Moment of Truth?

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Bush Administration, Condi Rice, September 11

[Big update below.]

I’d hate to be George Tenet or Cofer Black right now. I’m betting the full weight of the White House is bearing down on them now to watch what they say.

At issue is the truth about the meeting of July 10, 2001, in which (Bob Woodward says) Condi Rice brushed off warnings of an imminent terrorist attack in the U.S.

Just now on Countdown, Roger Cressey told Keith Olbermann that he had seen the same Tenet-Black presentation that was shown to Condi Rice on July 10, and Cressey confirmed that the presentation was mostly an explicit warning that al Qaeda was about to carry out a major terrorist attack in the U.S. In 2001 Cressey was the National Security Council staff director.

[Update: Here's the transcript from Monday's show. Just a snip:

OLBERMANN: My first question, you‘re now consulting within a firm with Richard Clarke, who was at that meeting on July 10, on the central question of whether Rice was warned then of an attack on the U.S. Do we know who‘s right here, Woodward or Secretary Rice?

CRESSEY: Yes, she was warned. I mean, there was a meeting. It was George Tenet, Dick Clarke, another individual from the agency, Cofer Black, and Steve Hadley. And what it was, Keith, was a briefing for Dr. Rice that was similar to a briefing the CIA gave to us in the situation room about a week before, laying out the information, the intelligence, laying out the sense of urgency. And it was pretty much given to Dr. Rice and Steve Hadley in pretty stark terms.

Cressey also said the transcript of the July 10 meeting are part of the 9/11 Commission collection in the National Archives. If so, could someone dig it out so we can all have a look at it? Or is access restricted?]

Dan Froomkin:

If the omniscient narrator of Woodward’s book is to be believed, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice waved off warnings that should by any reasonable standard have put the government on high alert for an al-Qaeda attack.

And in what looks like a potential administration cover-up, Rice and the other participants in that meeting apparently never mentioned it to anyone, including investigators for the 9/11 Commission.

Condi Rice denies she was told about a critical threat. Froomkin continues,

On Sunday, White House counselor Dan Bartlett issued a new rebuttal on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” Here’s the video ; here’s the transcript .

Speaking for Rice, Bartlett said: “I spoke to her this morning. She believes this is a very grossly mis-accurate characterization of the meeting they had.”

Stephanopoulos: “So this didn’t happen?”

And here’s the money quote from Bartlett: “That’s Secretary Rice’s view, that that type of urgent request to go after bin Laden, as the book alleges, in her mind, didn’t happen.”

Get that? In her mind, it didn’t happen.

Robin Wright, Washington Post:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Sunday vehemently denied that she ever received a special CIA warning about an imminent terrorist attack on the United States, angrily rebutting new allegations about her culpability in U.S. policy failures before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks by al Qaeda.

I guess the August 6, 2001, memo titled “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States” doesn’t count, either.

She said it was “incomprehensible” that she would have ignored such explicit intelligence or appeals by senior CIA officials.

I have to agree with her on that. It is incomprehensible. Yet, apparently, that’s what happened.

At TPM Muckracker, Justin Rood points out that Time magazine reported on the July 10 meeting back in 2002. This is from Time:

In mid-July, Tenet sat down for a special meeting with Rice and aides. “George briefed Condi that there was going to be a major attack,” says an official; another, who was present at the meeting, says Tenet broke out a huge wall chart (“They always have wall charts”) with dozens of threats. Tenet couldn’t rule out a domestic attack but thought it more likely that al-Qaeda would strike overseas.

Roger Cressey, however, said tonight that the meeting did focus on possible strikes within the U.S.

Cressey said Andrea Mitchell reported today that the 9/11 Commission was, in fact, briefed on the July 10 meeting, even though none of the members seem to remember it now. I can’t find details on this on the web, but it’s mentioned in this Andrea Mitchell interview of Bob Woodward. Cressey believes not including the meeting in the final 9/11 Commission report was an “oversight.” Maybe.

