April 10, 2004

President Bush was told more than a month before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that supporters of Osama bin Laden planned an attack within the United States with explosives and wanted to hijack airplanes, a government official said Friday.

This story is very significant. Not because of its
content. You probably knew the facts already. Many of
us have known for quite some time. No, the story is
very significant...because the NYTwits have finally
decided that the truth of it is unavoidable...

Eric Lichtblau and David E Sanger, New York Times:
President Bush was told more than a month before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that supporters of Osama bin Laden planned an attack within the United States with explosives and wanted to hijack airplanes, a government official said Friday.
The disclosure appears to contradict the White House's
repeated assertions that the briefing the president
received about the Qaeda threat was "historical" in
nature and that the White House had little reason to
suspect a Qaeda attack within American borders.

Repudiate the 9/11 Cover-Up and the Iraq War Lies,
Show Up for Democracy in 2004: Defeat Bush (again!)

http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/0410-02.htm

Published on Saturday, April 10, 2004 b the New York
Times
Bush Was Warned of Possible Attack in U.S., Official Says
by Eric Lichtblau and David E Sanger

WASHINGTON President Bush was told more than a month
before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that supporters
of Osama bin Laden planned an attack within the United
States with explosives and wanted to hijack airplanes,
a government official said Friday.
The disclosure appears to contradict the White House's
repeated assertions that the briefing the president
received about the Qaeda threat was "historical" in
nature and that the White House had little reason to
suspect a Qaeda attack within American borders.

The warning came in a secret briefing that Mr. Bush
received at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., on Aug. 6,
2001. A report by a joint Congressional committee last
year alluded to a "closely held intelligence report"
that month about the threat of an attack by Al Qaeda,
and the official confirmed an account by The
Associated Press on Friday saying that the report was
in fact part of the president's briefing in Crawford.

The disclosure appears to contradict the White House's
repeated assertions that the briefing the president
received about the Qaeda threat was "historical" in
nature and that the White House had little reason to
suspect a Qaeda attack within American borders.

Members of the independent commission investigating
the Sept. 11 attacks have asked the White House to
make the Aug. 6 briefing memorandum public. The A.P.
account of it was attributed to "several people who
have seen the memo." The White House has said that
nothing in it pointed specifically to the kind of
attacks that actually took place a month later.

The Congressional report last year, citing efforts by
Al Qaeda operatives beginning in 1997 to attack
American soil, said that operatives appeared to have a
support structure in the United States and that
intelligence officials had "uncorroborated
information" that Mr. bin Laden "wanted to hijack
airplanes" to gain the release of imprisoned
extremists. It also said that intelligence officials
received information in May 2001, three months
earlier, that indicated "a group of bin Laden
supporters was planning attacks in the United States
with explosives."

Also on Friday, the White House offered evidence that
the Federal Bureau of Investigation received
instructions more than two months before the Sept. 11
attacks to increase its scrutiny of terrorist suspects
inside the United States. But it is unclear what
action, if any, the bureau took in response.

The disclosure appeared to signal an effort by the
White House to distance itself from the F.B.I. in the
debate over whether the Bush administration did enough
in the summer of 2001 to deter a possible terrorist
attack in the United States in the face of increased
warnings.

A classified memorandum, sent around July 4, 2001, to
Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security
adviser, from the counterterrorism group run by
Richard A. Clarke, described a series of steps it said
the White House had taken to put the nation on
heightened terrorist alert. Among the steps, the
memorandum said, "all 56 F.B.I. field offices were
also tasked in late June to go to increased
surveillance and contact with informants related to
known or suspected terrorists in the United States."

Parts of the White House memorandum were provided to
The New York Times on Friday by a White House official
seeking to bolster the public account provided a day
before by Ms. Rice, who portrayed an administration
aggressively working to deter a domestic terror
attack.

But law enforcement officials said Friday that they
believed that Ms. Rice's testimony before the
commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks
including her account of scores of F.B.I.
investigations under way that summer into suspected
Qaeda cells operating in the United States
overstated the scope, thrust and intensity of
activities by the F.B.I. within American borders.

Agents at that time were focused mainly on the threat
of overseas attacks, law enforcement officials said.
The F.B.I. was investigating numerous cases that
involved international terrorism and may have had
tangential connections to Al Qaeda, but one official
said that despite Ms. Rice's account, the
investigations were focused more overseas and "were
not sleeper cell investigations."

The finger-pointing will probably increase next week
when numerous current and former senior law
enforcement officials, including Attorney General John
Ashcroft, testify before the Sept. 11 commission. In
an unusual pre-emptive strike, Mr. Ashcroft's chief
spokesman on Friday accused some Democrats on the
commission of having "political axes to grind" in
attacking the attorney general, who oversees the
F.B.I., and unfairly blaming him for law enforcement
failures.

A similar accusation against the commission was also
leveled by Senator Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky
Republican with ties to the White House, in a speech
on the Senate floor Thursday.

"Sadly, the commission's public hearings have allowed
those with political axes to grind, like Richard
Clarke, to play shamelessly to the partisan gallery of
liberal special interests seeking to bring down the
president," Mr. McConnell said.

The charges and countercharges underscored the
political challenge that the investigation into the
Sept. 11 attacks has become for President Bush as he
mounts his re-election bid. The White House sought
this week to defuse the situation by allowing Ms. Rice
to testify before the Sept. 11 commission after months
of resistance. But her appearance served to raise new
questions about the administration's efforts to deter
an attack.

