Condoleezza Rice describes her briefing with CIA officials George Tenet and Cofer Black on July 10, 2001 as relatively unremarkable. Here's how her spokesman Sean McCormack described it yesterday:
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack [said]... the information Rice got "was not new'' and didn't amount to an urgent warning. "Rather, it was a good summary from the threat-reporting from the previous several weeks,'' McCormack said in a statement from Saudi Arabia where Rice is traveling.
Earlier in the day, Rice questioned whether the meeting even happened and said that it was "incomprehensible" the meeting included a warning that U.S. interests faced an imminent threat from al-Qaeda.
Obviously it is comprehensible, very much so (over the flip)
Here's how the briefing was described by the officials who prepared it, according to McClatchy:
One official who helped to prepare the briefing, which included a PowerPoint presentation, described it as a "10 on a scale of 1 to 10″ that "connected the dots" in earlier intelligence reports to present a stark warning that al-Qaida, which had already killed Americans in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and East Africa, was poised to strike again...
"The briefing was intended to `connect the dots' contained in other intelligence reports and paint a very clear picture of the threat posed by bin Laden," said the official, who described the tone of the report as "scary."
Rice also considered the August 6 President's Daily Brief, entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike US," an historical document.
A lot has been said about this meeting ever since it was revealed by Bob Woodard in his new book "State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III" that George Tenet and Cofer Black went to Condoleeza Rice with this intense Powerpoint Presentation.
Of course our good friends over at RedState have been johnny-on-the-ball with this one.
Ignoring the obvious ridiculousness of claiming that Bob ("All the President's Men/Bush At War Parts I &II") Woodard is just "suddenly" becoming on expert on various White House goings on - it turns out, yet again, that Rice is the one whose wrong as was explained by Roger Cressey on Countdown last night.
I've just about had it with the "he said, she said" game by the press. Why are we not more skeptical of these "experts" who criticize the Bush Administration after talking to a few "insiders" looking for publicity? A journalist writes a book, and suddenly he's an expert on what essentially amounts to gossip.
The NY Times reported today that members of the 9/11 commission were "alarmed" to learn that Condoleezza Rice was informed in July of 2001 by CIA Director George Tenet about an imminent attack from al Qaeda, according to a new book, State of Denial, by journalist Bob Woodward. Secretary of State Rice of course denies this saying she has no recollection of any such meeting. Who could blame her? Big surprise there. So who's right?
OLBERMANN: My first question, you`re now consulting within a firm with Richard Clarke, who was at that meeting on July 10, on the central question of whether Rice was warned then of an attack on the U.S. Do we know who`s right here, Woodward or Secretary Rice?But according to the Right, this is all just payback for "Path to 9/11". Redstate revisted:
CRESSEY: Yes, she was warned. I mean, there was a meeting;. It was George Tenet, Dick Clarke, another individual from the agency, Cofer Black, and Steve Hadley. And what it was, Keith, was a briefing for Dr. Rice that was similar to a briefing the CIA gave to us in the situation room about a week before, laying out the information, the intelligence, laying out the sense of urgency. And it was pretty much given to Dr. Rice and Steve Hadley in pretty stark terms.
OLBERMANN: The $500 million Cofer Black action plan against bin Laden, would have read like crazy talk if that had been presented to her as Woodward describes it?
CRESSEY: Not crazy talk, but because in some respects, that`s what we did after 9/11, although, as much as I love and respect Cofer, I don`t think we would have been able to bring his head back in a box then, because, frankly, all the CIA sources in Afghanistan stunk, and that was part of the problem.
But that type of aggressive, robust covert action is ultimately what was implemented after 9/11.
CRESSEY: There have been reports that neither Secretary Rice nor director Tenet nor Mr. Black had told the 9/11 commission about the meeting on July 10. NBC News learned that the 9/11 commissioner Richard Ben Veniste and Rice`s friend Philip Zelikow (ph), who was the executive director on the panel, in fact did interview Tenet about the meeting. Can you reconcile those two accounts for us?
CRESSEY: Yes, actually Andrea Mitchell did some great reporting on this today. There was that meeting, it was January 28, 2004. George Tenet spoke about the July 10 meeting extensively. And as a matter of fact, it is in the notes, the transcripts of that meeting that are now contained in the National Archives.
