Tag Archives: 9/11 attacks

No select panel, but let’s get to heart of hacking matter


Mitch McConnell says he won’t appoint a select Senate committee to examine the impact of alleged Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

OK. Fair enough, Mr. Majority Leader.

But let’s not allow these questions to wither and die now that your fellow Republican, Donald J. Trump, is about to become president of the United States.

We’ve got some questions that need clear, declarative answers.

What did the Russians do? How did they do it? Did their computer hacking efforts have a tangible impact on the election outcome? How in the world does the United States prevent this kind of computer hacking in the future?


If the majority leader were to ask for my opinion, I’d suggest that we need an independent commission that doesn’t answer to Senate Republicans or Democrats. We formed one of those after the 9/11 attacks and it came out with some serious findings about what went wrong and how we can prevent future terrorist attacks.

McConnell’s decision to nix a select committee is at odds with many Republicans — such as Sen. John McCain — along with Democrats are demanding. They want a select panel that would be tasked solely with looking at this most disturbing matter.

The new Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, said this, according to The Associated Press: “We don’t want this investigation to be political like the Benghazi investigation,” he said. “We don’t want it to just be finger pointing at one person or another.” Schumer added: “We want to find out what the Russians are doing to our political system and what other foreign governments might do to our political system. And then figure out a way to stop it.”

McConnell wants to hand this over to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Fine. Then allow them to clear the decks and concentrate on getting to the heart of what the Russians have done.

Seventeen intelligence agencies have concluded the same thing: The Russians intended to influence the presidential election. The president-elect has dismissed their conclusion, opening up a serious rift between his office and the intelligence community.

Trump and his team are virtually all alone in their view of this disturbing matter. Congress needs to get busy and tell us what the Russians did and when they did it.

Now it’s Brussels …


Good morning, my fellow Americans.

We awoke today to more horror across The Pond. Terrorists have struck again, this time in Brussels, Belgium. At least 34 people are dead. All of them are innocent civilians. All of them presumably leave behind loved ones who are grieving.

Who did this dastardly deed? It’s a good bet the act has the signature of the Islamic State or some other monstrous organization.

It’s no coincidence, certainly that the attacks came just days after Belgian police apprehended the last surviving suspect in the Paris attacks of a few months ago.

The nature of our enemy cannot be condemned enough.

They attack so-called “soft targets,” which is another way of saying they go for the most vulnerable victims. They people just like the rest of us doing what they do normally.

Then their lives are shattered. Gone in a spasm of violence.

Yes, this fight must continue for as long as it takes.

The 9/11 attacks of nearly 15 years ago opened our eyes to the threat that’s always been there.

We went to war against the terrorists. How in the world do we declare victory against this evil that lurks among us?

Our hearts are broken yet again this morning as we ponder what’s happened abroad. Yet we must remain as vigilant as ever.


Is this the year the U.S. gets hit?


Well before the sun set on Sept. 11, 2001, defense analysts and terror experts were almost unanimous in their assessment of our nation’s future.

If was not a matter of “if” we would be hit again, but “when.”

The head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, told the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, that he believes this is the year it will happen.

The Islamic State, he said, is going to continue to hit Europe and well might plan a coordinated attack on our shores.

When will it occur? The general didn’t say. He cannot know.

In reality, though, he didn’t provide a serious scoop on what’s been understood since the terror attacks of 9/11.

That attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was so daring, so audacious, so brilliantly executed that it prompted President Bush and his national security team to create an entirely new Cabinet agency assigned to protect us. The Department of Homeland Security has been on the job ever since.

Now, the question always has been: Will this country be able to protect itself forever against the next terror attack? There can be zero guarantee against another attack that could rival the horror that al-Qaida brought to our shores on the beautiful Tuesday morning in New York and Washington.

But then again, had we been fully alert to the dangers that always have lurked, perhaps we shouldn’t have been so totally shocked at what transpired that day.

The Bush administration — once it gathered itself after the horror of that day — managed to keep us safe for the remainder of its time in office. The Obama administration has kept up the fight and has continued to keep the terrorists at bay.

