Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Cover: AFP/Corbis, Richard Lipoenes
reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 3/12/2003
Summary: Highly Recommended. The dots leading up to 9-11.
This reviewer thinks the title of this book is unfortunate. Peter Lance apparently took it from words spoken by one of the players in the 9/11 tragedy who was attempting to explain the rationale of terrorism. This rationale says that the Islamic terrorists have a historical grievance against the West and are attempting to rectify the situation. Don’t buy it. While the Islamic terrorists are using Islam as a cover for murder and intimidation, the rationale is a bit more prosaic. It’s all about greed, power, influence.
1000 Years For Revenge is an excellent book. It neatly dovetails into other books written about events leading up to 9/11, including “The Cell” by John Miller and Michael Stone with Chris Mitchell; Breakdown by Gertz, Bill; “Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America” by Yossef Bodansky, and to a lesser extent, Ronald Kessler’s The Bureau. All these books have been reviewed here and are worth reading, but if you had to read only one, I would pick Lance’s “1000 Years For Revenge”. (Lance also devotes a chapter to the Oklahoma, Murrah Federal Building bombing, mentioning Stephen Jones and Peter Israel’s “Others Unknown: The Oklahoma City Bombing Case” (New York: Public Affairs, 1998) which has been read by this reviewer but not reviewed in TGBRJ).Revenge is such a good book that one is inclined to nitpick-minor issues like letting terrorist hide behind Islam, or incorrectly identifying the Drug Enforcement Administration. Minor things. Peter Lance does come very close to exposing Islamic terrorists as pawns in a larger game of international power-politics in which religion is nothing more than a ruse. He comes close, but that is not the route he has taken. He instead follows the events in the lives of three people: New York Fireman Ronnie Bucca, FBI agent Nancy Floyd, and terrorist bomb-maker Ramzi Yousef.
Lance’s premise is that the 9/11 attack on America could have been prevented. If you’re on the inside of law enforcement and intelligence, you are inclined to disagree. If you’re on the outside, as most of us are, you examine the facts and weigh the possibilities. All the dots were there waiting to be connected from 1993 to the summer of 2001. Could a reasonable person, looking at the first bombing of the World Trade Center (WTC), avoid zeroing-in on events emanating from that conspiracy and not intercepted just one other event leading up to what became 9/11? The question is really not whether 9/11 could have been prevented. The question is s not even germane to what steps could have been taken to prevent future acts of terrorism in America.
In a chapter Lance titles, “The Drums Get Louder” (page 372), he writes, “But the most shocking piece of intelligence came in August of 1998, when both the FAA and the Bureau picked up information that unidentified Arabs were planning to fly ‘an explosive-laden plane’ from an unnamed country into the World Trade Center.” A reasonable person, given what had occurred in 1993, might dismiss this “intelligence” as just hyperbole by person or persons unknown. But law enforcement and intelligence should have known better. By time of the now famous Malaysia meeting of al Qaeda in January of 2000, which the CIA requested the Malysian government to monitor, the CIA and FBI had all the information needed to put together an assessment that some type of attack was being planned against America. Of course, neither the FBI nor CIA were apparently responsible for making such an assessment.
It is here that Lance’s chronicling of the lives of Fireman Bucca and FBI agent Floyd comes into play. From the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, these two individuals participated in critical events leading up to 9/11. Bucca had the common sense perception, based on his assignment in his Reserve military intelligence unit and what little could get from the FBI, that the people who planned WTC 1993 would be back. He was denied a position with the FBI’s Joint Terrorist Task Force because he was only a fire investigator. Agent Nancy Floyd developed and worked the confidential informant (CI) who penetrated the core of the WTC 1993 conspiracy and related plans to destroy other New York landmarks.. It is what happened to Agent Floyd that seems endemic of the FBI’s capacity to conduct intelligence based investigations. Lance makes a very strong case that Agent Floyd was used to shield the gross incompetence and failure of FBI management in the New York office.
In reading books like this, readers should be on the look-out for whether the author has any hidden agendas. Peter Lance continually brings up the “connecting the dots” proposition. He also lays out the facts-he has 146 items in a photo enhanced “time-line”. By flat out stating that the FBI, CIA and other federal security agencies dropped the ball in putting pre-9/11 together, he joins a long chorus of critics signing the same song. If you’re a member of the FBI or CIA, you might object to the generality of such criticism. But if you read between the lines of Lance’s book, especially his exposition of Agent Floyd’s crucifixion on the cross of bureaucratic bungling and Ronnie Bucca’s exclusion from the ranks of anti-terrorism foot soldiers, you discover that he has a problem with the management of our security apparatus, and second, a problem with the culture of that apparatus. By this he places himself a bit above the crowd. What former FBI Director Loui Freeh referred to as the “brick agents” are doing their job, it is the self-anointed Princes of Bureaucratism above them who are a threat to the security of America. This is a theme echoed throughout works examining why 9/11 took place.
As a reasonable person back in 1993-1994, knowing that one of the primary perpetrators of the 1993 WTC bombing, Ramzi Yousef, was in the employ of Osma Bin Laden’s al Qaeda network and that he had promised in a computer file left on his computer to return to complete the job, you would be woefully incompetent if you did not follow-up to at least ascertain the possibilities. Apparently no one in the FBI did. Suspicious activities were noted and reported by FBI field agents. But no one was listening, observing, and putting it together.
To be fair to the FBI, and Lance does to a degree (but not to the extent of others who have examined the issue) the FBI is not an intelligence agency. It is a law enforcement agency. When it has acted as an intelligence agency, it has gotten into all kinds of trouble. The shift in America’s security apparatus-re-structuring of the FBI, establishment of the Homeland Security Department–is an attempt to establish a legitimate domestic intelligence capability.
There have been some encouraging signs that the effort is paying off. However, there is a real danger that President Dwight Eisenhower’s “Military-Industrial Complex” is being replaced by a Law Enforcement-Intelligence Bureaucratic Complex of equal insipidness.