The August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing turned out to be a dud for liberal commentators seeking the elusive bombshell revelation that would demonstrate the Bush Administration’s negligence prior to 9/11. Sure, the headline of the memo was tantalizing: “Osama bin Laden Determined to Strike in US.” The moment 9/11 Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste perry-masoned that title out of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, you could just about hear the blood rushing to the collective loins of the New York Times op-ed page.
The PDB mentions bin Laden’s desire “to hijack a US aircraft to gain the release of ‘Blind Shaykh’ … and other US-held extremists.” But of course hijacking a plane to negotiate your pal’s freedom pretty much negates crashing it into a building. Also mentioned are “patterns of suspicious activity” by al Qaeda members, including their “surveillance of federal buildings in New York” and their possible plan for “attacks with explosives.” Such information, had Bush zeroed in on it, might actually have diverted his attention from the terrorists’ eventual 9/11 strategy and targets.
Then again, if left-wing types were serious about pursuing unheeded warnings, they might consider that the FBI, according to CNN, was tipped off by Philippine authorities of a plot by Islamic terrorists to “hijack a commercial plane and ram it into the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, and also into the Pentagon.”
Or they might find fodder in a report to the National Intelligence Council which, according to the Houston Chronicle, stated “suicide bombers belonging to al-Qaeda’s Martyrdom Battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives … into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the CIA or the White House.”
You’d think left wing conspiracy-mongers like Michael Moore would be going postal over those warnings. Recall that it was Moore, in his bestseller Dude, Where’s My Country?, who theorized that President Bush must have been implicated in the September 11th attacks because he took off in Air Force One after he received word that a second plane had struck the World Trade Center.
“Any dunderhead knew,” Moore writes, “that if hijacked planes are being used as missiles, the last place you wanna be is up there flying around.”
(Never quite followed Moore’s logic, by the way. What exactly is he suggesting? That American fighter pilots might accidentally shoot down Air Force One? That a hijacked airliner was likely to be used to ram the president’s plane?)
By contrast with such conjectures, here you have two pre-9/11 memoranda, available to the media, that cite the possibility of terrorists flying planes into buildings and actually name the Pentagon as a potential target.
Maybe the problem, at least for folks on the left, is that the memoranda were a little too pre-9/11. They came in 1995 and 1999 respectively — in other words, under President Clinton’s watch.
The truth remains straightforward, despite the sound and fury of the 9/11 Commission: Neither President Bush nor President Clinton had anything approaching actionable intelligence about the attacks of September 11. Every insinuation to the contrary indicates partisan desperation, not critical thought, and should immediately disqualify its source, including the aforesaid Mr. Ben-Veniste, as a fair-minded observer.
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