But Gen. Stewart’s prediction of another terror attack — this time by the Islamic State — shouldn’t be seen as a big-time news flash.

Al-Qaida managed to get our guard up. Our task always has been to ensure we stay on the highest alert possible.

The enemy, though, is as cunning as they come. Many of us will not be surprised when they strike again.


In other news, Challenger blew up 30 years ago today


Republican presidential candidates are debating at this very moment.

I’m a bit weary from listening to it all, so I’ll recall a tragic moment in U.S. history.

Thirty years ago today, the phone rang on my desk at the Beaumont Enterprise. I answered it. It was my wife, who worked down the street in downtown Beaumont, Texas.

“What’s going on? I just heard the shuttle blew up,” she said.

I turned to my computer, punched up the wire and saw the bulletin: “Challenger explodes.”

I blurted out a curse word and told her “I gotta go!”

I turned on the TV. The video was horrific.

Seventy-three seconds into a flight the shuttle Challenger blew up and seven astronauts were dead . . . in an instant.

We were stunned at our newspaper. We stood there, transfixed by what was transpiring. We heard over and over the radio communication to the Challenger, “Go at throttle up.” Then came the blast. It was followed by silence before the communicator told the world, “Obviously a major malfunction.”

I wouldn’t feel that kind of shock until, oh, the 9/11 attacks 15 years later.

But what happened next at our newspaper was that we would plan to do something the paper hadn’t done since the attack on Pearl Harbor. We decided to publish an “Extra.”

It contained eight pages of text and photos from that ghastly event. It contained an editorial page, which I cobbled together rapidly. I wrote a “hot” editorial commenting on the grief the nation was feeling at that very moment.

We went to press about noon that day and we put the paper in the hands of hawkers our circulation department brought in to sell the paper on the street. It went into news racks all over the city.

Through it all the tragedy reminded us — as if we needed reminding — of how dangerous it is to fly a rocket into Earth orbit.

Of course, it would be determined that a faulty gasket malfunctioned in the cold that morning in Florida. The shuttle fleet would be grounded for a couple of years while NASA figured out a way to prevent such tragedy from happening in the future.

We would feel intense national pain, of course, in February 2003 when the shuttle Columbia would disintegrate upon re-entry over Texas, killing that crew as well — including the mission commander, Amarillo’s very own Air Force Col. Rick Husband.

They both brought intense pain to our nation.

Challenger’s sudden and shocking end, though, remains one of those events where we all remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news.

And to think that some Americans actually thought those space flights were “routine.”


How do we end this world war?

war on terror

The Paris attacks that killed more than 120 innocent victims this week brought a question to my mind this afternoon as I visited with my boss … the one at work.

I asked, perhaps rhetorically, “How are we going to kill every single person on Earth who seeks to commit an act of terrorism?”

French officials today vowed to “destroy” the Islamic State. I trust they’ll take their place in a long line of officials throughout the civilized world who’ve made similar vows.

President Francois Hollande is a very angry man today as France seeks to collect itself after the worst single act of violence committed there since World War II.

The question, though, lingers in my mind.

I am beginning to believe we’re engaged in a new kind of world war. It’s not being waged against enemy states. It’s being fought wherever we find evil men and women who seek to terrorize the world. They do not represent a government, per se. They represent some perverted ideology that uses religion as some form of cover.

How do we wipe them out? How do we know when we’ve got the last person on Earth who seeks to commit a heinous act of terror? Moreover, suppose we wipe the last person out. How can ever guarantee that another individual, or group of individuals, will emerge from the shadows to resume such acts?

We are facing a very uncertain time. Indeed, it’s been an uncertain time ever since that beautiful Tuesday morning in September 2001 when those terrorists flew the jetliners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and fought with the passengers aboard the third plane that crashed into the Pennsylvania field.

My boss noted the 9/11 attack as being perhaps the first “shot” in this new world war.

When on God’s Earth will it end? Can it ever end?

I fear for the worst, which is that we’ll be fighting these forces of evil for as long as human beings are able to fight.