Conservatives know what really drives all of this. In the aftermath of Bill Clinton's emotional debacle of an interview with Fox News Sunday, the Left is poised to replace the blame for 9/11 on the shoulders of the current Clinton family counterpoint, Condoleezza Rice or any other poor sap in the Bush Administration at which they can throw mud.Ok, when exactly did Bob Woodward join the left? He's been a staunch Republican and supporter of Bush for quite some time, some would argue that up until this book he'd tossed journalistic integrity out the window in exchange for access. In fact, I'd argue that point -- particularly regarding his previous two books about Bush at War:
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: He is terrific. He's a great journalist, and I look forward to reading it. He's talking about a pretty complex set of discussions about military issues and diplomatic issues, and I'm sure it will be -- be fantastic. [CNN, 4/25/04]
DAN BARTLETT: I think Bob Woodward has done a pretty -- particularly good job of describing how complicated of a process it is for a commander in chief to do two real important but sometimes conflicting responsibilities. [CNN, 4/25/04]
BARTLETT: We're urging people to buy the book. What this book does is show a president who was asking the right questions and showing prudence as well as resolve during very difficult times. This book undermines a lot of the critics' charges. [Washington Post, 4/21/04]
But now it's clear that once he started asking questions that the Bushies didn't like, his access, particularly to the President was completely cut-off.
JOHN KING, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: But what is most striking is that, here at the White House, they say read the book. They believe it shows -- it paints the picture of a president who asks the right questions, the tough questions, before going to war and then decided that he was right in launching that war. [CNN, 4/19/04]
The right may cover their eyes and pretend this is "he said, she said" - or that Woodward suddenly has an "agenda", his information is "poorly sourced" or dissappears like "cotton candy" - but as you truly look closer it doesn't dissappear, it hardens into cold hard reality.
Rice was warned, repeatedly, and did nothing - except call for more meetings.
But wait it gets worse, Richard Ben-Veniste, who had originally claimed that the 9/11 Commission had no knowledge of this meeting has reversed his position and now states that they did know (just as Cressey describes). To me, these revelations have echoes of the Ben Sliney incident.
Sliney who played himself in the film United 93 (as a forward thinking man of action and basically the films lead character) was the FAA Hijack Co-ordinator on 9/11, which was also his first day on the job. In reality Sliney initially declined the offer of military assistance for an "intercept" of the aircraft even after they had realized that a hijacking was underway, but of course - this fact was left out of the film.
Intercepts of this type were in fact extremely common. According the Sen Mark Dayton's statements during the Condoleeza Rice confirmation for Secratary of State there were 62 successful intercepts of the "normal" type (where fighter planes are scambled to shadow and follow a non- responsive aircraft), during 2001 prior to the 9/11 hijacking and over 100 such intercepts during 2000.
"I'm tired of the lies" Dayton stated in exasperation.Such intercepts were well within the power of the FAA Hijack Coordinator (Sliney) to request. Not fully understanding his own authority, Sliney made no such request until after American Flight 11 had already hit the World Trade Center Tower 1.
History is being re-written right under our noses.
What this also reminds me of is the fact that in 2001 the FAA distributed a CD-ROM presentation to airlines and airports that cited the possibility of a suicide hijacking. This information and the fact the FAA's own Intelligence unit received over 50 warnings of possible suicide hijackings during that summer was kept Classified by the Bush Administration for five months after the completion of the 9/11 Report, and not released until after the 2004 election was over and Rice had been confirmed as the new Secretary of State replacing the just fired Colin Powell.
It's quite possible and in fact highly likely that portions or even all of the Powerpoint briefing that Tenet provided to Rice -- and according to McClatchy Newspapers were later to also shown to Rumsfeld and Ashcroft -- were also Classifed.
In all fairness to all involved, even Rice, federal law would prevent them from revealing any details of this meeting - even to the 9/11 commission - unless they proper security clearances were granted. After a classified briefing of this nature, the commissions themselves would be prohibited from discussing it. Now, it appears that Tenet's interview with the commission was done privately, and may have been restricted IMO (just as the full contents of the infamous Aug 6th PDB once were) but since that time has been declassified. (This is admittedly speculation, Cressey stated on countdown that the Commission leaving this information out of their report was an "honest mistake" -- yeah, ok- I'll buy that - NOT). My own thoughts here (informed by 12 years working in a secure environment for a Government defense contractor) would explain why they might all first deny any knowledge, even Rice, but it doesn't explain why they didn't take any action what so ever against Bin Laden and Al Qaeda even after their involvment in the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole was confirmed.
The very temerity of the arguement that this is some kind of journalistic payback for "Path to 9/11" or that ABC's timing on revealing the Foley scandal are some clumsy attempt at "balance" is just plain insulting. "Path to 9/11" was packed with politically charged lies and distortions of the truth.
But the truth is clear: Clinton tried (to stop al Qaeda), while Bushco simply stood by and let 3000 people die.