Not a smoking gun, but the August 6th PDB
of the actual doc) still makes me wonder why Bush didn't heighten our level of alertness:
Clandestine, foreign government, and media reports indicate Bin Laden since 1997 has wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the U.S. Bin Laden implied in U.S. television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and "bringthe fighting to America."
AI Qaeda members — including same who are U.S. citizens — have resided in and traveled to the U.S. for years, and the group apparently maintains asupport structure that could aid attacks.
We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a [deleted text] service in 1998 saying that Bin Laden wanted to hijack a U.S. aircraft to gain the release of "Blind Shaykh" 'Umar' Abd aI-Rahman and other U.S.-held extremists.
Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.
BushCo is right: there's nothing here saying that "al Qaeda is planning to hijack 4 US airliners to crash them into the WTC and DC targets in mid-September."1
Uh, I would never expect the intel to be that explicit. But as Quiddity
noted over at uggabugga, it is possible to "shake the tree" and learn more, perhaps enough to prevent or at least mitigate the tragedy.
Bush recently said
, "had my administration had any information that terrorists were going to attack New York City on September the 11th, we would have acted." Would you expect anything less from President Clinton? Or President Kerry? Of course you would act if you had intel that specific. The question he didn't answer that we are really asking is: what did you do to improve on the hair-raising intelligence you already had in your possession?
that the PDB "was a historical memo, that it was not based on new threat information." That is a lie. There was reference to recent preparations in New York, as well as intel about plots as fresh as May of 2001. What's more, while "no one could have imagined them taking a plane, slamming it into the Pentagon...into the World Trade Center using planes as missiles"2
, does it really take that much imagination to notice that hijackings were in the works, especially when taken in conjunction with the chatter she said they received3
, and then try to flesh out the information?
Yes, the intel was frustratingly vague, and it's easy for me to say things in hindsight. But damn, if I'd heard there were going to be hijackings and big attacks were going to happen soon, I would be lighting fires under everybody's asses to fill in the gaps and get the word out to the people in charge of our safety. And yet with this information in hand, "Secretary Mineta, the secretary of transportation, had no idea of the threat. The administrator of the F.A.A. responsible for security on our airlines had no idea. Yes, the attorney general was briefed, but there is no evidence of any activity by him about this."4
As I said a couple days ago
, I don't know if we really could have stopped the 9/11 attacks. That's not actually the point. What's important to realize is that there's no way we can prevent something if we don't act. It seems pretty damn clear that the Bush administration didn't even try, despite being warned that incredibly bad things were imminent.
No wonder they didn't want people to see the PDB. It's not very specific, but it is very damning.
1 - From the WH "Fact Sheet
": "Although the PDB referred to the possibility of hijackings, it did not discuss the possible use of planes as weapons."
2 - I'll leave aside the fact that many people did imagine using planes as missiles (including me and Tom Clancy
and the Italians
). I'll also ignore the specificity of her defense: "Gosh, who woulda thunk that said missiles would be used on the WTC and Pentagon? Yeah, maybe CIA HQ, or the Eiffel Tower
or the Arch in St. Louis [ed. note: that one I thought of in '98 before I'd read "Debt of Honor"]
, but not those other places..."
3 - Quoth Condi: "Unbelievable news coming in weeks, said one. Big event. There will be a very, very, very, very big uproar. There will be attacks in the near future."
4 - This is Commissioner Gorelick speaking. Dr. Rice did not deny what Gorelick said.
[Update: even CNN's Bill "AEI" Schneider thinks this memo is bad
I think it could be seriously damaging. What this says is, the White House knew what bin Laden was capable of planning, where he intended to do it, which was New York or Washington, D.C., how he was going to do it. There was only one thing missing, which was exactly when he was going to do it, which turns out to be September 11.
Critics and members of the commission will say, the White House should have been far more aggressive to prevent, what sounds from this memo, like an imminent strike, obviously years in the planning, but a real danger to the United States, particularly in New York and Washington. And they will, I think, make it a cause for very severe criticism.
['nother update: Kevin explicitly asks what I've implicitly pondered here: why didn't BushCo connect the dots
Note: I tried publishing this last night, but freaking Blogger was bloggered. Sigh.