you had asked me eleven years ago why the World Trade Center and the Pentagon
were attacked on 9/11/01, and why the Capitol was the probable destination of
Flight 93, I would have told you, “The Blind Sheikh, Omar Abdel-Rahman.”
in northern New Jersey, we residents here regard the George Washington Bridge
as “our bridge”. Well, we share with New
York, but it’s our main landmark. We
take great offense at anyone who would try to damage it and kill the millions
of motorists who cross it every year.
New York Post, Fox News, and Rep. Peter King (N.Y) have all confirmed, through
anonymous, high-level sources, what Glenn Beck’s The Blaze network reported
weeks ago, and the State and Justice Departments have vigorously denied: that negotiations are going on between the
U.S. and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood president to release Omar Abdel-Rahman, “The
Blind Shiekh”, from prison in North Carolina after the election in November.
McCarthy, the former federal prosecutor who put the Blind Sheikh behind bars
notes in his book (which I ran right out and bought as soon as it was
published), “Willful Blindness,”: “After
all, Osama Bin Laden credits Abdel Rahman with having issued the fatwa
approving the 9/11 attacks, the most horrific acts of terrorism in American
history, direct from the federal penitentiary I helped put him in.”
McCarthy tells us, urged his followers to “turn your gun(s) on Mubarak” then
president of Egypt – a loyal dog to the American government. What the terrorists came to call the
“Landmarks Plot” (they’d also played with the title, “Day of Terror” and “Ring
of Fire”) involved 12 bombs to be set off more or less simultaneously. Fortunately, the FBI and JTTF had an
informant in the person of Emad Salem.
One of the targets was the World Trade Center.
tells us, “The terrorists were not about a single bombing or bomb
campaign. Their leader, the Blind
Sheikh, was pressing for jihad [as opposed to ‘talk, talk, talk’] aimed at
fulfilling religious duties to punish the United States for interfering in the
affairs of Muslim countries and to establish Allah’s law in America, as well as anyplace else where it
did not reign supreme.”
Yousef (Abdul Basit) was allowed to enter the United States in spite of some
obvious clues that he was a terrorist.
The federal government only traced their tracks after the bombing,
however, by which time Yousef had safely left America, unhindered.
before the bombing, McCarthy tells us that Rahman addressed an Islamic
conference thus, “[W]e must be terrorists and we must terrorize the enemies of
Islam and frighten them and disturb them and shake the earth under their feet.”
their error in admitting Rahman, the U.S. government tried unsuccessfully to
deport him. Meanwhile, although the original
World Trade Center plot had failed, the terrorists were undeterred and were
proceeding with their plans for the Landmarks Plot. Salem informed the FBI and JTTF of what was
about to happen and they were arrested in the Jersey City garage where they
were making the bombs. Among the
evidence was a tape of the Blind Sheikh being driven through the Holland
Tunnel, determining the best spot to detonate the device.
was on these grounds that the Rahman was arrested and convicted. The charges of the World Trade Center bombing
were added later. The terrorists found
the GW Bridge a difficult target. They consulted
engineers who told them that because it was a suspension bridge, the only way
to take it down was from the center column, which is very odd because there’s
no “center column” on the bridge, only its east and west towers. In any case, they didn’t have the knowledge
at the time to do it and McCarthy notes that there wasn’t enough concrete
evidence to charge the defendants with trying to blow up the bridge.
the bridge represented them with a religious motivation – the As-Sirat, the
bridge to paradise, thin as a hair and sharp as a knife from which
non-believers would fall into the fires of hell. Buildings and tunnels represent easier
Yousef was finally caught and put in jail with the Blind Sheikh and his uncle,
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, took up his cause.
KSM was intrigued by the dramatic notion of hijacking airplanes and
plowing them into skyscrapers. Osama Bin
Laden, an associate of the Blind Sheikh’s, was willing to underwrite the
operation, and they found willing suicide bombers through Al Qaeda, including
Mohammed Atta, who held an architectural grudge against the box-like Twin
Towers in New York City. Like the Blind
Sheikh, he was also Egyptian.
arrived in the Northeast in May of 2000.
The reason I know that is because my family and I (and many other
residents of our area) saw him in Bloomingdale at a local gas station run by a
Turkish Muslim. There was no mistaking
that face. He was staying at the Wayne
Inn on Rt. 23, traveling back and forth between his hotel, the city of
Paterson, William Paterson University in Wayne, and we think Greenwood Lake
Airport (or possibly the even more remote Hilltop Airport), to fly around in a
small airplane to get the lay of this part of the land.
that same time, I was promoted to a job in my company’s Public Relations
department as a reporter and erstwhile photographer. In early September 2001, my assignment was to
photograph one of our agents in Fort Lee.
At the time, our company was using a “landmark” theme of its own, to
identify agents with large cities. I
thought the George Washington Bridge would make an ideal landmark background
(in addition to the usual office shots my boss always insisted upon as back
decided to check out the location before picking up the agent. However, I didn’t know where I was going and
turned right instead of left. Instead of
being above the bridge, I was under it.
