A Pretext for War : 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies
The bestselling author of Body of Secrets and The Puzzle Palace presents his most hard-hitting book to date-a sweeping, authoritative, and fearless account of the failures of America's intelligence agencies and the Bush administration's calculated efforts to sell a war to the American people. In The Puzzle Palace, James Bamford revealed the existence of the NSA, the largest, most secretive, and best-financed intelligence organization in the world. In Body of Secrets, he took readers inside the ultrasecret agency, charting its deeds and misdeeds from its founding in 1952 to the end of the twentieth century. Now Bamford applies his relentless investigative drive and unparalleled access to intelligence sources to produce a headline-making book about the most pressing issues of the present day. From the mishandling of the pre-9/11 threat to the unproven claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, Bamford argues that the Bush administration has co-opted the intelligence community for its own political ends, and at the expense of American security.
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May 09, 2005
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Excerpt from A Pretext for War by James Bamford
Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Powell's heart started pounding and he quickly raised his hand and started waving it vigorously to get attention. He sat in a quiet pool of emerald light, staring at a matrix of slowly moving white dots, cryptic flashing letter-number combinations, lines going in all directions, and green circles that would form at the center and then expand outward, like a ripple from a stone tossed in a morning pond. Represented by every dot was a small cross-section of humanity, packed in an aluminum tube and traveling in the air near the speed of sound. Jeremy Powell was sitting in front of a glowing radar screen, scanning the skies over America's East Coast for any indication of attack, invasion, or airborne drug dealers.
This green room, like a leprechaun's lair, was the Operations Command Center of "Huntress Control"--the Air National Guard's Northeast Air Defense Sector. Located in the sleepy town of Rome in central New York, it was part of the North American Aerospace Defense Command--NORAD--a relic from the days of bomb shelters, air raid warnings, and fears of invading Russians. Besides being centrally located and free from major urban electromagnetic interference, Rome was an appropriate venue for America's twenty-first-century lookouts. It was the place where the American flag first flew in the face of battle, during the American Revolution at Fort Stanwix, located in what is now the center of the city of Rome. And it was the home, and final resting place, of Francis Bellamy, author of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Lt. Col. Dawne Deskins, her eyes now adjusted to the eerie light that greeted the start of her dozen-hour shift, saw Jeremy Powell's hand waving. As the airborne control and warning officer at the center, she was expecting more activity than usual this morning because of the drill. September 11, 2001, was the fourth day of a weeklong exercise code-named "Vigilant Guardian." It was designed to create a fictional crisis affecting the United States and test the network of radar watch stations around the country. Like a rerun of an old movie, the scenario involved Russian bombers flying over the North Pole in attack formation. The Rome command center was responsible for monitoring more than half a million square miles of airspace, from the Montana-North Dakota border to the coast of Maine down through South Carolina. Included were the skies over New York City and Washington, D.C. Should a crisis develop, the radar specialists could pick up the phone and alert fighter pilots at National Guard units at Burlington, Vermont; Atlantic City, New Jersey; Cape Cod, Massachusetts; and Duluth, Minnesota.
A moment earlier, Powell had taken a call from Boston Center. "Watch supervisor, I have a possible hijack of American 11 heavy," a Boston military liaison with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) told him. "Recommend notifying NORAD." Powell passed the information on to Deskins. Part of the exercise, Deskins thought to herself, until the direct phone line to the FAA began flashing. It was 8:40 a.m.