April 11, 2004

Max Sawicky Connects the Dots

Max Sawicky connects the dots:

Did the claim at the end of the memo that the FBI was conducting 70 Bin Laden-related "full field investigation" reassure George W. Bush? Should that have reassured him--did it mean more than that there were 70 open files in various FBI offices?

Posted by DeLong at April 11, 2004 01:00 PM | TrackBack | | Other weblogs commenting on this post
Comments

I agree that Bush screwed up. They're lying now when they say that they had no indication that attacks were coming. I have two questions, though. First, if in the summer of 2001 Bush had made the security changes that were made after 9/11, how would people have reacted? Considering how much negativity there was towards Ashcroft and curtailing civil liberties even after 9/11, I can't imagine that it would have been very easy politically to get through the needed changes.

My second question is, would a democrat, maybe a John Kerry, have done anything more than Bush? Would a Kerry have been willing to make the changes needed? Clearly there were systemic problems. It was not simply a matter of connecting the dots, it was a matter of having the systems in place to deal with the threats. Clearly our government failed us, but is there any evidence Kerry would have had a government with fundamentally different organization? Clinton didn't. Kerry still hasn't answered a lot of questions about what he will do differently. He's right when he criticizes bush, but I wish he could tell me how his government would have been better prepared to deal with terrorist threats.

Posted by: Ian Dew-Becker on April 11, 2004 01:17 PM

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The question isn't how Kerry would have dealt with it--its how Al Gore would have dealt with terrorism. If we think that Gore would merely have continued Clinton's policy of actually working hard at counterterrorism, if we thought he might have acted rapidly on the Hart-Rudman report (instead of back burnering it as Cheney did) we can be pretty sure that 9-11 could have been averted, even if some other plan might not have been.

As for the resistance to the Patriot Act. Its true that nothing so massive, or so massively misunderstood, could have been rammed through congress or been accepted by the people. But hardening cockpits? come on, who would have cared enough to fight except the airlines and their reasons were never civil liberties reasons. I'm sure there are many important provisions in the patriot act that most people would have supported if they hadn't been worried about the obvious power grabs that bush was pushing at the same time, and at the obvious utter disregard the republican administration had for civil liberties.
And as for Kerry, well, from now on and from the next election on, like the rest of us he will be dealing with a situation that is rapidly spiraling out of control. The best any president can do after the monumental cluster f(*& that is Iraq is do damage control and work the edges of the problem.

Kate Gilbert

Posted by: Kate Gilbert on April 11, 2004 01:23 PM

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"First, if in the summer of 2001 Bush had made the security changes that were made after 9/11, how would people have reacted?"

But such changes are the last line of defense, not the first. They're only necessary if you don't disrupt the plot beforehand through investigations and arrests.

Posted by: Jon H on April 11, 2004 01:25 PM

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The CIA put together the brief, and since they were alarmed that the admin was not taking the threat seriously, it is hardly possible that they intended to convey reassurance.

You also assume that Bush read the memo. But if Condi was not there to read it to him (you hear she does this for him), maybe he never looked at it.

Posted by: Bob H on April 11, 2004 01:38 PM

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When I hear that there are 70 investigations ongoing, I want to know more about them. Specifically, are they being coordinated across the agency and if so how? Is there one person in charge of all 70, and what does that person recommend doing wrt Al Qaeda?

Minor tree shaking of the FBI alone would have turned up Moussaoui and the Phoenix Memo.

What would that have led to?

Posted by: jerry on April 11, 2004 01:56 PM

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At the very least, Kerry would have listened to Dick Clarke instead of ignoring him. Secondly, Kerry would have had people around from Clinton/Gore cabinet who had experiences in dealing with OBL thus Terrorism could have been Kerry's number 1 or 2 action item.

Keep in mind that this PDB on Aug 6 is only 1 of many warnings Bush received in 2001. Tenet briefed Bush some 40 times about OBL threat but could not get Bush to do anything. There were warnigns from overseas, from The Germans etc...
and the increased chatters during summmer 2001.
This PDB alone is not the smoking gun but a reasonable person can urgue Bush was shown specific evidences that spectacular attack would happen and it did.

Finally, Kerry would not have planned for an invasion of Iraq thus all resources can and possibly be used for domestic purposes.

Remember Bin La-den pushed the attack date up because they were worried that the plot will be discovered. Think about it. CIA already had 2 terrorists on their watch list but FBI did not know. Think about it.

What if the FBI and CIA under Kerry were ordered to use their resources strictly in domestic threats or even on overseas threats.

Bush f**ked up. Period. and Bush is still effing up as we speak.

Kerry if elected, probably will fire all neo-cons adn appoint people like Clarke. Yes, FBI and CIA have to be fixed. The cold war is over.

Posted by: john on April 11, 2004 01:57 PM

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anyone asking what a Democrat would have done doesn't get it. the question is not a counterfactual, it is an assessment of the administration's competence.

was the FBI competent? competent enough to have seventy AQ-related investigations, not so competent that they uncovered the plot in time, though it must be said some who tried got close (Moussaoui). the CIA? competent enough to be very concerned, not competent enough to uncover the plot in time, though at least they had AQ members on their watch list. the administration? competent enough that this memo got to the president, not competent enough to uncover the plot in time, though at least they pushed hard on missle defense.

if you must ask the counterfactual, I imagine Al Gore's administration would have failed, too, but at least while pushing hard on counterterrorism.

Posted by: wcw on April 11, 2004 02:02 PM

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Kate,
Hardening the cockpits would have done no good whatsoever unless it was accompanied by a wholesale change in the policy toward hijackings. Unless a directive came down that no matter what, whether the terrorist claimed to have a bomb, whether teorrorists killed every single passenger, etc the pilots were not to open the cockpit door, everything else is pretty much pointless. Would that memo be enough to change decades of policy in regards to hijackings? I don't believe so.
Now, arresting the terrorists or expanding the investigations to increase the chance of their arrests would be another matter entirely.

Posted by: William on April 11, 2004 02:06 PM

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The reason I think the counterfactual is important is in deciding who to vote for. I'm not attempting to defend Bush or saying I want to see him reelected. What I'm trying to do is get past all the criticism and find out what exactly Kerry would have done differently that would have made anything better. Just saying, "I'll be different from Bush" isn't good enough. Kerry should be telling us how he would have done a better job. I really hope his campaign will be based on something more than economic protectionism and "I'm not Bush."

Posted by: Ian Dew-Becker on April 11, 2004 02:21 PM

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Why was Ashcroft no longer flying commercial aircraft in July of 2001?

