12.18.2003

Was 9/11 Preventable?

Some of the latest press about the 9/11 Commission Investigation reveals that the committee currently believes that the tragedy could and should have been prevented. Here's some of the story:

For the first time, the chairman of the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks is saying publicly that 9/11 could have and should have been prevented, reports CBS News Correspondent Randall Pinkston.

"This is a very, very important part of history and we've got to tell it right," said Thomas Kean.

"As you read the report, you're going to have a pretty clear idea what wasn't done and what should have been done," he said. "This was not something that had to happen."

Appointed by the Bush administration, Kean, a former Republican governor of New Jersey, is now pointing fingers inside the administration and laying blame.

"There are people that, if I was doing the job, would certainly not be in the position they were in at that time because they failed. They simply failed," Kean said.

To find out who failed and why, the commission has navigated a political landmine, threatening a subpoena to gain access to the president's top-secret daily briefs. Those documents may shed light on one of the most controversial assertions of the Bush administration – that there was never any thought given to the idea that terrorists might fly an airplane into a building.

"I don't think anybody could have predicted that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile," said national security adviser Condoleeza Rice on May 16, 2002.




I bolded "Unsticky" Rice's comments, because that seems to be the key question. Did the CIA, FBI, NSC, or any other intelligence agency ever provide intelligence that commercial airliners could be used as missiles by terrorists? Have any of President Bush's Daily Briefings carried this warning? John Dean, former White House Counsel, wrote about this a couple months ago (be sure to go read the rest and spend some time in his archive).


More specifically, the Joint Inquiry asked about the process by which the Daily Brief is prepared, and sought several specific Daily Brief items. In particular, it asked for information about the August 6, 2001 Daily Brief relating to Osama Bin Laden's terrorist threats against the United States, and other Daily Brief items regarding Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, and pre-September 11 terrorism threats.
[...]
Note again that Rice stated, in explaining the August 6, 2001 Daily Brief, that it addressed Bin Laden's "methods of operation from a historical perspective dating back to 1997."

What exactly did it say? We cannot know. But the Inquiry's 9/11 Report lays out all such threats, over that time period, in thirty-six bullet point summaries. It is only necessary to cite a few of these to see the problem:


In September 1998, the [Intelligence Community] obtained information that Bin Laden's next operation might involve flying an explosive-laden aircraft into a U.S. airport and detonating it. (Emphasis added.)
In the fall of 1998, the [Intelligence Community] obtained information concerning a Bin Laden plot involving aircraft in the New York and Washington, D.C. areas.
In March 2000, the [Intelligence Community] obtained information regarding the types of targets that operatives of Bin Laden's network might strike. The Statute of Liberty was specifically mentioned , as were skyscrapers, ports, airports, and nuclear power plans. (Emphasis added.)

In sum, the 9/11 Report of the Congressional Inquiry indicates that the intelligence community was very aware that Bin Laden might fly an airplane into an American skyscraper.

Given the fact that there had already been an attempt to bring down the twin towers of the World Trade Center with a bomb, how could Rice say what she did?

Certainly, someone could have predicted, contrary to Rice's claim that, among other possibilities, "these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon."



I can understand why the Bush administration wants to stonewall this report until after the election season.

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