The United States government prides itself in having an open form of government. Members of Congress debate in front of spectators and television cameras the laws that they propose. The President of the United States publicly declares signings and vetoes of those bills from Congress. The Supreme Court publishes its opinions on legal issues. Federal agencies usually must release requested information to the public.
Yet a number of governmental actions did not come to the public’s attention at the time they were taken. For instance, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), a part of the federal government, overthrew Iranian President Mossadegh in 1953. Very few outside the CIA knew of this coup until the Church Committee of the United States Senate uncovered it in 1975.
So, our government acts secretly in some matters. Reasons for secrecy include potential opposition from the public or from other nations whose support we seek, our intent to blame another party or nation for the action and the interest in protecting the actors from criminal liability. To work around these obstacles, the government would need to devise a plan if it wanted to avoid public scrutiny, frame another party and cover up the tracks of federal officials and others who assist.
The Bush Administration insisted that the attacks of September 11, 2001 were planned and carried out exclusively by Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network, al-Qaeda. However, evidence exists to show that members of the Administration did, in fact, conspire with others to plan and carry out the attacks, which took the lives of almost 3,000 people. To this day, they have avoided substantial public outcry, they successfully pointed the finger at bin Laden and they have produced, through public statements and the creation of the 9/11 Commission, an official explanation that completely exonerates all of them.
As one of the leading conspirators, former Vice President Richard Cheney deserves special attention. He held several responsibilities directly relevant to our nation’s response to airplane hijackers. With President Bush hundreds of miles from the command center where Cheney spent much of 9/11, the Vice President took the role of acting Commander-in-Chief and made a crucial decision about whether to shoot down a hijacked plane.
He also, through an executive order signed by Bush just four months earlier, controlled all federal agencies in their response to attacks with weapons of mass destruction (which airplanes qualify under). Since this order gave him control over the war game simulations taking place that day, his judgment in allowing the simulations to go on despite credible warnings of the attacks should also be questioned.
Three actions by the conspirators enabled them to complete a crime that had already begun with its planning and its initial stages. The conspirators ignored the specific foreknowledge given to them about 9/11. By ignoring it, they failed to warn the air defense, which protects us from hijackings. If the conspirators had not confused the air defense with war game simulations, the air defense would have intercepted or even shoot down hijacked planes before they hit crowded buildings. And the conspirators, as authorities, covered up evidence, which prevented the public from suspecting the conspirators much sooner.
History suggests that we may have a window of opportunity to try high-ranking individuals for criminal conduct. After a similar period of time, official investigators stopped pursuing criminal charges for those who may have been involved in the assassination of President Kennedy. If we do not objectively look at the case against the conspirators now, we risk the type of complacency about our government that makes it easier for them to commit other secret criminal acts without any accountability.