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2001/07/26/national/main303601.shtml

July 26, 2001

Excerpt:

In response to inquiries from CBS Newsover why Ashcroft was traveling exclusively by leased jet aircraft instead of commercial airlines, the Justice Department cited what it called a "threat assessment" by the FBI, and said Ashcroft has been advised to travel only by private jet for the remainder of his term.

Posted by: Susie Dow on April 11, 2004 02:21 PM

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“The grownups are now in charge”, indeed! It looks like President Bush's supporters hope to save their man by blaming the institutional separation of the FBI and the CIA for not getting the information together properly. But “everybody who comes to Washington already knows” about that institutional separation--as Bob Kerry hammered out to Rice at the hearing--because of course it was STRUCTURED that way to begin with, in order to protect citizen's rights against a police state. Condoleeza Rice relied heavily upon this excuse in her testimony. It was a talking point she mentioned a few too many times! Everybody also knows that it is the White House which is supposed to PROVIDE the nexus between the FBI and CIA, so that the people who are coordinating the security over the domestic U.S. are directly responsible to the voters. Perhaps the “institutional failure” was that this wasn’t spelled out, big letters in red crayon, to the adults in charge?

Interestingly this was a crucial part of Richard Clarke's testimony, which indeed he was careful to set up: describing how it was done--"knocking heads together" and "shaking the tree"--in Clinton's Administration, when in fact they headed-off an attack or two.

The conservatives also aim to blame the "corrupt cultures" at the CIA and FBI--which won't wash, because even if it were true, the President is also supposed to KNOW THAT ALREADY. Bush's father was head of the CIA, for heaven’s sake! So the assertion that the errors were not made at the White House is not credible.

Politically, this speaks to Bush’s judgement upon security issues--one of his few remaining high poll numbers, and one which the Iraqi debacle also may start to eat into.

Most frightening is that the President's defenders are hoping to divert the public's attention to a "reorganization" of the intelligence agencies (because Bush can't be counted on to fix it by an administrative order?--nonsense!): taking us one step closer to the rogue police state, where people we don’t even know will be able to coordinate information about us. One of the many ironies about this whole stupid disaster is that the small-government conservatives are leading the charge into madness...the grownups are now in charge...

Posted by: Lee A. on April 11, 2004 02:26 PM

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In response to Mr. Dew-Becker, it should be pointed out that (A) there has always been absolutely no love for Islamic Fascists by American liberals (the former, after all, are first-class religious bigots and misogynists) -- and also that everyone well remembered the 1993 attempt to topple the WTC. Any move by the Bush Administration to keep American Moslems under closer surveillance might not have encountered as much political opposition as you think (even with the appalling Ashcroft as its head).

As for armoring cockpit doors and/or putting more sky marshals on airliners, there would have been no opposition whatsoever from the Left, any more than there was when the Nixon Administration started putting sky marshals on airliners in 1970.

However, one trait that has always been shared by both ideological sides in the US where terrorism has been concerned is a lack of imagination and a desire to stick our heads in the sand. Sen. Lugar had tried to base his presidential run on the dangers of megaterrorism, and was laughed off the stage by both parties as a result. And, as Aviation Week keeps indignantly pointing out, there has still been not one speck of motion by either party toward dealing with the continuing threat from big cargo planes being used as weapons. What else are we still willfully ignoring?

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on April 11, 2004 02:32 PM

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[Screen in black]

[Background voice:] You're the leader of the most powerful nation in the world. Millions of Americans count on you for their well-being and safety. Our security depends on your action. What would you do?

[Table surface appears out of blackness. We see the shoulder of a man in a casual checked shirt. Document is placed on table. It's a bright red page labelled "TOP SECRET--For the President's Eyes Only".

[Arm of man appears. Its hand turns the cover page, revealing page 1, pauses, then turns to page 2. Hand unturns pages so that red cover shows, and disappears from screen.]

[Fade to black]

[Sound of wood being chopped.]


[Background voice:] Well, what would you do?

================================

Kerry isn't the POTUS. George W. Bush is. So let's ask the question of the POTUS.

Posted by: infoshaman on April 11, 2004 02:39 PM

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To begin with, this is about what Bush did or didn't do. It isn't about what Clinton, Carter, LBJ, Kennedy, Wilson, Grover Cleveland, Martin Van Buren, or some other Democrat would have done in Bush's place.

When people drag that stuff out, aren't they showing how partisan they are? They start off by assuming (wrongly) that no one but a partisan would criticize Bush, and conclude that they too can be as partisan (and dumb) as they want to. Pretty blatantly pot-kettle-black, at best, but really worse than that, since a lot of the Bush critics are NOT partisan Democrats.

Bush's performance doesn't look good. Not just Clarke, but Rand Beers and several others quit over this issue, and what I've read about the late John O'Neill of the FBI, he also had problems with Bush.

Then, if you do make comparisons, the obvious ones are to Clinton, Gore, and Kerry. Based on Clarke and O'Neill, his performance seems to have been significantly better than Bush's on domestic counterterrorism. Perhaps he could have been more aggressive overseas, but most of the people criticizing him now were the ones shrieking "wag the dog" whenever Clinton did try to do something.

Gore and Kerry have no record. Probably Gore would have done about the same as Clinton, making him somewhat better than Bush (though we'll never know). Certainly he didn't have the rabid hatred of Clinton that caused the Bush people to reject everything coming from him.

Kerry? At this point it makes perfect sense to me to say that Bush has screwed things up so badly that getting him out of there is the most important thing, and that Kerry is the obvious replacement according to our system. Liberal-haters won't agree, but they're the assholes who got us into this mess, and they can go fuck themselves. (Hi Al, Hi Reg!) Replacing completely-incompetent in a hurry with the first OK person you can find is standard operating procedure in a lot of businesses. Kerry really does not have to prove himself; Bush has failed.

Finally, as I've had to say three times today, people who suggest that something should have been done do NOT have to prove that it would have worked. What Clarke wanted to do (and was prevented by the Bush people from doing) was to go to the cabinet level and get the top people to "shake the trees" to make something happen. That is what Rice should have done, and didn't do.

Any do-nothing loser can say "How do you know that that would have worked?" Jesus Christ, that's a little kid's excuse, right above "I forgot" and "I was just getting to that" and "It's the dog's fault".

Posted by: Zizka on April 11, 2004 02:40 PM

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William,

You are absolutely right that simply hardening the cockpits without changing the rules of engagement about hijackings might not have done anything--but then again it might have given some of the hijacked flights just that little bit more time to get new orders from the FAA--if, of course, the FAA had been notified of the threat in advance, which we know they weren't. One thing I learned from reading Clarke's book, there is "no there, there" when you are talking about decisionmaking and information sharing at the highest levels of the government as currently structured. It astonished me to discover what was not known, minutes into the hijackings and even minutes into the first crash, from the point of view of the "situation room" and the major decisions that had to be implemented through there. Nevertheless, I stand by my opinion that much could have been done, without any appreciable public outcry, but wasn't because it wasn't in the Bush team's scope of competence or interest.

