A DIFFERENT TAKE ON 911

SPECIAL UPDATE  #32

September 11, 2002

IN THIS ISSUE:

1.  Could the US have prevented 911?  

2.  Big, new changes for Special Updates.

INTRODUCTION

Virtually every nationally-known columnist, author, editor and Congressperson has felt it necessary to write some hopefully poignant words, or a speech, about the tragedy of September 11, 2001 on this first anniversary of the attacks.  I will not attempt to match the eloquent passages that have been written, a few of which have brought a lump to my throat. 

Eloquence in writing has never been on my resume.  I just try to explain things so that most anyone can understand.  On that note, I will bring up a subject that has bothered me ever since the tragedy a year ago.

Ever since 911, there have been those that questioned whether our various intelligence agencies should have been able to "connect the dots" and have prevented the tragedy of September 11, 2001.  As information has slowly filtered in over the last year, a case can be made that we should have been able to connect the dots.  I outlined a Special Update on this subject several months ago, with lots of details that weren't widely know at the time, but I did not send it as I considered it too controversial.  

Yet over the past several days, as all the major networks have run hours and hours of 911 specials, I have seen most of the information that I had much earlier, on how we might have prevented September 11, aired for all to see.  Let me be specific: I saw it only on FOX; I don't know if any other major networks had similar pieces, but I assume they did.

So here's my question about 911, simple as it may be, and this will end the "Introduction" to this Special Update.

IF WE HAD KNOWN ABOUT THE 911 ATTACKS BEFOREHAND, WOULD PRESIDENT BUSH HAVE BEEN ABLE TO STOP THEM?

Think about the impending war against Iraq.  It's been on again, off again, on again, off again and now, seemingly, on again.  On August 21, in my last Special Update, I wrote that Stratfor.com, my best geopolitical source, had concluded that an attack on Iraq had been put on the shelf, called off, due to domestic, international and media pressure.  It was pretty clear at the time.

Yet since then, we have been bombarded with reports that Saddam Hussein is on the verge of developing nuclear weapons.  Now, the war with Iraq is apparently back on track.  Who knows, maybe we will be attacking Iraq in a few weeks; maybe it will be in a few months; or maybe the decision will change again and we will not attack at all.

This leads to my ultimate question.  Follow me on this.

Let's say that in April or May or June of 2001 that the Bush administration had very credible intelligence that a terrorist attack was planned on the US.  Let's go a step further and assume that the administration had information that the terrorist attack could involve commercial airliners being flown into US landmark buildings.  And let's also assume that they believed al Qaeda terrorists under the direction of Osama bin Laden were the source of the threat.

The question is, would we have been able to stop it?

ROADBLOCKS BY THE MEDIA, CONGRESS AND OUR "ALLIES"

Over the last several months, we have all seen how the media, the liberals in Congress and our so-called  "Allies" abroad stacked-up against any sort of military action against Iraq.  You've heard all the arguments:

1.  There's no sure-fire evidence that Hussein has Weapons Of Mass Destruction;
2.  There's no sure-fire evidence that Hussein is close to having nuclear weapons;
3.  Even if he does, he has no way to deliver these deadly weapons on rockets;
4.  If we attack Iraq, Hussein will attack Israel as he did in 1991, only worse; and
5.  Hussein is no threat whatsoever to the American homeland, at least for now.

The opposition to an attack on Iraq has been enormous, despite the threat, and despite Saddam Hussein's long track record of ruthlessness, violence and war. 

Now, consider what would have been the opposition in 2001 to an attack on Afghanistan if we had intelligence suggesting an attack like 911.  You can bet that many of the same people in Washington and in the media and our "Allies" would have denounced such an attack.  They would have been voicing the same warnings the critics are saying today about Iraq:

American casualties will be huge; the military campaign will be very long; remember, even the Russians lost their war in Afghanistan; whoever replaces the Taliban may be just as bad or worse than they are; we will have to maintain a presence in Afghanistan indefinitely; war on Afghanistan will infuriate Muslims and Arabs around the world and turn them against us, etc., etc.

And let us not forget the other refrain we would have heard over and over and over from Congress, the media and our "Allies", just as we have heard about Iraq in the last few months:

We demand that the President and his administration give us more detailed information about the nature of the threat they say we face from Afghanistan and its terrorist organizations; the President has not presented a credible plan for any such war on Afghanistan; the President does not have the authority to authorize such a war; he must ask Congress and the U.N. for its approval.

