Skip to comments.Democrats demand answers from White House on 9/11 warnings
Posted on 05/17/2002 3:20:39 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration scrambled Thursday to defend its actions after receiving a briefing last August about possible terrorist hijackings, as Democrats pushed for a congressional inquiry into the president's response.
Sharp political bickering erupted over whether Bush did all he could after getting a CIA review that discussed the possibility of a hijacking by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida group little more than a month before the Sept. 11 attacks.
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said that on Aug. 6 President Bush received a "summary" of CIA analysis of terrorist activities the agency had gathered in prior months.
While that briefing mentioned the prospect of a hijacking, Rice said, "It was not a warning. No specific time, date or place was mentioned." She called it an interpretation of CIA data that focused mostly on potential attacks against American interests overseas.
Asked what the administration would say to victims of the September attacks, Rice said, "This government did everything it could in a period in which the information was very generalized, in which there was nothing specific to which to react."
She added, "Had this president known of something more specific, or known that a plane was going to be used as a missile, he would have acted on it."
But Democrats said they'd push for a full explanation of the president's actions.
"Why did it take eight months for us to receive this information?" asked Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota. "What specific actions were taken by the White House in response?"
Daschle said Bush should immediately turn over to Congress the text of the briefing he received in August and said Democrats may convene additional hearings into what precisely the administration and intelligence agencies knew before Sept. 11.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer sidestepped a question about whether Bush would turn over the classified written briefing paper to Congress but said the administration had already supplied many documents to congressional staffs reviewing events leading up to the attacks.
Senate Intelligence Committee hearings on events surrounding Sept. 11 have been scheduled for June. They are expected to focus on the CIA and FBI, with many sessions being held behind closed doors.
Some family members of those killed on Sept. 11 said Thursday they were distressed to be learning months later that Bush, whose popularity has soared in the wake of the attacks, had been told in August that hijackings by al-Qaida were possible.
"I'm very upset about this. If you had any indication of a hijacking you should have increased airport security," said Joseph Marshall of Morgantown, W.Va. His daughter-in-law, Shelley Marshall, was killed at the Pentagon when an aircraft slammed into that building.
"When you wait this long to tell us this, it starts to sound like a cover-up. It smells," Marshall said Thursday about the August briefing.
Rice said the information Bush received was from a 1 1/2-page briefing paper. She said the word hijacking was mentioned only once, in reference to the prospect of a hijacking to free Omar Abdel-Rahman.
Abdel-Rahman, 63, has been sentenced to life in prison for conspiring to blow up the United Nations building and other targets in New York in 1995.
"I've emphasized that this was the most generalized kind of information: There was no time, there was no place, there was no method of attack. It simply said, these are people who train and seem to talk possibly about hijackings," Rice said.
The revelation that Bush was briefed about possible terrorist activities in August comes as evidence accumulates that the FBI and CIA had pieces of the plot against America before it happened, but failed to use those clues to prevent the attack.
Vince Cannistraro, a former CIA deputy director, said, "I don't think the information was specific enough or persuasive enough for the president to have acted. But I question the process by which the threads were gathered."
The FBI had at least two crucial clues before the attack. One was a memorandum from an FBI analyst in Phoenix saying bin Laden might be ordering pilots to train in the United States for suicide hijacking missions.
The other was a tip that Zacarias Moussaoui, who was training in Minnesota to be a pilot, was exhibiting suspicious behavior. Moussaoui, now charged as the so-called "20th hijacker" was detained in August. But his alleged role in the Sept. 11 plot was not uncovered before the attack.
And the CIA had evidence dating back into the mid-1990s of at least three major plots to use hijacked aircraft as missiles to destroy such targets as the Eiffel Tower in Paris and CIA headquarters outside Washington.
But Rice said Thursday that to the best of her knowledge neither she nor Bush were told about the FBI intelligence. And the earlier plots to use aircraft as weapons were also not part of the Aug. 6 briefing to Bush, she said.
