Republicans in the Executive branch and Congress have a set pattern of Dumb Mistakes and/or Dastardly Deeds achieved and then covered up through Denial, Deception and Distraction. The Foley Follies seem to have temporarily shaken the nation so much that Speaker Hastert's efforts to deny he was properly warned about Foley, deceive us with lies about what he knew and did, and distract us with belated investigations and finger-pointing at Dems (backed up by the White House and at least part of the Congressional Republican leadership) are meeting with increasing skepticism.
But there are much bigger stories that have been drowned out, thus far, by all the attention on Foley. And they follow the same pattern as the Foley story: being warned but doing nothing.
They were warned and did nothing: 9/11
As revealed by Bob Woodward's new book, there were warnings given to the National Security advisor, the Attorney General and the Secretary of Defense in July 2001, two months before 9/11, that there was danger of a domestic attack by AlQaeda inside the US. Secretary Rice's efforts at denial and deception about this briefing have already been shot down by records and testimony by some who were present. At first, she claimed to not even remember such a meeting. But details about the meeting and the urgency with which it was given have shown that to be unlikely. (link, link)
Here is one description of what led to the event and the results (link):
There was no conclusive, smoking-gun intelligence, but there was such a huge volume of data that an intelligence officer's instinct strongly suggested that something was coming. He and Black hoped to convey the depth of their anxiety and get Rice to kick-start the government into immediate action.
He did not know when, where or how, but Tenet felt there was too much noise in the intelligence systems. Two weeks earlier, he had told Richard A. Clarke, the National Security Council's counterterrorism director: "It's my sixth sense, but I feel it coming. This is going to be the big one."
He and Black, a veteran covert operator, had two main points when they met with her. First, al-Qaeda was going to attack American interests, possibly in the United States itself. Black emphasized that this amounted to a strategic warning, meaning the problem was so serious that it required an overall plan and strategy. Second, this was a major foreign policy problem that needed to be addressed immediately. They needed to take action that moment -- covert, military, whatever -- to thwart bin Laden.
Tenet and Black felt they were not getting through to Rice. She was polite, but they felt the brush-off. President Bush had said he didn't want to swat at flies.
Further confirmation of the meeting and its urgent tone came from Former Counterterrorism Czar Richard Clarke, who was on Thursday's Talk of the Nation on NPR (audio available here) and had this to say about the meeting:
I think she took it seriously. She didn't do anything as a result. But I think she took it seriously.
With all due respect to Mr. Clarke, if she didn't do anything as a result then she did not take it seriously. Mr. Ashcroft and Secretary Rumsfeld have not had their briefing denials as thoroughly refuted yet, but their briefing has also been confirmed by the State Department (link):
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former Attorney General John Ashcroft received the same CIA briefing about al-Qaida that was given to the White House in July 2001.
The State Department's disclosure Monday that the pair was briefed within a week after then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was told on July 10, 2001, about an imminent al-Qaida strike on an American target...
...That briefing took place by July 17." The State Department said Monday that the briefing took place for Rumsfeld and Ashcroft by July 17.
Previously, Mr. Ashcroft successfully denied any knowledge of the process that led to that infamous PDB on August 6, 2001. He had admitted to a July 12 briefing that did not supposedly did not include any warning of domestic threats. (link) In light of these new developments, those previous successful denials are no longer viable. And then there is that odd behavior change in July 2001, when Mr. Ashcroft admits that he started flying only on private aircraft "because of a threat assessment." Let's be frank. He knew there was a real threat but did nothing. Except to protect himself.
As to Secretary Rumsfeld, other stories from July 2001 and before September 11 give the picture of a man obsessed with "transforming" our military and fighting for a missile defense intiative. Mr. Rumsfeld even vetoed transfer of funds to a beefed-up counterterrorism program. (link) We do know that immediately after the attacks Secretary Rumsfeld was already pushing for war in Iraq. (link) He knew and did nothing. Except to pursue his personal agendas.
And the crowning moment of being warned and doing nothing came with that August 6 PDB. When initially questioned about it, Secretary Rice pretended it didn't include much of a warning. Then when asked to read the title she said through gritted teeth; "Bin Laden determined to strike in US." Here is some of the info from the PDB (link):
FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.
The official White House version of events about that PDB conveniently leaves out the new details given just weeks before about new threats against the US. (link) So, after the Secretary of Defense, the National Security Director and the Attorney General were warned and did nothing, or worse than nothing, the President was also warned. And he went back to vacation afterward. And did nothing.
This is a bigger story than Foley. They were warned before 9/11 and did nothing. Or worse. Why is this story important? Because it shows just how weak the Republicans are on real national security issues. We need to ask why these Bush administration officials failed to act on briefings they later tried to hide from the public.
