Memorials are being held across the country today to mark the fifth anniversary of 9/11. In New York, moments of silence are planned at the World Trade Center site at the times when jetliners struck each of the twin towers and when each tower fell. Spouses and partners of the two thousand seven hundred and forty nine who died at the trade center are planning to read the names of each victim. Last night, lights filled the sky in Washington DC. The light display was made up of 184 beams, each one representing a life lost at the Pentagon. President Bush visited ground zero on Sunday. Today he is planning to visit the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania where 40 people were killed when a jet crashed into the ground. The president is scheduled to address the nation tonight.
As the nation marks the anniversary of 9/11, the Washington Post reports the hunt for Osama Bin Laden has gone stone cold. The newspaper says the U.S. government hasn’t received a credible lead on his whereabouts in more than two years. In March 2002, President Bush decided to pull out most of the troops leading the hunt for bin Laden in Afghanistan to prepare for war in Iraq. The Bush administration still has no one official in charge of the overall hunt for bin Laden. Pakistan has reportedly all but stopped looking for him.
In other news from Afghanistan, a provincial governor was killed by a suicide car bomber on Sunday. Hakim Taniwal is the highest ranking official to be killed since the Taliban insurgency began. Taniwal was a close friend of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The bombing came two days after a suicide car bombing in Kabul killed 14 Afghan civilians and two American soldiers.
The chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq has concluded that the U.S. military has been all but defeated in the country’s western province of Anbar. The Washington Post reports the classified assessment of the dire state of Anbar marks the first time that a senior U.S. military officer has filed such a negative report from Iraq. The Marine report concluded that there are no functioning Iraqi government institutions in Anbar which includes the cities of Ramadi, Fallujah and Haditha. Al-Qaeda in Iraq has become the most significant political force in the province.
The McClatchy Newspapers have revealed that U.S. officials are attempting to downplay the level of violence in Iraq by undercounting the number of Iraqis killed. A U.S. military spokesperson confirmed that the military no longer includes deaths from car bombings or mortar attacks as victims of the country’s sectarian violence. That has allowed U.S. officials to boast that the number of deaths from sectarian violence in Baghdad declined by more than 52 percent in August over July. Earlier today 14 new Iraqi army recruits died after their mini-bus was blown up in Baghdad by a suicide car bomber.
: The committee said there was no relationship. in fact Saddam —
: I haven’t seen the report. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet.
: But Mr. Vice President the bottom line is…
: We know that Zarqawi running the terrost camp in Afghanistan prior to 9/11. After we went in after 9/11, then fled and went to Baghdad and set up operations in Baghdad in the spring of 2002 and was there and then basically until the time we launched into Iraq.
The Senate Intelligence Committee also released a report confirming that the U.S.-funded Iraqi National Congress fed the U.S. government and media false information that was later used as the basis of pre-war intelligence reports. Intelligence officials repeatedly warned that the INC was unreliable and that it had been penetrated by Iranian spies.
Human rights officials in Gaza are warning that the 10-week-old Israeli siege has created widespread suffering and mass despair. Journalist Patrick Cockburn writes in the Independent of London: “Gaza is dying. The Israeli siege of the Palestinian enclave is so tight that its people are on the edge of starvation… A whole society is being destroyed.” The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees has announced it has increased the amount of food aid to refugees in Gaza for the first time in five years. Israel continues to carry out military attacks in Gaza and the West Bank. On Sunday, an Israeli tank shell killed a 14-year-old boy in the town of Rafah. A 19-year-old relative of the boy was also injured. Meanwhile in the West Bank town of Jenin, undercover Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian man earlier today.
Protesters are gathering in Beirut today to greet British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Lebanon’s most senior Shiite cleric tried to have Blair’s visit cancelled. Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlalla accused Blair of contributing to “killing us and slaughtering our children”.
The Israeli military has revealed it fired an estimated 237,000 artillery shells during its attack on Lebanon.
Over the weekend, the Israeli military was accused of breaking the month-old ceasefire after it detained five Lebanese civilians in southern Lebanon.
In Israel up to 40,000 protesters gathered in Tel Aviv on Saturday to demand the Israeli government authorize a state inquiry to probe the handling of the war in Lebanon. The demonstration was the largest public show of dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert since he took office in May.
At least ten Florida journalists have been caught taking payments from the U.S. government. Three of the journalists worked for the Miami Herald or its sister publication, El Nuevo Herald. The payments totaled hundreds of thousands of dollars. All of the journalists received money for doing work on the U.S. government run stations Radio Marti and TV Marti. The government beams the anti-Castro stations into Cuba but its broadcasts are prohibited in this country due to laws that prohibit the government from broadcasting propaganda inside the country. The Cuban government has long alleged that U.S. journalists covering Cuba were on the government payroll.
A British human rights group has accused the Bush administration of continuing to secretly hold prisoners in overseas prisons. Last week President Bush announced that 14 prisoners being held in secret CIA prisons would be transferred to Guantanamo. During his speech Bush said there are now no terrorists in the CIA program. However the British group Reprieve said the whereabouts of dozens of detained terrorist suspects remain unknown. The group’s legal director, Clive Stafford-Smith, said the Bush administration is holding several hundred detainees at the Bagram airbase in Afghanistan — none of whom has been named by the Pentagon.
The Washington Post reports that a growing number of CIA counterterrorism officers are signing up for private insurance plans that would pay their civil judgments and legal expenses if they are sued or charged with criminal wrongdoing. Many CIA officers are concerned that they could be sued for being involved in abuse, torture, human rights violations and other misconduct.
The Sudanese government has released Chicago Tribune reporter Paul Salopek after holding him for five weeks. Sudan had accused the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist of being a spy. After his release, Salopek spoke with reporters. Paul Salopek: “If I were to be granted a visa, I would absolutely come back to Sudan. It’s an extremely important country.”
In other news from Africa, the Observer newspaper of London reports evidence has emerged that America is involved in illegal mercenary operations in Somalia. The newspaper said it has obtained leaked emails that suggest the CIA had knowledge of plans to run covert military operations inside Somalia–against UN rulings. The U.S. mercenary company involved has been identified as Select Armor — a firm based in Virginia.
UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland has traveled to the Democratic Republic of Congo and warned that the UN is running out of money to feed the country’s 1.7 million displaced people.
On Sunday ABC aired part one of its controversial made-for-TV movie The Path to 9/11 despite strong criticisms that the producers fabricated key scenes. In one part President Clinton’s National Security advisor Sandy Berger is seen as refusing authorization for a proposed raid to capture Osama bin Laden in spring 1998. The film alleges that CIA operatives in Afghanistan had Bin Laden in their sights at the time. According to the 9/11 Commission, CIA operatives were never poised to carry out such an attack. Two retired FBI agents have admitted they rejected advisory roles on the mini-series because of concerns about the program’s accuracy.