In any event, a great deal rides on whether Tenet and Black confirm or deny the Woodward story. If they shoot the story down, it will no doubt negate everything else Woodward says in his book that the Right doesn’t like. However …

Update: Jonathan Landay, Warren Strobel, and John Walcott write for McClatchy Newspapers

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and former Attorney General John Ashcroft received the same CIA briefing about an imminent al-Qaida strike on an American target that was given to the White House two months before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Hmm, and in July 2001, John Ashcroft began to avoid commercial flights in favor of chartered government jets.

The State Department’s disclosure Monday that the pair was briefed within a week after then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was told about the threat on July 10, 2001, raised new questions about what the Bush administration did in response, and about why so many officials have claimed they never received or don’t remember the warning.

One official who helped to prepare the briefing, which included a PowerPoint presentation, described it as a “10 on a scale of 1 to 10″ that “connected the dots” in earlier intelligence reports to present a stark warning that al-Qaida, which had already killed Americans in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and East Africa, was poised to strike again.

Apparently there’s been a crack in the facade:

Ashcroft, who resigned as attorney general on Nov. 9, 2004, told the Associated Press on Monday that it was “disappointing” that he never received the briefing, either.

But on Monday evening, Rice’s spokesman Sean McCormack issued a statement confirming that she’d received the CIA briefing “on or around July 10″ and had asked that it be given to Ashcroft and Rumsfeld.

The information presented in this meeting was not new, rather it was a good summary from the threat reporting from the previous several weeks,” McCormack said. “After this meeting, Dr. Rice asked that this same information be briefed to Secretary Rumsfeld and Attorney General Ashcroft. That briefing took place by July 17.”

Just how many warnings did Condi get, anyway?

The CIA briefing didn’t provide the exact timing or nature of a possible attack, nor did it predict whether it was likely to take place in the United States or overseas, said three former senior intelligence officials.

They spoke on condition of anonymity because the report remains highly classified.

The briefing “didn’t say within the United States,” said one former senior intelligence official. “It said on the United States, which could mean a ship, an embassy or inside the United States.”

Yet in July Ashcroft was avoiding commercial flights. Domestic commercial flights.

And on August 6, this information was followed up by a memo titled … all together, now … “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.”

But after the July 10 meeting, Condi sprang into action and called a Principal’s Meeting for September 4 … oh, wait …

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28 Comments

  1. erinyes  •  Oct 2, 2006 @9:41 pm

    However, Tenet retired and got a medal of “freedom”to boot!
    Funny thing, it is, how so many of the origional first term administration members “retired to spend more time with their family”. In a war that may last generations, the brave men of the Bush administration choose to retire, while they condemn “the troops” that they love and worship to operation endless deployment in Iraq, Afghanistan, and a number of other third world hellholes, some which the average American has never heard of.
    Here’s a partial list of retired or ousted: Tenent, Ashcroft, Tommy Franks,Dick Clarke,Colin Powell,Porter Goss,Tom Ridge,Paul O’Neill. I’m quite sure your readers can name at least a few more.
    Stuff like this gives fuel to “conspiracy nuts” because logic doesn’t fit, but perhaps logic cannot fit in an “Armed Madhouse”.
    Great post Maha.

  2. Bill Selznick  •  Oct 3, 2006 @12:06 am

    Was Condi’s I just can’t remember meeting July 10th or July 11th? I’m asking because the Pheonix Memo is dated July 10th 2001. All those pesky UBL followers suddenly rushing to take flying lessons.

    Perhaps just a coincidence.

  3. seen this movie before  •  Oct 3, 2006 @12:52 am

    I just watched Chris Mathews on Leno- it took 6 years but obviously the curtain cheney has been holding up all these years has completely fallen down, You can see the scales falling off the eyes. Bush is not listening, Iraq is getting worse, Rumsfeld is there for cheney’s protection and Congress is giving it’s power to the president because it’s too busy chasing pages. Now the kool kid klub is finally all admitting what we have seen for years and it is tragic– if this could have happened 2 years ago we would be 2 supreme court seats to the better, Thousands of casualties better, crap laws like the one a few days ago wouldn’t have to be repealed, but I guess you have to hit bottom when you are a dry drunk in denial even if it is a whole country.

