Kurt Eichenwald was a New York Times reporter in September 2001. He now an editor at Daily Beast, digging into the facts about the August 6, 2001, memo and other warnings about a disaster about to happen. Eichenwald writes in a op-ed piece in today's Times that he has "come to an inescapable conclusion: the administration’s reaction to what Mr. Bush was told in the weeks before that infamous briefing reflected significantly more negligence than has been disclosed. In other words, the Aug. 6 document, for all of the controversy it provoked, is not nearly as shocking as the briefs that came before it."
In other words, there was plenty of warning about 9/11. Indeed, we know that Bill Clinton jumped up and down and sideways trying to persuade successor to take very seriously the warnings from and about Al Qaeda.
By May 1, the Central Intelligence Agency told the White House of a report that “a group presently in the United States” was planning a terrorist operation. Weeks later, on June 22, the daily brief reported that Qaeda strikes could be “imminent,” although intelligence suggested the time frame was flexible.
But some in the administration considered the warning to be just bluster. An intelligence official and a member of the Bush administration both told me in interviews that the neoconservative leaders who had recently assumed power at the Pentagon were warning the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled; according to this theory, Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat. Intelligence officials, these sources said, protested that the idea of Bin Laden, an Islamic fundamentalist, conspiring with Mr. Hussein, an Iraqi secularist, was ridiculous, but the neoconservatives’ suspicions were nevertheless carrying the day.
In response, the C.I.A. prepared an analysis that all but pleaded with the White House to accept that the danger from Bin Laden was real. ...NYT
The CIA attempted with increasing urgency during that summer to get a clear reaction from the president. They were ignored.
Officials at the Counterterrorism Center of the C.I.A. grew apoplectic. On July 9, at a meeting of the counterterrorism group, one official suggested that the staff put in for a transfer so that somebody else would be responsible when the attack took place, two people who were there told me in interviews. The suggestion was batted down, they said, because there would be no time to train anyone else. ...NYT
Bush, in the days and years since, has shrugged off this indictment of his presidency, saying that the information given didn't include a precise date, time, and location of the attack even though, as many of us will remember, "Mohamed al-Kahtani, a Saudi believed to have been assigned a role in the 9/11 attacks, was stopped at an airport in Orlando, Fla., by a suspicious customs agent and sent back overseas on Aug. 4, [and] two weeks later, another co-conspirator, Zacarias Moussaoui, was arrested on immigration charges in Minnesota after arousing suspicions at a flight school."
But the dots were not connected, and Washington did not react. ...NYT
What's shocking is not that Bush could have prevented those very planes from hitting those particular buildings at that time on that day, but that he had every reason to know that an attack was about to happen but his attention was elsewhere. On what? A couple of weeks in Crawford? The rise in the jobless rate to 4.9% and how to explain it? The prospect of cooking up a politically advantageous oil war (which Cheney was warming up for in the background)?
On August 3rd, Bush gave very self-congratulatory interview to Frank Bruni at the New York Times.
Filling out his own report card just before his summer vacation, President Bush said today that he had proved, through the enactment of a tax cut and the increased possibility of a patients' bill of rights, that he could end ''deadlock and drift'' in the nation's capital. ''Together with Congress, we're proving that a new tone, a clear agenda and active leadership can bring significant progress to the nation's capital,'' Mr. Bush said as he stood at the edge of the Rose Garden, his entire cabinet arrayed like an exultant team around him. ...NYT, 8/3/2001
The original title for this post was "Bush knew, the little bastard." I should have left it that way.