Colin Powell still can’t come clean

Currently, I’m in the last stages of finishing a German-written book.  Among the last things left for me to do related to the book was to ask Colin Powell two questions regarding a specific issue; the so called 9/11 “White Paper”.

By Lars Schall

Currently, I’m in the last stages of finishing a German-written book, of which the title would be in English, “September 11, 2001 and the Geopolitics of Terror”.  Among the last things left for me to do related to the book was to ask Colin Powell, the former U.S. Secretary of State (2001-05), two questions. Honest answers from Mr. Powell would have ensured that I don’t have to speculate regarding a specific issue; the so called 9/11 “White Paper”.

Here’s how the story goes.

The 9/11 “White Paper” Issue Revisited

After 9/11, NATO proclaimed for the first time in its history the “case for the alliance” [lat. Casus foederis, according to Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty], and declared war on Afghanistan in the name of all member states, referring to the principle of ”self-defense“. This proclamation was preceded by a briefing of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) on October 2, 2001. The briefing was presented by Frank X. Taylor, the United States ambassador at large, as well as Richard Armitage and Paul Wolfowitz, who argued that 9/11 was an ”attack from abroad“ – since Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty was never meant to deal with a terrorist attack; it was only intended to deal with an armed attack by a nation state (or states) against a member state of NATO (or states). (1) As an immediate result of the briefing, the NAC took the before mentioned decision, while the text of this decision was not made public.

On the same day, the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported: ”On Tuesday, the US government mounted the handover of alleged evidence to their allies for the guilt of Osama Bin Laden. But the refusal of all involved to name details nourishes the suspicion that the strength of the investigative results leaves much to be desired.“ NATO’s Secretary General George Robertson said, it was clear “that all traces lead to (terrorist organization) al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden”, and thus his guilt has been proven, according to Robertson’s understanding. “However, the more effortful the global staging became during the day, the more doubts grew among investigators and journalists whether the forwarded documents actually contained new evidence for the guilt of chief suspect Osama Bin Laden.

For all parties, from NATO Secretary General Robertson to German government spokeswoman Charima Reinhardt, stubbornly refused to reveal any details or at least a connection to the traces known so far. Not even front benchers of the government coalition received any new information. Even in the Bundeskriminalamt [BKA, the Federal Criminal Police Office in Germany], where a full staff of FBI officials is currently active, the authorities say there is no new knowledge about the guilt of Bin Laden and his organization. The same is true at the Federal Prosecutor General.” (2)

On the following day, you could read in The New York Times about the presentation given in front of North Atlantic Council (NAC), the principal political decision-making body within NATO, “One Western official at NATO said the briefings, which were oral, without slides or documents, did not report any direct order from Mr. bin Laden, nor did they indicate that the Taliban knew about the attacks before they happened.

A senior diplomat for one closely allied nation characterized the briefing as containing ’nothing particularly new or surprising,‘ adding: ’It was descriptive and narrative rather than forensic. There was no attempt to build a legal case.’“ (3)

On October 4, 2001, under the headline ”Show the Evidence,“ it was said in The New York Times, “Although American and British officials say they have ‘no doubt’ that Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist organization were behind the crimes of Sept. 11, so far no actual evidence has been made public.” (4)

One day later, the BBC reported, “There is no direct evidence in the public domain linking Osama Bin Laden to the 11 September attacks. At best the evidence is circumstantial. (…) The evidence is not being judged in a court of law. It only needs to persuade governments around the world to back the US-led war on terrorism and to a lesser extent to carry public opinion. US and British officials have indicated that they are unable to reveal all the evidence for security reasons.” (5)

It’s little known, but the Taliban regime in Kabul had offered bin Laden’s extradition immediately after 9/11 – on the condition that the U.S. would present clear evidence of his guilt. The Bush administration categorically rejected this request. (6) U.S. General Richard Myers, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, later admitted: “(T)he goal has never been to get bin Laden.” (7)

That shouldn’t come as a surprise, insofar a “lack of solid information” existed to link Mr. bin Laden to the 9/11 attacks, as Seymour Hersh wrote at the beginning of October 2001. (8) This was later confirmed by the FBI: the U.S. federal police has a list with suspects of high priority, the so-called Most Wanted List. It featured for a long time Osama bin Laden for the U.S. Embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya from 1998. The 9/11 attacks were not mentioned. When asked in 2006, why the 9/11 attacks were not listed, Rex Tomb, then-Chief of Investigative Publicity of the FBI, replied: “The reason why 9/11 is not mentioned on Usama Bin Laden’s Most Wanted page is because the FBI has no hard evidence connecting Bin Laden to 9/11.” (9)

