WASHINGTON - U.S. government agencies issued repeated warnings in the summer of 2001 about potential terrorist plots against the United States masterminded by Osama bin Laden, including a possible plan to hijack commercial aircraft, documents show.
While there were no specific targets mentioned in the United States, there was intelligence indicating al-Qaida might attempt to crash a plane into the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. And other reports said Islamic extremists might try to hijack a plane to gain release of comrades.
The escalating seriousness was reflected in a series of warnings issued by the State Department, Federal Aviation Administration, Defense Department and others detailing a heightened risk of terror attacks targeting Americans.
Whether the Bush administration had enough information to take more aggressive action is at the heart of the dispute over the contents of an Aug. 6, 2001, intelligence briefing the White House was working to declassify at the urging of the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks. White House officials said the document would not come out Friday and probably would not be ready for release until early next week.
Several Democrats on the commission claim the memo, called a presidential daily brief, or PDB, included current intelligence indicating a high threat of hijackings. It was titled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States."
"Something was going to happen very soon and be potentially catastrophic," said one of the Democrats, former Indiana Rep. Timothy Roemer. "I don't understand, given the big threat, why the big principals don't get together."(...)
Seems like more than just a 'historical document', which is how Condi described it. They don't fight so hard to keep this out of the public eye for nothing.
Please post if there are other links/analysis that become available. And chalk up another win for the Jersey girls.
Thanks, Kossacks! Sharp eyes and ears in those diaries.
Update [2004-4-9 21:37:13 by DemFromCT]:
Rice, who testified that “no silver bullet” could have prevented the attacks, dismissed the document as unimportant, heatedly insisting that it was “a historical memo” that lacked specifics.
“It did not warn of attacks inside the United States,” Rice said in response to aggressive questioning from commission member Richard Ben-Veniste, a Democratic lawyer from Washington. “... And it did not raise the possibility that terrorists might use airplanes as missiles.”
Commissioner Bob Kerrey, a Democratic former senator from Nebraska, said on “Today” that while he felt Rice had been honest, her conclusions were completely off. The memo indicated that bin Laden’s al-Qaida terror network was planning airplane hijackings, he noted, and yet “we were surprised by a hijacking.”
Speaking in ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Kerrey said: “Look, she is in charge of it. Everybody in national security understands the FBI and CIA don’t talk to one another and knows their missions are different. You can’t blame the structure of the CIA when you know.
“On the 25th of January , she was told that al-Qaida was in the United States of America. We knew that al-Qaida was a very highly sophisticated military force that attacked us twice before. So this isn’t a case of, you know, a generalized threat announcement.”
Update [2004-4-9 22:18:35 by DemFromCT]: From the Telegraph:
Rival political camps offered their own spin on the meaning of the PDB, well before the document's expected release last night. Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, toured Washington's television studios to insist that the PDB was a historical survey of al-Qa'eda plans and desires for US attacks, dating back to 1993.
"It was not a threat report," Mr Bartlett said. "Trust me, if the president of the United States thought that there were operations to hijack planes to crash into New York city and Washington DC, he would have moved heaven and earth to prevent it."
Mr Bartlett promised that the White House was actively working through the legal process of declassifying the PDB, and rebuked Democrats on the commission, including Mr Kerrey, for "doing everything they could to declassify it on the public airwaves".
However, Mr Kerrey, making his own tour of the morning news programmes, criticised Miss Rice for saying that top officials were never warned that hijacked aircraft might be used as missiles.
This defence was bogus, or "a straw man", Mr Kerrey told NBC television, arguing that it was legitimate to expect the administration to do all it could to prevent hijackings of any sort.
Expect denials from the Bush camp as well as drafting of various officials besides Bartlett for firefighting duties tonight, perhaps even 9/11 Commissioners. This will be the true test of how bi-partisan the Commission can be. Kerrey can be a real pain in the butt (and thank God for that). "Trust me?" I don't think so.
[editor's note, by DemFromCT] Meanwhile on CNN, Gary Hart is suggesting that either Bush was not informed (and therefore heads should roll... any suggestions, Condi?) or he knew and didn't inform us. And let's not go there right now. (Hart does not like that his commission was not asked to testify, btw).