WTC attack: In the absence of intelligence, let's apply our own


The WTC bombing is surrounded by questions of intelligence, and its failures, serious suspicions about the role of the intelligence community, not to mention a lack of intelligence by commentators and political leaders. We need to apply our own intelligence to the actual problem - abuse of power, argues Grattan Healy.

As many commentators have been asking, how come nobody had any real inkling as to the terrible atrocity that was planned for the World Trade Center this week, especially with all of the intelligence resources of the USA?  And they find it equally curious, even on CNN, that immediately afterwards, those same resources could finger known terrorists on the passenger lists, and move on their bases, remove their cars, track them to Hamburg etc. Even CNN commentators ask the right questions, sometimes, but they usually fail to come up with anything more than jingoism.

Propaganda is rife. We need to remember that members of the psychological operations units of the US military actually work in CNN. Intelligence again. However, successful propaganda only worsens the problem and postpones the inevitable reaction.

It is also strange that, almost immediately, Osama Bin Laden was fingered as the culprit. Without any apparent evidence, he has been singled out as the only one capable of carrying out such an act. This seems thin, if we consider the attacks carried out in Japan by the AUM sect, as just one example. We should also keep in mind that he is a former CIA asset ­ yet another intelligence connection.

Curiously, CNN's own 'Late Edition' just now, on Sunday, allowed two former intelligence directors to question that chant for Bin Laden's blood. Both James Woolsey, retired CIA Director and Lt Gen William Odom, former Director of the National Security Agency (NSA) made it quite clear that they did not believe that Bin Laden could have run such an operation from the depths of Afghanistan. Such retired officers are at much greater liberty to give us the benefit of the enormous experience.

It therefore seems possible that Osama Bin Laden is not solely responsible, and is a convenient 'fall guy'. On the other hand it seems quite impossible for such an operation to have been mounted within the United States without somebody in the intelligence community knowing about it.

And the emerging chorus for war, serves the interest of the military and their suppliers, and in turn the financiers of both. And let's not forget the boost to repressive forces within the USA, and threats to civil liberties increasing throughout the Western world. Not very intelligent.

All in all, a very usual pattern is emerging - that of a much needed war to boost a flagging economy, further curtail civil liberties, and make massive profits for the arms industry and the banks. One could be forgiven for imagining that there were intelligence operatives involved in these tragic events, on some perverse mission to cause public panic by means of a few hijackings, but who may in the end have been outwitted by their terrorist colleagues. That might also help explain the establishment's red hot anger.

Retribution is merely going to harden the terrorists, and produce more, maybe even worse, massacres in the future. In this sense, if you are with George Bush, you are for MORE terrorism, including the variety he will dish out to innocent civilians in Afghanistan or wherever.

Right now is the moment for some real, hard-headed down-to-earth no-nonsense intelligent analysis. It absolutely cannot be postponed, because it must dictate our reaction to these unspeakable events.

One has to be aware that, quite often, what is referred to as terrorism, as we know too well in my home country, Ireland, is generally a 'last straw' violent reaction to extreme abuse of power. Like the power which has killed half-a-million innocent children in Iraq, and attacked innocent civilians with cluster bombs and depleted uranium in Yugoslavia, to mention just two of the more recent Western atrocities. And it appears that we are now in for more of the same. And to that we must add the extreme economic exploitation of the worldwide poor, now accelerated by globalisation, and the abuse of the credit institutions behind the scenes, to bring countries, like Pakistan maybe, into line.

Right now, we must urgently apply real intelligence to the problem of abuse of economic, political and military power in the World, if we are ever to escape from the escalating vicious circle now entwining us. That is OUR abuse of power ­ meaning all of us in the Western world, who by one means or another go along with the impoverishment and destruction of the rest of humanity.

That places the emerging anti-globalisation movement centre stage. But it needs to be very clear about what it wants, and how it intends to get it, before it is too late.

Grattan Healy is an Irishman living in Belgium. He works as a political advisor at the European Parliament.

After we received his article he wrote to us with the following information: the relevant CNN transcript has been posted at: The exchange with Odom and Woolsey is about two thirds way down.