Is this what world war looks like?


Paris has been hit. Again.

Terrorists went on the attack in a concert hall. Dozens of victims were killed. French police then stormed the hall, rescued some hostages and killed two attackers.

World leaders around the globe have issued statements of condemnation. President Obama called the tragedy today an “attack on all of humanity.”

Is this what world war looks like? Have we been fighting this international war against terrorism around the globe to such a degree that someone can declare this to be the start of World War III?

Paris was hit a couple of years ago at a magazine publishing office. Twelve victims died in that act of terror. And there have been countless other attacks all around the world.

The 9/11 attacks in 2001 in New York and Washington seemed to ignite the inferno. There have been so many others they are impossible off the top of one’s head to count them.

We knew when President Bush sent the troops into Afghanistan to hunt down al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists that this war wouldn’t be won with a surrender document. There wouldn’t be a Battleship Missouri Moment. This looks for all the world like a war without end.

Paris is suffering yet again.

Our hearts go out to the French, its leaders and its people.

Will there be more heartache somewhere else? Most assuredly. Yet the fight must go on wherever we find monsters willing to commit gruesome acts of terror against innocent victims.

For as long as it takes.


Bush 41 deserves to be heard

ghw bush

I’ve long thought that George H.W. Bush might have been the most qualified man ever to hold the office of president of the United States.

His resume is sparkling: World War II fighter pilot, business executive, envoy to the United Nations and China, head of the CIA, Republican Party chairman, congressman, vice president.

Now, in the twilight of a long and glorious life, he has chosen to speak out on matters of which he knows plenty. He has offered stinging critiques of former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for the way they advised President George W. Bush — Bush 41’s eldest child — on how they conducted foreign policy.

Bush 41 has been chided in return by Rumsfeld, who said the 91-year-old former president “is getting up there in years.” Hmm. Well, Rumsfeld ain’t exactly a spring chicken himself, at 83.

But my point here, I suppose, is that a man with President Bush’s distinguished public service career deserves to be heard and not dismissed as someone just getting a little long in the tooth.

He is in frail health these days, suffering from a form of Parkinson’s disease. He was interviewed over the course of nine years by author Jon Meachem, whose new biography on the former president is about to be published. From all that I’ve heard about President Bush, his mind is still sharp and he can articulate cogent and thoughtful commentary on issues of the day.

He referred to Cheney and Rumsfeld as being “iron-ass” about foreign policy. True, the nation was struck hard and hurt badly by the 9/11 attacks, but Bush 41 insists that Cheney became someone he didn’t recognize from the time the then-vice president served as defense secretary in 41’s administration.

History is still being written on the presidencies of both men named Bush. I look at George H.W. Bush view of his son’s time in the White House as one more important puzzle piece that eventually will complete the picture.

The former president’s thoughts shouldn’t be dismissed.


Bush channels Billy Jeff

Jeb  Bush

Jeb Bush seems to be channeling William Jefferson Clinton in trying to explain how President George W. Bush “kept us safe” from terrorist attacks.

You remember when Billy Jeff tried to explain the definition of the word “is.”

The former Florida governor, who’s running for the Republican presidential nomination, is struggling with the reality that the 9/11 attacks occurred on George W.’s watch. Thus, he is responsible — as commander in chief — for the failure to protect us against terror attacks.

Bush is correct, though, to assert that since the attacks the United States remained safe. President Bush and Congress created a new Cabinet agency — the Department of Homeland Security — and gave it specific authority to devise a strategy to prevent future terrorist attacks.

Bush says W kept us safe

It doe no good to quibble over the definition of “keeping us safe” and arguing over whether we mean pre-9/11 or post-9/11.

The attacks occurred nine months into George W. Bush’s presidency. There’s no denying that, right? Nor is there any denying that the president did rally the country behind the initial effort to go after the terrorists in their Afghanistan hideouts — and to take down the government in Kabul that was supporting them.

The unity evaporated when we went to war … in Iraq.

