Norman Mineta and the Question of Cover-up

They say the truth will out. That is what is happening with the 9/11 investigation. When was the last time the official story could extol a new discovery? With the skeptics it happens every week. Small but significant sprouts of truth are coming up all over the place. For example, in the transcript of the testimony of Norman Mineta before the 9/11 Commission.

Norman Mineta was the Secretary of Transportation in 2001, the only Democrat in the cabinet. In his capacity as overseer of the FAA, Mineta was an important player in the events of September 11th. According to his testimony before the Commission, he was in a meeting when his chief of staff informed him that the first WTC tower had been hit. With the impact of the second jet, Mineta ended his meeting and after some time coordinating efforts from his office, he went to the White House where he was escorted to the room where Vice President Cheney was obviously directing the nation’s response.

Shortly after his arrival in the room and before the Pentagon was struck, Mineta saw a young man enter the room and inform Cheney that “the plane” was fifty miles out. It became clear as the minutes passed that this plane was headed for the Pentagon. The young man entered the room to report the distance had decreased to 30, then 20, and then 10 miles. As this last piece of information was delivered, the young man asked Cheney if the orders still stood. Mineta reported to the Commission that Cheney spun his head around and demanded to know if the young man had heard anything to the contrary. Mineta’s assumption at that time, according to his testimony, was that the orders were to shoot down the aircraft. Five minutes later the plane crashed into the Pentagon after making a difficult maneuver for such an aircraft, a 270 degree turn and dive from 7000 feet that enabled it to miss the Defense Secretary’s office, its original heading.

Truth seekers will naturally look to Mineta’s testimony to see what can be learned. Disappointment awaits. What is clear is that the possibility of foul play was never a consideration for anyone according to the record. Mineta’s assumption, that the “orders” were to shoot down the plane, appears to be shared by all whose words were transcribed. Mineta testified that he additionally assumed that the intercept had failed. No one made note, at that time, of how many such failures had occurred that morning.

It might make sense to review the bidding at this point. Norman Mineta was a witness to the governance of this country in the absolute middle of its worst crisis. It is hard to conceive of a more important observer, a man with years of experience in government, particularly in intelligence. A number of questions arise, a very large number. None of them were asked at the Commission hearing. There is a temptation to absolve the participants on the grounds that the only questions necessary become so in one, unique, instance, and that is if one thinks the attacks of 9/11 were an inside job.

Though allowing for that dark possibility certainly opens the door to an inspiring array of questions, it is not true that such a cynical view is necessary in order for a closer scrutiny to be required. Further questions were in fact essential if the Commission was to complete its mission of telling the American people what happened and why. But, more specifically, this nation should have been entitled to know why an attack on its military’s headquarters was successful. In a very real sense, it remains the most disturbing of circumstances, worthy of a separate inquiry all by itself.

The Commission was in a position to learn from an informed observer what words were spoken and what reactions were expressed by the group of individuals in charge as they failed in the most fundamental way. After all, if the headquarters of our military is at risk, how desperate is the plight of the population as a whole?

Therefore, even without engaging in conspiracy theories, what questions should have been asked? How about the following:

1. How big a room were you in and how many people were in it from the time you arrived to the time you left?

2. How many of the occupants were in uniform?

3. How many television screens or monitors were activated?

4. What pictures were on the screens that you observed?

5. How many of the people in the room were obviously talking on telephones?

6. How many people were talking?

7. Was the question of the vulnerability of the Pentagon, or the possibility of its being a target, mentioned in your hearing?

8. At what point did it become clear that the Pentagon was a theoretical target, if ever?

9. Was Secretary Rumsfeld’s image or voice apparent at anytime?

10. Was there any change in the decibel level in the room after the ten-miles-out information was given?

11. What do you recall being said and by whom after the ten-miles-out alert?

12. Was reference made to the identity of the airplane that hit the Pentagon by anyone in the room or within your hearing? Did you ever hear any kind of description of the airplane that hit the Pentagon?

13. How did you learn that the Pentagon had been hit?

14. Were you aware of the flight path of the plane that hit the Pentagon or any change in it in the last ten miles of its flight?

15. What words were spoken and by whom as it became clear that the Pentagon had been hit?

16. Do you know anything about the Pentagon’s defense system? Did you assume, during the time you were aware that the plane was headed for the Pentagon, that the Pentagon’s defense system would be employed?

17. Did you think that the “orders” that were referred to had to do with the Pentagon’s defense system?

18. Do you concede that there was failure on the part of the FAA on the morning of 9/11? If you do, had you come to that conclusion, however tentatively, before you entered the room where Vice President Cheney was in charge? When the plane that hit the Pentagon did so, what was your reaction to the coincidence of failure both within and without the military on that morning?

18. Who was the young man giving information to Cheney? What did he look like? Was he wearing a uniform, if so, what rank? Had you ever seen him before? Since? Have you been asked about his identity by any other person between that moment on 9/11 and now? Have you had any conversation with any other person concerning that man’s identity, or actions that morning, from then till now?

