Saturday, July 26, 2003

From Frank Sesno's interview with Max Cleland:

CLELAND: Absolutely.I did not know that there was an FBI informant in San Diego that was living with two of the hijackers, and that the FBI headquarters in Washington didn't even tell him that they should have been basically being looked at because the CIA didn't tell the FBI.

And the NSA didn't pass it on to the CIA or the FBI. They were picking up intelligence as early as 1994 about a potential attack in this country using aircraft. What we have here is a devastating indictment of the intelligence community.
CLELAND: Let's talk about that here. This commission was formed about mid-December, the 9/11 Commission. We were supposed to use the joint inquiry report as a launching pad to get into this issue of not only fixing the intelligence community, but moving beyond, and getting into what is the al Qaeda all about? What is this terrorist global network that we're fighting? A new kind of war and all that.

Well, the independent, bi-partisan commission, hello, didn't even get the stuff 'til a few weeks ago.

I'm saying that's deliberate. I am saying that the delay in relating this information to the American public out of a hearing… series of hearings, that several members of Congress knew eight or ten months ago, including Bob Graham and others, that was deliberately slow walked… the 9/11 Commission was deliberately slow walked, because the Administration's policy was, and its priority was, we're gonna take Saddam Hussein out.

SESNO: Senator, do you have any documentation or any proof to back up this very serious charge of yours that this was deliberate besides your own…

CLELAND: Well, first of all…

SESNO: …hunch or gut?

CLELAND: …it's obvious.

SESNO: No, no, no, no…

CLELAND: But… but…

SESNO: …but beyond… but beyond being obvious, let me press…

CLELAND: First of all the war in Iraq…

SESNO: …you on this…

CLELAND: Yeah, okay.

SESNO: …because this is a very serious charge you're making. If you're saying that this was deliberate what I'm asking is has anybody said anything to you, from inside the Administration to support that? Have you seen any document, any memorandum that substantiates your charge?

CLELAND: Well, just look at it. Okay? This executive summary of the intelligence inquiry… the joint intelligence inquiry, the executive summary, was available December 10th. Why did it take nine months to go over what ought to be held out of that?

Now, I'm saying that that was slow walked. I am also saying why did it take eight months to get this 9/11 Commission really cranked up and going, and the first step was to use the Intelligence Committee report as a jumping off point? Why did all of this take so long?

Because the real priority of the White House was not the 9/11 Commission — they fought it. And it was just, and it really was their interest was to delay the revelation of this report.

One of the reasons they didn't want it is they didn't want all this stuff out there.

[Ed-note: Emphasis mine]
On Iraq:
your take on Iraq. You had a bruising, bitter political contest. Is this sour grapes for you?

CLELAND: No. No. I tell you what makes me mad. Is when I see the names of those youngsters that are being killed out there every day. I say, "God help us." I've been there. I've seen this movie before.
After reading all of this, read the excerpts from yesterday's Washington Post. I have to add--that after reading both the New York Times and the Washington Post on the 9/11 commision's report--the Washington Post has done an excellent job, together with their coverage of the uranium-debacle.

On to the article...:
The White House, meanwhile, resisted efforts to pin down Bush's knowledge of al Qaeda threats and to catalogue the executive's pre-Sept. 11 strategy to fight terrorists. It was justified largely on legal grounds, but Democrats said the secrecy was meant to protect Bush from criticism.
Among the only clues cited in the report about Bush's knowledge of al Qaeda's intentions against the United States is an Aug. 6, 2001, President's Daily Briefing (PDB) -- described in the report only as a "closely-held intelligence report" -- that included information "acquired in May 2001 that indicated a group of [Osama] Bin Laden supporters was planning attacks in the United States with explosives."

The PDB also said "that Bin Laden had wanted to conduct attacks in the United States for years and that the group apparently maintained a support base here." It cited "FBI judgments about patterns of activity consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks," according to the report.

In a May 16, 2002, briefing for reporters, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said the PDB was a historical look at bin Laden's methods dating to 1997. She characterized the briefing as an "analytic report" that summed up bin Laden's methods of operation. "It was not a warning," she said. "There was no specific time or place mentioned."

The CIA declined to declassify the PDB, and the White House, which had the authority to release it, declined to do so, citing "executive privilege." Executive privilege allows the president to withhold from public disclosure all advice and communications he receives from advisers so that they feel free to offer frank advice without fearing that it will become public.

The Aug. 6 PDB came amid a barrage of intelligence reporting indicating that al Qaeda was planning attacks, somewhere, against U.S. interests. The intelligence community has said its focus was on possible attacks overseas.

Deputy national security adviser Steve Hadley, who refused to testify before the panel but submitted written responses to questions, told the panel that the National Security Council held four deputy committee meetings between May and the end of July 2001 in an effort to adopt a more aggressive strategy vis-a-vis al Qaeda. The review was finalized Sept. 4, 2001. Bush had not reviewed the proposal before Sept. 11, Hadley wrote the panel.
CIA Director George J. Tenet said in a closed-door session on June 18, 2002, that he had told other members of the administration that his counterterrorism budget would be as much as $1 billion short each year for the next five years. "We told that to everybody downtown for as long as anybody would listen and never got to first base," Tenet told the panel.
[...]We were never able to get much of the material we requested from the National Security Council," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), former ranking member of the House intelligence committee. "The nation was not well-served by the administration's failure to provide this critical information."

Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.), chairman of the House intelligence committee, said he doubted Bush was complacent about warnings he received. "The intelligence community was providing him information. He wasn't AWOL," Goss said. "In hindsight, it might take on a little more significance . . . but it's a huge stretch to say the president had information he should have acted on."
It's plain obvious that the Bush administration tried to do several things.

Delay the report for the war in Iraq. By cooperating with the commision at a minimal and providing the commision with little or no critical information at all, the administration successfully left out incriminating information. The August 6 memo, the cutting off funds for counter-terrorism, Steve Hadley not testifying and covering for the Saudis, just shows what the administration can do and get away with it.


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