A blockbuster story from a highly-respected American journalist has detonated with scarcely a peep.
It concerns a fake terrorist attack aboard an American airliner, a staged provocation designed to intimidate Al Qaeda and to reassure Americans about the safety of travel on the nation’s airliners.
A Canadian by birth, Sean D. Naylor is senior writer for Army Times, the privately owned weekly newspaper. Gannett, the media conglomerate that owns the paper, also publishes sister publications devoted, respectively, to the Air Force, Navy, and Marines.
Naylor dropped his blockbuster is his newest book, Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint Special Operations Command [JSOC], published by St. Martins Press.
JSOC assembles under one administrative roof the ranks of the military’s self-styled “operators,” the Navy’s SEAL Team Six, the Army’s Delta Force, and the Air Force’s little-known 24th Special Tactics Squadron. These are the highly trained fighters whose successes and failures rarely reach the public’s eyes and ears, the covert operators, provocateurs, and assassins who thrive best under a shroud of secrecy.
One notable former JSOC commander was four-star Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, whose career was demolished by Michael Hastings in his reporting for Rolling Stone — leading some to suspect a hidden hand in the journalist’s subsequent death in a curious one-car high-speed accident.
What Naylor discovered was a JSOC plot worthy of a Ridley Scott film, triggered by a 14 September rumor that a hikjacked airliner was sitting on an airport runway outside Washington D.C.
Hijackings in the United States were usually the purview of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team, but after the September 11 there was a sense at [Ft. Bragg] that the old rules might no longer apply. “We flexed out on that and got ready to deploy the aircraft takedown team up there,” before the there was no hijacking reached Bragg, said the Delta source.
Meanwhile, Delta’s operators brainstormed. To dete future hijackings, they suggested the government, in conjunction with the FBI and the airlines, “leak out that there are Delta operators on board almost every flight and do a fake takedown” using role players “in a first class compartment that’s all stooges” on an otherwise regular commercial flight, said the Delta source. A “terrorist” would attempt a hijacking before operators in plainclothes too him down with “hand-to-hand or something,” the source said. “Get that out [via the media]. Get inside their heads.” The aim was to make [Al Qaeda] think twice and begin to think, “Hey, they’re on to us, there’s special mission guys on every airplane.”
While Delta commander Colonel Jim Schwitters gave the concept only cautious support, higher-ups wisely relegated the plan to the round file.
Lest the reader think the notion was only hare-brained cerebral flatulence, consider the America military’s long history of creating pretexts for military intervention.
To folks of esnl’s generation, one provocation stands, the so-called “Gulf of Tonkin” incident, in which an American destroyer sailed into North Vietnamese waters, triggering a exchange of fire that provided the pretext for a greatly expanded U.S. military presence in Vietnam and leading to the first acknowledged American military defeat in a major war.
But the incident that offers the deepest resonance was part of a package submitted to U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara by Admiral Lyman L. Lemnitzer, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on 13 March 1962. The memo [pdf], dubbed Operation Northwoods, was a package of provocation proposals designed to create an incident justifying a full-scale U.S. military invasion of Cuba and the ouster of the government of President Fidel Castro.
One aspect of the plans seems especially notable in light of the proposed post-9/11 JSOC ploy, and here’s the key section from that memo [click to enlarge]:
In the words of James Bamford, a former Navy intelligence analyst and perhaps America’s premier journalist on the trail of misdeeds of America’s secret world, “the Joint Chiefs of Staff drew up and approved plans for what may be the most corrupt plan ever created by the U.S. government.”
And while the plan talks about loading the initial flight with students and then moving them off so an empty aircraft could then be destroyed, the Pentagon planners had to know that local newspapers and television stations would bombard their parents with requests for information about their “dead” children — and that would lead to the truth and consequent international condemnation.
And that leads to one somber conclusion: The Pentagon planners knew that the only way the plan would’ve worked was to have let the airliner passengers die.
Fortunately, saner heads prevailed.
If there is one fact that stands out, it’s that America’s military leaders must always be regarded with suspicion.
Which takes us back to where we began, the curious lack of coverage from the mainstream media.
Aside from a very few blogs, only the blog Gawker gave the story any coverage, with Sam Biddle parsing the key components of the JSOC plot. That the New York Times and other papers failed to sound the alarm should raise a great many questions about the institutions professing to be the watchdogs of democracy and the champions of full disclosure..