Another point that has dissapeared from view in the last few days is that Condi was planning on giving that really important talk defending missle defence--specifically as more important than mere counterterrorism aimed at stateless groups--on Sept. 11th. I would have liked her to have had to release that talk, and defend it, in her testimony because it would remind us again that what is at issue is not "coulda, shoulda, woulda" kind of hindsight but purely a matter of priorities. non state terrorism was not a priority for Bush co before 9-11, and it still isn't going by what they are chosing to do in places like Falluja and Pakistan.

Kate Gilbert

Posted by: Kate Gilbert on April 11, 2004 02:41 PM

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OK, Bush failed, but to say that any policy other than his would have been better is ludicrous. Sure, the question, "how do you know that would've worked?" is an excuse. But it's perfectly reasonable to ask why a policy is superior, rather than just being different.

Posted by: Ian Dew-Becker on April 11, 2004 02:47 PM

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OK, Bush failed, but to say that any policy other than his would have been better is ludicrous. Sure, the question, "how do you know that would've worked?" is an excuse. But it's perfectly reasonable to ask why a policy is superior, rather than just being different.

Posted by: Ian Dew-Becker on April 11, 2004 02:47 PM

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OK, Bush failed, but to say that any policy other than his would have been better is ludicrous. Sure, the question, "how do you know that would've worked?" is an excuse. But it's perfectly reasonable to ask why a policy is superior, rather than just being different.

Posted by: Ian Dew-Becker on April 11, 2004 02:48 PM

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Looks sort of like the Bible Code doesn't it?

Posted by: SW on April 11, 2004 03:22 PM

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"it's perfectly reasonable to ask why a policy is superior, rather than just being different."

How could Kerry's, or Gore's, policy have been worse?

And it's not just a question of "policy." It's a question of intelligent behavior. Did Bush ask the questions Jerry mentions?

Posted by: Bernard Yomtov on April 11, 2004 03:30 PM

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The fact that the FBI was conducting 70 Bin Laden-related "full field investigations" certainly should not have reassured George W. Bush that all was well. But it might reasonably have reassured him that we were doing all we could.

Posted by: Ian Maitland on April 11, 2004 03:34 PM

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Bush Administration = Unbelievable assholes. It doesn't matter what I think, but what do they tell the family members of the folks who died on 9/11?

Posted by: roxanne on April 11, 2004 03:38 PM

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Locked cocpit doors AND better inspection of carry on baggage (and personal belongings) WOULD certainly have prevented 9/11. It might not have prevented a shoe bomber (the first one anyway), but a shoe bomber would not have crashed a plane into WTC.

Posted by: J on April 11, 2004 03:41 PM

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I'm spreading this meme (first posed in a comment by Ben at Political Animal) because I think it's telling.

Imagine if the memo had the same information, but names were changed to fit the title:

"Saddam Hussein determined to Strike in the US"

We can imagine how Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Feith, et al would have responded.

I doubt if it would have been by chilling out at Crawford.

Keef

Posted by: keef on April 11, 2004 03:46 PM

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I think a "GET THAT GUY OUT OF THERE" reaction makes perfect sense. Our system offers a limited number of ways to do that. Replacing him with Cheney would not help solve the problem people are seeing. The other option is to vote him out of office this fall.

I really mean it. Kerry does NOT have to prove himself. The quarterback is fumbling and throwing interceptions and we need to put in the backup, even though he's never played a down.

There's nothing irrational about that. People do it all the time when an employee starts stinking up the place. Under the provisions of the constitution, we vote Bush out by voting Kerry in. Unless there's good reason to believe that he will be as bad or worse than Bush, Kerry is it. The burden of proof is now on whoever wants to support Bush. That's how the system works. We really only have the two choices (sorry, Ralph!).

Posted by: Zizka on April 11, 2004 04:00 PM

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Zizka, the way i look at it, and what i say to people, is that Kerry probably won't be a great president. He may not even be a good president.

All we ask him to be is a better president than george bush, which, admittedly, a coin-flipping machine could be since at least it would be right 50% of the time.

Posted by: howard on April 11, 2004 04:10 PM

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It doesn't matter what I think, but what do they tell the family members of the folks who died on 9/11?

We know what they are telling them. The Bush surrogates are trashing the 9/11 families who dare to ask questions.

Posted by: ____league on April 11, 2004 04:26 PM

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Bush did nothing with the information that was in front of him because he was focused on Saddam not Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. You can lead a blind horse to a water hole surrounded by deaf people but you can't make him drink. When the president insists on following a personal agenda at a time when there is pressing information shouting at him to do otherwise, that is incompetence at a fundamental level, and that kind of incompetence should not be rewarded with a second term.

There are other reasons not to re-elect bush: his conservative Christian right agenda with all of its ramifications, his war on the environment, his war on science, his penchant for putting industry people in government positions so that big business gets to right the laws and act with imprudence, (add your reason here.) None of these actions are supported by typical Americans, Democrat or Republican.

Posted by: Dubblblind on April 11, 2004 04:39 PM

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No matter. Sunday evening NBC rolls out it's deconstruction of the Al Queda memo, in it's M4TV "Homeland Security", after which 75M American viewers are stricken with Alzheimer's, over what the WTC and 911 thing was all about, how could they be so mean to Condi last week (when?), then in such a harsh and cruel world, draw their breath in pain to re-elect BushCo.
Who produced the "Homeland" hack job? Neo PAC? No matter. The Emperor of Oceania is firmly in control. You lose. Please adjust your headsets, and resume the supine position, you hog warts.
If BushCo can't flail your feeble brains, then their hitmen in Hebron'll nuke another cripple. Same difference. World in flames trumps Clarke.
Choose the blue pill. Four more years of Neo's!

Posted by: Madame Zhiu on April 11, 2004 05:05 PM

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It doesn't appear that a single one of you has noticed what Max Sawicky has just done. He's demonstrated that Condi was right.

The last two dots refer to attacks on "federal buildings" with "explosives". And that's not what happened on 9-11. So any action taken strictly on the info in this PDB would not have stopped what happened.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on April 11, 2004 06:02 PM

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http://stirling-newberry.dailykos.com/story/2004/4/11/84254/4568

What Should Have Been.

Posted by: Stirling Newberry on April 11, 2004 06:02 PM

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J has made a point that has sort of been lost in the time since the late summer of 2001. Box cutters were allowed onto those planes, contrary to air safety regulations. The terrorists targeted Boston because it had a terrible record in such matters. We didn’t need Ashcroft, hardened cockpit doors or armed air marshals to avert the WTC and Pentagon attacks. We needed the rules to be enforced. Nobody made the people at Logan follow the rules. It might be petty, but where is the Frontline/Hardball/60 Minutes investigation of the people at Logan who let this happen, and the policies that left the people at Logan free to fail so massively?