I could go on (and on and on), but I think you get the point.  Just a few weeks ago, it appeared that the Bush administration was going to back away from its plan to attack Iraq.  That retreat seems to have changed very recently with the latest information suggesting that Hussein could have nukes in as little as a few months.

Yet even with this new information, the media and many in Congress are calling for new weapons inspectors in Iraq.  They insist that only if the inspectors find weapons of mass destruction and/or nuclear facilities -- and the capability to deliver them -- would a military attack be warranted.

Just because the pendulum has, for now, swung back toward a military attack on Iraq, that doesn't mean it won't change again.  If Saddam Hussein agrees to let weapons inspectors back in, you can bet that the media and many in Congress will be right back out there condemning any military action against Iraq.

MORE THAN JUST AN ATTACK ON AFGHANISTAN

Turning back to the issue of Afghanistan, there is another key point that must be made. A military attack on Afghanistan alone would NOT have prevented the 911 attacks. Those terrorists were already in the US with detailed plans for their horrific acts. No, to have prevented the 911 attacks, President Bush would have had to order all of the Middle Eastern men in US flight schools to be DETAINED and, perhaps, DEPORTED.

Can you just imagine the OUTCRY AGAINST such a move?! The media would have gone BALLISTIC at this kind of "profiling." Even after the horrible events of 911, there is still an uproar about racial profiling. Imagine what the ACLU and other left-leaning organizations would have done.

Actually, I can't imagine that President Bush would have been allowed to detain all the Middle Eastern men in US flight schools. I think that between the media, many in Congress, the liberal organizations like the ACLU, and maybe even the courts, they would have created such an uproar in the public that the administration would have run away from the idea, or been prohibited from carrying it out.

In summary, let's say that in mid-2001 our various security agencies had credible intelligence that a major terrorist attack was coming, and that the source was Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.  They also had concerns about Middle Eastern men in US flight schools.  Because there was a possibility of rounding up all these guys in flight schools, a media firestorm had developed, and the public knew all, or most of, this information.  In the end, due to intense pressure from the media, Congress and our "Allies," the Bush administration decided not to do anything about it.

Then came the attacks of September 11th.

IMAGINE WITH ME FOR A MOMENT WHAT THIS COUNTRY WOULD BE LIKE

Can you even begin to imagine what the OUTRAGE would be in this country if Americans knew we had intelligence about this threat, but because of pressure from the media, Congress and our "Allies" we did nothing to stop it?

We've all seen how our lives have been changed by the tragic events of September 11th, one year ago today.  The world has changed forever.  But think about what would have happened if we had prior intelligence about the 911 attacks, and the public knew about it, yet we did nothing to stop it.  The country would have exploded in outrage!  Unprecedented outrage that our government knew a massive attack was possible, but it bowed to political pressures and did nothing to stop it.

I'll leave it to you to imagine what might have happened had this scenario played out.  Would President Bush have been a hero?  Or would he have been impeached and his Cabinet run out of town?  Would those who denounced and opposed an attack on Afghanistan and al Qaeda and the Taliban be run out of town?  Would it have been the end of liberalism as we know it?  I wonder.

BACK TO REALITY -- COULD 911 HAVE BEEN PREVENTED?

There is no black-and-white answer, in my opinion.  Yes, there were warning signs going back to 1994.  A federal report entitled "Terror 2000" prepared for the Clinton administration warned, among other things, that terrorists might use commercial airliners against US targets.  That report was delivered to the Defense Department, State Department, FEMA, the various intelligence agencies and members of Congress on June 24, 1994.  Nothing was done about it that I know of.

Also in 1994, Algerian militants hijacked an Air France jetliner, with plans to either crash it into the Eiffel Tower or blow it up over Paris.  Fortunately, they were captured during a stop in Marseilles.  Nothing was done about it that I know of.

Another clue came in 1995 when Philippine authorities arrested Ramzi Yousef and Abdul Hakim Murad.  Under questioning, Murad admitted a connection to Osama bin Laden and spoke of a plot to crash a jetliner into the CIA headquarters in Langley.  He also reportedly said that Middle Eastern men were training at US flight schools.  The FBI reportedly interviewed a number of flight school attendees but apparently found no evidence that any of the Middle Easterners were plotting terrorism. 

Yousef and Murad are in prison in the US for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.  You would think we could have gotten more specific information out of them as the Philippine authorities reportedly did.