  4. Donna  •  Oct 3, 2006 @8:10 am

    Makes me question the politics in the 9/11 commission work……especially the role of Zelikow, who likely was key in keeping this July ’01 briefing out of the final report.

    Also, this renews my respect for the savvy of Bill Clinton, who grabbed the media stage in the Wallace interview to forcefully point out that the Bush team DID NOT EVEN TRY to go after Osama Bin Laden in the eight months before 9/11.

  5. Donna  •  Oct 3, 2006 @8:36 am

    Calling Bush team lies by their real name, see today’s Juan Cole.
    http://www.juancole.com/

    The whole piece is well worth reading, but here’s Juan Cole’s summary:
    “The United States has a one-party state. The presidency, the vice presidency, the cabinet, the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Supreme Court– are all and have for some time been in the hands of the same party. Not only that, but the most extreme factions within the Republican Party: the theocrats, the Neoconservative ex-Trotskiyites, the John Yoo Torture Apologists, the Grover Norquist advocates of Mr. Scrooge plutocracy, the corrupt Abramoffist lobbyists and Delayist horse thieves–they are ascendant. Parties don’t investigate themselves. They are about power, interests, and money. They are about winning. They aren’t a charity.

    The American public has been unwise to allow this one party state to grow up, which is chipping away at our liberties as Americans and creating a new monarchy and a new aristocracy. It works by lies and cover-ups.

    Another four years of the one-party state, and the Republic will be finished, if it is not already.”

  6. justme  •  Oct 3, 2006 @9:51 am

    Now now…look how can condi write anything in her day planner if she doesn’t have the EXACT time,date and location?If these terrorists are going to attack us they need to be more specific with condi..damn it,there is boot shopping to be done and she can’t wait around for a bunch of terrorists who can’t set a date certain with her….

    Recall the book many years ago called “The rules”?.The book detailed how to get a man…one of the rules was if a guy does not call you by tuesday to set up a date for the weekend then he is SOL….condi was just applying those rules to the terrorists.Maybe next time they will call her early like they are suppose to..she showed them huh?….

    And really, how could they have ever known a plane would be used as a weapon???Just because she was warned???Please! Send the terrorists a copy of “the rules”….then they would know condi is ignoring their warnings because a gal playing by the rules doesn’t pick up the phone everytime a terrorist calls …guys love to be ignored.

    You know, one wonders how someone so smart could be so stupid?I would love to see her testimony should we ever have the luck to see her and her ilk tried for war crimes I wonder how her weasle words would play there?

  7. Swami  •  Oct 3, 2006 @10:56 am

    Let’s hope that they lay enough shit on Tenet so that it causes his Freedom Medal to lose it’s luster and diminishes his willingness to be the goat.

  8. Bill Selznick  •  Oct 3, 2006 @11:00 am

    Regarding Condi’s July 2001 Meeting.

    WHAT CAN’T WE KNOW?

    Why is the content of this meeting still secret? Why can’t we know exactly what the CIA told her and Rummy and Ashcroft? 9/11 happened already!

    Did they “connect the dots” on the phoenix memo dated July 10, 2001 regarding OBL followers enrolling in US flight training schools? I think we all got that memo: 19 terrorist fly hijacked planes into WTC. I believe it was covered by most major networks.

    Did they mention cells in the United States and not just overseas? I think we all got that one.

    Did they mention it being a coordinated attack, yep, we got that one too.

    Did they mention that this was a pack of mostly Saudi’s being funded by Saudi royalty, yep, we got that memo too.

    WTF is still too top secret to tell us about this meeting? Perhaps, the only secret is that all of this was laid at the feet of Condi, and Rummy, and Ashcroft. Perhaps the only thing to keep secret is that they were given a window into what was coming and THEY DID NOTHING. That’s the only secret I can discern.