Bob Kerrey’s point to Rice about the fracture between the FBI and CIA being part of the landscape is correct. Scapegoating intelligence agencies is an awfully weak defense, just passing the buck. Still, at this point, heaping a bit of blame on the CIA and FBI can’t hurt. The CIA has learned to avoid operations that may lead to trouble if they come to light. The FBI wants to make cases, not necessarily do intelligence work that never leads to a courtroom. Neither is keen on domestic surveillance. Well, tough. It’s the job now. We don’t need security agencies structured for the comfort of the agents. We need ‘em to make us secure. The case is far from proven that we need to surrender our civil rights in order for security agencies to make us safer. Let's see what a bit of diligence and good will can do, without giving away the civil rights farm, before we swallow the Ashcroft approach.

The political question is probably not whether Gore or Kerry would have done better, but given what we now know, is there any reason to trust the next big issue that comes along to Bush and his buddies? It’s too late to prevent the WTC/Pentagon attacks. Kerry doesn’t have any better options in Iraq than Bush has. (Making the election about which candidate has the best plan for Iraq is a weak play for Kerry. There is no good plan for Iraq.) There are going to be more disasters, and potential disasters. There will be more opportunities to use war and diplomacy to make the US safer. There is a lot of lost ground to be made up on domestic policy, fiscal policy in particular. Is there any evidence that Bush has what it takes to initiate good policy or to respond well in a crisis?

Posted by: K Harris on April 11, 2004 06:26 PM

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Had it been Gore instead of Bush, one thing is certain. There would have been calls for his scalp with commissions in both the House and the Senate, and an independent commission to boot. Bush has gotten off easy compared to the partisanship a Gore presidency would have had to deal with.

Posted by: phil on April 11, 2004 06:28 PM

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I guess we expected too much of this group. This really fits the pattern of ignoring any evidence that violates their preconcieved ideas. From stem cells to fiscal policy any fact that disproves their set position is put aside. Here we see nothing about rogue states so Al Qaeda isn't important. We expected that they would take national security more seriously than other areas but apparently they treat national security excatly the same.

Posted by: Rob on April 11, 2004 06:28 PM

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Thanks, Stirling. I guess I needn't point out that all of this would've been moot had Gore won the election.

It'll be interesting how Bush's apologists attempt to deconstruct your thesis.

Posted by: Tom Marney on April 11, 2004 06:30 PM

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"We expected that they would take national security more seriously than other areas but apparently they treat national security excatly the same." --Rob--

Given the self serving nature of the Bush administration we need to ask the ugly question: if they saw another terrorist attack coming before the election would they do anything to try to prevent it? Terrorism is good for the re-election campaign, no?

Posted by: Dubblblind on April 11, 2004 07:15 PM

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Gee, Patrick R. Sullivan spotted something even C. Rice didn't say: the bad guys were looking at Federal Buildings, so they were deceiving us as to their real intent to destroy the World Trade Center. So unfair!

Posted by: masaccio on April 11, 2004 07:48 PM

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Oh, okay, Patrick. So, since the rumors referred only to attacks on federal buildings with "explosives" at the same time that they referred to Al Qaida agents hijacking airliners, and since airliners aren't technically "explosives" (even though they explode quite nicely when flown into buildings), this completely relieves the Administration of all responsibility. Right.

Jesus Christ. The fact that planes can be turned into deadly weapons by suicidal pilots has been common knowledge for decades. Thomas Harris' first novel, 30 years ago, involved a Palestinian plot to kill 40,000 people by stuffing the Goodyear Blimp with explosives and detonating it over the Super Bowl. A 1980 SF novel involved the detonation by Khomeini agents of a nuke on an airliner over Washington, in a (successful) attempt to trick the US and the Soveit Union into attacking each other. "The Turner Diaries" ends with the American Nazi hero flying his explosive-stuffed plane into the FBI Building. And, of course, there was the nut who DID crash his plane (fortunately non-explosive stuffed) into the White House in 1994.

One can argue that the Bush Administration's failure to foresee this possibility was not much more culpable than the failure of earlier administrations to foresee it (or, rather, to develop the nerve to take the complex actions necessary to prevent it). But the fact remains that -- to quote Rice herself -- the White House, in August, was receiving warnings of an imminent "very, very, very, very big action" and showed no particular increase in concern over it and no particular desire to turn up the surveillance heat to try to find out about it. That displays some level of negligence, no matter how you cut it.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A2677-2004Apr10.html : "The CIA author of the document wanted to make clear to the president that, despite the many threats being centered abroad, agency analysts believed there was a real and continuing danger that bin Laden was determined to attack the United States.

"As one former administration official who has read the PDB said last week: 'The agency doesn't write a headline like that if it doesn't want to get attention.' In this case, the former official said, 'the CIA did not believe Bush policymakers were taking the threat to the U.S. seriously.' "

The "former official" may be Richard Clarke (again), or he may be somebody else.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on April 11, 2004 07:57 PM

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Sullivan: "The last two dots refer to attacks on 'federal buildings' with 'explosives'. And that's not what happened on 9-11. So any action taken strictly on the info in this PDB would not have stopped what happened."

What the hell?!! It also refers, in two places, to possible near-future hijackings. It's rather hard to fly an airliner into a building if you're prevented from hijacking it first. (The PDB also refers, by the way, to a past plan for a violent attack on LA International Airport.) Sullivan's alibi for the Administration has now been reduced to saying that they can't be held responsible for failing to foresee a possible attack using airliners as weapons simply because they're morons.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on April 11, 2004 08:03 PM

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Read Richard Clarke's book. Clinton was well aware and working hard on terrorism. Clark was, and is, a bomb first-ask questions later type, but Clinton had him on a leash. Condi and crew emasculated him. Gore would no doubt have left Clarke in place.

C-Span ran Bush's speech of 10/7/02 and the speech Kerry made on 10/9/02 this afternoon. Kerry may have voted for the resolution but he certainly had Bush's number in advance of the vote. Too bad the only time we get media coverage of floor speeches in the senate when Mitch McConnell or some other winger decides to express "outrage."

In three+ years Bush has added a few catch phrases--ultimate sacrifice, hate freedom, won't break our will, but he is still Mr. Incoherent.

Posted by: silk on April 11, 2004 09:18 PM

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Patrick Sullivan writes: "The last two dots refer to attacks on "federal buildings" with "explosives". And that's not what happened on 9-11. "

Ever hear of a fuel-air bomb? Spread fuel out as a vapor, ignite, big boom. A fully fueled jet hitting at top speed is probably a pretty good simulation of that, with added shrapnel and kinetic damage.

