Breaking News?

[Follow Ups] [Post Followup] [Our Discussion Forum]

Posted by Jeff from LTU-207-73-69-80.LTU.EDU ( on Thursday, May 16, 2002 at 4:28PM :

Senate to probe Bush response

President was told of desire
by al-Qaida to hijack jets
a month before Sept. 11
May 16 — President Bush was briefed in August on the possibility that al-Qaida might hijack U.S. planes. NBC's David Gregory reports.

WASHINGTON, May 16 — The Senate Intelligence Committee plans to expand its investigation into what the U.S. government knew about terrorist threats before the Sept. 11 attacks, the panel’s chairman said Thursday, a day after the White House acknowledged that President Bush was told a month before al-Qaida struck that Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network might hijack U.S. airplanes.

• Yellow Pages
• Auctions at uBid
• Personals Channel
• Shopping
• Newsletters
• Weather

Did the White House take appropriate action about the warning?

Yes, it did what it could at the time.
No, it should have done more.

Vote to see results

Did the White House take appropriate action about the warning?

* 11338 responses

Yes, it did what it could at the time.

No, it should have done more.

Survey results tallied every 60 seconds. Live Votes reflect respondents' views and are not scientifically valid surveys.

SEN. BOB GRAHAM, D-Fla., chairman of the Intelligence Committee, told reporters that he had no immediate timetable for the new hearings, which would represent an expansion of congressional investigations of the terrorist attacks that the White House had specifically sought to avoid.
Administration officials stressed that the al-Qaida information, given to the president at a morning intelligence briefing in early August, warned only of a general threat from bin Laden to hijack jetliners. They said Bush and U.S. intelligence did not know that suicide hijackers were specifically plotting to use planes as missiles, as they did against the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon.
“I don’t think this should come as any surprise to anybody,” White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said Thursday. “But the president did not — not — receive information about the use of airplanes as missiles by suicide bombers. This was a new type of attack that was not foreseen.”
Fleischer said that acting on the information the government did have, the administration “notified the appropriate agencies.” He said he did not know which agencies were notified, what they were told or what they did in response.

Graham and other members of the Intelligence Committee said the White House’s acknowledgment illustrated the degree to which U.S. intelligence agencies failed to coordinate their activities before Sept. 11.
Lawmakers said the alert should have been connected with other indications the government received of an imminent attack and suggested that the Sept. 11 hijackings might have been averted.


• Franks says Afghan mission not over
• WashPost: GIs battle 'ghosts' in Afghanistan
• Complete coverage
• WashPost: Bush told of hijacking dangers
• FBI to centralize anti-terror investigations
• Complete coverage

A recently revealed FBI memo from its Phoenix office warned of suspicious activity by Arabs at U.S. flight schools and said al-Qaida could organize such flight training. Officials said, however, that the memo offered no evidence that bin Laden was behind the students who raised the concern.
The Associated Press reported this month that FBI headquarters did not act on the memo, which urged a check of all flight schools to identify more possible Middle Eastern students.
In another internal FBI document, mentioned in testimony last week before a Senate panel by FBI Director Robert Mueller, a Minneapolis agent raised the possibility that Zacarias Moussaoui, a French flight student of Moroccan descent who was arrested in August, might be planning to “fly something into the World Trade Center.”
A senior U.S. official told NBC News’ Robert Windrem on condition of anonymity that the FBI made the CIA aware of its arrest of Moussaoui in mid-August and that the CIA assisted the FBI in its investigation. But the official said the FBI never told the CIA about the Phoenix memo.

Graham and others demanded that the FBI turn over the entire Phoenix document, excerpts of which have been made public in recent days.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., a member of the Intelligence Committee, said the document in its entirety “is a very different document from the one that was described in the press.”
Another committee member, Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said he had pressed Mueller to release the entire memo but that Mueller had refused. He said it was imperative that the administration respond to the committee’s requests to avoid further embarrassing disclosures, which he said were the result of piecemeal leaks of selective information designed to shield individual agencies from criticism.
“We were told repeatedly by the White House and the administration there was no need to rush into an investigation,” said Durbin, who said he believed other, similar documents may still be under wraps.
“We are seeing this information has come tumbling out,” he said. “As the agencies have to send us these documents, they are rushing to tell you their side of the story.”
‘We said both privately and publicly that something was up. But if you reported that we were predicting a hijacking or hijackings, that would be wrong.’

