A previously undisclosed report from the 9/11 commission found that federal aviation officials had received dozens of intelligence reports in the months of the September 11th attacks specifically warning of the threat posed by Al Qaeda. Despite the warnings the FAA did little in response to beef up security. This according to a report in today’s New York Times. Up until now the White House had blocked the release of the report that was completed in August–more than two months before the November election. Two weeks ago the Bush administration quietly placed a classified and declassified version in the National Archives. The FAA considered the threat serious enough in the months before Sept. 11 that the agency distributed a CD ROM to airlines and airports that citied the possibility of a suicide hijackings. But the FAA failed to implement security measures that could have stopped the hijackings. Airport screening procedures for weapons were not tightened. And the use of on-flight air marshals was not expanded. One airline official told the 9/11 commission that airlines did not want to give up revenue by providing free seats to air marshals. The report however finds no evidence that the government had specific warning of a domestic attack. Up until Sept. 11 the aviation industry considered the hijacking threat to be more worrisome overseas.
On Capitol Hill, Republicans lawmakers are attempting to use the Sept. 11 attacks to pass sweeping new anti-immigration laws. The House may approve as soon as today a bill that would prohibit states from giving driver’s licenses to undocumented workers, make it harder to file asylum claims and give the Department of Homeland Security extraordinary power to build security walls along the nation’s borders. The driver’s license provision alone could affect millions of undocumented workers who live in the 11 states that allow them to obtain driver’s licenses. In addition, the bill would allow the Department of Homeland Security to "waive all laws" that could prevent security measures from being put in place along the U.S.-Mexican border. Republican Congressman James Sensenbrenner Jr. said of the legislation "It seeks to prevent another 9/11-type terrorist attack by disrupting terrorist travel." Meanwhile Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman criticized the measure as a "breathtaking grab for power by the federal government."
In news on Iran, the deputy commander of U.S. Central Command announced Wednesday that the military is updating its war plan for attacking Iran. Lt. Gen. Lance Smith claimed the update was a routine matter. Smith said "We try to keep them current, particularly if our region is active." The announcement came on the same day that both President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice issued new warnings to Terhran. Meanwhile former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix has issued a warning of sorts — to the United States. He said the Bush administration must know if they launch an attack, there possibly could be a nuclear retaliation by Iran.
In news from Iraq, a senior U.S. general announced Wednesday that it was enemy fire that likely downed a British military cargo plane on election day. The crash killed 10 people on board and marked Britain’s biggest loss of the Iraq war.
In other Iraq news, the Bush administration is seeking four hundred million dollars from Congress to pay off nations that are helping fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The White House has dubbed the program the "solidarity initiative." About one-fourth of the money will be given to Poland.
On Capitol Hill, California Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey called on the House International Relations Committee Wednesday to have hearings on her resolution for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq.
The Washington Post is reporting a new scandal is emerging out of Guantanamo Bay. A soon-to-be released military investigation has determined that female interrogators repeatedly used sexually suggestive tactics to try to humiliate and pry information from the devout Muslims held at the prison. In several cases the Pentagon has determined that female interrogators pretended to spread menstrual blood on the detainees before they said their prayers. Female interrogators also rubbed their bodies against the men, wore skimpy clothes in front of them, made sexually explicit remarks and touched them provocatively.
In Los Angeles, the FBI has joined the investigation into the police killing of 13-year-old Devin Brown. The African American 8th grader died Sunday after police fired 10 shots at him. He was driving a stolen car. After a short chase, police say he tried backing his vehicle into a police car. Brown attended a magnet school for gifted students. The FBI has was called in to help with the investigation in part due to increasing tension between the LAPD and the city’s African-American community. The shooting of Devin Brown came just a week after prosecutors decided not to press charges against an Los Angeles officer who was caught on videotape pummeling an African-American man with a heavy aluminum flashlight.
In related news, in Chicago a 14-year-old boy went into cardiac arrest after police shot him with a Taser stun gun. The youth lost consciousness and temporarily lost his ability to talk. The boy was shot after reportedly attacking employees at the group home where he lives.
In business news, Carly Fiorina has been ousted as chair of Hewlett-Packard. She was one of the most powerful women in the corporate world.
And in other business news, Wal-Mart has announced plans to close a store in Canada where workers were seeking to turn the store into the first unionized Wal-Mart in North America. The world’s largest retailer claimed the store closure was necessary because demands from union negotiators would make it impossible for the store to be profitable. It is the first Wal-Mart to close for economic reasons. For years Wal-Mart has vigorously fought unionizing efforts. Five years ago, a group of Wal-Mart butchers voted to unionize. The company responded by announcing that it would start stocking prepackaged beef and that there would no longer be a need for butchers.