Filling in the Holes in National Security

Before last week's release of the congressional report on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, David Potorti had hoped the 900-page tome issued by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees would point fingers.

In these times where any criticism of the Bush administration concerning the "war on terrorism" can get you branded as un-American, even hawkish patriots ought to be able to understand Potorti's frustration.

His brother, Jim Potorti, lost his life in the north tower of the World Trade Center -- the first tower hit by the terrorists.

Last week, Potorti, who lives in Cary, N.C., attended the various press conferences announcing the report's release. Before that, he joined other 9/11 family members at a private meeting with FBI Director Robert Mueller.

"The theme that emerged from (Mueller's) presentation and the various press conferences was that nobody wanted to assign blame. Everywhere we went there was this collegiality among the people working for these various agencies," he said. "But we're all looking at each other like: why not? Where's the accountability? No one wants to be held accountable for anything."

Beyond that, the huge chunks of information left out of the report is equally disheartening to Potorti.

"What is it about Saudi Arabia that is so sensitive that it can't be released? Is it our business connections? That's what it feels like -- that our government protects business interest but not necessarily our interests," he said.

"We want more information. Accurate information. It's very troubling when you see these kind of things blacked out and everyone saying its too sensitive. Is it our relationship over oil that makes it so sensitive?"

"I have two kids who will grow up and not get to know my brother. And when they grow up I'd like to tell them: 'Your uncle died in the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history and justice was done.' I don't want to say: 'Your uncle died and it was no one's fault.'"

And for Potorti, "justice" isn't about seeking revenge or waging wars all over the globe. It's about truth-telling and accountability.

That's why he joined September 11 Families For Peaceful Tommorows (see www.peacefultomorrows.org) -- an organization of 9/11 family members who are opposed to the political manipulation of their grief and the memories of their deceased loved ones to justify war policies, as was done in the run-up to the U.S-led invasion of Iraq.

"It's extremely troubling that this administration used Sept. 11 as a justification to invade Iraq. The reason they are able to do that is because there isn't good information out there," he said, noting that at the press conference last week he asked Sen. Shelby about the Bush administration linking Al-Queda to Iraq.

"He said we didn't invade Iraq because of 9-11, that it was just good policy. What planet has he been living on? Of course, 9-11 was used as justification to attack Iraq," Potorti said.

"As long as there's holes in the report, people will be able to make any claim they want and how can you refute it?" he added.

Potorti, however, is not without gratitude. "I'm grateful for the report. I just didn't come away from it feeling safer with the knowledge that my government is doing everything it can to prevent another September 11. Until someone takes accountability or assigns blame, I feel like this could happen again."

Undoubtedly, there are those who will accuse Potorti of smearing the Bush administration for political reasons. His response: "I'm more interested in the future of my country than I am in the future of President Bush or any presidential candidate."

Maybe I should send Potorti a copy of Scott Ritter's new book, "Frontier Justice: Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Bushwhacking of America."

As UNSCOM's chief weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1997 and former Marine Captain who served on Gen. Swarzkopf's staff during the first Persian Gulf War, Ritter offers an expert look at the pre-war lies sold to Congress and the American people.

He also suggests what can be done to hold the deceivers accountable, while restoring America's credibility in the world.

It won't fill the hole in Potorti's heart but it will fill in some of the holes in the "official" report.

Sean Gonsalves is a Cape Cod Times staff writer and a syndicated columnist. E--mail him at sgonsalves@capecodonline.com.

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