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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Fearmaster Cheney is lurking again

I may be jumping the gun on this one, but I'm a firm believer that you can tell that the Veep from the Deep is lying whenever his snarl is moving.

From the Washington Post:
Vice President Cheney today offered a staunch defense of a secret government eavesdropping program, saying it might have been able to thwart the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks if it had been in place at the time.
...
Cheney referred to a report by the U.S. commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks. In criticizing federal agencies' inability to detect the plot, the commission cited the phone calls of two hijackers, Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, to other al Qaeda members overseas.
The Post attributes Cheney's statements to "excerpts released by the White House ahead of a speech at the Heritage Foundation," which haven't appeared on the White House web site as of 2 pm EST today. So I'm not sure exactly what phone calls Cheney is referring to. But read these passages from the 9/11 Commission Report and tell me if it sounds like our government was having trouble eavesdropping on Alhazmi and Midhar (emphasis added):
Hazmi and Mihdhar came to the United States to learn English, take flying lessons, and become pilots as quickly as possible. They turned out, however, to have no aptitude for English. Even with help and tutoring from Mohdar Abdullah and other bilingual friends, Hazmi and Mihdhar's efforts to learn proved futile. This lack of language skills in turn became an insurmountable barrier to learning how to fly.

A pilot they consulted at one school, the Sorbi Flying Club in San Diego, spoke Arabic. He explained to them that their flight instruction would begin with small planes. Hazmi and Mihdhar emphasized their interest in learning to fly jets, Boeing aircraft in particular, and asked where they might enroll to train on jets right away. Convinced that the two were either joking or dreaming, the pilot responded that no such school existed. Other instructors who worked with Hazmi and Mihdhar remember them as poor students who focused on learning to control the aircraft in flight but took no interest in takeoffs or landings. By the end of May 2000, Hazmi and Mihdhar had given up on learning how to fly.

Mihdhar's mind seems to have been with his family back in Yemen, as evidenced by calls he made from the apartment telephone. When news of the birth of his first child arrived, he could stand life in California no longer.
...
Hazmi did not sever all contact with his friends in San Diego. According to Abdullah, after Hazmi left San Diego in December 2000, he telephoned Abdullah twice: in December 2000 or January 2001, Hazmi said he was in San Francisco and would be attending flight school there; about two weeks later, he said he was attending flight school in Arizona. Some evidence, which we will discuss later, indicates that Hazmi contacted Abdullah again, in August 2001. In addition, during the month following Hazmi's departure from San Diego, he emailed his housemate three times, including a January 2001 email that Hazmi signed "Smer," an apparent attempt to conceal his identity that struck the housemate as strange at the time. Hazmi also telephoned his housemate that he and his friend had decided to take flight lessons in Arizona, and that Mihdhar was now back in Yemen. That was their last contact. When the housemate emailed Hazmi in February and March of 2001 to find out how he was faring, Hazmi did not reply.
Where I may be jumping the gun is that I'm not sure how the 9/11 Commission got this information (the footnotes lead to an FBI report that doesn't seem to be available on the web). It may have all come after the fact, digging through computers and phone company records and interviews with contacts. (Or they could have just pulled it out of their Ashcroft.) But I've read several places that these two guys, while hanging out in San Diego, were being tracked by one of our government agencies. The dots were there; they just weren't connected (whether intentionally or on purpose). If they weren't tapping these guys phones, it wasn't because they couldn't have under FISA. Of course, knowing Useless Dick, he probably means that if they had listened in on every phone call made ever, some of them would have been about the 9/11 plot. But, as Greg Saunders pointed out a couple of weeks ago, the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission wasn't that they the government didn't have enough dots--it's that they failed to connect them. Of course, I would suggest that that was totally on purpose, and that Fearmaster Cheney was the reason for that.