    What tatical or intelligence information can be in the minutes of this meeting that we have not all already lived through?

    RELEASE THIS INFORMATION TO THE PUBLIC

    So we can know who is running OUR government and how they are running it.

    THAT’S DEMOCRACY.

  9. D.R. Marvel  •  Oct 3, 2006 @11:36 am

    Add to your list of those who have “retired” from the Bushtanic administration White House Spokesman Scott McClelland…

    Some Wag said Scotty was leaving the job because he: “Wanted to spend more time lying to his family”…

  10. Rambuncle  •  Oct 3, 2006 @12:45 pm

    Stuff like this gives fuel to “conspiracy nuts” because logic doesn’t fit

    How much information has to come out before you stop saying “conspiracy nuts”? Maybe the “logic” doesn’t fit because you’re not using the right evaluation system.

  11. maha  •  Oct 3, 2006 @1:23 pm

    How much information has to come out before you stop saying “conspiracy nuts”?

    We’re way past that here, but it’s also true that some conspiracy nuts ARE nuts.

  12. Britwit  •  Oct 3, 2006 @2:27 pm

    Condi is a liar – the standard buzz is “I have no recollection” or I don’t remember–BULLS

  13. Via  •  Oct 3, 2006 @3:04 pm

    #9, I agree. So far, I belive Tenet and Black have refused to comment on Woodward’s book. I hope that they see the urgency of setting this record straight and will speak up, now!

  14. fshk  •  Oct 3, 2006 @3:25 pm

    Ahscroft was on the Today show this morning to promote his new book, and Meredith Viera actually quizzed him about other stuff until the segment timed out. She asked about that July meeting, he said something like, “I can’t believe that if Condi knew there’d be a domestic attack she wouldn’t have done something,” and then Meredith got him to admit that he’d been briefed but was under the impression that the threat was overseas. It was kind of scary to watch the guy lie with a straight face.

  15. marjo  •  Oct 3, 2006 @4:11 pm

    I’m a guest reading this blog… have to say, best comments ever, people!

  16. erinyes  •  Oct 3, 2006 @8:59 pm

    Per post #12,
    I admit to being a bit of a conspiracy nut, mostly because we are supposed to believe that 2+2= the square root of a pastrami sandwhich.,If the administration and FOX news says so This is the new logic in Bushworld.Nothing fits.You are not alone…

  17. LeftWright  •  Oct 3, 2006 @9:48 pm

    A Simple Explanation for Rice’s (in)Action
    National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice consistently sat on information that warned of the coming “attacks” that occurred on September 11, 2001. And, she has just as consistently denied doing so.

    In the days following the attacks she claimed that “no one could have guessed” that planes could be used as weapons against buildings. Before the 9/11 Commission she stated that the “kind of analysis about the use of planes as weapons actually was never briefed to us.” She then testifies that “in fact there were some reports done in ’98 and ’99. I think I was — I was certainly not aware of them…”

    However, Ms. Rice must have known about the extraordinary security measures taken at the July, 2001 G-8 Summit meeting in Genoa, Italy. These precautions included an air exclusion zone and anti-aircraft missiles to guard against a possible terrorist attack on the meeting attended by Mr. Bush.

    We now know that Ms. Rice was briefed by Mr. Tenet and others on July 10, 2001 about the looming threat from al-Qaeda. A meeting she neglected to mention to the 9/11 Commission and claims to have forgotten about until State Department records confirmed it took place.

    Add to this the now infamous Presidential Daily Brief of August 6, 2001 entitled “Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US,” and all excuses for inaction become totally implausible and completely unbelievable.

    Unless…….

    She was facilitating the 9/11 attacks.

    Once again, the “conspiracy theory” that best explains all the facts is the one that includes all the facts.

    Or did Mr. bin Laden drug her into incompetence and inaction?

    The truth shall set us free. Love is the only way forward.

