That former Bush speechwriter and current torture enthusiast Mark Thiessen would accuse President Obama of skipping daily intelligence briefings should come as no surprise. That he, along with Dick Cheney, would do so to mark the solemn anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks is not just a national disgrace, but a personal one. After all, on the same day Thiessen made his claim that the Obama White House laughed off as "hilarious," new revelations about the Bush administration's fatal lack of concern over the Al Qaeda threat to the U.S. homeland in 2001 came to light. Which is why Team Bush, the one which protested that "nobody could have predicted" the 9/11 tragedy, the chaos in Iraq, the Katrina disaster, the 2008 economic collapse and so much more, will forever be remembered by the words of Condoleezza Rice and President Bush himself:
"I believe the title was 'Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.'"Writing in the New York Times, 500 Days author Kurt Eichenwald documented the Bush administration's near-total deafness to the rapidly growing threat from Osama Bin Laden in the summer of 2001. While Americans learned three years later of the famous Aug. 6, 2001 PDB ("Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S"), Eichenwald's findings show the Bush White House pre-occupied with Saddam Hussein at best and, at worst, asleep at the wheel:
"All right. You've covered your ass, now."
The direct warnings to Mr. Bush about the possibility of a Qaeda attack began in the spring of 2001. By May 1, the Central Intelligence Agency told the White House of a report that "a group presently in the United States" was planning a terrorist operation. Weeks later, on June 22, the daily brief reported that Qaeda strikes could be "imminent," although intelligence suggested the time frame was flexible...This week's revelations represent the first details on the contents of a trove of 120 previously secret documents concerning the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks obtained by the National Security Archive. As NSA's Barbara Elias-Sanborn concluded, "I don't think the Bush administration would want to see these released." Salon's Jordan Michael Smith explained why:
"The U.S. is not the target of a disinformation campaign by Usama Bin Laden," the daily brief of June 29 read...And the C.I.A. repeated the warnings in the briefs that followed. Operatives connected to Bin Laden, one reported on June 29, expected the planned near-term attacks to have "dramatic consequences," including major casualties. On July 1, the brief stated that the operation had been delayed, but "will occur soon." Some of the briefs again reminded Mr. Bush that the attack timing was flexible, and that, despite any perceived delay, the planned assault was on track.
Many of the documents publicize for the first time what was first made clear in the 9/11 Commission: The White House received a truly remarkable amount of warnings that al-Qaida was trying to attack the United States. From June to September 2001, a full seven CIA Senior Intelligence Briefs detailed that attacks were imminent, an incredible amount of information from one intelligence agency. One from June called "Bin-Ladin and Associates Making Near-Term Threats" writes that "[redacted] expects Usama Bin Laden to launch multiple attacks over the coming days." The famous August brief called "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike the US" is included. "Al-Qai'da members, including some US citizens, have resided in or travelled to the US for years, and the group apparently maintains a support structure here," it says.That's a far cry from the image of the President Bush, Republicans were so fond of telling Americans, who "kept us safe."
During the entire month of August, President Bush was on vacation at his ranch in Texas -- which tied with one of Richard Nixon's as the longest vacation ever taken by a president. CIA Director George Tenet has said he didn't speak to Bush once that month, describing the president as being "on leave." Bush did not hold a Principals' meeting on terrorism until September 4, 2001, having downgraded the meetings to a deputies' meeting, which then-counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke has repeatedly said slowed down anti-Bin Laden efforts "enormously, by months."
As George W. Bush was taking office in early 2001, the Hart-Rudman Commission on U.S. National Security issued its report declaring "The combination of unconventional weapons proliferation with the persistence of international terrorism will end the relative invulnerability of the U.S. homeland to catastrophic attack" and cautioning "many thousands of American lives" are at risk. At a transition briefing in the White House situation room during the first week of January, Clinton National Security Adviser Sandy Berger warned his successor Condoleezza Rice, "I believe that the Bush Administration will spend more time on terrorism generally, and on al-Qaeda specifically, than any other subject." And on Jan. 25, 2001, counterrorism czar Richard Clarke (who helped lead the 1996 effort to protect the Atlanta Olympics from, among other things, threats from hijacked aircraft) handed the Bush national security team the famous Delenda plan for attacking Al Qaeda.
But in the aftermath of the horrific 9/11 attacks, Condi Rice played the role of a reverse Nostradmus, detailing the myriad foreign policy and security disasters she failed to predict. Confronted by 9/11 commissioner Richard Ben Veniste about the Aug. 6, 2001 PDB (Presidential Daily Brief) which warned of "patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks," national security adviser Rice responded:
"I believe the title was 'Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.'"For his part, the vacationing President George W. Bush responded to the CIA presenter of the infamous Aug. 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) which warned of Al Qaeda's intent to attack the U.S. homeland by declaring:
"All right. You've covered your ass, now."(Continue reading below the fold.)
On March 22, 2004, Rice took to the op-ed pages of the Washington Post to argue, "No al-Qaeda threat was turned over to the new administration." And in an argument she would later make repeatedly, Rice first introduced the now ubiquitous "nobody could have predicted" defense on May 16, 2002:
"I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon; that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile. All of this reporting about hijacking was about traditional hijacking."In early 2008, White House spokesman Tony Fratto showed that Rice's talking point still had legs. Spoon-fed last month by Fox News anchor Jon Scott's suggestion that "nobody was thinking that there'd be terrorists flying 767s into buildings at that point," Fratto reliably coughed up the laughably discredited sound bite:
"That's true. I mean, no one could have anticipated that kind of attack - or very few people."As late as January 2009, Vice President Dick Cheney was adamant that "I wouldn't have predicted 9/11" or any of the other calamities which defined the Bush years:
"No, obviously, I wouldn't have predicted that. On the other hand I wouldn't have predicted 9/11, the global war on terror, the need to simultaneous run military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq or the near collapse of the financial system on a global basis, not just the U.S."As late as December 2009, Cheney aide Mary Matalin was blaming the slaughter which occurred during Bush's watch on his predecessor:
"I was there, we inherited a recession from President Clinton, and we inherited the most tragic attack on our own soil in our nation's history."Eleven years later, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has inherited George Bush's neoconservative advisers. As for Osama Bin Laden, that's one problem the next president won't have to deal with. Thanks to the special operations raid President Obama ordered and candidate Romney opposed, Osama Bin Laden is dead. But according to a 2007 biography of Ariel Sharon, that's not quite the fate Bush had in mind for the 9/11 mastermind. As the Israeli paper Ha'aretz described this purported exchange between President Bush and Sharon:
Speaking of George Bush, with whom Sharon developed a very close relationship, Uri Dan recalls that Sharon's delicacy made him reluctant to repeat what the president had told him when they discussed Osama bin Laden. Finally he relented. And here is what the leader of the Western world, valiant warrior in the battle of cultures, promised to do to bin Laden if he caught him: "I will screw him in the ass!"As for the Bushies, they would be advised to choose a different day to cover their own.