Also, you're wrong about federal buildings. The Pentagon is one. The flight that went down in PA was probably meant to hit another Federal building - the White House, the Capitol, who knows...

So there's four attacks with planes that function as improvised explosive devices. Half of the attacks were targeted at federal buildings. Half were not.

That's pretty accurate.

Posted by: Jon H on April 11, 2004 10:39 PM

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If Clinton was working hard on terrorism, why didn't he accomplish anything to that end, other than imprisoning a portion of the people involved in the original WTC bombing?

Posted by: Alan K. Henderson on April 11, 2004 11:37 PM

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Dude, I recall getting warnings about possible Millenium bombings. At least Clinton gave the public half a chance, rather than keeping it secret and saving his own ass.

Posted by: Tim H. on April 12, 2004 06:35 AM

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Counterfactuals are useless, of course, but one thing I think we can say with confidence. Either Bill Clinton or Al Gore would have taken that PDB more seriously, have asked the right questions, have shaken thinks up a little. Most Republicans (John McCain, say, or even Bob Dole or Bush senior) would have done the same.

It's so hard to admit that we have a shallow, intellectually lazy, self-centered leader in this time of crisis. Most Americans have resisted this truth despite how much of it comes out. And I honestly don't think he's changed much.

Posted by: wvmcl on April 12, 2004 07:55 AM

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"Box cutters were allowed onto those planes, contrary to air safety regulations."

This is false. Knives shorter than 4" were allowed.

"Also, you're wrong about federal buildings. The Pentagon is one. "

And it isn't in New York. Read the PDB, it says: "recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York". There is NOTHING in the PDB that warns about what actually happened.

" What the hell?!! It also refers, in two places, to possible near-future hijackings."

And, the FAA was warned, and they warned the airlines. It's not Bush's fault the airlines didn't take the warnings seriously enough. Not to mention that the Clinton-Gore Administration had a plan to make getting on a plane more difficult, but backed down when the airlines resisted (and paid big money to the DNC) it.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on April 12, 2004 08:21 AM

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"Either Bill Clinton or Al Gore would have taken that PDB more seriously, have asked the right questions, have shaken thinks up a little."

Well, they didn't when they had the chance:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2001901197_ressam12m.html

--------quote---------
Clarke book has errors about arrest of Ahmed Ressam

Was it "shaking trees" or shaking knees that led to the arrest of convicted millennium terrorist Ahmed Ressam?

As former White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke tells it in his book "Against All Enemies," an international alert to be on the lookout for terrorists played a role in Ressam's capture at a Port Angeles ferry terminal in December 1999, his car loaded with bomb-making material.

[snip]

Disputing Clarke's claim, Rice testified customs agents "weren't actually on alert."

At least one of the agents who helped apprehend Ressam sides with Rice's version of events.

Moreover, others involved in the Ressam case say Clarke's book contains factual errors and wrongly implies national-security officials knew of Ressam's plan to set a bomb at Los Angeles International Airport long before they actually did.

[snip]

According to a former customs agent who was involved, Clarke's version, laid out in one chapter of his book, wrongly implies they were on "heightened alert" and somehow looking for terrorists.

"No," was the terse reply of Michael Chapman, one of the customs agents who arrested Ressam, when asked if he was aware of a security alert.

"We were on no more alert than we're always on. That is a matter of public record," said Chapman, now a Clallam County commissioner.

[snip]

agents thought Ressam was smuggling drugs when they opened the trunk of his rental car and found bags of white powder buried in the spare-tire well. Only after finding several plastic black boxes, containing watches wired to circuit boards, did anyone suspect a bomb.

[Customs Agent] Dean has said repeatedly she singled Ressam out for a closer look because he was nervous, fumbling and sweating. Ressam has since told agents he was sick, and federal sources have confirmed Ressam had apparently gotten malaria while at terrorist-training camps in Afghanistan.

Clarke's version of that night contains other errors. Some of them are minor. But one implies national-security officials knew more about Ressam's plans than they could have at the time:

[snip]

Clarke wrote that agents had found "explosives and a map of the Los Angeles International Airport" in the car, implying the threat to the airport was known almost immediately.

There was no map in the car. A map of Greater Los Angeles was found days later in Ressam's apartment in Montreal. Nobody had a clue for nearly 11 months that Los Angeles was a target.

Circles scrawled on the map around three L.A.-area airports weren't found until October 2000, after the document had been turned over to the FBI. It wasn't until Ressam began cooperating in May 2001 that his actual target was known for sure.

In fact, in the weeks after Ressam's capture, officials in Seattle were so unsure about his actual target that then-Mayor Paul Schell canceled the city's popular New Year's Eve celebration at Seattle Center, thinking the Space Needle could be a target.

• Clarke reported Canadians had somehow "missed" the existence of Ressam's cell of radical Algerian Muslims in Montreal and that, after Ressam's arrest, the Canadian government cooperated.

According to testimony at Ressam's trial and interviews with Canadian intelligence officials, Ressam and the cell in Montreal had been under surveillance for at least two years before Ressam's arrest. But the Canadian Security Intelligence Service never told anyone.

U.S. prosecutors have complained bitterly about Canada's foot-dragging as the Ressam case proceeded. Canadian prosecutors blocked U.S. access to at least one crucial witness — an Algerian who gave Ressam a gun and talked about blowing up Jews in Montreal.

Indeed, the U.S. came within hours of dropping charges against Ressam on the eve of his March 2001 trial because the Canadian government attempted to withdraw the witnesses.

----------endquote---------

And all this with a mountain of SPECIFIC evidence gained from Jordanian intelligence in Clarke's possession.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on April 12, 2004 08:27 AM

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Why does Patrick Sullivan hate america? I'd like to point out htat the "US came within hours of dropping charges against Resam on the ve of his march 2001 trial" is something that can not possibly be blamed on clinton because, of course, Bush was in power.

Posted by: Kate Gilbert on April 12, 2004 09:38 AM

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The last two dots refer to attacks on "federal buildings" with "explosives". And that's not what happened on 9-11. So any action taken strictly on the info in this PDB would not have stopped what happened.

Um, why not? Assuming the response was even half intelligent, a major component would be a concerted effort to identify participants and detain and prosecute them (if nothing else, for conspiracy). Sure, generalized defensive protective measures would have been included, too, and some of those might not have been useful (although more serious protection against the hijacking threat warned of would have been just as useful whatever the purpose of hijacking was).

Posted by: cmdicely on April 12, 2004 11:12 AM

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I'd say a reprint of this scan would make a great NYC newspaper ad during the GOP Convention. Complete with hilites.

