9/11: When the facts didn’t fit their neocon fantasies

Astounding. This New York Times oped piece by Kurt Eichenwald says the neocon influence in the Bush White House was so all-consuming, so rigid, that when President Bush received numerous intelligence briefings about an impending attack by bin Laden, they decided it was an attempt to distract them from Saddam Hussein. Frightening, just how criminally negligent they were – and they’ve never admitted they were wrong, not even after all this time and all these people dead:

On Aug. 6, 2001, President George W. Bush received a classified review of the threats posed by Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network, Al Qaeda. That morning’s “presidential daily brief” — the top-secret document prepared by America’s intelligence agencies — featured the now-infamous heading: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” A few weeks later, on 9/11, Al Qaeda accomplished that goal.

On April 10, 2004, the Bush White House declassified that daily brief — and only that daily brief — in response to pressure from the 9/11 Commission, which was investigating the events leading to the attack. Administration officials dismissed the document’s significance, saying that, despite the jaw-dropping headline, it was only an assessment of Al Qaeda’s history, not a warning of the impending attack. While some critics considered that claim absurd, a close reading of the brief showed that the argument had some validity.

That is, unless it was read in conjunction with the daily briefs preceding Aug. 6, the ones the Bush administration would not release. While those documents are still not public, I have read excerpts from many of them, along with other recently declassified records, and come to an inescapable conclusion:

The direct warnings to Mr. Bush about the possibility of a Qaeda attack began in the spring of 2001. 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.

“The U.S. is not the target of a disinformation campaign by Usama Bin Laden,” the daily brief of June 29 read, using the government’s transliteration of Bin Laden’s first name. Going on for more than a page, the document recited much of the evidence, including an interview that month with a Middle Eastern journalist in which Bin Laden aides warned of a coming attack, as well as competitive pressures that the terrorist leader was feeling, given the number of Islamists being recruited for the separatist Russian region of Chechnya.

And the C.I.A. repeated the warnings in the briefs that followed. Operatives connected to Bin Laden, one reported on June 29, expected the planned near-term attacks to have “dramatic consequences,” including major casualties. On July 1, the brief stated that the operation had been delayed, but “will occur soon.” Some of the briefs again reminded Mr. Bush that the attack timing was flexible, and that, despite any perceived delay, the planned assault was on track.

Yet, the White House failed to take significant action. 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.

That same day in Chechnya, according to intelligence I reviewed, Ibn Al-Khattab, an extremist who was known for his brutality and his links to Al Qaeda, told his followers that there would soon be very big news. Within 48 hours, an intelligence official told me, that information was conveyed to the White House, providing more data supporting the C.I.A.’s warnings. Still, the alarm bells didn’t sound.

On July 24, Mr. Bush was notified that the attack was still being readied, but that it had been postponed, perhaps by a few months. But the president did not feel the briefings on potential attacks were sufficient, one intelligence official told me, and instead asked for a broader analysis on Al Qaeda, its aspirations and its history. In response, the C.I.A. set to work on the Aug. 6 brief.

In the aftermath of 9/11, Bush officials attempted to deflect criticism that they had ignored C.I.A. warnings by saying they had not been told when and where the attack would occur. That is true, as far as it goes, but it misses the point. Throughout that summer, there were events that might have exposed the plans, had the government been on high alert. Indeed, even as the Aug. 6 brief was being prepared, 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. 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.

Could the 9/11 attack have been stopped, had the Bush team reacted with urgency to the warnings contained in all of those daily briefs? We can’t ever know. And that may be the most agonizing reality of all.

11 thoughts on “9/11: When the facts didn’t fit their neocon fantasies

  1. Why do we all keep focusing on whether or not we could have prevented this attack if only we had paid closer attention to the intelligence reports? That’s an interesting question, but it’s not the most important question. What US policies prompted the attacks? That’s the question we should be asking. Why? Because few of those policies have been changed to date. Which means that the mindset of those who are determined to attack us has not changed. We can kill people one at a time or in massive groups until the end of time. But the “terrorists” will keep on coming after us until we fix the flawed policies that we the people are allowing our government to pursue.

