TV Morning News Watch 6/17/04 Today's News WOW! and a Nuradin Abdi update This mornings TV news was all about today's 9/11 Commission hearing, the last public hearing scheduled by the Commission. The report that was read at the beginning of the session was appalling: A moment-by-moment rundown of military and Bush-administration reaction to the 9/11 attacks revealed a really frightening level of unpreparedness and ineptitude, institutional communication barriers and technological communications inadequacies. Each line of the Commission's report (http://www.9-11commission.gov/) revealed a new level of incompetence on the part of those responsible for our national security. The Commission's final analysis, however, was only faintly condemning: Our military and government services were totally unprepared for a domestic attack of this kind. The scary truth the Commision had showed us about our intelligence services in earlier reports--that the agencies were too busy playing Cold War-era patriot games and protecting their jurisdictional turf to be effective--was expanded to include Bush's whole national security team and the military. One startling revelation was that--when Flight 93 (which crashed into a Pennsylvania field (http://www.flight93crash.com/) was still airborne and before the Pentagon was struck, it was Vice President Dick Cheney who gave the command to "Take 'em out," to shoot down the commercial airliners. The vice president! His lack of authority to issue such a command (shades of Alexander Haig taking charge after the Reagan assassination attempt) (http://www.kmf.org/williams/bushbook/bush17.html) may have led to the confusion at NORAD (http://www.norad.mil) and no such order was transmitted to the airplanes scrambled out of Langley Field. In fact, those pilots had no idea what they were looking for. Consequently, according to the report, they headed east over the Atlantic--as if to intercept incoming Soviet missiles! The morning news was so alarming I immediately went online to look for a transcript. No luck, however-- the report, after all, was still being read in today's session live on CNN. [I did come across a nice little site (http:www.brainthink.com/) that archives some of the Commission's earlier work.] And hopefully, the full transcript will be getting a lot of play in the next few days, as well as in the weeks and months leading up to the election. In a government with a sense of responsibility, after a report like the Commission's became public the resignations would be piling up on the commander-in-chief's desk. And, after accepting them, he himself would step down. In the real world, however, we have to wait until the November election to get rid of these jerks. The governing jerks are only part of the problem, however. The Commission's report showed that our military and civilian national security systems and procedures are nothing at all like the high-performance stereotypes perpetuated by Hollywood. Instead, they're isolated, deeply flawed structurally and very, very inept. While I was online, I checked to see what was up with Nuradin Abdi today. I found an Associated Press piece (http://customwire.ap.org/dynamic/stories/S/SHOPPING_MALL_PLOT?SITE=APWEB&SECTION) that added a new level of puzzlement to this story. Abdi was brought to a Columbus, Ohio, courtroom yesterday for a hearing and was totally changed from the man he was when he was detained last November. (He has been held without charge in a federal prison since his arrest.) In court yesterday Nuradin Abdi appeared to be deranged--pressing his face onto a glass-covered tabletop, jerking his head randomly and muttering. His behavior was bizarre enough that Magistrate Mark Abel ordered a psychiatric evaluation to determine whether Abdi could understand the charges against him. According to his lawyer, Mahir Sherif, "The government took a healthy man, and what we have here is a broken man, mentally." Sherif said it was too early for him to comment about the charges but added, "It's not beyond the government to make mistakes for whatever reason." Abdi's bizarre courtroom behavior aside, this case, like Jose Padilla's, deserves to be watched carefully. John Ashcroft is the administration's best bulldog when it comes to secrecy, and when--as in both the Abdi and the Padilla cases--he goes out of his way to publicly bring allegations to our attention, you can bet his purpose is NOT to inform the public but to perpetuate an atmosphere of fear. Yes, the U.S. is in danger from foreign terrorists--and the danger has been only heightened by George Bush's irresponsible war in Iraq. But I'm much more worried about the immediate danger at home: a government in the hands of dangerous born-again cultists like W. and Ashcroft and thugs like Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.
Jim Rinnert is the art director at In These Times.