Skip to comments.What Did He Know?
Posted on 05/18/2002 8:57:48 AM PDT by syriacus
George W. Bush has been all but untouchable in the war on terror, and he has the poll ratings to prove it. Now, for the first time, doubts are surfacing publicly in Washingtonand knives are being sharpenedover what Bush knew about the threat from Osama bin Laden and when he knew it.
Most of the questions center on a recently disclosed intelligence briefing on Aug. 6, 2001, at which the president was warned that, among other threats, Al Qaeda-linked terrorists might try to hijack an airliner. Considering that, at about the same time, FBI agents in Phoenix and Minneapolis were raising suspicions about Middle Easterners taking flight lessons in the United States and the intentions of Zacarias Moussaoui, the alleged 20th hijacker who had been arrested, the revelations have opened up a credibility gap for a White House that prides itself on giving things straight to the American people. The reason is simple: Bush and his top officials insisted in no uncertain terms after September 11 that they had no inkling of the attacks beforehand.
The Bush administration, which faces a series of hearings on Capitol Hill, is mounting a stout defense. National-security advisor Condoleezza Rice, at a White House briefing on Thursday, said the hijacking threat that Bush heard about a little over a month before the attacks was not linked to any specific threat. It came during an analytic briefing and only mentioned hijacking in the traditional sense, she saidin other words, the use of passenger planes as hostages, not missiles. This government, she said, did everything it could in a period when the information was very generalized.
In truth, the question of whether the Bush administration was paying enough attention in general to the terror threat is what is really at issuefar more than what the president specifically learned on Aug. 6 or at other briefings. The new disclosures could open a Pandoras box of questions about just how focused the Bush administration was on deterring and disrupting bin Laden before September 11.
Newly emboldened Democrats on the Hill, for instance, and even some Republicans, might think to ask why an administration that blamed its predecessor for failing to deter bin Laden ignored, for nearly eight months, hard evidence linking the Oct. 12, 2000, attack on the USS Cole in Yemen to Al Qaeda. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld both suggested publicly that the Clinton administration had left America with a weak image abroad. As Bush told The Washington Post in January, It was clear that bin Laden felt emboldened and didnt feel threatened by the United States. But the new administration mounted no retaliation of its own, despite what seemed to be a clear casus belli.
Democrats might also think to ask why Attorney General John Ashcroft, who has been front and center in beefing up counterterrorism efforts since September 11, was de-emphasizing them beforehand, even as CIA Director George Tenet was warning that bin Ladens global terror network was the most immediate and serious threat to Americans. In his budget request for the Department of Justicedated Sept. 10, 2001Ashcroft focused on violent crime, drug enforcement, immigration and child pornography, among other issues, but barely mentioned terrorism. This was a striking contrast to the efforts of his predecessor, Janet Reno, to move counterterrorism to near the top of the departments agenda.
Still, for the moment, post-9-11 patriotism still rules on Capitol Hill. Few Democrats, as yet, are ready to skewer Bush. Even Sen. Hillary Clinton raised questions in her best genteel manner on Thursday, saying her intention was not to blame the president or any other American. But behind the scenes some ex-Clintonites are savoring the moment. It is a travesty that these people have gotten away with diverting attention from their lack of focus on this problem to the previous administration, said one senior ex-Clinton official. If [Al] Gore had been president when this came out, we would have been crucified.
And obstructionist Democrats might stop to think that they shouldn't have frittered away important days. 20-20 hindsight tells Americans that Ashcroft could have been doing more important things than filling out the Democratic Senators' frivolous questionnaires.
This was a striking contrast to the efforts of his predecessor, Janet Reno, to move counterterrorism to near the top of the departments agenda.
Yes she saved us from a little Cuban boy and a religious cult in Waco. Thank you Janet.
If you got your head handed to you everytime you went to the President or his staff, sooner or later you stop trying. Bush wasn't in long enough to make it clear that everything had changed.
Awww...isn't that cute?!?
Reno made up a pretty pretty list.
I guess she felt she needed to do something after
After these five incidents, it would be nice to believe she finally learned to put counter-terrorism at the top of her list.
I just reprogrammed by remote to exclude PMS-NBC.
I beg to differ. The issue is how to make George Bush's life a living hell...and to make him a pariah in the eyes of the citizens of this country.
The only thing that will save Bush is to quickly pull Bin Laden out of one of those caves (dead or alive), declare victory and bring the troops home.
Gee, I would say that having a plan to wipe Al Qaeda off the face of the earth on Condi's desk ready for Bush's signature before 9/11 is a pretty good indication of how focused the administration was on deterring and distrupting bin Laden before 9/11.
This coward did not list his e-mail address along with the pack of lies that he calls an article.
Also, the what did he know and when did he know it crap is getting old. We know what he knew and when he knew it. I wish that they would stop pretending that the 8/6 data was more than two lines written by someone who merely said that Al Qeada is capable of hijacking planes.
This is a lie Moussaoui was arrested on Aug 16, 2001. MSNBC is misleading it's readers in an attempt to indicate that more could have been known on Aug., 6 1991.
The Democrats are usually very aware that many sympathetic Americans favor an underdog. But the Democrats have failed to realize they are presently converting Bush into an underdog.
As some of you have pointed out, this could backfire on them.