Much ado about nothing ... again. Posted by: McQ
on Tuesday, October 03, 2006
If you quickly read some of the press recently, headlines like this, 'Rumsfeld, Ashcroft received warning of al Qaida attack before 9/11', certainly would lead one to believe it was all preventable.
A warning. Before 9/11. Two names you love to hate. All the ingredients are there, for heaven sake, to point the fickle finger of blame.
But after reading it 3 times, just to make sure I wasn't skipping some salient part, it appears to be the same old stuff. Unfortunately you have to read the whole article to know that.
For instance, say you stopped, oh, half way:
One official who helped to prepare the briefing, which included a PowerPoint presentation, described it as a "10 on a scale of 1 to 10" that "connected the dots" in earlier intelligence reports to present a stark warning that al-Qaida, which had already killed Americans in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and East Africa, was poised to strike again.
10 out of 10. Dots connected. What in the world is going on? And Condi didn't even remember it? Or Rumsfeld? Or Ashcroft?
A new book by Bob Woodward of The Washington Post alleges that Rice failed to take the July 2001 warning seriously when it was delivered at a White House meeting by Tenet, Cofer Black, then the agency's chief of top counterterrorism, and a third CIA official whose identity remains protected.
Rice's deputy, Stephen J. Hadley, who became national security adviser after she became secretary of state, and Rice's top counterterrorism aide, Richard Clarke, also were present.
Woodward wrote that Tenet and Black considered the briefing the "starkest warning they had given the White House" on the threat posed by Osama bin Laden's terrorist network. But, he wrote, the pair felt as if Rice gave them "the brush-off."
Speaking to reporters late Sunday en route to the Middle East, Rice said she had no recollection of what she called "the supposed meeting."
"What I'm quite certain of, is that it was not a meeting in which I was told that there was an impending attack and I refused to respond," she said.
Wow. Cut off her buttons, break her sword and drum her out of the corps.
Well, except, if you read on, suddenly it doesn't quite appear as stark, clear and terrible as you might have believed had you not finished the article:
The CIA briefing didn't provide the exact timing or nature of a possible attack, nor did it predict whether it was likely to take place in the United States or overseas, said three former senior intelligence officials.
They spoke on condition of anonymity because the report remains highly classified.
The briefing "didn't say within the United States," said one former senior intelligence official. "It said on the United States, which could mean a ship, an embassy or inside the United States."
In the briefing, Tenet warned in very strong terms that intelligence from a variety of sources indicated that bin Laden's terrorist network was planning an attack on a U.S. target in the near future, said one of the officials.
"The briefing was intended to `connect the dots' contained in other intelligence reports and paint a very clear picture of the threat posed by bin Laden," said the official, who described the tone of the report as "scary."
In other words it wasn't much different than any other briefing they'd received in the past, it just claimed the urgency was a bit higher because they felt the intelligence they had was pointing to an imminent attack.
But no one knew where or on what. And that rates a "10 out of 10" and is considered to be a dot-connector? Wow.
If then that's the sum of what they were told, I'm not sure I see the point. Bin Laden was gearing up for another attack. What's new? WTC, embassies, Cole, Kobar Towers. He'd already done it 4 times previously that we know of. There should be no reason to suspect, given his success on 3 of the 4, that he wouldn't attack again.
But given the general nature of the briefing (he's going to strike some US target), other than issuing a fairly standard warning to those who might be at risk (and you'd assume they'd be identified as military or governmental targets located overseas, given the recent history), what's a government to do?
Of course Richard Clarke, tying again to spin the event makes a claim that no one will corroborate:
Clarke, the former White House counterterrorism chief, Ben-Veniste and the former senior intelligence officials all challenged some aspects of Woodward's account of the briefing given to Rice, including assertions that she failed to react to the warning and that it concerned an imminent attack inside the United States.
Clarke told McClatchy Newspapers that Rice focused in particular on the possible threat to President Bush at an upcoming summit meeting in Genoa, Italy, and promised to quickly schedule a high-level White House meeting on al-Qaida. That meeting took place on September 4, 2001.
Ben-Veniste said the commission was never told that Rice had brushed off the warning. According to Tenet, he said, Rice "understood the level of urgency he was communicating."
Try as he might, Clarke keeps missing, doesn't he?
So, if my reading is correct, this seems to be much ado about, well, not much. A general warning that some sort of attack is imminent somewhere in the world by an enemy who's attacked us at various places in the world in the past.
The question is, what actionable intelligence was contained in the briefing or held by these intelligence agencies?
"Imminent attack" even if that was briefed as such isn't actionable. Time, target, means and the identity of the attackers is. And to this point, despite all the finger-pointing and blaming going on, I've yet to see anyone produce a fragment of any sort of intelligence one could deem actionable.
And until they do, this is mildly entertaining but otherwise of little consequence, well, except to help the sales of Bob Woodward's new book and restoke the fires of the conspiracy theory loons.