  18. maha  •  Oct 3, 2006 @10:17 pm

    LeftWright — the notion that Rice “facilitated” the attacks gives her credit for more competence than I think she has. It’s not like she’s handled the rest of her job brilliantly, either, unless you think she also “facilitated” North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

    The plain fact is that Rice’s (and Bush’s) foreign policy decisions everywhere on the globe are pretty much always wrong, and everything Rice puts her hands on turns out badly. Note that the “flaming incompetence” theory includes all the facts.

  19. lafrance  •  Oct 4, 2006 @12:08 am

    I’m kinda thinking that George Tenant has had a few years to think on his experience with the bushies. He’s also thinking of all the abuse he’s suffered afterwards at thier hands. He’s thinking of the book he is finishing up.
    I’m thinking that George Tenant is really pissed, fed up and ready to set some things straight. He’s also tired of being the kicking post for the ignorance of Bush. Not to say he is all innocent. But, I’m thinking he knows somethings and the real story of alot and is about ready for them to be set straight.

  20. No More Mr. Nice Guy!  •  Oct 4, 2006 @1:15 am

    A “moment” of truth – is that like a moment of accountability? Shouldn’t we have truth, like accountability, all the time from our government?

  21. Timtimes  •  Oct 4, 2006 @12:00 pm

    From a human perspective all one needs to do is WATCH her testimony in front of the 9-11 committe. I’m thankful for all those who’ve reproduced/researched all the printed data. It’s certainly going to be important at her trial, but in the court of public opinion she is already guilty.

    There is NO WAY a reasonable person could watch her testimony and not see she was lying through her teeth. …..and what was the title of that PDB? OMG!

    Conspiracy Nuts…hmm..? There’s quite a bit of evidence to support administration complicity both in the initial attacks and more obviously the lack of focus on Bin Laden since then. It is not considered socially acceptible to point out the STRONG FAMILY TIES OF THE BUSH AND SAUDI ‘CLANS’!
    These people partied on the Riviera together for crying out loud!! Polo buddies and all you know? And when the SAUDI’S ATTACKED us on 9-11 there was NEVER ANY FOCUS ON THE SAUDI’S…except to sneak them all out of the country while everyone else was grounded!!! I’ll never get over the fact that an errant Cessna carrying a dead golfer received a quicker Norad intercept than FOUR HIJACKED JUMBOJETS HEADING FOR THE EAST COAST!!

    Enjoy.

  22. Bill Selznick  •  Oct 4, 2006 @12:33 pm

    We would not have to argue about who is or is not a conspiracy nut if they would only release this information. Am I alone here in not understanding why the minutes and details of this meeting need to be secret? We were attacked already. Everyone knows OBL was behind it. We know they used planes. We know the exact date we were attacked, we know the exact planes that were used, we know the names of the attackers and their countries of origin. What is there that we absolutely cannot know about and must be kept secret?

    I really do not understand.

  23. maha  •  Oct 4, 2006 @1:13 pm

    There’s quite a bit of evidence to support administration complicity both in the initial attacks and more obviously the lack of focus on Bin Laden since then.

    Depends on what you mean by “complicity.” We know there’s something vis à vis the Bushies and the Saudis that’s still being covered up; the redacted pages from the congressional report on 9/11 do come to mind. I have not forgotten that John O’Neill resigned from the FBI because the Bush Administration obstructed his investigation into the USS Cole bombing. And I do not believe we have ever received a full accounting of who got flown out of the country right after 9/11. However, this something that we don’t know is not necessarily direct complicity between the Bushies and the 9/11 attack. As Rummy might say, we don’t know what we don’t know.

    Regarding NORAD, now that we’ve heard the NORAD tape of 9/11 it’s pretty clear they were just plain caught flat-footed. (And there’s an Alexander Cockburn column from the Nation that you really ought to read.)

    There’s a great deal about what happened on 9/11 that we still don’t know, but for reasons I’ve blogged about in the past I truly believe people ought to put a cork in the “controlled detonation” nonsense. And the single-minded crusade that the Bushies must have been behind the 9/11 attacks is, I believe, more likely to discourage further investigation than encourage it.