It is my contention that not one of the questions set out above requires any part of a conspiratorial mindset in order for it to have occurred to a fact-finding body interested in the sequence of events that culminated in the attacks of 9/11. I further contend that these questions are the minimum required for such a body to claim diligence in its endeavor. I will concede that Mineta was asked if he knew who the young man was, but was asked none of the follow-up questions which I view as essential.

What precisely, however, is wrong with a modicum of conspiratorial mindset if one is a member of the 9/11 Commission, whose job is to tell the complete story of the attacks? Isn’t one of the objectives of the Commission to attempt to satisfy the people within our society who are able to conceive of governmental wrongdoing? Those allegations had abounded in every conceivable medium for nearly two years at the time the witness, Norman Mineta, took the stand. If some member, or all members of the Commission, in spite of their sworn duty, feared that asking questions designed to provide evidence that would establish or refute the existence of a conspiracy would add fuel to the conspiracy fire, one can only be astounded at how the conflagration going on around them escaped their notice. One might have thought that being informed about any questions that were being asked was the first duty of a conscientious inquirer.

What questions might a conscientious inquirer wished to have asked? How about these:

1. Are you aware of “Project for a New American Century” where reference is made to a New Pearl Harbor? When did you become aware of it? What was your reaction to it? Was it brought to mind when leaders within the Administration began using the Pearl Harbor analogy in the wake of the September 11th attacks?

2. When was the first time that you thought of the possibility that the attacks were an inside job? What made you think of it? Do you have any evidence that the attacks were an inside job?

3. In your own review of the performance of the agencies for which you have responsibility, have you had a list prepared of the instances of failure on the part of individuals over whom you have authority? If so, could you produce the list? If not, can you now set out as many instances of failure as you can think of?

4. With whom have you had conversations concerning those instances? Could you detail each of those conversations?

5. Against whom have you taken disciplinary action due to the failures of 9/11? Are you aware of any disciplinary action in the case of any of the people over whom you have general authority? Did you direct any other agency to take administrative or disciplinary action?

6. If you have never conceived of the possibility that the attacks were an inside job, what in the last 70 years of American history allows you the confidence to exclude the possibility?

7. Did you ever conduct, or have conducted, your own investigation into the possibility that elements within the government, particularly in the transportation sector were complicit in the attacks?

8. Are you, as a matter of course, made aware when war games are going to be conducted involving air traffic controllers or the general monitoring of American skies?

9. Were you aware of any of the war games being engaged in by the US government on 9/11? When were you notified? What was your reaction to the kind and number of games being conducted at the same time? Did you voice any disapproval or ask any questions of anyone concerning the propriety of so many games being conducted at the same time?

10. Were you aware of any changes having occurred in the response procedures of US forces to highjacking scenarios in the last year before 9/11? There were 67 occasions of jetfighters being scrambled for the protection of our airspace in the last nine months before 9/11? Had you any reason to question the ability of US forces to respond to highjackings before 9/11? If you did, or if you were concerned about any changes that had occurred, what steps did you take to correct the problem?

11. Can you set out the instances in which you were made aware of intelligence that referred to terrorists highjacking airliners and using them as weapons against buildings?

12. In the last thirty years as a governmental official in any capacity, were you aware of instances where the FBI allowed terrorists to conduct activity on US soil? If you considered some of those instances an inappropriate governmental function, can you set out steps that you took to redress the problem?

13. Are you aware of any shortcomings in the government investigations of any potential terrorist attacks? Oklahoma City, or TWA Flight 800, for example?

14. Detail your activities on the morning of 9/11. At whose insistence did you go to the PEOC at the White House? Did you consider your participation or presence there to be unusual, or unwarranted?

15. Did anything about the way you were interacted with, give you cause for concern as events proceeded that morning?

16. Did you assume, at any time that morning or in the days and months that followed, that a number of people, including possibly yourself, would be disciplined for the failures that were made evident by the attacks?

17. How would you characterize the apportionment of responsibility between the FAA and NORAD that has taken place in the various fora of which you are aware?

18. What was your reaction to the manner in which the secret service conducted their mission of protecting the president that morning? Do you have an explanation for their failure to immediately take the president to a place of safety?

19. How long were you in the presence of Dick Cheney that day? Detail all that was said between you and Mr. Cheney. Did you have contact with the Vice President in the succeeding months? Detail each of those instances of contact with the vice president or a representative of his office.

Evidence of cover-up in government is not conclusive evidence of guilt of crime. Efforts to avoid embarrassment can be just as vigorous and complex as efforts to avoid criminal consequence. When the effort not to ask obvious questions is as thorough as that demonstrated by the 9/11 Commission just in the questioning of Norman Mineta, however, the covering-up of crime, possibly even with the intention of saving the republic, must be strongly considered.

Each of the 9/11 Commissioners was a lawyer. There is a natural mental function that operates in most lawyers when confronted with unanswered questions. It is an impulse to learn, to get to the bottom of a matter, to figure out the truth. A tremendous amount of effort had to be expended NOT to pursue the quantity of information left in the shadows while Norman Mineta was on the stand. Until the commissioners establish some other plausible reason for their lack of interest, the presumption should be that the 9/11 Commission was an effort to cover-up the most horrible criminal activity by representatives of the United States government..

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