There were several other events that occurred and tips and clues that were uncovered after 1995 that might have led our intelligence agencies to more seriously consider a 911-type threat.  They are too numerous to go into here.  Then there was the attack on the USS Cole in October 2000.  Osama bin Laden was believed to have been responsible.  The Clinton administration elected not to retaliate.

Then there was the July 2001 memo from an FBI agent in Phoenix, which warned about a large number of Arabs taking flight lessons in the US, and questioned if they might be linked to Osama bin Laden.  Then came the arrest in August 2001 of Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called "20th Hijacker," when he raised suspicions at a Minnesota flight school.

THE DOTS WEREN'T CONNECTED, WHY, WE MAY NEVER KNOW

The government's position since 911 has been that there was no way to have connected the dots, that the intelligence was too vague as to have suggested an attack such as what occurred one year ago today.  Furthermore, they say that the intelligence was spread here and there among several different agencies.  It would have been impossible to piece it all together, given how the various intelligence agencies worked at the time.  That's the government's position.

Actually, this could in fact be true.  In the months after 911, we learned that several of our intelligence agencies don't share information with each other.  We learned that there has been an air of secrecy between the various agencies.  President Bush is trying to eliminate these kinds of problems with his Homeland Security Department.  It remains to be seen if it will be successful.

As noted earlier, at least FOX News (and I assume other networks) aired much of the information noted above, and even more details, about the clues and events leading up to 911.  I had not seen much of this information in the major media before, although it has been widely available on the Internet since shortly after 911. 

When I first saw this information on the pre-911 intelligence on FOX over the weekend, I assumed that many Americans would be deeply concerned that our intelligence agencies did not connect the dots.  Yet I hear very little outcry to that effect.

Given the way our intelligence agencies were organized prior to 911, it may be true that there was just no way to have connected the dots.  On the other hand, there are plenty of people that believe the government could have connected the dots, but just didn't.  There are many theories on this floating around out there.  But the bottom line is, we will probably never know.

SPECIAL UPDATES GET A NEW NAME AND A MUCH LARGER AUDIENCE

As you know, I began writing these e-mail Special Updates shortly after September 11 last year.  I started them because of all the concern and confusion surrounding the terrorist attacks, in an effort to bring you information you might not have seen elsewhere.  As the weeks and months passed after 911, I expanded the subject matter to a host of other topics.

As I have noted to Special Update subscribers several times over the last year, I never had any idea what path the Updates might follow, or even if I would continue them permanently.  All I knew was that I enjoyed doing them and, apparently, most of you enjoy them as well.  We are now up to over 3,000 subscribers.

The Special Updates are free, and I pulled my copyright protection so that anyone could subscribe and/or forward them to whomever they might choose.  So in addition to most of our clients who read the Updates, we now have many subscribers that we don't know from a man in the moon (at least not yet).

Earlier this summer I learned that one of our Special Update subscribers is the president of an Internet publishing firm, and he has been reading my e-mail Updates since shortly after I began writing them.  I was not even aware of this until he contacted me in late June.  The company publishes investment and related information by e-mail to over ONE MILLION high-net-worth individuals all across America, and even some abroad.  Their subscriber base is growing rapidly.

The president of the company so likes my Special Updates that he has asked my permission to distribute them to their entire subscriber base.  WOW!  I have spent a good deal of time thinking about this offer, and I have recently agreed to let this firm publish my Updates starting later this month.  As this is written, they are targeting September 18 as the start date.

UPDATES GET A NEW NAME, SORT OF  

We have never particularly liked the name Special Update.  Not very catchy or creative.  As a result, we are changing the name to FORECASTS & TRENDS E-LETTER.  The Forecasts & Trends name has served us well for many years, so we will use it as we are introduced to a much larger audience.

Whenever I write an F&T E-Letter, the Internet publishing firm will send it to its 1,000,000+ e-mail subscribers on WEDNESDAYS.  To make sure that our clients get the E-Letters FIRST, we will send them to you on TUESDAYS.   That way, you will see them before the larger audience does.  If I make recommendations, you will be able to act on them first.

PROTECTING YOUR PRIVACY

Let me assure you that your issues of F&T E-Letter will continue to be sent to you FROM US.  Your name, e-mail address and information remain secure and CONFIDENTIAL with us and not the publishing company.  Actually, this was an interesting part of the negotiation.  The Internet publishing firm and I both wanted to check their huge subscriber base to eliminate any duplications with our clients.  They, of course, asked me to send them our much smaller client list, and they would do the de-duplicating on their computers.  But due to my ongoing promise to you to never sell, rent or otherwise share your name or information with anyone, I insisted that they send US their much larger list, and allow us to sort that list for duplications on our computers, not theirs.  They agreed. 

