storm is brewing over reports that the White
House ignored intelligence that could have
prevented 9/11. CBS Evening News reported
on Dec. 17, "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."
Former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean, a Republican
who was appointed by President Bush, said
plainly, "This was not something that had
to happen" and he "is now pointing fingers
inside the administration and laying blame."
Kean said, "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."
notes Kean's report 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." As
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice
said on May 16, 2002, "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." Similarly, President Bush denied
having any idea about the threat, saying on
May 17, 2002 "Had I know that the enemy was
going to use airplanes to kill on that fateful
morning, I would have done everything in my
power to protect the American people."
after these denials, ABC News reported, "White
House officials acknowledged that U.S. intelligence
officials informed President Bush weeks before
the Sept. 11 attacks that bin Laden's terrorist
network might try to hijack American planes."
The president received that briefing around
the same time the FBI was receiving information
that a large number of Arabs were training
at U.S. flight schools. When CBS asked other
Administration officials about Rice and Bush's
denials, they hit a brick wall: "The usually
talkative Attorney General John Ashcroft just
stared when reporters asked him about the
terror warnings. FBI Chief Robert Mueller
also refused to comment." Others were outraged.
Kristen Breitweiser, a 9/11 widow, said, "How
is it possible we have a national security
advisor coming out and saying we had no idea
they could use planes as weapons when we had
FBI records from 1991 stating that this is
pre-9/11 warnings that the White House acknowledges
receiving were so specific, in fact, that
at least one prominent member of the administration
was already taking precautions. Attorney General
John Ashcroft was "traveling exclusively by
leased jet aircraft instead of commercial
airlines" because of "what the Justice Department
called a 'threat assessment.'"
the 9/11 attacks, the White House has sought
at every turn to prevent an independent investigation
into the failure to prevent the attacks. First,
the administration opposed the creation of
the commission. Then, when public outcry forced
Congress to create the commission, the White
House tried to choke off its funding. The
administration then classified key portions
of a bipartisan 9/11 congressional inquiry.
Then the White House dragged its feet in providing
documents to the commission. And now it continues
to refuse to hand over key documents, forcing
the commission to threaten court subpoenas.
But it seems like the White House should have
learned by now that that kind of obfuscation
and denial is only going to backfire.
piece originally appeared in the Center for
American Progress' daily e-mail bulletin,
the Progress Report. To sign up, visit americanprogress.org.
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