Even Richard Cheney expressed this view. In March 2006, he said as acting Vice President of the United States of America during an interview for the Tony Snow Show: „We’ve never made the case or argued the case that somehow Osama bin Laden was directly involved in 9/11. That evidence has never been forthcoming.“ (10)

Already by the end of October 2001, Francis A. Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law, had pointed out in an interview with Der Spiegel, that there was „no evidence“ that Osama bin Laden had ordered the September 11 attacks. „Secretary of State Powell promised a so-called ‘White Paper’, in which he would present the evidence. Bush forbade him this.“ (11)

In fact, on September 23, 2001, Colin Powell was asked in the NBC TV show Meet the Press by host Tim Russert, whether he would publicly release a white paper which would link bin Laden and his organization to the September 11 attacks. Powell then responded, “We are hard at work bringing all the information together, intelligence information, law enforcement information. And I think in the near future we will be able to put out a paper, a document that will describe quite clearly the evidence that we have linking him to this attack.” (12)

The next morning, it was said in The New York Times that the publication of such a document was expected ”within days“, even though government officials said “they are still arguing over how much information to release”. (13)

At noon, a press conference was held in the Rose Garden of the White House. It contained a different message. President George W. Bush, who had just signed an Executive Order to freeze financial assets of terrorists, said in the presence of Powell:

”It’s important as this war progresses that the American people understand we make decisions based upon classified information, and we will not jeopardize the sources; we will not make the war more difficult to win by publicly disclosing classified information.” (14)

A little later, on the same day, Ari Fleischer, the White House Press Secretary, said:

“I think that there was just a misinterpretation of the exact words the secretary used on the Sunday shows… I’m not aware of anybody who said white paper, and the secretary didn’t say anything about a white paper yesterday.” (15)

And thus the idea of a white paper was buried forever.

In the following week, Seymour Hersh reported for The New Yorker that the white paper “could not be published…for lack of hard facts”. A Justice Department official told Hersh, „There was not enough to make a sale.“ Furthermore, a senior CIA official confirmed to Hersh that „the intelligence community had not yet developed a significant amount of solid information about the terrorists‘ operations, financing, and planning. ‘One day, we’ll know, but at the moment we don’t know,’ the official said.“ (16)

Francis Boyle said in the interview that he gave to Der Spiegel at the end of October 2001, ”This is a legal case that would not even stand before a normal criminal court.“

To which the interviewer of Der Spiegel replied: ”But the Nato states have accepted the information given by the special envoy Taylor as proof.“

Boyle: ”According to a Western diplomat, Taylor did not provide any evidence at the Nato Council meeting that bin Laden ordered the attacks or the Taliban knew of it. Evidence was not important because Bush had already decided in favor of war.” (17)

This fact, that “Bush had already decided in favor of war”, can be proven clearly since 2004 by reference to a quote from Richard A. Clarke’s memoirs. Clarke, who was then the Chairman of the Counter-terrorism Security Group at the White House under President George W. Bush, talks about a conversation that took place on the evening of September 11, 2001. The quote goes, “When later in the discussion [with Bush and his crisis advisors], Secretary Rumsfeld noted that international law allowed the use of force only to prevent future attacks and not for retribution, Bush nearly bit his head off. ‘No,’ the President yelled in the narrow conference room, ‘I don’t care what the international lawyers say, we are going to kick some ass.’” (18)

Professor Boyle said about this quote in an interview that I’ve conducted with him on the war in Afghanistan:

“It definitively establishes that the war is illegal, that despite whatever the Bush people were saying at the UN or whatever, that Bush knew, based on what Rumsfeld told him, it had nothing to do with self-defense, and that his intent and his motivation were, ’to kick some ass’. (…)  I think certainly one could, on the basis of this statement where Bush basically incriminated himself, convict Bush of acts of aggression and a Nuremberg crime against peace.” (19)

As for ex-US Secretary of State Colin Powell, this week I sent a request to Margaret („Peggy“) Cifrino, the personal assistant of the retired four-star general. In my email message, I showed the context of the unpublished White Paper, and added two questions to Mr. Powell:

– why was there never a “White Paper“ produced regarding the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, even though you said in “Meet the Press“ on September 23, 2001 that such a paper would be produced?

– if the FBI and then-Vice President Cheney are right (that is, until 2006 no evidence to link Osama bin Laden with 9/11), then the only logical conclusion that can be drawn is that there was no such evidence in late September / early October 2001. Do you disagree?

I received no answers from Mr. Powell.