Did the 43rd president keep the nation safe? Yes — after the attacks that killed 3,000 innocent victims and changed the nation forever.


Terror vs. gun deaths


Here’s an interesting statistic that today drew some attention on one of the many Sunday morning TV news/talk shows.

In the past decade, 153,144 people have died in this country from gun violence; 3,046 individuals have died at the hands of terrorists during that same period.

This came from Chuck Todd, moderator of “Meet the Press,” citing the stats provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

He asked Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review, about whether the country needs to do as much to combat gun violence as it has done to battle terrorism.

Lowry gave a reasonable and intelligent answer, which was that government’s fundamental role is to protect citizens against foreign enemies; he added that any gun-related action “on the margins” won’t do anything and that more comprehensive action runs the risk of infringing on the Constitution’s Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms.”

Meet the Press tackles gun violence

The discussion was fascinating.

Still, I’m a bit baffled by the fact that with such a huge disparity between gun-violence deaths and terror-related deaths, we still have been unable — or unwilling — to deploy government’s machinery to impose additional restrictions on gun ownership that does not infringe on citizens’ right to own a firearm.

After all, the government created a whole new Cabinet-level agency — the Department of Homeland Security — immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Still, madmen take guns into public places and massacre thousands more innocent victims … and we do nothing?


What did the PM know about bin Laden?

Pakistani media personnel and local residents gather outside the hideout of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden following his death by US Special Forces in a ground operation in Abbottabad on May 3, 2011. The bullet-riddled Pakistani villa that hid Osama bin Laden from the world was put under police control, as media sought to glimpse the debris left by the US raid that killed him. Bin Laden's hideout had been kept under tight army control after the dramatic raid by US special forces late May 1, 2011 in the affluent suburbs of Abbottabad, a garrison city 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of Islamabad.  AFP PHOTO/ AAMIR QURESHI (Photo credit should read AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images)

Oh, how I wish I could be a fly on one of the White House walls when Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif comes for a visit with President Obama.

I would love to hear a conversation that goes something like this:

President Obama: Welcome, Mr. Prime Minister. But let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we? I know you weren’t in office on May 2, 2011 when our SEALs took out Osama bin Laden. But I have to ask, didn’t you get a full national security briefing from your predecessor when you took over?

Nawaz Sharif: Well, yes, Mr. President. Of course.

Obama: What did he tell you about bin Laden’s presence in Afghanistan, where our men killed him while he was hiding in plain sight in Abbottabad? Surely he knew bin Laden was there, right?

Sharif: I don’t know what you’re talking about …

Obama: Oh, stop right there. Everyone with half a brain in this country believes your government knew that bin Laden was in that large compound just a stone’s throw from that military academy. How could your intelligence folks have missed detecting his presence?

Sharif: We don’t snoop and spy on everyone and everything in our country.

Obama: Knock it off. This guy was the most wanted terrorist on the planet. The entire civilized world — and that include Pakistan — wanted him killed or captured. You operate a sophisticated intelligence network there.

Sharif: It can’t detect every person’s move.

Obama: But surely it can detect the movements of a man who stood 6 feet 5 inches tall and whose face has been plastered on TV screens around the world for a decade, ever since the 9/11 attacks.

Sharif: If you think our government knew of bin Laden’s presence, is that why you launched the raid in secret, without ever telling us you were invading our airspace?

Obama: Airspace … shmairspace, Nawaz. The bad guys invaded our airspace on 9/11 — and killed 3,000 innocent victims. Bin Laden took credit for doing that damage. Do I really care about airspace concerns? No. I wanted him dead and by God, we were intent on making sure we killed him.

Sharif: Well, back to your initial question. I wasn’t told anything about bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan. Even if I was told, I cannot disclose  national security secrets, not even to you.


Will this conversation occur when the Pakistani prime minister visits the White House on Oct. 22? Oh, probably not. Then again, not every conversation occurs when there’s media present.

I’m going to hope that Barack Obama presses his guest for some answers to the burning question: What did the Pakistanis know about Osama bin Laden and when did  they know it?

Pakistani PM to visit White House