Posted by: Andrew Lazarus on April 12, 2004 11:47 AM

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Patrick left out the conclusion:
Snip
"So it's hard to say what the significance of these errors are," Hess added. "Whether you agree with him or not, I don't think anybody has accused Dick Clarke of being sloppy."

And Clarke's conclusion remains valid. Al-Qaida, he wrote, was here — and actively attempting to attack the United States. "
Snip
And obviously, since this thread is about connecting the dots, Condi's testimony re the PDF is no longer "operable. " Meaning it is disengenuous, meaning its not true, meaning there is umm perjury. Remember that old talking point, that they were going to charge Clarke with perjury. (Another inoperable claim). The Bush administration can't say "Well we had some intelligence, it indicated a threat, and we did everything we could to prevent it." They claim, "We had some intelligence, it did not give us a time and a date, and we went on vacation." Indeed the behavior remains the same today. While U. S. forces suffered their worst combat casualties ever Bush went fishing on Friday.

Posted by: Lawrence Boyd on April 12, 2004 12:22 PM

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It would have been wrong to blame Bush solely on the Aug 6 PDB but Bush received many other warnings besides this Aug-6 pdb. What did Bush do ? All the warnings combined should get someone like Rice, Bush and especially Cheney who was tasked with creating a terrorism taskforce, off their butts and do something. Unfortunately, Chimney was too busy working on his energy plan and was too busy figuring out how to make Enron and Ken "Boy" Lay richer.

Did Bush issue any orders or presidential directives to the FBI or CIA ?

If Bush thinks he did all he could, release all the PDBs, emails, warnings from foreign services, terrorism plan from Chimney etc..lets release all docs and papers then we will know for sure.

All Bush has to do is say we f**ked up, I am sorry but NO, they have to keep lying and hiding stuff then release it when they could not hide it anymore. People recognize the FBI and CIA were part of the problems.

Posted by: john on April 12, 2004 01:02 PM

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Ah. So, according to Patrick's latest line, it's entirely the AIRLINES' fault, rather than the Administration's. See Noam Scheiber's comments in the New Republic ( http://www.tnr.com/etc.mhtml?pid=1551 ) -- in which, I see, he's thinking along my lines:

"...You could argue, as Mickey [Kaus] does, that 'In the grim calculus we all go through, you'd think that at worst, [the memo was predicting] an Oklahoma City-scale disaster. That would reflect a failure of imagination, and of intelligence-gathering--but this failure (to connect the threats) is more the memo's than it is Bush's.' Perhaps. But in the context of a summer of significantly elevated chatter--as Rice said in her testimony on Thursday, intelligence agencies were intercepting reports that a 'very, very, very, very, big' operation was in the works--the failure to see these last few paragraphs as the alarm bell they turned out to be is pretty damning, in my view. (For that matter, shouldn't the prospect of an Oklahoma City-scale disaster have been motivation enough to try to rev up the homeland-defense apparatus, such as it was?)

"And, regardless of what you think of the details of the memo, the headline alone apparently should have been cause for concern. (The headline reads: 'Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US.') An article in today's Post quotes 'a former administration official who has read the PDB' who says that: 'The [CIA] doesn't write a headline like that if it doesn't want to get attention.'

"Finally, I'm mystified that the White House continues to push the fantastically unpersuasive line that it could not have been expected to do more to prevent the attacks, which was one of Rice's main lines of argument on Thursday. According to the same Post article, the fact sheet that accompanied the release of the memo argues that the memo 'did not warn of the 9/11 attacks' and states that, 'Although the PDB referred to the possibility of hijackings, it did not discuss the possible use of planes as weapons.'

"The implication here is that the White House could only have been expected to do more had memos like the one released yesterday given it specific information about when and where an attack might happen, and what form the attack might take. But even if you believe that the administration probably couldn't have prevented the attacks--which I basically do (I buy Rice's argument that we just weren't on a war footing prior to 9/11, which meant the only way we were likely to foil the attacks was luck)--the argument that the administration couldn't have done more is just preposterous."

Meanwhile, Bush has now hunkered down into a more defensive position and is now saying that the attacks definitely weren't HIS fault, but may have been the fault of some of his underlings (
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/12/politics/12PANE.html ):

"Still, Mr. Bush for the first time suggested that others in his administration may not have done enough to head off the attacks. 'That's what the 9/11 commission should look into, and I hope it does,' he said."

In short, the buck stops somewhere else. ANYWHERE else.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on April 12, 2004 01:33 PM

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---------quote--------
Patrick left out the conclusion:
Snip
"So it's hard to say what the significance of these errors are," Hess added. "Whether you agree with him or not, I don't think anybody has accused Dick Clarke of being sloppy."
-------endquote--------

Which leaves us with: Clarke was lying. What were you saying about perjury, Lawrence?

"And Clarke's conclusion remains valid. Al-Qaida, he wrote, was here — and actively attempting to attack the United States. "

Everyone knew that. And THAT knowledge wasn't worth the paper it was printed on. To have stopped the 9-11 terrorists you needed some specifics. Such as we had from Jordan's intelligence service in December 1999.

This is supposed to be an economics blog, so the participants should be aware of the problem of allocating scarce intelligence resources. To move more FBI or CIA agents to domestic concerns means fewer to overseas threats. And, there was far more "chatter" about foreign targets.

"They claim, "We had some intelligence, it did not give us a time and a date, and we went on vacation."

Take a look at the last paragraph in the PDB. It says there are "70 full field investigations throughout the US". That's not, "going on vacation". But take a look at what happened in 1999 (from the Seattle Times article linked to in an earlier post on this thread):

"Clarke, who worked for both Clinton and Bush, said he convened the Counter-terrorism Security Group, which he chaired, and sent out warnings both overseas and to local, state and federal law-enforcement agencies around the country to be on heightened alert for suspicious activity. 'And then we waited,' he wrote."

Which sounds pretty much like what was done in the summer of 2001.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on April 12, 2004 02:13 PM

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It sounds to me pretty much like what was done in the summer of 1941.

Posted by: Steven Rogers on April 12, 2004 03:14 PM

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Clinton, Roosevelt, and Wilson are not the only Democratic Presidents with military skeletons in their closet. Martin Van Buren's handing of the bloody Seminole Wars was nothing to brag about, and some still say that the settlement he got in the Aroostook War with New Brunswick was a disgraceful surrender. The Democrats have a long and unmixed record of military failure, and no one should expect any different from them.

Posted by: Al on April 12, 2004 05:15 PM

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"It sounds to me pretty much like what was done in the summer of 1941."

Oh no, in the summer of '41 we were busy provoking Japan into attacking us by cutting off shipments of oil.