Officials now agree that on July 10, 2001, Mr. Tenet and his counterterrorism deputy, J. Cofer Black, were so alarmed about an impending Al Qaeda attack that they demanded an emergency meeting at the White House with Ms. Rice and her National Security Council staff.
According to two former intelligence officials, Mr. Tenet told those assembled at the White House about the growing body of intelligence the Central Intelligence Agency had collected pointing to an impending Al Qaeda attack. But both current and former officials took issue with Mr. Woodward’s account that Mr. Tenet and his aides left the meeting in frustration, feeling as if Ms. Rice had ignored them.
Mr. Tenet told members of the Sept. 11 commission about the July 10 meeting when they interviewed him in early 2004, but committee members said the former C.I.A. director never indicated he had left the White House with the impression that he had been ignored.
“Tenet never told us that he was brushed off,” said Richard Ben-Veniste, a Democratic member of the commission. “We certainly would have followed that up.”
Mr. McCormack said the records showed that, far from ignoring Mr. Tenet’s warnings, Ms. Rice acted on the intelligence and requested that Mr. Tenet make the same presentation to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Atttorney General John Ashcroft.
But Mr. Ashcroft said by telephone on Monday evening that he never received a briefing that summer from Mr. Tenet.
“Frankly, I’m disappointed that I didn’t get that kind of briefing,” he said. “I’m surprised he didn’t think it was important enough to come by and tell me.”
I thought this was another rehash of the august 6th PDB, the one where there were descriptions of potential Al Qaeda attacks, including sensational threat reporting they couldn’t confirm.
Incidentally, prior to 9/11, were there any instances of Al Qaeda ever hijacking a plane? I couldn’t find any, though I couldn’t filter out the 9/11 ones from my search.
A few years ago, I remember the constant barrage of heightened alerts, the calls to duct tape and plastic sheet your windows, and the alerts a month and a 1/2 ago when liquids couldn’t be brought on planes. All of these heightened alerts were described as scaremongering, "convienent", worthless, etc. I can’t help but think that had the Bush administration tightened security in August 2001, their actions would be met with the same skepticism and either 9/11 would’ve still happened in September, (because the admin tightened security in the wrong places) or it would’ve happened after security lapsed.
My personal favorite from the NYT .. The dispute that has played out in recent days gives further evidence of an escalating battle between the White House and Mr. Tenet over who should take the blame for such mistakes as the failure to stop the Sept. 11 attacks ..
I wondered how far up their asses the NYT had to reach to get this line. On second reflection, this looks like just sloppy editing.
The dispute that has played out in recent days gives further evidence of an escalating battle between the White House andMr. Woodward’s account. I’ll leave it to the historians as to whether Mr. Woodward’s accountgives further evidence of an escalating battle between the White House and Mr. Tenet over who should take the blame for such mistakes as the failure to stop the Sept. 11 attacks ..
It is hardly clear that heightened security would have prevented 9/11. If it did prevent it, we would have likely sent illegal alien muslims back to their country of origin, effectively a "reset". And the Democrats would be crying about Bush’s inhumanity to these poor muslim men . . .
I take it from your position you are a supporter, or rather, apologist for 2001 era Bush, Rice and Ashcroft?
Well do me a favor, OK? Show me the "smoking gun", please. Who, what, when, where, how they were going to attack on 9/11. It should all be there, every single little dot. Show me that and I’ll fess up to being both a supporter and an apologist who got it wrong.
Otherwise you might want to take your attempted rewrite of history to the conspiracy loons who I’m sure would welcome it with open arms, facts being optional with that crowd and all.
Lately I’ve noticed that the argument that Bush is an incompetent evil man has become intensely circular. Bush is evil/incompetent because he took actions that are evil/incompetent because he took them.
The reason this bothers me is that it has gotten to the point where it has almost completely substituted for any sort of real debate or discussion over the positive or negative values of the actions the Administration has taken.
I say this because Rick really reminds me of this. If you question this specific instance of putative incompetence, well, you obviously must be an apologist uninterested in debate, because everybody knows that all the proof you need that Bush did something incompetent is the accusation, which can’t possibly be false.
This was not previously the case; the Bush hatred didn’t entirely come from thin air (although he did start with a large presumed burden of evil just from having an (R) after his name rather than a (D)), and at least some kind of argument was made that some action was incompetent/evil. But lately, it seems for more and more people the accusation itself is proof enough that the accusation is true.
Makes any sort of rational discussion pretty tough when merely "considering evidence" or not deciding that Bush is 100% at fault regardless of evidence is prima facie proof of being an "apologist".
It strikes me as fascinating, what the Democrats will consider to be accurate intelligence and what they will not consider to be accurate intelligence.
As an example;
Is this the same intelligence organization, or group of organizations, that provided as the intelligence as regards the weaponry in Iraq prior to the invasion? If so, how was it that we were to consider the supposed intelligence as regards the 911 attacks, so much more accurate?