9/11 Conspiracy Tales:
This much we know to be true…

By Michael I. Niman
ArtVoice, December 20th, 2001

There’re a lot of e-rumors flying around the web these days.  One of the more disturbing stories references a 1962 US government covert plan called “Operation Northwoods,” which supposedly called for US government sponsored terrorist attacks against Washington DC and Miami.  The attacks, which were to include bombing buildings and shooting citizens, as well as a faked hijacking, would be blamed on Fidel Castro’s government in Cuba.  The ensuing outrage among Americans would provide the necessary backdrop for an otherwise politically untenable full-scale invasion of Cuba.  The plan was reported to be the brainchild of then Joint Chiefs of Staff General Lyman Lemnitzer.  Conspiracy theorists are having a ball with this story.  The implications after September 11th are obvious and unthinkable.  But it’s just another e-rumor.  Right?

Here are the facts:  Yes, General Lemnitzer did cook up a plan, Operation Northwoods, to cause mayhem and blame it on Cuba.  Yes, a plane would be hijacked and blown up.  But it would be empty, with a list of ersatz casualties being released.  The information on bombings was also vague.  There’s no evidence of a plan to cause civilian casualties, though Lemnitzer’s plan proposed, “we could blow up a [US] ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba.” He explained,  “Casualty lists in US newspapers would cause a helpful wave of national indignation.”  He also suggested sinking boats of Cuban refugees and blaming that too, on Cuba.

When I finally tracked down and read the truth, I was actually relieved in the knowledge that no, our government never actually planned to bomb Washington or Miami.  I turned off my computer and took a break from writing.  But then it hit me.  If not for the initial buildup of fear and paranoia induced by the exaggerated e-rumor, I’d have been shocked at learning that our government actually planned to murder Cuban émigrés on the high seas, kill US Navy personnel, and in effect, terrorize the entire country into submitting to a draconian political agenda and supporting an otherwise unthinkable war. 

This wasn’t the deranged plan of a lone lunatic.  It was approved by all of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and presented it to the Kennedy administration on March 13th, 1962.  Kennedy killed the plan, but was later killed himself.  Lemnitzer resigned, but the Joint Chiefs continued their scheming, cooking up plans to instigate a war between Cuba and another country, thus justifying a Kuwait style war against Cuba.  Operation Northwoods remained a secret for nearly 40 years until James Bamford, a former ABC News investigative reporter, unearthed it while researching his second book, “Body of Secrets,” about the secretive National Security Agency.  Doubleday has since published Bamford’s book.  ABC news briefly carried the story of Operation Northwoods back on May 1st of this year.  Hardly a fly-by-night journalist, Bamford has been regularly published by The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times.  His 1983 book about the NSA, “The Puzzle Palace,” was a national bestseller.  His expose of Operation Northwoods is bulletproof – and in light of the September 11th tragedy, quite alarming.

Disinformation and Patriotism

Bamford’s story is obscure and little known, having been played down or ignored outright by the mass media.  This is where the e-rumor comes into play.  It’s incredible.  It exaggerates the real story just enough to destroy its credibility, yet it travels fast and far.  It’s an info-virus.  It’s disinformation. It reeks of conspiracy theories.  It’s not credible.  And hence, Bamford’s story, if and when we finally run into it, also is not credible.  Been there.  Heard it.

September 11th has unleashed a tidal wave of patriotism, defined by Webster’s as zealously supporting the authority and interests of one’s country.  It’s also unleashed a current of paranoia as Americans strive to understand what is happening to us, our country, and the world.  Those who are looking for clues to keep up with, and possibly figure out, the current political dynamics, are suddenly awash in both information and disinformation.  It’s time for rumor control. 

Journalists should be slaves to the truth, searching out stories and presenting them to the public, letting the chips lie where they fall.  It’s the public’s responsibility to then sort the stories out, making of them what they will.  In that light, here are a few facts and stories that proved to be true.  Make of them what you will.

The Latest Dope on Anthrax

According to a December 10th report by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), all of the anthrax mailed to both the media and the offices of two Democratic US Senators originates from the US bioweapons lab at Fort Detrick. This validates the mid-October reports in the British press identifying the anthrax plaguing America’s mail as being from the Ames strain used by the US military.  That report didn’t stop US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld from speculating on Nightline six weeks later that the Iraqis might be responsible for the anthrax attacks.  The FAS report, however, clearly states that the Senate sample contains a special form of silica used in the US process. It does not contain bentonite, which is used by the Iraqis.  The FBI now suspects that the anthrax was sent by a lone male domestic terrorist, recently immunized against anthrax, with both high tech lab (microbiology) and forensic experience.  All indications now point to a highly trained nazi wacko - Not al Qaeda or Iraq.  While Rumsfeld might have capitalized on the anthrax generated hysteria, it is highly unlikely that this is a Northwoods style operation since no covert agency would use an anthrax strain with a genetic signature pointing back to an embarrassing US government bioweapons program.

