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NY Times Op Ed Claims Bush Unreceptive To Warnings About Al Qaeda Prior To 9/11

In an opinion piece in the New York Times on Tuesday, September 11, author and contributing editor for Vanity Fair magazine, Kurt Eichenwald, attacked the White House of former President George W. Bush for ignoring intelligence in the summer of 2001 that pointed to an Al Qaeda attack.

“On Aug. 6, 2001, President George W. Bush received a classified review of the threats posed by Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network, Al Qaeda. That morning’s “presidential daily brief” — the top-secret document prepared by America’s intelligence agencies — featured the now-infamous heading: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” A few weeks later, on 9/11, Al Qaeda accomplished that goal,” writes Eichenwald.

He says documents declassified in 2004 show that President Bush had several intelligence briefings relating to plans by Al Qaeda to mount an attack in the United States. He says the August 6 briefing was merely the most specific of several prior briefs that detailed the threat posed by Al Qaeda – a threat, Eichenwald claims, Bush and his neoconservative advisers repeatedly ignored.

But some in the administration considered the warning to be just bluster. An intelligence official and a member of the Bush administration both told me in interviews that the neoconservative leaders who had recently assumed power at the Pentagon were warning the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled; according to this theory, Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat. Intelligence officials, these sources said, protested that the idea of Bin Laden, an Islamic fundamentalist, conspiring with Mr. Hussein, an Iraqi secularist, was ridiculous, but the neoconservatives’ suspicions were nevertheless carrying the day.

“On July 24, Mr. Bush was notified that the attack was still being readied, but that it had been postponed, perhaps by a few months,” Eichenwald writes, detailing how unreceptive Bush was to repeated warnings on Al Qaeda by intelligence officials. “But the president did not feel the briefings on potential attacks were sufficient, one intelligence official told me, and instead asked for a broader analysis on Al Qaeda, its aspirations and its history. In response, the C.I.A. set to work on the Aug. 6 brief.”

Could the 9/11 attack have been stopped, had the Bush team reacted with urgency to the warnings contained in all of those daily briefs? We can’t ever know. And that may be the most agonizing reality of all.

Read the full article via New York Times

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