  2. Because, of course, OBL and Saddam Hussein were the best of buds….
    I ain’t buying this either. Talk about false flag. The ‘totally stoopid incompetence’ theory as opposed to LiHOP? Hmmmmm.

  3. We already knew that Israeli German and even Russian intel guys were telling our guys something was up. Then there’s the put option trades the day before. Richard Clarke. etc etc.
    No Sadda, was never a threat, there was no evidence he was. He was however, consistently going to be the target, whatever happened.
    Fuck Saddam we’re taking him out. Said about a year before the invasion.

  4. Well, the reason none of our drone hit assassination policies has been changed is, no doubt, ‘they’ want al Qaeda and other such groups to thrive. And *they* are in control of the US military and state policy. Interestingly enough, *they* don’t seem to be in control of our entire intel apparatus, i.e. there’s plenty of dissension (and disagreement) in the ranks apparently. Who *they* are is harder to say, but obviously they tell the political parties to jump and these, in turn, ask: ‘how high?’.

  5. Much of “they” is the 1%. The plutocrats who run the oligarchy. Some of “they” live much closer to Iraq. Some to the West and some to the South.

  6. Off point and on,too: Every time we get another peek behind the curtain at what a bumblefuck operation Bush intelligence was before 9-11, I am reminded that this is the central flaw in all that conspiracy nonsense about how the towers fell. The premise that the Bush administration staged this and the CIA was wildly successful at keeping it under wraps is simply orders of magnitude beyond their capabilities. Calling for hearings on this crap is so bizarre that it disqualifies Rocky Anderson as a presidential candidate despite his being on top of so many other issues.

  7. Anyone who is skeptical about conspiracies and 9-11 should check into the life and death of the FBI’s Chief of the Counterterrorism Section John P. O’Neill. The coincidences might make you rethink your position.

  8. Let’s see the official position of the united snakes is that 9/11 was a plot by some 19 conspirators. Quite possibly known by a few dozen more (Saudis), hence the put orders. So, a conspiracy, by definition. Oh but NOT an inside job.
    And the anthrax? The official gov’t position is that that was an inside job (as we said all along given the high quality of the material) — oh but it COULDN’T be a conspiracy!!!
    Yet the timings/locations of some of the mailings make it unlikeyl just one person was involved.
    Moreover this story today, has me thinking —
    The anthrax, which so thoroughly terrorized Congress into passing the PATRIOT Act, could only have been produced in a real microbiology lab., not in some cave in Tora Bora. Hence the purported source of it would be a prima facie case for the neocon agenda, i.e to go after Saddam Hussein, who had once at least *dabbled* in bioweapons research. Whereas no one else besides us and the rooskies and possibly China (or a really clandestine French/British or German operation, but that would be hard to hide, like it would be for any random mol biol lab in the US outside of USAAMRID/Fort Detrick), were obvious candidates.
    That and the fact that Levin and Daschle were targets, suggests to me a neocon connection.

  9. Moreover, lless, the article and our comments tend to suggest the CIA was in fact doing its job. Was in fact, competent. Maybe the FBI wasn’t. But yes, we were supposedly watching them (9/11 conspirators) until orders came from on high to stop watching them. Oh yeah, and Bush’s cryptic statement after getting the August 9 briefing (while on vacation for a month):
    ‘Okay you’ve covered your ass, now’
    Under what kinds of circumstances do CEOs say things like that?
    When there is some probable or anticipated ass-covering to be done, or not?
    Or maybe Bush was being his typical gnomic malapropistic self?

  10. The most curious conversation that Bush had about why every country in the world needed to join together and invade Iraq occurred between himself and the president of France at that time Jacques Chirac. Bush told Chirac that “We are now living in the time of Gog and Magog” and what will unfold is preordained. Charic thought he was nuts and informed his government to have nothing else to do with him. Romney believes much of this same nonsense.

Comments are closed.