Pre-9/11 Troop Deployments

Before the first plane hit the World Trade Tower, officially starting World War Three, US and British troops were already en route to the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman for war games, with the US heading to Egypt and the British heading to Oman.  The British operation, named Swift Sword, encompassed, according to The Guardian, 24,000 troops and a quarter of the Army and RAF’s fighters and transport airplanes.  It was Britain’s largest military mobilization since the Falklands War.  Part of that force was deployed to fight in the early phase of the Afghan war.  Likewise, American forces were already deployed off of the coast of Pakistan, when the US pressured that country to choose sides in the unfolding war. The Guardian  reports that US State Department officials in early July of this year informed their Russian and Pakistani counterparts of possible plans to invade Afghanistan in the Fall.

Insider Trading

Investigative reporters and police detectives alike both share the same mantra: follow the money.  Anyone with advance knowledge of any world event can parlay that knowledge into profits.  Such was the case with the September 11th tragedy.  In the days leading up to September 11th, thousands of “put” options, a tool by which investors profit from a falling stock price, were purchased on companies whose stocks tanked after September 11th.  Most prominent among these companies are American and United airlines, whose hijacked planes hit the twin towers, and the investment firms of Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch, whose offices were destroyed in the towers.  Between September 6th and 7th, investors purchased 4,744 “put” options in United Airlines at the Chicago Board Options Exchange.  At the same time, only 396 “call” options, where an investor bets on a stock price increasing, were purchased.  On September 10th, investors bought 4,516 put options in American Airlines, verses 748 call options.  In the three days prior to September 11th, investors bought 2,157 put options in Morgan Stanley, a company who occupied 50 floors of office space at the World Trade Center.  Volume during the previous week was a mere 27 put options per day.  Likewise, investors bought another 12,215 put options for WTC tenant, Merrill Lynch.  This is 12 times the normal volume for such options.

What is clear in this trading is the fact that people both knew in advance, and profited from, the September 11th tragedy.  Currently our government is three months into a campaign of mass detentions as they search for accomplices responsible for orchestrating the September 11th attacks.  The campaign has produced scores of human rights violations, but few suspects.  Fully investigating these put option purchases, by contrast, has the potential to unearth the networks behind these attacks.

Most embarrassing to the government, however, is the fact that many of the mysterious put options were purchased through an investment firm, which was formally headed by Buzzy Krongard, the current executive director of the CIA.  He’s not currently involved with the company, nor is there any indication that he was involved in the trading.

Oil Money

The Boston Globe reports that there’s booty in them there Central Asian Hills.  Conflicts of interest too. US based Unocal Oil, notorious for their partnership with Burma’s oppressive government, joined forces in 1995 with a Saudi Oil company to build a pipeline from oil fields in Turkmenistan, through Afghanistan and Pakistan, to ports on the Arabian Sea.  The 1996 Taliban takeover of Afghanistan didn’t slow the project down.  In 1998, the consortium agreed to pay the Taliban $100 million per year for a pipeline right of way, but first they needed to convince the US government to recognize the repressive Taliban regime.  Toward that end, The Globe reports, Unocal hired George W. Bush’s father’s former Undersecretary of Defense Zalmay M. Khalilzad as a lobbyist.  Today, Khalilzad has returned through the revolving door back into the employ the government, where he serves on George W. Bush's National Security Council.

Khalilzad represents only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to conflicts of interest involving Bush’s boys and the Saudi oil crowd.  George W’s father, the former president, is now on the payroll of the Carlyle Group, an investment banking group with deep ties to both the Saudi government and, according to the Wall Street Journal, the bin Laden family construction company, headed by Osama’s brother. 

W’s Ex-Employer and the Saudis

The Carlyle Group itself is headed by Ronald Reagan’s former Secretary of Defense, Frank C. Carlucci, who also served as National Security Advisor and Deputy Director of the CIA.  Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, former budget chief Richard Darman, and former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Arthur Levitt are also now associated with the Carlyle Group, whose Saudi investments range from companies training the Saudi military, to Central Asian oil exploration. While many former top US government officials migrated to Carlyle, former Carlyle associates have migrated into government work.  Prominent among them is President Bush (Junior) himself, who formally served as a director of Caterair, a Carlyle subsidiary. 

