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Aftermath: The Questions Begin

Wednesday, 12 September 2001 12:00 AM

And so on down a long list. The target was perfect, according to a U.S. intelligence official.

"The two most conspicuous buildings smack dab in the heartthrob of American imperialism," he called them.

But what was behind it all? Some think they know. "American policy in the Middle East," a former senior CIA official said.

"We underestimate the depth of hatred for America in the Arab world," he added, "to that world, America is the great Satan and Israel is its illegitimate offspring."

Former chief of CIA counter terrorism, Vince Cannistraro, agreed.

"I have stated publicly again and again, that unless America took a more active and a more impartial role in the Middle East conflict than we have done so far, Americans would become targets."

Larry Johnston, a former State Dept. expert in counter terrorism, condemned bias in reporting by the American media. He said he was "tired of seeing the Middle East tragedy presented in U.S. newspapers as the plight of a poor, victimized Israel at the mercy of a horde of bloodthirsty Palestinians."

Referring to the talks between Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat, the former senior CIA official said, "In the past the closer we got to some sort of deal, the more likely there would be some sort of outrage to bust it up. But if you had something going, something good one side was extending to the other, then you knew you could get past it."

That is not the case today, he said. Instead, he said "there's just violence breeding violence, different publics hating each other."

James Woolsey, CIA director in the Clinton administration, echoed widespread suggestions that Saudi exile terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden was involved. But he added that a state sponsor could possibly be involved as well.

"There is a reasonable chance this was planned by a state and the terrorist group (was a) subcontractor," he told United Press International Tuesday. "We have to look to see not only who was involved, but who was behind the curtain," he added, concluding "there was a possibility this was Iran (but) this is less likely than if it was Iraq and it may have been neither."

Others dismissed talk of Iranian involvement. One CIA official with many years experience in the Middle East, said Iran would only be involved "at many removes."

Iran was too vulnerable, he suggested - it has a capital city with no real air defense, and most of its leadership is housed in public buildings within easy reach of U.S. Navy cruise missiles.

"Iran is far from being the focus yet," he said. And bin Laden?

"There are a lot of his fingerprints on the operation, but we misconceive bin Laden," said a former senior State Department official who spoke - like most interviewed for this article - on condition of anonymity. "We picture (him) as the man sitting at some mighty Wurlitzer organ of terrorism, prodding all the keys."

In fact, "the key to this is compartmentalization," he said. "For technical assistance the terrorists go there; for fake documents, they go here."

All of the sources interviewed by UPI agreed that security at Logan Airport in Boston was terrible.

"What do you expect when you pay people $5 or $6 an hour?" said one. Pressing questions center on what, if any, terrorist communications the National Security Agency intercepted before the attack occurred and how much they picked up while it was in progress.

One former CIA official said that the NSA's technical collection had been plagued with problems of "speed of processing and distribution," and that the agency had been "in the doldrums for several years."

One former senior State Department official suggested that hindsight was likely to reveal many shortcomings.

"Today's events will be like Pearl Harbor in this sense," he said. "In the aftermath, I think we are liable to find that all the clues to what happened, we already had."

Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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And so on down a long list. The target was perfect, according to a U.S. intelligence official. The two most conspicuous buildings smack dab in the heartthrob of American imperialism, he called them. But what was behind it all? Some think they know. American policy in...
Wednesday, 12 September 2001 12:00 AM
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