Report: Bush Ignored Al-Qaida Warnings

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 11 2012 1:57 PM

Report: Bush Ignored Many Al-Qaida Warnings

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The CIA repeatedly warned the Bush administration of a possible attack the months before Sept. 11, 2001

Pool Photo by David Burnett/Newsmakers

Sure, we all know about the infamous Aug. 6, 2001 intelligence memo with the now-ominous headline: “Bin Laden Determined To Strike in U.S.” That daily brief was declassified by the Bush White House in 2004 under pressure from the 9/11 Commission. At the time, senior officials insisted the brief wasn’t as telling as one might think because it mostly assessed al-Qaida’s history. While that may be true, it was one of several briefs that year, which have not been released, warning about al-Qaida’s plans, writes Kurt Eichenwald in a New York Times op-ed piece.

Eichenwald, a former New York Times reporter and author of a new book, 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars, says earlier briefings in May and June had also warned of an impending attack. In fact, on June 22, the daily brief reported that an al-Qaida strike could be “imminent,” although it did note the timing was flexible. Amazingly, some in the administration thought it was all fake, and that the CIA had been fooled by Osama Bin Laden, who was trying to distract attention from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as the bigger threat.

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The CIA was frustrated by how their warnings were ignored. In fact, one official at the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center suggested on July 8 that the staff request a transfer so someone else could be held responsible when the attack eventually happened.

Appearing alongside Eichenwald on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, former New York Gov. George Pataki was harshly critical of the author. “Sept. 11, everything changed, and to look 11 years later, and to say: ‘Ah ha! This was happening before Sept. 11 in the summer,’ and to go through and selectively take out quotes and say ‘You should have done that and you should have done that,’ I think it’s incredibly unfair and a disservice to history,” Pataki said, according to Politico. Pataki admitted he hadn’t read the book.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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