Since September 11th, the British press has made much of the fact that Carlyle work took the senior Bush to Saudi Arabia to meet with the bin Laden’s in November of 1998 and again in January of 2000.  While, the Bush family’s contacts with the bin Ladens has raised eyebrows in the European media, the bin Laden family has been quick to point out that it is not in contact with, nor does it support, Osama.  In an embarrassing twist for the Bushes, however, the FBI is currently investigating the financial dealings of the bin Laden group in connection with its terrorism investigation.  FBI attempts to probe bin Laden family businesses prior to September 11th  were, according to The Observer, a British newspaper that has been investigating the bin Laden family story, thwarted by President Bush.

More Weird Saudi Connections

Many analysts see the September 11th attacks as being directed not only against the US, but also against the Saudi regime.  Osama bin Laden and 16 of the 19 suspected hijackers hail from Saudi Arabia.  Their fight is against not only the West, but also their own corrupt and decadent government and oligarchy which is armed and protected by the US.  In this light, the many connections between the Saudi oligarchy and the Bush administration serve to fuel anti-American sentiments among Saudi dissidents.  The bin Ladens are all over the political field in this war, with Osama directing terrorism against US facilities, while the bin Laden construction company is hired to build new US military facilities such as the barracks they constructed after an Osama related truck bomb killed 19 US service men in Dhahran in 1996.

Are you thoroughly confused yet?  Let’s look at the case of the BDM Corporation, which trains the Saudi Military.  Carlyle formally owned a controlling interest in BDM, which is now owned by TRW, on whose board sits former CIA director Robert M. Gates and Michael H. Armacost, President Reagan’s Undersecretary of State.  Vice President Dick Cheney comes to the White House from the Halliburton oil services company, where he served as CEO.  Since September 11th, Halliburton received a $140 million dollar contract to develop an oil field for the Saudi government run oil company.  Halliburton was also in partnership with the bin Laden Group in building pipelines in Iran, Libya and Alaska (see ArtVoice 11/8/01).  Cheney also sat on the Kazakhstan Oil Advisory Board.  National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, is a former director of Chevron Oil, another American company with major ties to the Saudi regime.  Chevron named an oil tanker after Rice.  Rice now fronts for the Bush administration on Al Jazeera Television.  Other US connections to the Saudi oligarchy include Bush Senior’s former Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady who sits on the Board of Amerada Hess, an American oil company teaming up with the Saudis to develop oil fields in Azerbaijan. 

What We Need to Do Now

What I’ve outlined here are a few of the troubling tidbits and personal connections upon which conspiracy theories grow like dandelions on a suburban lawn.  The questions people have been raising are twofold: Just who was involved in the attacks?  And, who knew about the attacks before they happened?  There are two levels of criminal activity conspiracy theorists are looking for here – actual complicity in attacks, or inaction in the face of prior knowledge about the attacks.

While the information available doesn’t demonstrate a conspiracy, it clearly demonstrates a host of potentially unrelated conflicts of interest.  It also gives us insight into the emergence of an international oil oligarchy that transcends national boundaries.  All of this is disturbing.

As we struggle ahead in difficult political times, the Bush administration needs to take steps to keep the country united.  This entails, not continuing to act in a political manner that makes September 11th look like a conspiracy.  While environmental and global democracy groups as diverse as the Sierra Club and the Ruckus Society have cancelled political actions in the wake of September 11th, the Bush administration has pushed on in hyper drive with its divisive agenda.  They’ve infuriated critics by claiming that their entire radical program, ranging from corporate tax giveaways, fast track trade negotiating authority, and the enhancement of the surveillance state, to raiding the social security trust fund and weakening environmental laws, are all part of the “War on Terrorism.”  Rather than uniting the country, such opportunism casts suspicion on the Bush administration and fertilizes conspiracy theories. In the interest of America, Bush needs to stop turning our tragedy into his political goldmine.

September 11th will continue to be the biggest political story of our lives as the world continues to change in its aftermath.  The only way to put rumors to rest as the world searches for answers, is to commission a UN sponsored international investigation of the September 11th attacks.  The US is too involved both as a victim and as a party to the ongoing war, to credibly conduct this investigation.  Likewise, our leaders are too crippled by conflicts of interest to have the credibility to continue such an investigation.  Furthermore, the international nature of the supposed attackers mandates international cooperation in any investigation. 

  This was not just an attack on NY or the US – it was an attack on the world, and the world deserves answers we are all comfortable with.  The Bush administration should not only invite such an investigation, they should cooperate with it as well.   Then and only then, will we be able to move ahead and heal as a global community.


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