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As with Nitze’s leadership of the three primary reports on the Soviet threat, two men were primary leaders of the terrorism-related commissions in the years leading up to 9/11. These men were Brian Michael Jenkins and L. Paul Bremer. With the help of Nitze and others, Bremer and Jenkins transformed the Soviet threat into a threat of “international terrorism” in the 1970s and 1980s, and further transformed that threat into today’s widely held belief in “Islamic terrorism.” To better understand the roles that Bremer and Jenkins played related to 9/11, and as terror propagandists, we should examine their personal histories.
Brian Michael Jenkins
From 1989 to 1998, Jenkins was the deputy chairman of Crisis Management for Kroll Associates. Kroll directed the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) response to the 1993 World Trade Center (WTC) bombing in terms of security upgrades. As stated by the PANYNJ program manager for WTC security systems, Douglas G. Karpiloff, “After the bombing, we had the top security consultants in the nation, Kroll Associates, do a complete security analysis for us, and we followed their recommendations.”
During this time, Jenkins reviewed the possibility of airliners crashing into the Twin Towers. As the leader of the WTC threat assessment, Jenkins was later questioned about plans that might have been made to avoid what happened on 9/11. Jenkins said, “We knew there was no realistic way to protect the skyscrapers from a suicide mission. We couldn’t very well mount missile batteries above the Windows on the World restaurant.”
Jenkin’s history as a special operations officer and long-time right-wing political advisor contributed to criticism of his role at the WTC. Not long after the 1993 bombing it was reported that Jenkins was “trotted out” to explain the threat we faced. Described as one of “the hoariest holdovers from the era of Reagan ‘roll, back,’ RAND’s Brian Jenkins was both an apologist for and one of the architects of the contra war against Nicaragua–a terror war aimed primarily at the civilian population and infrastructure.”
Jenkins played a critical role in planning for future terrorist events at the WTC, including having reviewed the possibility of airliner crashes before they actually happened on 9/11. Coupled with the claims that he participated in planning and implementing a “terror war” in Central America during the 1980s, these facts should make him a subject of considerable examination with respect to 9/11.
Born in 1942 and commissioned in the infantry at the age of 19, Jenkins was a Special Forces soldier who saw action in many covert operations of the 1960s. He was in Guatemala in 1965, the year that U.S. security adviser John P. Longan arrived and, “along with a Guatemalan Army élite, launched Operation Cleanup, a death squad operation that throughout 1966 effected kidnappings and assassinations that killed the leaders of Guatemala’s labor unions and peasant federations.”
Jenkins was also part of the 7th Special Forces occupation of the Dominican Republic, in which only “around 75 members of E company of the 7th Special Forces Group were deployed.” Jenkins then went on to serve with the 5th Special Forces Group in Vietnam where he lived in the countryside among villagers, “trying to recruit as many as possible into a pro-U.S. counter-guerrilla force.”
During this time Jenkins signed on as a field consultant for the RAND Corporation. He became well known for a confidential 1968 paper he wrote for RAND entitled “The Unchangeable War.” Jenkins cited nine obstacles to a U.S. victory in Vietnam and suggested the war could be lost due to these symptoms of the military’s “institutional rigidity.” He also pointed out that his boss, General Cleighton Abrams, was in charge of a pacification program run by Robert Komer, who was credited with managing the mass murder project known as the Phoenix Program and later became a WISC member.
In a 1971 paper that described the last ditch effort to “Vietnamize” the war, Jenkins thanked his RAND colleagues Romer and Fred Ikle. As a pioneer in psychological operations, Ikle had written reports and memoranda for RAND through the 1960s. It seems reasonable to wonder if Jenkins was also a psychological operative and if he was part of the Phoenix Program, as is suspected of Richard Armitage.
In 1972, at the age of 30, Jenkins launched RAND’s terrorism research program. He was “summoned to Washington by the Nixon administration and asked to help set up a Cabinet-level committee to deal with the terrorism threat.” Two years later, Jenkins wrote that terrorism sometimes works. He also made clear that the ability to engage in terrorism was not limited to foreigners, but that even U.S. soldiers could be seen as terrorists if they killed civilians. Jenkins wrote about “government terror” and how national governments would begin to employ terrorists as surrogates.
