I tell you, it must be wonderful to work for the New York Times. There can’t be a better place on the face of the earth where people who want argue both sides of an issue without fear of interference and contradiction can reside. In a shameful piece timed to coincide with the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, Kurt Eichenwald, the author of “500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars.”, currently a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and a former reporter for The New York Times, writes:
In the aftermath of 9/11, Bush officials attempted to deflect criticism that they had ignored C.I.A. warnings by saying they had not been told when and where the attack would occur. That is true, as far as it goes, but it misses the point. Throughout that summer, there were events that might have exposed the plans, had the government been on high alert. Indeed, even as the Aug. 6 brief was being prepared, Mohamed al-Kahtani, a Saudi believed to have been assigned a role in the 9/11 attacks, was stopped at an airport in Orlando, Fla., by a suspicious customs agent and sent back overseas on Aug. 4. Two weeks later, another co-conspirator, Zacarias Moussaoui, was arrested on immigration charges in Minnesota after arousing suspicions at a flight school. But the dots were not connected, and Washington did not react.
Any time you see the phrase, “That is true, as far as it goes, but it misses the point”, you should know that a deflection is coming.
So what is the point?
Eichenwald seems to think the point is that a president, in office for less than 7 months, after having his transition team delayed by the decision in Bush v. Gore and having hostile Democrat factions in the Senate and House delaying his appointments, should have had a crystal ball to see all how all the events leading to 9/11 are tied together. He simply ignores that we are still putting the puzzle together and we now have the benefit of 11 years of hindsight.
But let’s play his game, shall we?
When did the “Blind Sheik” make the first attempt to destroy the Towers? Why that would have been February 26, 1993 – and who was president then?
Eichenwald still tries to lay the entire affair at the feet of the Bush administration, and more specifically, George W. Bush:
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.
He unequivocally states this as if this was the very first time a president had been warned of an imminent attack by al Qaeda.
Is that true?
There was a warning of an imminent attack on December 9, 1999 (still during the Clinton presidency). Here is an excerpt from a great site called Historycommons.org:
December 8, 1999: CIA Concludes that Bin Laden Plans Many Imminent Attacks, Including Some inside US
The CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center concludes in a classified report that bin Laden wants to inflict maximum casualties, cause massive panic, and score a psychological victory. He may be seeking to attack between five and 15 targets on the Millennium. “Because the US is bin Laden’s ultimate goal… we must assume that several of these targets will be in the US.” [TIME, 8/4/2002; US CONGRESS, 7/24/2003] CIA Director George Tenet delivers this warning to President Clinton. Author Steve Coll later comments that Tenet also “grabbed the National Security Council’s attention with that prediction.” [COLL, 2004, PP. 482] The US takes action in a variety of ways (see Early December 1999). It will turn out that bin Laden did plan many attacks to be timed for the millennium celebrations, including ones inside the US, but all failed (see December 31, 1999-January 1, 2000).
Entity Tags: William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, George J. Tenet, Counterterrorist Center, Osama bin Laden, Steve Coll
Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline
Category Tags: Warning Signs, Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11
So should Clinton have seen it coming?
About as much as Bush did.
As much as I would argue that Obama’s killing of bin Laden relied of his predecessor’s intelligence network, I have to also recognize that Bush was still relying on the Clinton network, so as much as Obama’s successes are a continuation of Bush policies, it appears that is also true with the supposed failures of Bush.
Reading Eichenwald’s screed of blame, it is easy to forget that the Times worked very hard in a post 9/11 world of a Republican president to destroy national security through disclosure of NSA and CIA covert programs. They supported the evisceration of the Oval Office through the Valerie Plame affair that ultimately led to the wrong person being arrested and tried – it was Robert Novak and Richard Armitage who first identified Plame, who was not covered by the Identities Act in the first place.The folks that the NYT sure love to argue that Bush should be doing more at the same time they are negating the more things that he was doing by disclosing to the public the covert operations.
It is illegitimate for Eichenwald to assign the sole blame for 9/11 on the Bush administration, to do so is to completely ignore that al Qaeda’s history and desire to attack America did not start immediately upon the inauguration of George W. Bush. In refusing to do so, Eichenwald reveals just what a partisan hack he is.