disappointed that he has not gone into the most troubling of the 9/11 questions. No one thinks the events on 9/11 were the work of one man. One way or another, the events of 9/11 involved a conspiracy and all explanations involve “conspiracy theories.” The question is whether the conspiracy was limited to 21 Arab men (the 19 alleged hijackers, alleged “20th hijacker” Zacarias Moussaoui, and Osama bin Laden) or whether others were involved.

    Although I don’t know the full dimensions of who or what may have been behind the events of 9/11, it is clear to anyone who looks at the record that the official version of events cannot be the whole story. For starters, steel frame office buildings such as the 47-story WTC 7 (which was not struck by an airplane) do not uniformly and symmetrically collapse into their own footprint at the speed of gravity from a few hours of limited fires within. See Even the 9/11 commission was at a loss to explain why this building collapsed.

    Prior to 9/11 members of the administration expressed the need for “a new Pearl Harbor” to awaken the American public to the danger of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction originating from Iraq. Within hours of the 9/11 events, Rumsfield and others were using these events to call for a military response against Iraq. The obvious question is whether 9/11 was solely an al Qaeda operation, or whether it was a “false flag” operation to rouse the American people.