Rice Ignored Additional Warnings About al Qaeda Threat

The New York Times and The Washington Post report on warnings previously unreported, even  to the 9/11 panel members, from George Tenant and his his counterterrorism chief, J. Cofer Black, to Condoleezza Rice about an imminent threat from al Qaeda two months before 9/11. These are in addition to previously reported warnings to Rice, which she has denied receiving despite documentation disputing her denials. Some key items in The Washington Post’s report:

For months, Tenet had been pressing Rice to set a clear counterterrorism policy, including specific presidential orders called “findings” that would give the CIA stronger authority to conduct covert action against bin Laden. Perhaps a dramatic appearance — Black called it an “out of cycle” session, beyond Tenet’s regular weekly meeting with Rice — would get her attention. . .

But Tenet had been having difficulty getting traction on an immediate bin Laden action plan, in part because Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had questioned all the National Security Agency intercepts and other intelligence. Could all this be a grand deception? Rumsfeld had asked. Perhaps it was a plan to measure U.S. reactions and defenses.

Tenet had the NSA review all the intercepts, and the agency concluded they were of genuine al-Qaeda communications. On June 30, a top-secret senior executive intelligence brief contained an article headlined “Bin Laden Threats Are Real.”

Tenet hoped his abrupt request for an immediate meeting would shake Rice. He and Black, a veteran covert operator, had two main points when they met with her. First, al-Qaeda was going to attack American interests, possibly in the United States itself. Black emphasized that this amounted to a strategic warning, meaning the problem was so serious that it required an overall plan and strategy. Second, this was a major foreign policy problem that needed to be addressed immediately. They needed to take action that moment — covert, military, whatever — to thwart bin Laden. . .
Tenet and Black felt they were not getting through to Rice. She was polite, but they felt the brush-off. President Bush had said he didn’t want to swat at flies. . .

Besides, Rice seemed focused on other administration priorities, especially the ballistic missile defense system that Bush had campaigned on. She was in a different place.

Tenet left the meeting feeling frustrated. Though Rice had given them a fair hearing, no immediate action meant great risk. Black felt the decision to just keep planning was a sustained policy failure. Rice and the Bush team had been in hibernation too long. “Adults should not have a system like this,” he said later.

Related story:  Keith Olbermann’s Special Investigation of the Months Leading to 9/11

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2 Comments

  1. 1
    janet says:

    I find this to be so shocking. They knew—not even that they should have known but they actually knew something terrible was coming and they did nothing. And so many people died two months later.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    There is a fine line between the Bush Administration ignoring warnings and saying they knew the attack was coming.

    The less warnings there were, the easier it was for them to justify their inaction by claiming they didn’t believe the warnings. However, when they resorted to lying about the warnings (claiming not to have received warnings which they were proven to have received) and when we hear the warnings were even stronger than we originally heard, it is even harder to excuse their failure to act. Without resorting to the conspiracy theories floating around, I cannot see any description for this beyond gross incompetence.

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