They were warned and did nothing: Iraq, War on Terror, Afghanistan, etc.
And the pattern continues with Iraq. They were warned before and after we went into Iraq and ignored what they did not want to hear. (link, link) And now they know that Iraq is in chaos and are trying to deny this and to deceive us about just how bad things are. They have had National Intelligence Estimates that show our presence in Iraq is making the war on terror worse and tons of other data to show that the war in Iraq is going poorly. Yet there are Republicans, like my opponent Randy Kuhl, who insist that everything is coming up roses in Iraq and that real progress is being made. Here is what retired Republican General John Batiste said about this recently (link):
In your talk at the library, you criticized members of Congress who make fact-finding trips to Iraq and come back and report that things are going well. Was that a reference to Congressman Randy Kuhl?
Yeah, that was Randy Kuhl.
Have you spoken to Kuhl? Could he be right?
No, no. I wouldn't give him the time of day or my vote, for that matter. I am a registered Republican, but it will be a cold day in hell before I vote for anyone who I don't think is well informed and has the moral courage to make the right decisions.
Some within the Republican leadership keep trying to tell us things are going better in Iraq, or in Afghanistan (link), contrary to reality. This is reality on Afghanistan. This, from Republican Senator John Warner, is reality on Iraq. This, from four star Democratic General Wesley Clark, is reality on the War on Terror:
[T]here are twice as many terrorists now as there were on 9/11; North Korea and Iran are increasing threats and U.S. Armed Forces are exhausted and bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"That's not a prescription for victory. It is a prescription for failure."
General Batiste has singled out Secretary Rumsfeld as the key person who has ignored warnings and sound advice on Iraq (link):
We continue to squander American blood and dollars at an astonishing rate. Unless our leaders clearly define our strategy and way ahead, it may all be for naught.
Rumsfeld is responsible for taking us to war with a flawed war plan that ignored the realities of the region and the lessons of history. He had no strategy beyond taking down Saddam Hussein. His flawed thinking caused our great country to violate fundamental principles of war and set the conditions for the national embarrassment of Abu Ghraib. He allowed the insurgency to take root and grow to where it is today. He has driven our Army brigades, both active duty and National Guard, into a state of unprecedented unreadiness.
Whether we are confronting a civil war or sectarian violence in Iraq is irrelevant. Whatever you call it, chaos reigns and we have lost the initiative. Donald Rumsfeld is responsible for what happens or fails to happen in our Department of Defense, and we deserve accountability.
While I do believe that others besides Secretary Rumsfeld should also be held accountable, I agree with General Batiste that getting rid of Secretary Rumsfeld is a necessary first step toward improving the situation in Iraq. He was one of those warned before 9/11 and is one of the key people who ignored warnings before we invaded Iraq and continues to ignore them now on Iraq and Afghanistan. But if Rumsfeld has the confidence of the President, as he seems to, only the checks and balances provided by a Democratic Congress, as a replacement of the current Rubber Stamp Republican Congress, will serve to hold Secretary Rumsfeld accountable.
Conclusion and Postscript
It may be that, like Al Capone, the thing that brings Republicans down is not the worst thing they are guilty of. But the Foley story is only part of a much larger pattern of ignored warnings and inadequate responses. That is true of the period before 9/11, it is true of the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, and it is true in Iraq and Afghanistan today. Our brave men and women in uniform deserve better leadership and the only way they will get it is if we elect a Democratic majority to congress this fall.
As many of you know, I have been posting on many different blogs for almost 18 months. And now, 30 days away from the most important election of my adult lifetime, I strongly want to continue right through 7 November. Yesterday I enjoyed a full day with over 8 events and travel through six counties to get to the events and to meet the great folks who waited to learn about my vision for a higher standard of leadership. It was a thrilling and exciting day as they have all been throughout this long journey to Washington.
This piece, with its great research, is a joint venture between myself and a great team of researchers and writers who have asked to come together to help me in the final months and weeks of the campaign. I fully associate myself with each and every sentence. But this article has been a team effort and in full and fair disclosure you might note some subtle style differences between today's piece and others. In this final month I will be turning to our team to take my rough ideas and drafts and make them as informative and interesting as time will allow.
My opponent clearly needs some researchers. Over 35,000 people have watched the Youtube video of his ridiculous comment during our first debate expressing pride in the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. The laughs that followed show that average voters in our area have common sense and know a joke when they hear one. Randy Kuhl is an embarrassment for the 29th District.
Thank you to Hekebolos and the Crashing the States crew for the excellent coverage of our race. (link) We need all the help we can get in these final weeks before the election. You can go to MassaforCongress.com for more details. Our Volunteer Center is here and you can donate through our ActBlue page here.