Disclosure of the August warning to the White House set off a chain of criticism Thursday.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said he was “gravely concerned” about the warning and asked Bush to give Congress all the information he had received.
“Clearly, there is a lot more to be learned before we can come to any final conclusion about all of the facts, but it clearly raises some very important questions that have to be asked and have to be answered,” Daschle told reporters.
“Why did it take eight months for us to receive this information? And secondly, what specific actions were taken by the White House in response?” he asked.
Daschle said that in the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, the administration specifically asked Congress not to investigate intelligence issues surrounding the attacks.
Daschle agreed at the time to limit congressional investigations to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which primarily oversees the CIA. But he said Thursday that with the new disclosure, the investigations could be expanded from the Intelligence Committee to other congressional panels “or perhaps, as some have suggested, a commission to examine just what happened on 9-11 both before and afterwards.”
House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., echoed Daschle, indicating that he, too, might push for more inquiries, which he said “cannot be top secret.”
“Right now, we have an inquiry that’s going on in the intelligence committees,” Gephardt said. “It may or may not be sufficient to get all this done. We’ll talk with the other leaders about ways to do this.”
Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that there were three “enormous red flags” that should have sent alarm bells ringing.
‘Why did it take eight months for us to receive this information? And secondly, what specific actions were taken by the White House in response?’
Senate majority leader “We’ve got terrorists connected to al-Qaida out in Arizona engaging in flight training; we’ve got Moussaoui arrested and being interrogated in Minnesota; we’ve got the president being briefed while he was on vacation in Texas about the possibility of these airplanes being hijacked,” said Edwards, who is believed to be considering running for president in 2004.
“I mean, was anything done about any of those things?”

Bush was reported to have told fellow Republicans that the criticism was politically motivated.
Bush said at a previously scheduled closed-door meeting with Senate Republicans that “there is a sniff of politics in the air,” Reuters reported, quoting a congressional source it did not identify. “Someone may be trying to use this as a political opportunity.”
But prominent Republicans were among the president’s critics.
“There was a lot of information,” Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said on NBC’s “Today” show. “I believe, and others believe, if it had been acted on properly, we may have had a different situation on September 11.”
Shelby acknowledged that the committee received the same general warning the White House got but that it “was not specific in its content.”
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, would push for a special commission to investigate.
“There were two separate FBI reports plus a CIA warning, none of which were coordinated,” McCain said. “The question is: Would, if all three had been connected, would that have led to more vigorous activity?”
Lieberman asked: “If there’d been one person receiving all that information, would it have been possible to prevent September 11? That’s the question an independent commission has to answer so we never have to ask it again.”
The revelation instantaneously created a politically charged atmosphere in which every White House statement about pre-Sept. 11 threats was subjected to new scrutiny.
Fleischer, for example, was asked by reporters hours after the attacks whether “there had been any warnings that the president knew of.” He replied, “No warnings.”

• War coverage
• The home front
• Video, photos
• Newsweek coverage
• Behind the headlines
• Coverage for kids

Fleischer stood by the comment Thursday, saying there indeed had been no specific warning of suicide hijackings against U.S. landmarks.
Bush himself said in January, “Never did we realize that the enemy was so well-organized.”
A senior U.S. official told NBC News that hijackings by al-Qaida were listed within a “whole range of capabilities and possibilities” that were laid out in an analysis of what bin Laden’s organization might be planning.
“We said both privately and publicly that something was up,” the official said. “But if you reported that we were predicting a hijacking or hijackings, that would be wrong. We never had specific information, certainly not about suicide attacks or using planes as guided missiles.”

• Profiles of suspects; leads being followed

However, Jim Pavitt, deputy director of the CIA, said in a speech to law students at Duke University in Durham, N.C., last month that “we knew and we warned that al-Qaida was planning a major strike” before Sept. 11. “There need be no question about that.”
But Pavitt stressed that “we never found the tactical intelligence, never uncovered the specifics that could have stopped those tragic strikes that we all remember so well.”
Nevertheless, Billie Vincent, former security chief of the Federal Aviation Administration, asked why, if law enforcement agencies had been notified of a possible hijacking threat, they did not do more to increase security.
“With that threat escalating, why was it permissible to continue to take cutting tools on airplanes?” Vincent asked, referring to the box-cutters the Sept. 11 hijackers used.

NBC’s Robert Windrem and David Gregory,’s Alex Johnson and Rachel Elbaum, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

-- Jeff
-- signature .

Follow Ups:

Post a Followup

E-Mail: ( default )
Optional Link ( default )
Optional Image Link ( default )

This board is powered by the Mr. Fong Device from