    For that reason I tell commenters to be cautious about what they insist “must” be true, particularly when sheer incompetence covers the same ground just as well.

  24. chip  •  Oct 4, 2006 @2:35 pm

    BTW maha, NORAD was NOT caught flat footed, they were fogged by a pre planned exercise that same morning involving hi- jacked aircraft that had remarkable similarity to the actual 9/11 scenario. The NORAD tapes illustrate the difficulty NORAD personnel had separating “real world” from “exercise”

  25. maha  •  Oct 4, 2006 @4:51 pm

    NORAD was NOT caught flat footed, they were fogged by a pre planned exercise that same morning involving hi- jacked aircraft that had remarkable similarity to the actual 9/11 scenario.

    1. The articles I’ve read don’t give the nature of the exercise, just that there was an exercise. IMO “remarkable similarity to the actual 9/11 scenario” is rumor and hysteria.

    2. The fact that a training exercise was planned was only a small part of the problems that morning. It didn’t excuse most of the mistakes that were made.

    3. As I’ve explained many times previously, all comments explicitly pushing an “inside job” theory will be deleted. Repeated attempts to post such comments will get the commenter banned.

  26. chris  •  Oct 4, 2006 @5:54 pm

    Boy, I sure wish I could strike my enemy when he was faltfooted…if only I knew when that would be?

    Don’t be so touchy Maha.
    my best,cd

  27. chip  •  Oct 5, 2006 @12:49 am

    When Boston flight control first contacts NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) to notify it of the hijacking of Flight 11, personnel there initially mistake it for a simulation as part of an exercise. Lieutenant Colonel Dawne Deskins, mission crew chief for the Vigilant Guardian exercise currently taking place later says that initially she and everybody else at NEADS thought the call was part of Vigilant Guardian. [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/2002] Although most of the personnel on the NEADS operations floor have no idea what the day’s exercise is supposed to entail, most previous major NORAD exercises included a hijack scenario. [Utica Observer-Dispatch, 8/5/2004; USA Today, 4/18/2004] The day’s exercise is in fact scheduled to include a simulated hijacking later on. Major Kevin Nasypany, the NEADS mission crew commander, had helped design it. Thinking the reported hijacking is part of this exercise he actually says out loud, “The hijack’s not supposed to be for another hour.” In the ID section, at the back right corner of the NEADS operations floor, technicians Stacia Rountree, Shelley Watson, and Maureen Dooley, react to the news. Rountree asks, “Is that real-world?” Dooley confirms, “Real-world hijack.” Watson says, “Cool!” [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] NORAD commander Major General Larry Arnold, who is at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, also says that when he first hears of the hijacking, in the minutes after NEADS is alerted to it, “The first thing that went through my mind was, is this part of the exercise? Is this some kind of a screw-up?” [ABC News, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] At 8:43 a.m., Major James Fox, the leader of the NEADS Weapons Team, comments, “I’ve never seen so much real-world stuff happen during an exercise.” [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]

    The Thought Police can ban all the Winston Smiths they want from posting on your blog, the loss is yours, not mine. If it was my blog I would rather promote free political speech and thought then be responsible for restricting it like BushCo.

  28. maha  •  Oct 5, 2006 @6:19 am

    Chip – you aren’t saying anything I haven’t blogged about already (for example, here, in which I link to the same Vanity Fair article you cite). Since you didn’t bother to read the posts I linked yesterday in comment #28 that explain my position (among other things, that YOU, son, are playing into Bush’s and Karl Rove’s hands, not me), you WILL be banned. (You whine about how I won’t listen to you, but since you obviously aren’t listening to me — bleep off.) I am not going to help Karl keep the truth hidden. If you want to be a dupe, so be it.

    This timeline reveals that most of what went wrong that morning was unrelated to the confusion about the exercise. NORAD and the FAA continued to screw up even after they’d straightened out that the emergency was real. You are hanging way too much significance on that exercise.

    Now, go away and continue your work to undermine truth and freedom by seeing to it that 9/11 is never properly investigated. Just don’t do it here.

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