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In his important 2006 book, Nemesis, the Last Days of the American Republic, the third and concluding part of a trilogy, the late Chalmers Johnson, who was an expert on Japan and US foreign policy, writes that as much as 40% of the Pentagon budget is “black,” meaning hidden from public scrutiny. If the figure is even approximately correct, and I believe it is, the number is alarming because it suggests that democratic oversight of US military research and development has broken down. In which case our democratic values and way of life are presently at risk; not from without, as there is no foreign enemy that can destroy the US Constitution, but from within.
I would argue that Chalmers Johnson’s estimate was corroborated on September 10, 2001, on the eve of the worst terrorist attack in US history, when Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged during a press conference that the Department of Defense (DoD) could not account for $2.3 trillion of the massive Pentagon budget, a number so large as to be incomprehensible. Any remaining hope that the US military might still get its budgetary house in order were dashed at 9:38 am the next morning, when the west wing of the Pentagon exploded in flames and smoke, the target of a terrorist strike. Incredibly, the exact point of impact was the DoD’s accounting offices on the first floor. The surgical destruction of its records and staff, nearly all of whom died in the attack, raises important questions about who benefited from 9/11. Given the Pentagon’s vast size, the statistical odds against this being a coincidence prompted skeptics of the official story to read a dark design into the attack. As Deep Throat said: “Follow the money.”
Was the Pentagon accounting office destroyed because diabolical individuals planned it that way? No question, the west wing presented a much more challenging target than the east wing. Targeting the west wing required a difficult approach over the Arlington skyline. The final approach was especially dicey and amounted to a downhill obstacle course, skirting apartments and a large building complex about a quarter-mile from the Pentagon known as the Naval Annex; which sits atop a hill that rises from the flat ground along the Potomac River. In April 2008, I interviewed Army Brigadier General Clyde Vaughn, a credible witness to the events of that morning. Vaughn explained over the telephone that on 9/11 he was on his way to work at the Pentagon via Shirley Highway (I-395) when the strike occurred. The general told me the hijacked aircraft (presumably AA 77) just missed the Naval Annex and would have hit the US Air Force memorial that presently occupies the site, had the 270 feet-tall monument existed on 9/11. The new memorial was constructed in 2006 and dedicated the same year.
Why did the terrorists not take the easy approach up the Potomac River? The river approach would have afforded a reasonably good chance to crash the offices of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which were located on the opposite side of the building, in the middle of the outer “E” ring. The location of their offices was no secret. Surely terrorists would have been more interested in decapitating the command structure of the US war machine than going after a bunch of accounting clerks.
That morning, there were other striking anomalies. The crash of AA 11 into the North Tower at 8:46 am should also have raised red flags, because the point of impact at the 95th and 96th floors was too remarkable to be happenstance. Both floors were occupied by Marsh & McLennan, one of the world’s largest insurance brokerages, with family ties to the private intelligence firm, Kroll Associates, which held the security contract at the World Trade Center. Indeed, the network of corporate ties is so entangled that were I to trace all of the links, they would easily fill a book. Here, I will sketch out only the most salient connections.
The CEO of Marsh & McLennan on 9/11 was Jeffry Greenberg, son of Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, owner of AIG, the world’s largest insurance conglomerate (or second largest, depending on the source). Greenberg’s other son, Evan, was CEO of Ace Limited, another large insurance company. Maurice Greenberg had been a director of the New York Federal Reserve Bank for many years, and in 1994-95 served as its chairman. Greenberg was also vice-chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), which in 1996 published his report, “Making Intelligence Smarter: The future of U.S. Intelligence”; as a result of which, Senator Arlen Specter floated Greenberg’s name as a candidate for the directorship of the CIA. Although George Tenet eventually got the job, the mere fact that Greenberg was in the running shows the extent of his influence. In 1993, Greenberg’s huge insurance conglomerate AIG reportedly bankrolled the Wall Street spy firm, Kroll Associates, saving it from bankruptcy. Thereafter, Kroll became an AIG subsidiary. After the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Kroll acquired the contract from the Port Authority of New York to upgrade security at the World Trade Center, in the process beating out two other firms. Kroll continued with the WTC security contract through the period leading up to the September 11 attacks. One of Kroll’s directors, Jerome Hauer, also managed New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s Office of Emergency Management, which was located on the 23rd floor of WTC 7.
Notice this means Kroll had unfettered access to all three of the buildings destroyed on 9/11. This startling coincidence should have been reason enough for the 9/11 Commission to investigate Kroll’s shady background as well as its relations with AIG, Ace, and Marsh & McClennan. The commission was armed with subpoena authority and might have probed deeply enough to learn the truth. Unfortunately, the official investigators were not interested in connecting the dots. Although Kroll was based in New York City, it served (and still serves) an international clientele through 60 offices in some 27 countries. Over the years, the firm has repeatedly been accused of, and/or formally charged with, conspiracy. In 1995 the French government expelled several Americans from the country, including a Kroll employee named William Lee, for allegedly spying on French industry. Lee’s involvement with Kroll made French authorities suspicious that his Paris operation might be a CIA front. The French were surely aware of Kroll’s longstanding practice of hiring former CIA, FBI, and British Intelligence agents. Kroll/AIG made no effort to conceal the fact that between 1997-2003 the AIG board of directors included Frank G. Wisner, Jr., son of one of the founders of the CIA. Wisner Jr. is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Wisner Jr. also served as US ambassador to several nations, including Egypt, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. As I write, Wisner’s name surfaced in the news. Last week, President Obama dispatched Wisner as his personal envoy to confer with the embattled Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. Even as popular pressure continued to build for Mubarak to step down, Wisner embarrassed Obama by publicly encouraging Mubarak to ride out the crisis and hang onto power. No doubt, his action reflects the view from Langley, which would much prefer to see Mubarak remain in power. The CIA has long supported the Mubarak regime and in return was allowed to use Egypt as a haven for renditions and torture. Wisner’s thumbing his nose at his own president, no doubt, is also an accurate measure of the US national security state’s low opinion of Obama. It certainly exposes Obama’s weakness as president.
Did the French government over-react in 1995 when it expelled a Kroll employee for suspected industrial espionage? Possibly, but the French had good reason to be wary of CIA meddling in their country. It is a safe bet the French have not forgotten Operation Gladio, the rogue intelligence network secretly organized in Europe by the CIA, NATO and British MI-6, after World War II. “Gladio” means “sword” in Italian and is the root of the word “gladiator.” Known as the “stay behind armies,” they were in every NATO country, and totaled thousands of paramilitary soldiers. Their ranks included known underworld criminals and drug traffickers; and crucially, the CIA kept the whole operation secret for nearly forty years.
Although the stay-behind armies were supposed to form the nucleus of an armed resistance movement in the event of a Soviet invasion of western Europe, the invasion never materialized, and the CIA-trained forces were sometimes used for other less savory purposes. These included smear and disinformation campaigns, mass bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and attempted coup d’etats; all of which was blamed on the communists. Before it was over, the CIA-staged terror campaign added up to hundreds of incidents in Italy, France, Greece, Belgium, and other European nations.