|Montreal, September 29, 2001 / No 89|
by Ralph Maddocks
SoIt was James Madison who said,
Purely by chance I was watching Canada AM on CTV that Tuesday morning
Sometime later we learned of the attack on the Pentagon and the crash of another jet in the fields of Pennsylvania. Surely the hit on the second tower must have caused other people to realise what was happening. How could the so-called third plane stay in the air, hijacked, for almost an hour after other two hijacked planes had struck the WTC? Even though the transponder was presumably turned off by the hijackers, the plane must have been spotted by ground radar as an unidentified aircraft. How could it fly to the Midwest, turn around and fly back to Washington, to the Pentagon, unmolested by US fighter planes? Disbelief or a failure of intelligence?
I learned later that week, that Goldman Sachs in the London had received a security threat warning at about
I have on occasion wondered if a country's security services exist primarily to monitor its own citizens rather than any potential enemy. Such services, like our police services, are conveniently available for the use of those in power, although in turn they may well control their masters through blackmail. Whatever the truth may be, it is not clear how many such services have prevented disasters by predicting them in advance. The other problem with security services is how much confidence one can have that a given agent, especially if from a minority – ethnic or otherwise – will not be a double agent or that the information they supply is true and not simply disinformation?
One explanation of the intelligence failure may reside in the outcome of the emasculation of the Central Intelligence Agency by the Church Committee in the mid-1970s. The American political left of those times was so incensed by CIA plans to assassinate Castro, that they forbade any such actions and restricted the agency's activities quite seriously. At the same time, the agency reduced the number of its agents on the ground able to infiltrate suspected terrorist cells in foreign lands. Worse still, they reduced the number of foreign language speakers employed by their agencies which probably explains why the signals were not interpreted early enough.
The National Security Agency (known to some as
While replays of the horrendous view of that second plane striking the second tower of the WTC were banned after a few days, there was continuous reference to Osama bin Laden, the Saudi with a hatred of America, who lives, or lived, it is said in Afghanistan. We saw and listened to American politicians, united for once, eagerly seizing the opportunity to denounce their enemies and talk about their newly declared war. Interestingly, at least initially, there was no talk of not
Politicians throughout the world rushed to the TV cameras to enunciate their usual unctuous statements denouncing these acts of terrorism. Canadian politicians, both federal and provincial, were not slow to appear either. According to Quebec's Bernard
Foreign leaders from countries likely to feel included in the American definition of terrorist were quick to deny their involvement. In one speech from the Middle East, it was suggested that these acts of terrorism against the WTC and the Pentagon were actually performed by Zionists. There was no attempt to explain why the Zionists chose to destroy the foremost symbol of what is frequently described as a temple of Zionist capitalism. Of course the Israelis have on occasion provoked others, and some may recall the US Liberty incident, attacks on the King David Hotel, the murder of a Scandinavian UN envoy as well as espionage against the US as discovered during the Jonathan Pollard case.
The attacks do not seem to serve any Arab group or nation's interests but their timing came in the midst of international condemnation of Israel for its policy of the death squad assassination of Palestinian political and police figures. It also followed the Durban conference, when many participants from the Middle East condemned Israel and Zionism. On a more sombre note, the Jerusalem Times reported that a team sent by the Israel Defence Ministry to film Palestinian children rejoicing in East Jerusalem, staged the event that was later circulated in the US and around the world.
Until the shock of this apparently well co-ordinated act of terrorism recedes, many people will be saying things that they may well regret later. If future tragedies such as this are to be avoided then the people of the USA and their government officials must find out how this situation arose. If they do not, then there is very likely to be a marked decrease in the civil liberties of the Americans, and by extension, that of the rest of us. Terrorism is not just a criminal act, it is quite plainly an act of war perpetrated by an militarily weak enemy, whether that enemy is an identifiable country or a group of malcontents.
In fact, civil liberties were affected within twenty four hours of the act, when the FBI busied themselves getting Internet Service Providers to install devices (Carnivore) enabling them to monitor all e-mail traffic (see THERE WAS I, THINKING IT MEANT A FLESH-EATING ANIMAL, le QL,
The ignorance of many in North America was abundantly displayed in many attacks on disparate foreign groups – even Sikhs – and in one case the murder of an Hindu gas station owner. Reading some of the traffic passing through US chatrooms showed that there was considerable bias against US citizens of Muslim and Arab origin. Such ignorance was not confined to the U.S; harassment occurred in Canada, bombings took place in Britain and
Having an abiding interest in the many ways in which officialdom limits our freedoms and intrudes upon our privacy, I had thought that the satellite eavesdropping facilities of the NSA would have picked up traffic from those places where they believe America's enemies reside. With their computers operating at better than 1 trillion calculations per second, one might think it relatively simple to decrypt and analyse such messages. That this had not happened seems to be related, at least in part, to the former President of the USA, Bill Clinton, having allowed the sale, to states like Syria, of advanced encryption cell phones and other encrypted telephony equipment, as well as secure glass fibre computer networks.
Likewise, China has purchased similar equipment, which, allegedly, it has now sold to Iraq and its psychopathic leader. According to one irate US official,
On the domestic scene, the FBI has been spending much of its time of late infiltrating
The suggestion was mooted that the entry of some of the terrorists was made through Canada. This may well prove to be true, but it should not be forgotten that they also had to pass the scrutiny of US Immigration at the border. Certainly Canadian and American immigration policy – or lack of it – has made both countries havens for supporters of terrorist groups such as the Tamil Tigers, Palestine's Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the Lebanese Hizbullah, the Algerian Armed Islamic Group and Egypt's Al Gamat; not to forget Mr. Bin Laden's elusive Al Qaida group.
The question which will need to be answered, and which will cause king-size headaches for defenders of civil liberties, is that if, under the present US Constitution and Bill of Rights, they can crack down on terrorist cells sheltered by religious and civil rights organisations. The USA has never had to face up to what they describe now as a war on their own territory, so they have never had to test the bounds of their rightly cherished rights and liberties.
The US has already introduced a bill called the
The newly proposed Act includes measures which according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation:
The law that is furthest along the pipeline is the Combatting Terrorism Act of 2001, an amendment to an appropriations bill that was passed by the Senate two days after the epochal events, without hearings and with minimal floor debate. That legislation, which may become ultimately part of an integrated package of laws put forward earlier this week by the Attorney General, has many provisions, the most controversial of which is section 832, which seeks to improve the government's ability to capture information related to a suspect's activities in cyberspace. While some among us may not object to surrendering our encryption keys, it is doubtful that the terrorists will be so obliging. The most likely result will be the loss by corporations and trustworthy individuals of their ability to protect sensitive corporate and personal communications from competitors, international spies, and overcurious voyeurs.
After reading the above, one may conclude that the US government is no longer willing to proceed with its encroachments either gradually or silently. Will Canada be far behind?
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