Jenkins further explained that “Terrorism is aimed at the people watching, not at the actual victims. Terrorism is theater.” He believed that one objective of terrorism was “to enforce obedience and cooperation. This is the normal objective of state or official terrorism” and that “success demands the creation of an atmosphere of fear and the seeming omnipresence of the internal security apparatus.”
Jenkins wrote papers with WISC member George K. Tanham and was published not only by RAND but also through Crane Russak Company, which published papers by WISC member James Theberge, NSIC propagandist Frank R. Barnett., and Paul Nitze.
A 1976 paper by Jenkins described a RAND summit meeting on terrorism that included such luminaries as Andrew Marshall. In this paper, Jenkins argued for the more flexible military that Rumsfeld later promoted, and he called for the creation of a new kind of special operations unit, just like the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) that succeeded the OPC a few years later, to collaborate with the CIA to address terrorism. It was also suggested that U.S. counterterrorism collaboration with the British, West Germans and Israelis should continue.
In 1981, Donald Rumsfeld became Chairman of the Board for the RAND Corporation, a role he remained in until 1986 and filled again from 1995 to 1996. As Rumsfeld took over at RAND, Jenkins reviewed media exaggeration of terrorist events and the psychological impact of that coverage. He wrote, “The media exaggerate the strength of the terrorists, creating the illusion of their omnipresence.” At the same time, he reviewed public support, via poll responses, for a “special world police force” to combat terrorism.
Around this time, Jenkins began to advocate for using terrorism to psychologically manipulate civilian populations. As an advisor in the construction of a counterinsurgency program in El Salvador, Jenkins recommended that traditional methods be supplemented by the use of propaganda to discredit insurgents as “terrorists.” In another 1984 paper, Jenkins recommended that the U.S. engage in low-intensity warfare against Nicaragua through a proxy army. Such actions fall within Jenkins’ own definition of state sponsored terrorism.
By 1986, Jenkins was among a small group that advised Secretary of State George Shultz on matters of terrorism. It was said that “his trips to Washington became more frequent. He also spent time with CIA Director William J. Casey, Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger and other administration advisors.” That same year Bremer became the new Ambassador at Large for Counter-terrorism and Richard Armitage was working as the lead counter-terrorism representative for the Department of Defense.
In 1988, it was beginning to become clear that the image of a Soviet threat could no longer be sustained. The Soviet empire was crumbling economically and that fact could not be glossed over. At the time, Jenkins began suggesting that long-proclaimed Soviet responsibility for terrorism was not based on evidence but was politically required in the Reagan era. Jenkins believed that blaming the Soviets going forward could only hurt the anti-terrorism efforts. A new enemy was needed.
The problem was that a new enemy of Soviet caliber was not evident at the time. Libya was again blamed for the December 1988 Lockerbie bombing, but the predecessors to al Qaeda, were still working for the CIA in Afghanistan. In fact, Richard Armitage was meeting and working with the Pakistani ISI and the Mujahideen, parts of which would later be known as al Qaeda.
Between 1988 and 1998 the U.S. /al Qaeda connection grew, as evidenced by the recruiting done in U.S. centers like al-Kifah in New York, and by the revelations about al Qaeda’s operative Ali Mohamed. Known as a key planner for the first WTC attack in 1993 and a trainer for the 9/11 plot, Mohamed was a U.S. Army drill sergeant and an informant for the FBI. He was allowed to move freely in and out of the U.S. for many years and when detained, he was allowed to plea-bargain.
U.S. protection of operatives like Mohamed was one way to ensure an increase in terrorism. But to transform the primary threat from one of a monolithic Soviet or communist empire to a more flexible, non-state terrorist organization like al Qaeda, significant amounts of inter-government communication coupled with public propaganda was required. That is, we needed official commissions to assess and report on the new threat.
In 1996, Jenkins was appointed to the “White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security,” joining Vice President Gore, Stratesec director James Abrahamson, former CIA director John Deutch, and FBI director Louis Freeh. One recommendation of the Commission urged all-civilian implementation of Global Positioning System (GPS) devices provided by the Defense department. Other recommendations focused on the passenger profiling and technology related to hijacking prevention.