Sunday, June 20, 2004

Who's in Charge Here, Pt. CXXVIII 

For once we have to cut Cheney some slack; under the circumstances, he simply couldn't wait for the Leader of the Free World to finish the story of The Pet Goat. From Newsweek:
The question of whether Vice President Dick Cheney followed proper procedures in ordering the shoot-down of U.S. airliners on September 11 is one of many new issues raised in the remarkably detailed, chilling account laid out in dramatic presentations last week by the 9-11 commission. Newsweek has learned that some on the commission staff were, in fact, highly skeptical of the vice president's account and made their views clearer in an earlier draft of their staff report, Washington Bureau Chief Daniel Klaidman and Senior Editor Michael Hirsh report in the June 28 issue of Newsweek.

The commission's detailed report notes that after two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center and combat patrols were in the air, a military aide asked for shoot-down authority, telling Cheney that a fourth plane was "80 miles out" from Washington. Cheney didn't flinch, the report said. "In about the time it takes a batter to decide to swing," he gave the order to shoot it down, telling others the president had "signed off on that concept" during a brief phone chat. When the plane was 60 miles out, Cheney was again informed and again he ordered: take it out.

But according to one knowledgeable source, some staffers "flat out didn't believe the call ever took place." Both Cheney and the president testified to the commission that the phone call took place. When the early draft conveying that skepticism was circulated to the administration, it provoked an angry reaction. In a letter from White House lawyers last Tuesday and a series of phone calls, the White House vigorously lobbied the commission to change the language in its report. "We didn't think it was written in a way that clearly reflected the accounting the president and vice president had given to the commission," White House spokesman Dan Bartlett tells Newsweek. Ultimately the chairman and vice chair of the commission, former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean and former Rep. Lee Hamilton -- both of whom have sought mightily to appear nonpartisan -- agreed to remove some of the offending language. The report "was watered down," groused one staffer.
Vice chair Lee Hamilton also told Newsweek that despite administration claims, the commission found no evidence of "collaboration or cooperation" between Saddam and al Qaeda, adding that bin Laden's ties "to Iran and Pakistan were certainly stronger than any tie he had to Iraq."

On the long-alleged -- or should we say "legendary"? -- meeting between 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi intel agent on 4/9/01, which Cheney flogged yet again this week:
Some 9-11 staffers said they were astonished by this: their report, citing cell-phone records, concludes unambiguously that Atta could not have been in Prague on that date; he was in Florida. Newsweek has also learned that Czech investigators and U.S. intelligence have now obtained corroborated evidence which they believe shows that the Iraqi spy who allegedly met Atta was away from Prague on that day.

| | Technorati Links | to Del.icio.us