Not to mention that there were very few targets in the Pacific for Japan to hit, so we could focus our attention quite well. Especially since we'd broken the Japanese code and could read their dispatches to their embassy in Washington. We knew they were going to attack before it happened, but we failed to communicate that to Pearl Harbor in time.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on April 12, 2004 05:19 PM

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Well, in my opinion our very existence provokes the Islamists into attacking us. You seem less willing to make excuses for them than for the Imperial Japanese, however.

I do think the strategic situations are quite comparable. We had a blind spot - justified or not - and the oppostion smacked us hard.

Posted by: Steven Rogers on April 12, 2004 05:40 PM

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This is weird. Looking around on the comments section of this blog is like spending a few hours in an alternate universe, comfortably insulated from the realities of our own.

Can I comment on this as a relatively sane and more-or-less neutral observer?

1) If anyone in the Bush administration knew about the pending attacks, they would have stopped them, or tried to. If you don't understand this, I have news for you: You're nuts, and should seek professional help. Seriously.

2) Those who adopt this tone of self-righteous fury can only do so by focusing on a tiny piece of the overall picture. With respect to the massive signal-to-noise ratio, we only know what is "signal" and what is "noise" in hindsight. And that's what this is -- a giant orgy of hindsight. It's not that most of you don't understand this essential fact about the nature of the intelligence business -- it's not rocket science -- it's that you don't *want* to acknowledge what it *means*.

I see a phrase a lot here: "connect the dots." Now I have a challenge for you. Make a copy of a "connect the dots" puzzle, BUT LEAVE OUT MOST OF THE NUMBERS. Now give the puzzle to a friend, and see if he or she can come up with the right picture. Well guess what: In real life, there's no kindly editor supplying numbers.

3) No one expected the 9/11 attacks. No one. Not the Bush administration, not the Clinton administration, not the Democrats on the Intelligence Committee who had access to all the same info both adminstrations did. OBL blindsided us. It was a brutal, cruel attack that was also daring and imaginative. You are all so eager to find fault with one another, how about Osama Bin Laden? Remember him?

4) During WWII, neither Republicans nor anti-Roosevelt Democrats lost sight of the fact that they had a common enemy, unlike a lot of you folks.

5) The Bush administration had about eight months to grapple with this threat. The first eight months of any administration are spent getting acclimated, appointing people, undergoing confirmation battles, etc. During this time, Bush said he wanted to revamp the whole approach toward Al Qaeda. This new approach had not been finished by Sept. 11. But so? The Clinton administration had eight years to eliminate Al Qaeda. I don't know how much blame should be laid at their feet -- I'm not being rhetorical, I really don't know -- but to lay it on Bush's doorstep is ludicrous. Again: No one knew that an attack was planned on Sept. 11 using planes as missiles.

Here's a newsflash: I have it on good info that, in my hometown, there are some robbers. Moreover, I can be even more specific: They are planning to rob a bank, to do so in the next year, and they will be wearing ski masks. Now, at this time next year, can I furiously attack the police department for not preventing these robberies? I mean, didn't I just warn them?

6) -- AND MOST IMPORTANT: This orgy of fingerpointing and recrimination is pure, unadulterated poison. How many of these posts reek with hatred? How constructive is this? Does a post carry any weight when written by someone who, given any facts, rumor or innuendo, will always interpret them in a way that casts certain actors in the worst possible light, reality be damned?

I hate to break it to you, but this is not the way most Americans think. Most of us normal folks don't think Bush is personally responsible for 9/11. We don't think Clinton or Gore -- who barely mentioned terrorism during his presidential campaign -- are either. We just want to know what the government can do to prevent another 9/11.

Posted by: Just A Regular American on April 12, 2004 07:25 PM

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JRA, we are ruled by idiots. Dem or Republican doesn't matter. If Kerry is in office a year from now we'll be out with the rubber hoses on him. Oh, another thing...your government lies to you, a lot.

We don't live in the best of all possible worlds. America could be better. This blog is a small voice, a constructive voice, in trying to raise awareness in an effort to make the world a better place. I'm cynical and jaded too, just like many that frequent this blog. But, for certain, once one realizes that we are ruled by idiots and that we are lied to by our government, there's no going back.

This realization can't be taught in school, people just have to figure it out on their own. Once they get it, they realize that it's a kind of forbidden knowledge. There is a responsibility to make the future the best place it can be.

Posted by: phil on April 12, 2004 08:27 PM

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There's a word that's been largely absent from the talk about the PDB: Bojinka:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Bojinka

Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed plotted to blow up American airliners over the Pacific (and to send a suicide bomber after the Pope as a diversion). The smoking gun was Yousef's computer, seized in early 1995 after an explosion at a co-conspirator's Manila apartment triggered an investigation. Along with the current plans, there was also evidence that the team discussed a possible future attack. As stated in the Wikipedia entry:

"Another plot the men were cooking up would have involved hijacking of more airplanes. The Sears Tower (Chicago, Illinois), The Pentagon (Arlington, Virginia, the Washington Capitol (Washington, DC), the White House (Washington, DC), the Transamerica Tower (San Francisco, California), and the World Trade Center (New York, New York) would be the likely targets."

Former Clinton aide Robert Patterson, as recorded in his book Dereliction of Duty, says Clinton received a PDB stating the Bojinka gang's idea to crash planes into skyscrapers and other landmarks:

http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=10324

David Horowitz claims that that information was never passed along to Bush:

http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=1007

After Bojinka (heck, after the world's very first plane hijacking) *somebody* should have been concocting plans of offense (enabling flight crews to counterattack) and defense (sealing the cockpit in case countrattack is not possible).

Posted by: Alan K. Henderson on April 12, 2004 10:21 PM

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Just A Regular American: 1)"If anyone in the Bush administration knew about the pending attacks, they would have stopped them, or tried to."

1)"Bin Laden Determined to Strike Us". Which part of that statement didn't the Bush administration understand, in your view? You are presenting the same worthless excuse as the administration - If the nature of the attack isn't spelled out in precise detail there is no reason to make an effort to find out more.

Just A Regular American: 2)"Those who adopt this tone of self-righteous fury can only do so by focusing on a tiny piece of the overall picture. With respect to the massive signal-to-noise ratio, we only know what is "signal" and what is "noise" in hindsight.

2)It is Bush who would have us believe he is the one and only to lead the war on terror. We are only asking him to support that assertion with some corroborative facts about his past actions, vis-a-vis the intelligence he had pre 9/11, showing his diligence in doing everything he could to avoid a terrorist attack.

Just A Regular American: 3)"OBL blindsided us."

3)Blindsided? The word "hijack" appears in the PDB.

