Catastrophic Terrorism

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In 1998, Ashton B. Carter, John M. Deutch, and Philip D. Zelikow wrote an article called "Catastrophic Terrorism", in which an early passage seemed to very accurately describe what would happen after 9/11:

That's a very prescient description of the aftermath of 9/11, we'd say. Although the cause they're envisaging is rather different: the essay is primarily about the use of weapons of mass destruction (go read it, see for yourself). That's not always made clear when this article is quoted, though. For example 911truth said:

Well, now they've tied it more closely to 9/11, but the article actually said nothing about the towers collapsing.

Christopher Bollyn takes this reinterpretation to a new level:

No mention of weapons of mass destruction here, either. Beyond that, Bollyn tells us this is all about pushing an agenda, the "War on Terror"; discussing the changes that would need to be made after an attack, how to respond to it; and that they may actually desire those changes. Certainly, according to Bollyn, they're more interested in them than preventing the "transforming event" itself.

Serious charges, then. But also deceptive, misleading and entirely false, as a little research will reveal.

You might start by reading from the original document from immediately after our opening paragraph, for instance:

In reality this article is almost all about how to prevent acts of catastrophic terrorism. The post-event consequences of "draconian measures, scaling back civil liberties" and so on are a warning, actions they want to avoid, not encourage.

This becomes plain in the following sections. "Organising for Success" talks about creating "unglamorous but effective systems for accountable decision-making that combine civil, military, and intelligence expertise throughout the chain of command" to better deal with the threat.

The "Intelligence and Warning" section discusses the need to cultivate global sources of information, and recommends a new National Terrorism Intelligence Center to "warn of suspected catastrophic terrorist attacks ahead of time".

"Prevention and deterrence" recommends an "international legal initiative outlawing the development or possession of weapons of mass destruction", a new institute focused on cyberprotection, and risk analysis to ensure efforts are focused on the best areas.

Even the "Crisis and Consequence Management" section doesn't get close to Bollyn's claims, talking primarily about new agencies to improve the response to a "catastrophic attack".

We then have "Acquisition", a section making mild-mannered suggestions like the US should "coordinate all budgets involving counterterrorism capabilities", as well as buying more devices to detect radioactive substances, along with more protective clothing and equipment.

The paper then finishes with "Overcoming disbelief", where they say that "America can meet new challenges, but it must first imagine success".

And that really is it. Even the full version of the report is no more damning. This is a straightforward document, recommending mostly organisational changes, and devoted almost entirely to discussions of how such catastrophic attacks can be avoided. There's no neo-con plot here, and the idea that it shows the authors somehow desired such a "transforming event" to bring about change is, frankly, utterly absurd.