She also disclosed that there was concern that Bush himself might be the target of terrorists when he traveled to Europe to participate in an economic summit meeting.
A series of warnings and alerts went out to U.S. agencies, and through them to airlines, throughout 2001, Rice said.
And American embassies and military facilities overseas were put on heightened security alert periodically throughout the year as the "chatter" obtained from electronic eavesdropping indicated that the threat of attacks was increasing, she said.
Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said his agency had received "general information relating to threats," mostly "as they related to airline operations overseas" during the months before Sept. 11.
"There was really no specificity to the information we received at that time," Mineta told reporters at an appearance in St. Louis. Several Democrats were sharply critical of Bush on Thursday, a marked departure from quarreling with administration domestic policies but keeping hands off matters relating to the war on terrorism.
Bush, who spoke to Republicans at the Capitol, did not publicly address the controversy. But sources said the president told Senate Republicans he "sniffed politics in the air."
Later in the day, as the controversy mushroomed, the White House dispatched Vice President Dick Cheney to address the criticism.
Cheney told a group of New York conservatives that the Democrats' stance was "deeply disturbing" and warned foes to tread lightly. "They need to be very cautious and not seek political advantage by making incendiary comments like some did today."
This is the companion piece Lawmakers decry failure 'to connect the dots' before 9/11
My headline would read "Desperate Democrats Dig for Dirt - Come up Empty."
Could Gephardt have looked or sounded anymore desperate and dirty? I want the woman reporter who "could see it in his (Bush) eyes," when he heard the news of the attack that he knew something, and Little Dick Gephardt to connect the dots on the July 4th warning and give us their psychic takes.
The LIBERAL media is wetting their pants over the latest scheme to knock President Bush off track and dirty him up.
Yesterday was a fascinating study in the power and potential of the "new media"- an alliance of the web and talk radio...
I read most of the stories here on Free Republic and logged off to take my wife to work. As we were driving in, the callers to talk radio started coming up, and relaying information, stories, and refutations to "The President Knew!" that had to have come off the web.
By lunchtime, the flow had picked up drastically, and callers were showing more & more indignation- at the clinton's corrupt reign, at the media, and at the spin being peddled.
By late afternoon, the flow became a torrent of righteous anger and indignation.
It was a wonderful thing to behold, and you have to wonder that had it existed 10 years ago, a lot of really bad stuff would have died a-borning...
My only other thought is along the lines of
"Please, please, Bro Fox! Don't throw me in that Briar Patch!"
This will be just like Enron, the "Picture Issue" and all the other junk the left has dragged out of the sewer to attempt to smear the President- soon as they start looking they will find 10 times more stuff pointing right back to them and the clintons...
An aside? While waiting for my wife to finish up at work, I was watching Condi Rice's press conference on the TV in the lobby... through a glass window, I could only hear snatches of words, so I watched the body language of Condi & "the other side..."
( I use this technique for other TV news, too- turn off the sound and observe the pictures...)
What I saw was an adult on one side, and a bunch of head-tossing, hand-jujitsu-ing adolescents on the other side...
A liberal friend of mine said a true patriot would want to see any President suceed if it means the country is safer, freer, and more prosperous.
Now, now, let's not insult pond scum, which, as I recall, has a useful purpose in the cycle of nature... as opposed to the left, which has nothing but outrage and fear to peddle--
Or have a big partisan piss-fest that accomplishes nothing.
Truer words were never spoken.
but be warned, there are "links within links within links" that you must follow to find everything I ran across.
A quicker way might be to use hotbot.com advanced search, limit it to "domain:freerepublic.com" and restrict the date to after, say a couple of days ago, so you get the latest stories on the clintons' cupability in this- there have been a lot of these stories the last 48 hours.
She added: ''I am simply here ... to seek answers to questions, questions being asked by my constituents.'' She called for Senate hearings, requested the release of Bush's intelligence briefing from last August, and asked the president ''why we know today, May 16, about the warning he received, and why we did not know this on April 16, or March 16, or Feb. 16 ... or Aug. 16.''***