- Does anybody really believe that somebody would have walked into my office and said, oh, by the way, there's a chance of a major attack against the United States and I would have said, well, I'm really not interested in that information?
Easy answer: Yes. Hell yes.
From the Aug. 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing:
- Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.
The FBI is conducting approximately 70 full-field investigations throughout the U.S. that it considers bin Laden-related. CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our embassy in the UAE in May saying that a group or bin Laden supporters was in the U.S. planning attacks with explosives.
How did Rice describe this information to the 9/11 Commission?
- The briefing item reviewed past intelligence reporting, mostly dating from the 1990s, regarding possible al Qaeda plans to attack inside the United States. It referred to uncorroborated reporting that from 1998 that terrorists might attempt to hijack a U.S. aircraft in an attempt to blackmail the government into releasing U.S.-held terrorists who had participated in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. This briefing item was not prompted by any specific threat information. And it did not raise the possibility that terrorists might use airplanes as missiles.
And the 9/11 Commission's description of the White House response:
- We have found no indication of any further discussion before September 11 among the President and his top advisers of the possibility of a threat of an al Qaeda attack in the United States. DCI Tenet visited President Bush in Crawford, Texas, on August 17 and participated in PDB briefings of the President between August 31 (after the President had returned to Washington) and September 10. But Tenet does not recall any discussions with the President of the domestic threat during this period.
And that FAA response that Rice touts now?
- Although the FAA had authority to issue security directives mandating new security procedures, none of the few that were released during the summer of 2001 increased security at checkpoints or on board aircraft. The information circulars mostly urged air carriers to "exercise prudence" and be alert. Prior to 9/11, the FAA did present a CD-ROM to air carriers and airport authorities describing the increased threat to civil aviation. The presentation mentioned the possibility of suicide hijackings but said that "fortunately, we have no indication that any group is currently thinking in that direction."47 The FAA conducted 27 special security briefings for specific air carriers between May 1, 2001, and September 11, 2001.Two of these briefings discussed the hijacking threat overseas. None discussed the possibility of suicide hijackings or the use of aircraft as weapons. No new security measures were instituted.
With all this squirming and obfuscation, it's not hard to see why Rice fought so hard against having to testify in the first place.