culture, politics, commentary, criticism

Thursday, July 22, 2004
They were warned. From the 9-11 Commission Report,
pages 198-199 (7.4 MB PDF file):
Bush and his principal advisers had all received briefings on terrorism, including Bin Ladin. In early September 2000, Acting Deputy Director of Central Intelligence John McLaughlin led a team to Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, and gave him a wide-ranging, four-hour review of sensitive information. Ben Bonk, deputy chief of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, used one of the four hours to deal with terrorism.To highlight the danger of terrorists obtaining chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear weapons, Bonk brought along a mock-up suitcase to evoke the way the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult had spread deadly sarin nerve agent on the Tokyo subway in 1995. Bonk told Bush that Americans would die from terrorism during the next four years.156 During the long contest after election day, the CIA set up an office in Crawford to pass intelligence to Bush and some of his key advisers.157 Tenet, accompanied by his deputy director for operations, James Pavitt, briefed President-elect Bush at Blair House during the transition. President Bush told us he asked Tenet whether the CIA could kill Bin Ladin, and Tenet replied that killing Bin Ladin would have an effect but would not end the threat. President Bush told us Tenet said to him that the CIA had all the authority it needed.158

In December, Bush met with Clinton for a two-hour, one-on-one discussion of national security and foreign policy challenges. Clinton recalled saying to Bush,"I think you will find that by far your biggest threat is Bin Ladin and the al Qaeda." Clinton told us that he also said,"One of the great regrets of my presidency is that I didn’t get him [Bin Ladin] for you, because I tried to."159 Bush told the Commission that he felt sure President Clinton had mentioned terrorism,but did not remember much being said about al Qaeda. Bush recalled that Clinton had emphasized other issues such as North Korea and the Israeli- Palestinian peace process.160

In early January, Clarke briefed Rice on terrorism. He gave similar presentations —describing al Qaeda as both an adaptable global network of jihadist organizations and a lethal core terrorist organization—to Vice President–elect Cheney,Hadley, and Secretary of State–designate Powell. One line in the briefing slides said that al Qaeda had sleeper cells in more than 40 countries, including the United States.161 Berger told us that he made a point of dropping in on Clarke’s briefing of Rice to emphasize the importance of the issue. Later the same day, Berger met with Rice. He says that he told her the Bush administration would spend more time on terrorism in general and al Qaeda in particular than on anything else. Rice’s recollection was that Berger told her she would be surprised at how much more time she was going to spend on terrorism than she expected,but that the bulk of their conversation dealt with the faltering Middle East peace process and North Korea. Clarke said that the new team,having been out of government for eight years, had a steep learning curve to understand al Qaeda and the new transnational terrorist threat.162
Numbers are endnote references. Via Cryptome.

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