The attacks of September 11 might have been prevented had the U.S. intelligence community been more competent. And the Bush Administration is refusing to tell the public what intelligence the president saw before 9/11 about the threat posed by Al Qaeda.
These are two findings contained in the long-awaited, 800-page final report of the 9/11 joint inquiry conducted the Senate and House intelligence committees, which was released on July 24. As is traditional in Washington, the contents of the report were selectively leaked before it was officially unveiled. And several news outfits noted that the report contained "no smoking guns" and concluded, as the Associated Press put it, that "no evidence surfaced in the probe...to show that the government could have prevented the attacks." Those reports were wrong – and probably based on information parceled out by sources looking to protect the government and the intelligence community.
One crucial matter is missing from the report: how the White House responded to the intelligence on the Al Qaeda threat. That is because the Administration will not allow the committees to say what information reached Bush. The Administration argued, according to a Congressional source, that to declassify "any description of the president's knowledge" of intelligence reports – even when the content of those reports have been declassified – would be a risk to national security. It is difficult to see the danger to the nation that would come from the White House acknowledging whether Bush received any of the information listed above or the other intelligence previously described by the committees. (The latter would include a July 2001 report that said bin Laden was looking to pull off a "spectacular" attack against the United States or US interests designed to inflict "mass casualties." It added, "Attack preparations have been made. Attack will occur with little or no warning. They are waiting us out, looking for a vulnerability."
It is unusual – if not absurd – for an administration to claim that the state of presidential knowledge is top-secret when the material in question has been made public. But that's what Bush officials have done. Consequently, the public does not know whether these warnings made it to Bush and whether he responded.
The report's findings provide an even more damning indictment of the intelligence community than many had predicted. Sen. Bob Graham, former head of the Senate intelligence committee, says the report proves the 9/11 attacks could have been stopped.Posted by tstubbs at July 26, 2003 12:12 AM | Trackback