Just A Regular American: 4)"During WWII, neither Republicans nor anti-Roosevelt Democrats lost sight of the fact that they had a common enemy, unlike a lot of you folks."

4)Unlike Bush and his supporters we haven't lost sight. The common enemy is Al Qaeda, not Saddam. And let's not lose sight of the fact that Bush's actions have only increased the threat to the US from the real enemy.

Just A Regular American: 5)"...but to lay it on Bush's doorstep is ludicrous. Again: No one knew that an attack was planned on Sept. 11 using planes as missiles."

5)Again: We are holding him accountable to the extent that we saw *no action* on his part, no effort at all, despite the fact he had ample warnings. We can live with someone who has made their best effort and failed. We don't want to live with someone who makes no effort at all.

Just A Regular American: 6)"Does a post carry any weight when written by someone who, given any facts, rumor or innuendo, will always interpret them in a way that casts certain actors in the worst possible light, reality be damned?"

6)It is the Bush administration that works assiduously to see that reality is damned. It is the work of people who post here at this blog to see that the actors (and their actions) see not the worst possible light but the light of day.

Posted by: Dubblblind on April 12, 2004 10:43 PM

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Patrick Sullivan (fron an earlier thread): "Sorry fellas, here's the last paragraph of the PDB:

" 'The FBI is conducting approximately 70 full field investigations throughout the US that it considers Bin Ladin-related. CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our Embassy in UAE in May saying that a group of Bin Ladin supporters was in the US planning attacks with explosives.'

"Clarke was telling her he was working with the FBI on these. Was he lying?"

Well, SOMEBODY was -- but apparently it wasn't Clarke. This just in from Newsweek ( http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4711886/ ):

"[Acting FBI Director Tom] Pickard will testify [this week to the 9-11 Commission] that in a July conference call, he alerted all 56 FBI field offices to be on the lookout for Al Qaeda activity. But FBI whistle-blower Colleen Rowley says she never got the word. Rowley tried unsuccessfully to get headquarters to pay attention to Zacarias Moussaoui, an Al Qaeda suspect arrested in August while attending flight training. 'I didn't see any warnings about Al Qaeda that summer,' she said."

Newsweek reports in the same article that Pickard, at the time, was engaged in a thermonuclear turf war with Ashcroft, whom the FBI supposedly regarded as uninterested in and uninformed on possible terrorist activity. It also reports that Ashcroft himself was never shown the 8-6-01 PDB.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on April 13, 2004 01:11 AM

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"After Bojinka..."

And the one guy who would have known this would have been Richard Clarke, because he's the guy who coordinated the efforts to capture Ramzi Youseff.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on April 13, 2004 08:46 AM

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To the aptly named Dubblblind:

OK, I'll bite. But first, two things:

1. I'm not going to argue with you. From what I've seen here, that would be futile. I'm trying to *help* you; to help a fellow American (I assume) see past the fog of hatred blinding him. You are my countryman, and I *need* you.

2. You are welcome to respond to this, but I won't be able to continue for my part. As a "regular American," I have a life that needs tending to (not to imply that you don't!).

OK, here goes. I'll try to skip most of your rhetoric and get right to your points.

1: "You are presenting the same worthless excuse as the administration - If the nature of the attack isn't spelled out in precise detail there is no reason to make an effort to find out more."

I don't recall anyone in the Administration making this excuse. It wasn't news that OBL wanted to strike us. In fact, quite the contrary -- there was no new information, which is why this administration continued the basic policies of the last one WHILE formulating a revamped approach to the problem. (As I noted in the last post, this process was underway when Al Qaeda struck, in an attack the groundwork for which was laid when Clinton was in office).

As far as making no effort to find out more, other people on this board are saying there were some 70 separate ongoing FBI investigations of Al Qaeda. The FBI is part of the administration, you know. Your assertation only holds up if, in fact, the Administration was actually doing nothing. That doesn't appear to be the case. They appear to have simply continued what Clinton had been doing.

2: "showing his diligence in doing everything he could to avoid a terrorist attack."

Really? Because "doing everything he could" would include martial law, racial profiling, halting immigration, arming pilots, grounding airplanes, strip-searching passengers, depressing the economy, etc. A lot of people would have brought up Orwell's "1984," and how the government kept people in a state of artificial fear in order to enslave them. Correct me if I'm wrong, but from the tenor of your post, I suspect you would have been one of them. And then, when the threat failed to materialize, you would have said "A-HA! See? I told you there was no threat! Bush is just a Nazi who wants to crush freedom under his bootheel!"

Honest critics of the adminstration, like Mike Kinsley and Gregg Easterbrook, have acknowledged this.

3: "The word "hijack" appears in the PDB."

Really? So islamic terrorists might actually consider hijacking a plane? I'll be darned.

Sorry -- I shouldn't have let that sarcasm creep in. But it's hard not to. The possibility that Islamic terrorists might hijack a plane has been with us since July 23, 1968. So does Bush deserve blame? Sure. He deserves 8 (no. of months in office) / 429 (no. of months since July 1968) = 1.86 percent of the blame. By that standard, we should lynch Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr and Clinton.

4: "The common enemy is Al Qaeda, not Saddam."

Bush doesn't see it this way. He believes the common threat is aggressive Islamofascism. That's arguable, but that's my point -- it's arguable either way, and he can make a good case. In any case, he doesn't believe the enemy is YOU.

5: "And let's not lose sight of the fact that Bush's actions have only increased the threat to the US from the real enemy."

You do not have a shred of evidence for this, yet you state it as fact. Now pause, and look at yourself for a moment. What does this say about you? Have you perhaps become too eager to seize on the notion that every idea Bush has must necessarily be bad, simply because it comes from him?

6) We don't want to live with someone who makes no effort at all.

Nor would I. Fortunately Bush does not meet this criteria, nor did Clinton. One can say they did not do *enough*, but that is nowhere near the same thing as saying they didn't do *anything*.

7: "It is the work of people who post here at this blog to see that the actors (and their actions) see not the worst possible light but the light of day."

What can I say. I simply said what I observe, as an outsider and regular guy coming into the comments section of this blog.

Now I have stared into the abyss long enough, and wish to escape before it stares too deeply back into me. I mean no offense, but I don't want to become like so many on this blog, convinced that those with whom I disagree are demons who gather in secret cabals and bake cookies with babies' blood. Pardon me while I go outside and enjoy this beautiful April day in the company of my fellow Americans.

Posted by: Just A Regular American on April 13, 2004 04:38 PM

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"Bush doesn't see it this way. He believes the common threat is aggressive Islamofascism. That's arguable, but that's my point -- it's arguable either way, and he can make a good case. In any case, he doesn't believe the enemy is YOU."

If he doesn't, maybe they're right about him being stupid.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on April 13, 2004 06:26 PM

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