(1) For the presentation at NATO by Frank Taylor see Niels Harrit: “The Mysterious Frank Taylor Report: The 9/11 Document that Launched US-NATO’s ’War on Terrorism’ in the Middle East”,  published at Global Research on March 1, 2018 under:

(2) Matthias Gebauer and Christoph Schult: “Informationspolitik: Neue Beweise für Bin Ladens Schuld nur ein Bluff?“, published at Der Spiegel on October 2, 2001 under:

(3) Suzanne Daley: “A Nation Challenged: The Evidence; NATO Says U.S. Has Proof Against bin Laden Group”, published at The New York Times on October 3, 2001 under: The article stated furthermore: “The evidence was built not only on information from the United States, but also on what some allies have discovered, including the Germans, an official in Europe said.”

(4) Robert A. Pape / Chaim Kaufmann: “Show the Evidence”, published at The New York Times on October 4, 2001 under:

(5) “The investigation and the evidence“, published at BBC News on October 5, 2001 under:

(6) “White House Warns Taliban: ‘We Will Defeat You’”, published at CNN on September 21, 2001, and Kathy Gannon: “Taliban Willing To Talk, But Wants U.S. Respect”, published at Associated Press an November 1, 2001. In mid-October 2001, the Taliban government went so far as to finally refrain from getting presented evidence against bin Laden, as long as only the bombing of Afghanistan was suspended in return for his extradition. Compare Rory McCarthy: “New offer on Bin Laden”, published at The Guardian October 17, 2001 under:

On October 4, 2001, the British government under Tony Blair presented a White Paper entitled, “Responsibility for the Terrorist Atrocities in the United States”; however, right at the beginning of the document you could read that it “does not purport to provide a prosecutable case against Usama Bin Laden in a court of law.” Francis A. Boyle: “No Proof, No Investigation, No Accountability, No Law”, published on May 17, 2002 under:

The Taliban regime had prepared for the extradition of Osama bin Laden before the 9/11 attacks, but no agreement was reached until September 11, 2001. Compare Rory McCarthy / Julian Borger: “Taliban ready to strike a deal on Bin Laden”, published at The Guardian on February 22, 2001 under:, Jeffrey St. Clair / Alexander Cockburn: “How Bush Was Offered Bin Laden and Blew it”, published at Counter Punch on November 1, 2004 under:, and Mujib Mashal: “Taliban ‚offered bin Laden trial before 9/11’”, published at Al-Jazeera on September 11, 2011 under:

With respect to the extradition issue of Osama bin Laden to the U.S., it may be recalled that the Sudanese government had submitted such an offer already to the Clinton administration in the 1990s. At that time, too, the response in Washington turned out to be negative. George W. Bush’s successor, Barack Obama, thoroughly distorted the truth about the Taliban offer when he said at the West Point military academy at the end of 2009, “(I)t was only after the Taliban refused to turn over Osama bin Laden we sent our troops into Afghanistan.” See “Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation on the Way Forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan”, published at White House on December 1, 2009 under:

(7) “Gen. Myers Interview With CNN TV”, published on April 6, 2002, online under:

(8) Seymour M. Hersh: ”What Went Wrong: The C.I.A. and the Failure of American Intelligence,“ published at The New Yorker on October 1, 2001, online under:

(9) Ed Haas: “FBI says, ‘No Hard Evidence Connecting Bin Laden to 9/11′”, published at Muckraker Report on June 6, 2006, online under:

(10) “Interview of the Vice President by Tony Snow“, Tony Snow Show, March 29, 2006, published under:

(11) Christoph Schult: „Dieser Krieg ist illegal“, Interview with Francis A. Boyle, published at Der Spiegel on October 31, 2001 under:

(12) “Text: NBC’s ’Meet the Press‘ With Tim Russert”, published at The Washington Post on September 23, 2001 under:

(13) Jane Perlez / Tim Weiner: “U.S. to Publish Terror Evidence on bin Laden”, published at The New York Times on September 24, 2001 under:

(14) “Remarks by the President, Secretary of the Treasury O’Neill and Secretary of State Powell on Executive Order,” White House, September 24, 2001, online under:

(15) “America’s New War: Daily White House Briefing by White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer”, published at CNN on September 24, 2001 under:

(16) Seymour M. Hersh: “What Went Wrong”, lit.cit.

(17) Christoph Schult: „Dieser Krieg ist illegal“, lit.cit.

(18) Quoted in Lars Schall: “From 2001 until today: The Afghanistan War was and is illegal”, Interview with Francis A. Boyle, published at on January 9, 2016 under:

(19) Ibid.

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One Response to “Colin Powell still can’t come clean”

  1. marko sagt:

    Is there going to be an english version of your book? Can we expect it to be published in 2018?

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