when we won the Vietnam War? Sure you do – you saw it with your
own eyes, as John Wayne led The
Green Berets to victory in 1968. Likewise, the Gulf War
was won with little "collateral damage" to civilians
– as you saw yourself, during those "smart bomb" video
game demos on CNN. And any day now, we're likely to see Osama
bin Laden meet his maker at the hands of U.S. Marines – or so
the T.V. movie will portray it.
the Bush Administration showing us the War on Terror through a
rose-colored lens? Veteran newscaster Dan Rather thinks so, and
has spoken out about it on TV, complaining recently that Bush's
Dept. of Defense has carefully controlled media access to the
U.S. actions against Al-Qaeda.
told the BBC's Newsnight, "What we are talking about here
– whether one wants to recognize it or not, or call it by its
proper name or not – is a form of self-censorship." He complained
run amok," which threatens the dissemination of accurate news
about the war, and undermines the press's role in holding the
Bush Administration accountable. "There has never been an American
war, small or large, in which access has been so limited as this
one," Rather said.
is nothing new about governments lying or carefully constructing
mechanisms to hide the truth. History is littered with examples – the
Gulf War being the most recent. While working for the BBC during
the Gulf War as a programme editor of a satirical TV show, I encountered
blatant censorship. When I attempted to depict the way many journalists
had indeed spent that war – drinking at the hotel pool waiting for
the latest video and information from the military – my programme
was pulled off the air, and I was given to understand that my
behavior had been unpatriotic.
the Falklands War, it was equally suspect to criticize the tight
leash on which the Thatcher government kept reporters. Select
journalists were allowed on British vessels, and kept well away
from the fighting. Their dispatches were censored by intelligence
officers before going back to London.
media management was perfected during the Gulf War – the first
digital war "won" through video images before victory was declared
on the battlefield. On major networks, no questions were asked
about whether Saddam had been given the green light to invade
Kuwait by the US ambassador in Baghdad – as
was later documented. No numbers were provided for the Iraqi
soldiers killed in the war. No cameras were allowed near those
desert sites, where (American soldiers later admitted) bulldozers dug mass graves to fill
with Iraqi bodies.
may now earn condemnation from the White House for criticizing
the conduct of the current war against terrorism, the events leading
up to the tragedies of Sept. 11, and the intelligence failure
that made them possible. Vice-President Richard Cheney has said
it is "irresponsible" to question the men empowered to protect
the American people.
are a few of the important questions which have been suppressed:
stock exchange activity that preceded that attacks. On Sept.
11, stories emerged that traders with foreknowledge of the attacks
may have sold airline stocks "short" the night before, to profit
from their post-attack decline. A leading stockbroker in New Jersey
wrote to the FBI about this possibility. He never heard back –
and we have heard little about this angle, anywhere in major media.
The threat warnings the Federal Aviation Administration never
received from the Pentagon. There has to date been no explanation
for the failure of the FAA to immediately alert the US military/air
force when it was clear the planes in question were not in their
scheduled air corridors.
The bizarre behaviour of the President on that day when his plane
was re-routed several times and the Vice-president was sent to
an underground bunker. Did they know something the rest of us
had not been told?
the days following the attack, Gordon Thomas, author of Seeds
of Fire, attempted to address these and related questions
– and no US news outlet would publish his article. In the Frankfurter
Allgemeine Zeitung – the German equivalent of The New York
Times – Thomas suggested that two months before the September
attacks, Germany's intelligence service, the BND, and Israel's
Mossad had warned the CIA that Al Qaeda operatives were
planning to use passenger aircraft to attack symbols of Jewish
and American culture in the US. Likewise, German police monitoring
the telephone calls of a jailed Iranian learned he was phoning
US intelligence in June 2001 to alert them to planned attacks
on the World Trade Center.
February 2002, a senior producer from "60 Minutes" phoned Gordon
Thomas about his story. She told him she had learned of his startling
claims that the Bush administration had credible evidence of a
planned attack on the US prior to 9/11.
explained how his sources in the BND and Mossad had provided him
with critical details of warnings passed to the CIA. "I will need
to take this one to 'Management,'" the CBS producer told Thomas.
who has worked in a major broadcasting network, as I have, knows
what that means: Referring a story to the highest level, where
investigative freedom hits its limits. Such a policy bypasses
the normal editorial chain of command, placing the decision-making
process in the hands of CEOs and owners of major news outlets.
senior producer phoned back Gordon Thomas at his home outside
Dublin. "The story is terrific," she told him. All she needed
from him was another "credible journalist" to substantiate his
put her in touch with Yvonne Ridley, a British journalist who
had been held prisoner by the Taliban. Ridley had impeccable sources
within the FBI and CIA in Washington. She independently told the
CBS senior producer that there had been warnings to the CIA before
Thomas' suggestion, the senior producer called me about the story.
"My contacts in the Bureau are denying it," I told her. Sources
I trusted told me that there had been no intelligence alerts from
Mossad or European intelligence services. One source even suggested
that "there was a disinformation campaign" against the Bureau
and the CIA, although he wouldn't say who was behind it.
Gordon Thomas got his fourth call from "60 Minutes." "The FBI
is denying it," the senior producer told him. That was no surprise.
Her next sentence was a surprise: "There could be a problem with
this story. They feel it might not fit into the agenda."
were "they?" What was "the agenda?"
think I can answer that. The agenda – spoken but not written – was
that there should be nothing broadcast that questioned America's
war against terrorism and the events leading up to it. "They"
were the board of CBS, as the senior producer admitted to Thomas,
in her very last phone call. She told him, flatly, "It has gone
to the very top of the network and they have said 'No!'"
story didn't die – not quite yet. A CBS competitor, MSNBC, had also
seen Thomas' story, and been impressed. The network flew a film
crew to Ireland and shot a long interview in Thomas' home, in
which he outlined how he had come by the story. Weeks later, when
the interview was broadcast in the US, it had been cut to three
minutes, omitting all the evidence Thomas had given concerning
warnings to the U.S. by foreign intelligence services. The "agenda"
had won out once again.
triumphed yet again with the Canadian network, CBC, which contacted
Thomas. A lengthy telephone call ended when a CBC producer said
simply "We don't think we wanna go down that line."
was left to ARD, the
major German television network, to follow up Thomas's story.
In February, they filmed Thomas and broadcast the interview in
its entirety – scooping by three months recent revelations of the
massive intelligence failure by the FBI and CIA. Gordon Thomas
is still waiting for CBS to call him back.
Dillon is a world-ranking authority on Eastern European intelligence.
He is also the author of the global bestsellers: Shankill
Butchers (Random House), The
Dirty War (Random House) and God
and the Gun (Routledge).