The White House on Friday put off a decision on
declassifying the document at the center of the debate
the Aug. 6 briefing, titled "Bin Laden Determined to
Attack Inside the United States." But the
administration appeared ready to release at least
portions of the document publicly in the coming days.

The memo from Mr. Clarke's group in July 2001 about
F.B.I. activities adds another piece of evidence to
the document trail, but it is unlikely to resolve the
questions over whether the administration did enough
to deter an attack.

White House officials, who spent several weeks
attacking Mr. Clarke's credibility, said Friday that
they believed the memo from his counterterrorism group
was an accurate reflection of steps the White House
took to deter an attack. But they questioned whether
the F.B.I. executed the instructions to intensify its
scrutiny of terrorist suspects and contacts in the
United States.

In April 2001, the F.B.I. did send out a classified
memo to its field offices directing agents to "check
with their sources on any information they had
relative to terrorism," said a senior law enforcement
official who spoke on condition of anonymity. But with
the level of threat warnings increasing markedly over
the next several months, there is no indication that
any directive went out in the late June period that
was described in the memo from Mr. Clarke's office.

That summer saw a string of alerts by the F.B.I. and
other government agencies about the heightened
possibility of a terrorist attack, but most
counterterrorism officials believed an attack would
come in Saudi Arabia, Israel or elsewhere. Many also
were worried about a July 4 attack and were relieved
when that date passed uneventfully.

For months, the F.B.I. had been consumed by internal
problems of its own, including the arrest of an agent,
Robert P. Hanssen, on espionage charges, the
disappearance of documents in the Oklahoma City
bombing case and the fallout over the Wen Ho Lee spy
case. Moreover, the bureau was going through a
transition in leadership, with its longtime director,
Louis J. Freeh, retiring in June 2001. He was replaced
by an acting director, Thomas J. Pickard, until the
current director, Robert S. Mueller III, took over in
September, just days before the deadly hijackings. All
three men will testify at next week's commission
hearings and are expected to face sharp questioning
about whether the F.B.I. did enough to prevent an
attack in the weeks and months before Sept. 11.

At this week's appearance by Ms. Rice, several
commissioners sharply questioned whether the F.B.I.
and the Justice Department had done enough to act on
intelligence warnings about an attack.

"We have done thousands of interviews here at the 9/11
commission," said Timothy J. Roemer, a Democratic
member of the panel. "We have gone through literally
millions of pieces of paper. To date, we have found
nobody nobody at the F.B.I. who knows anything about
a tasking of field offices" to identify the domestic
threat.

The apparent miscommunication will probably be a
central focus of the commission's hearing next week.
Scrutiny is expected to focus in part on communication
breakdowns between the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. that
allowed two of the 19 hijackers to live openly in San
Diego despite intelligence about their terrorist ties.

Another Democratic panel member, Jamie S. Gorelick,
said at Thursday's hearing that Mr. Ashcroft was
briefed in the summer of 2001 about terrorist threats
"but there is no evidence of any activity by him."

Such criticism led Mark Corallo, Mr. Ashcroft's chief
spokesman at the Justice Department, to say Friday
that "some people on the commission are seeking to
score political points" by unfairly attacking Mr.
Ashcroft's actions before Sept. 11.

"Some have political axes to grind" against Mr.
Ashcroft, Mr. Corallo said in an interview, naming Ms.
Gorelick, who was the deputy attorney general in the
Clinton administration; Mr. Roemer, a former
congressman from Indiana, and Richard Ben-Veniste, the
former Watergate prosecutor.

While insisting that he was not speaking personally
for Mr. Ashcroft, Mr. Corallo said he was offended by
Ms. Gorelick's remarks in particular. Offering a
detailed preview of Mr. Ashcroft's testimony next
week, he said the attorney general was briefed
repeatedly by the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. on threats
posed by Al Qaeda and was told that the threats were
directed at targets overseas. "He was not briefed that
there was any threat to the United States," Mr.
Corallo said. "He kept asking if there was any action
he needed to take, and he was constantly told no,
you're doing everything you need to do."

Several commission officials denied in interviews that
there was any attempt to treat Mr. Ashcroft unfairly.
Al Felzenberg, a spokesman for panel, said that Mr.
Ashcroft would be warmly received.

Ms. Gorelick said she was surprised by Mr. Corallo's
comments and puzzled by assertions that the attorney
general had no knowledge of a domestic terrorist
threat in 2001.

"This appears to be a debate within the
administration," she said. "On the one hand, you have
Dr. Rice saying that the domestic threat was being
handled by the Justice Department and F.B.I., and on
the other hand, you have the Justice Department saying
that there did not appear to be a domestic threat to
address. And that is a difference in view that we have
to continue to explore."

The commission also heard testimony Friday morning
behind closed doors from former Vice President Al
Gore.

Former President Bill Clinton appeared before the
panel in closed session on Thursday, but a Democratic
commission member took issue Friday with Mr. Clinton's
assertion that that there was not enough intelligence
linking Al Qaeda to the 2000 bombing of the Navy
destroyer Cole to justify a military attack on the
terrorist organization.

"I think he did have enough proof to take action," Bob
Kerrey, the former senator from Nebraska, said on
ABC's `Good Morning America.'

Philip Shenon, Adam Nagourney and James Risen
contributed reporting for this article.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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Posted by richard at April 10, 2004 11:44 AM