More Library Tower Nonsense
Former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen defends his California-flavored torture defense.
I was responsible for planning, training, surveying, and financing the New (or Second) Wave attacks [italics mine] against the following skycrapers after 9/11:
a.) Library Tower, California
b.) Sears Tower, Chicago
c.) Plaza Bank, Washington State
d.) The Empire State Building, New York City
Sheikh Mohammed then went on to further cite plots to bomb suspension bridges in New York City, to destroy the New York Stock Exchange, and to assassinate former President Jimmy Carter. Given Sheikh Mohammed's expansive definition, Khan's seemingly inchoate desire to wreak havoc back home in the United States might easily be classified, too, as Second Wave, even though it bore no apparent connection to the Library Tower plot.
And Gun Gun? Thiessen links him to the Library Tower plot via a cell of plotters—not the four Library Tower plotters we've already discussed but a second cell consisting of 17 Indonesians and Malaysians who were arrested in September 2003. Members of Jemaah Islamiyah, the Southeast Asian affiliate led by Gun Gun's brother Hambali, these 17 souls constituted the "Guraba cell." According to Thiessen, they were going to carry out the Library Tower attack, too.
I'm at a disadvantage here because I'm pretty much in the dark about who the Guraba cell members were. Practically the only public reference I can find to them is in that May 30 Justice Department memo, and a quick check with several very reliable terrorism sources yielded nothing. But I have a strong hunch that Thiessen doesn't know who they are, either, outside of the May 30 memo—which mentions them once in reference to Sheikh Mohammed's catchall phrase "Second Wave" and once in reference to the "planned Second Wave attacks against Los Angeles." My best guess is that this second reference arises from a mistaken belief by the memo's Justice Department author, Bradbury, that Second Wave and Library Tower attack meant the same thing.Bradbury was a lawyer, not an intelligence official,and therefore unlikely to make much independent effort to find out where in the United States the Guruba cell planned its mischief. Surely someone inside the Bush administration knew, though. And if the Bush White House knew the Library Tower plot wasn't truly foiled until the Guraba cell bust in the fall of 2003, what possible reason would it have had to broadcast, repeatedly, years later, that the Library Tower plot was foiled in 2002?
[Update, April 28: A reader kindly informs me that among the "Second Wave" buildings Sheikh Mohammed "admitted" he'd plotted to destroy after the CIA waterboarded him 183 times, the Plaza Bank in Washington State seems especially farfetched. That's because the only bank bearing that name in the Evergreen State wasn't even founded until three years after Sheikh Mohammed was taken into custody. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer puzzled over this riddle at the time of Sheikh Mohammed's tribunal hearing.]
Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.
Photograph of the U.S. Bank Tower by David McNew/Getty Images.