CHANGES WITH OUR NEWSLETTERS

I envision writing 3-4 F&T E-Letters per month, and I hope to keep them apprx. four pages in length, plus the usual links to "Special Articles" at the end.  Because my first and foremost responsibility is to our clients and our investment programs, I do not want to significantly increase my writing load.  Currently, we write two 8-page newsletters every month (16 pages), plus our various monthly reports and the Updates.

What we have decided to do going forward is to write our PROFESSIONAL INVESTING and BETWEEN THE LINES newsletters on an "as needed" basis.  If we have information that we feel is important to you, we will publish these extra newsletters, but in some months we will only publish our original Forecasts & Trends newsletter. 

However, when you combine the 3-4 monthly F&T E-Letters, plus the Forecasts & Trends  newsletter, plus the periodic issues of Professional Investing and Between The Lines, you will actually be getting MORE information from us in most months than you do now.  Because I have other talented people at ProFutures who help me with the writing, my workload should not increase.

Since most of my writing will now be in the form of F&T E-Letters, the information you read from me will be much fresher than what you read in our newsletters.  It's often a week or longer after we write the newsletters before you receive them in the mail.

OVERSEEING OUR INVESTMENT PROGRAMS IS STILL MY #1 JOB

If you are one of our clients, you might be concerned that I will be spending too much time writing F&T E-Letters, and not enough time watching over our investment programs.  That will NOT be the case.  I can assure you that I will keep my focus on our investment and financial planning services.  Don't forget that I have the vast majority of my net worth (more than I would ever recommend to anyone else) invested in all of our programs.  I can't afford to take my eye off the ball!

Also, remember that I have been writing these Special Updates for almost a year now and, all in all, our investment results have improved this year.  Most of our market timing programs have side-stepped most of the damage in the equity markets.  And our futures funds are all up double digits this year, with one up over 23% as this is written.  All of this has happened while I was writing 2-3 Special Updates each month, in addition to 16 pages of newsletters each month.

Finally, I can always cut back if ever I think the writing is negatively impacting my focus on our investment services, or if it ceases to be fun anymore.

I'M PRETTY EXCITED

I would be lying if I told you I'm not excited about having 1 million+ people reading my F&T E-Letters starting next week.  Obviously, I am pleased that a major Internet publisher would consider my work to be so valuable as to send it out to their huge audience of high-net-worth subscribers.  They think they will be up to 2 million subscribers over the next year.

The publisher has not asked me to change a single thing about my writing or content.  I have carte blanche. In fact, the president said, "Please, don't change anything."  They will not edit a word of my text, not even the occasional typo here and there.

Getting my name in front of a million or more-high net-worth people should be an opportunity for us to gain some new clients, although that will take a while, I'm sure.  But I want you to know that my loyalty and accessibility will always be with our EXISTING clients!  That will not change.

OUR HEARTS & PRAYERS GO OUT TO THE VICTIMS OF SEPTEMBER 11TH

On behalf of everyone at ProFutures, and our families, let me just say that our hearts and prayers are with the families of those who lost loved ones on September 11th.  There is no way we can adequately address our appreciation and respect for those brave men and women who lost their lives trying to save others.

We pray that the tragedy of 911 will serve to strengthen our country and our resolve to respect and protect the precious freedoms we have.

GOD BLESS AMERICA!

Best regards,

Gary D. Halbert


Read Gary’s blog and join the conversation at garydhalbert.com.


Forecasts & Trends E-Letter is published by ProFutures, Inc. Gary D. Halbert is the president and CEO of ProFutures, Inc. and is the editor of this publication. Information contained herein is taken from sources believed to be reliable but cannot be guaranteed as to its accuracy. Opinions and recommendations herein generally reflect the judgement of Gary D. Halbert (or another named author) and may change at any time without written notice. Market opinions contained herein are intended as general observations and are not intended as specific investment advice. Readers are urged to check with their investment counselors before making any investment decisions. This electronic newsletter does not constitute an offer of sale of any securities. Gary D. Halbert, ProFutures, Inc., and its affiliated companies, its officers, directors and/or employees may or may not have investments in markets or programs mentioned herein. Past results are not necessarily indicative of future results. Reprinting for family or friends is allowed with proper credit. However, republishing (written or electronically) in its entirety or through the use of extensive quotes is prohibited without prior written consent.

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