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Thursday, July 31, 2003
Words about a coverup, from a man who knows what one looks like

John Dean (not to be confused with Howard Dean) weighs in on the 28 pages of redacted material in the 9/11 report.

FindLaw's Writ - Dean: The 9/11 Report Raises More Serious Questions About The White House Statements On Intelligence : "Bluntly stated, either the Bush White House knew about the potential of terrorists flying airplanes into skyscrapers (notwithstanding their claims to the contrary), or the CIA failed to give the White House this essential information, which it possessed and provided to others.

Bush is withholding the document that answers this question. Accordingly, it seems more likely that the former possibility is the truth. That is, it seems very probable that those in the White House knew much more than they have admitted, and they are covering up their failure to take action. "

Pretty strong words, and Dean certainly knows what a White House coverup looks like.
One of the most important sets of documents that the Congressional Inquiry sought was a set of copies of the President's Daily Brief (PDB), which is prepared each night by the CIA. In the Appendix of the 9/11 Report we learn that on August 12, 2002, after getting nowhere with informal discussions, Congress formally requested that the Bush White House provide this information.

More specifically, the Joint Inquiry asked about the process by which the Daily Brief is prepared, and sought several specific Daily Brief items. In particular, it asked for information about the August 6, 2001 Daily Brief relating to Osama Bin Laden's terrorist threats against the United States, and other Daily Brief items regarding Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, and pre-September 11 terrorism threats.

The Joint Inquiry explained the basis for its request: "the public has a compelling interest ... in understanding how well the Intelligence Community was performing its principal function of advising the President and NSC of threats to U.S. national security."
After pulling together the information in the 9/11 Report, it is understandable why Bush is stonewalling. It is not very difficult to deduce what the president knew, and when he knew it. And the portrait that results is devastating.
Note again that Rice stated, in explaining the August 6, 2001 Daily Brief, that it addressed Bin Laden's "methods of operation from a historical perspective dating back to 1997."

What exactly did it say? We cannot know. But the Inquiry's 9/11 Report lays out all such threats, over that time period, in thirty-six bullet point summaries. It is only necessary to cite a few of these to see the problem:

  • In September 1998, the [Intelligence Community] obtained information that Bin Laden's next operation might involve flying an explosive-laden aircraft into a U.S. airport and detonating it. (Emphasis added.)
  • In the fall of 1998, the [Intelligence Community] obtained information concerning a Bin Laden plot involving aircraft in the New York and Washington, D.C. areas.
  • In March 2000, the [Intelligence Community] obtained information regarding the types of targets that operatives of Bin Laden's network might strike. The Statute of Liberty was specifically mentioned , as were skyscrapers, ports, airports, and nuclear power plans. (Emphasis added.)
In sum, the 9/11 Report of the Congressional Inquiry indicates that the intelligence community was very aware that Bin Laden might fly an airplane into an American skyscraper.
Isn't this more damning and at least as important as any questions about what was in the State of the Union address? Isn't anybody in the press ready to run with this? Walter Pincus, Dana Milbank, history is calling!

Is Rice claiming this information in the 9/11 Report was not given to the White House? Or could it be that the White House was given this information, and failed to recognize the problem and take action? Is the White House covering up what the President knew, and when he knew it?

The Joint Inquiry could not answer these questions because they were denied access to Bush's Daily Brief for August 6, 2001, and all other dates. Yet these are not questions that should be stonewalled.

Troublingly, it seems that President Bush trusts foreign heads of state with the information in this daily CIA briefing, but not the United States Congress. It has become part of his routine, when hosting foreign dignitaries at his Crawford, Texas ranch, to invite them to attend his CIA briefing.

This may be the most disturbing revelation in the whole piece. I had no idea that Bush routinely invited foreign dignitaries to the CIA briefings.
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