But being a windy day, and seeing what fine backdrop the bridges
supports made, I decided this was the spot.
I was under pressure from my boss and the head photographer to take “beauty”
insurance agent told me how the FBI had made raids on storefront
mosques only the week before. I didn’t
tell him about the unusual scene when I first turned onto the rutted road,
about the group of construction workers who did a crazy Keystone Kops routine
when I turned onto the road or about the municipal pick-up truck with New York
plates that tried to honk me away from where I had stopped under the bridge.
I took his picture, with his back to the bridge, he couldn’t see the highly
unusual behavior displayed by one of the construction workers. Nor did he know that I returned to the bridge
a third time to get the stock photos my boss would inevitably want and
witnessed even more unusual behavior and saw one very familiar and frightening
face. I might have called the police
only I suspected they were already there and that I had stumbled upon something
I wasn’t supposed to see. Nothing
illegal, I suspected; just very, very stupid.
guess was the next Tuesday - September 11th. That was the
bridge’s busiest, inbound day when trucks would be making their deliveries to the city and Long Island. Only the terrorists ran off when they saw my camera. Maybe
it wouldn’t happen, after all. However,
9/11 did happen and when first reports came out of an aborted attack on the
bridge (which law enforcement later disclaimed), I thought I was going to be
sick. And I didn’t even have the
developed pictures back yet. The
developer delivered them personally the next day, giving me a very stern look.
just moments before and during the attack, seven of my co-workers were stuck on
the bridge, and my boss and I were having an incredibly passionate argument (a
continuation from the afternoon before, in which I broke down crying most
unprofessionally) about whether to use the office photos or the bridge
photos. I argued that we might not have
another chance to use them.
I had the photos – but it was too late, at least for the Twin Towers. As I’d stood watching what was happening on
the bridge a week earlier, three figures were engaged in an animated discussion
– one gesticulating wildly, one standing silent, and the third, a very tall
man, the familiar one, nodding avuncularly.
The gesticulator waved up at me (I was observing them through my telephoto
lens), and the other two looked up. I
had my finger on the shutter button. But
this was a film camera and I was about to take an unmistakable close-up shot,
one that I would own. I’d never be able
to get it developed without impossible trouble of one sort or another. For all I knew, those guys down there were
armed, and I was alone on a deserted road.
withheld from taking the close-up shot and opted instead for long shots that
could be enlarged later from the negatives, if whoever took possession of them
wanted to know more. I knew exactly what
had happened and why more targets weren’t hit.
The gesticulator and his boss thought the agent and I were an FBI agent
and a reporter. They decided to take the
cautious route and call it off. The
third man, the stern silent one, knew perfectly well I wasn’t an agent or a
reporter. His contact in Bloomingdale
knew my whole family. He had our credit
I said nothing, neither did he. He never
bothered to tell his cohorts, and the 30 or 40 thugs with them that there was
no danger of a raid. The tall guy said
something and he nodded. They knelt down
on the girding in prayer, then they all ran like cockroaches. The tall guy was the last to leave. Atta went on to do his evil deed, much to the
amazement of KSM and Osama Bin Laden. It
wasn’t that he was “braver”; he just knew something they didn’t. Eventually, I found a way to turn the photos (and the negatives) over to the authorities.
of the leaders are dead (at least we assume they are). The third is awaiting trial, and their
Islamic guru is in jail. Now we learn
that the U.S. government is in negotiations with the Muslim Brotherhood
Egyptian government to release the Blind Sheikh, on humanitarian grounds. What will stop the government from releasing
KSM on similar grounds, especially if he argues that he’s been arrested for a
terrorist act in which he never actually participated, in spite of his own
men should not – cannot be released. The
Obama Administration is reported not to care; that he’ll release Rahman after
the election. Our State Department, our
Justice Department, Congress, and the American people must not allow this thing
don’t know whether the Bush Administration was delivered an ultimatum to
release Rahman, which Bush would have rightly rejected. We don’t know whether the police were trying
to capture Osama Bin Laden in the act, and a photographer inadvertently
interrupted the operation. But I do know
we must not allow ourselves to be blinded by fear, intimidation, or political
Nearly three thousand
people died on 9/11, its instigator is about to go free and Glenn Beck is
wondering whether he had the “right” to broadcast the truth about the attack in
Libya to the people first? Nearly 3,000
people died on 9/11 and any of us who might know something should fear for our
lives? I was scared to death on Sept. 5,
2001. I felt sick and ashamed on Sept. 11, 2001. I wasn’t at all surprised on Sept. 11,
2012. I’ll do everything I can to warn
you, as many times as necessary, not to let this thing happen. Justice should not be blind in this case. It’s Sept. 20, 2012, and I’m furious – and all
of you should be, too.