Monday, April 12, 2004


From the Nation:

Condi's Cover-up Caves In

A small but signficiant White House cover-up fell apart this past weekend.

When the White House finally released the August 6, 2001 President's Daily Brief, it marked the end of a two-year effort on the part of the Bush administration to prevent the public from learning that a month before the 9/11 attacks--and weeks after the U.S. government had collected "chatter" indicating Osama bin Laden was planning a major strike--Bush received information indicating that al Qaeda was intent on mounting attacks within the United States.

Condoleezza Rice was instrumental in the attempt to keep the contents of this PDB--which was entitled "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US" and which noted that al Qaeda "apparently maintains a support structure [in the United States] that could aid attacks" and that the FBI had detected "suspicious activity...consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks"--from becoming known. And it is obvious why it was so important for her and the White House to smother this PDB.

Click here for more.

And again from the Nation:

Off the Ticket

Unfortunately for Rice, however, her testimony will be remembered for a single exchange.

Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste asked Rice if she could recall the title of President Bush's daily briefing document for August 6, 2001, which crossed her desk more than a month before operatives associated with Osama bin Laden's al-Queda network attacked the world Trade Center and the Pentagon. After several inept attempts to avoid the question, Rice finally answered, "I believe the title was, 'Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States."

Rice knew she was in trouble; she claimed immediately that the August 6 briefing paper was a speculative document, not a real warning. The administration's defenders then spent the rest of the day trying to convince Americans that they had not heard what they had, in fact, heard. But, as 9/11 widow Lorie Van Auken correctly noted after the title was revealed, "That pretty much says it all."

What it says, above all, is that Condoleezza Rice will forever be remembered as the national security adviser who knew bin Laden was determined to attack inside the United States but who, by all indications, felt no great sense of urgency about that threat. On "The Daily Show," host John Stewart simply played the tape of Rice's response to Ben-Veniste's inquiry. It got the best laugh of the night.

Click here for the rest.

Even though it is now clear that the Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) from August 6, 2001 revealed quite a bit of information that should have sent the American security apparatus into overdrive, the institution that should have jump-started the process, that is, the White House, did nothing. Unfortunately, Condi and Bush seem to be doing a pretty good job of deflecting criticism by staying on message: as Rice said in her testimony last Thursday, "If we had known an attack was coming against the United States, against New York and Washington, we would have moved heaven and earth to stop it." That is, the Oval Office is consistently stating that the PDB did not specify when and where an attack would take place. That statement may very well be true enough when considered on its own. In this context, however, the statement is quite misleading.

I am reminded of the White House response to the Enron debacle. Worried that they might somehow be implicated in the multi-billion dollar scandal, the White House admitted that Ken Lay had called them, desperate for help, but they proudly proclaimed that they did nothing. Okay, that's good. I guess. Actually, given all the retirement funds that evaporated, given all the job loss, I wish that Bush had done something. However, the initial Oval Office response to the Enron scandal was a nice sleight of hand: Bush had been in bed with Ken Lay for years--Enron had even loaned a corporate jet for Republican congressional staffers to be brought to Florida during the 2000 presidential election recount to stage the infamous bourgeois riot that managed to put a stop some of the recounting; Bush and Kenny-boy were seemingly the best of friends. The White House managed successfully to frame the issue in terms of whether they had helped Enron out of this one particular jam; they answered a question that wasn't asked: did you do anything illegal to help your buddies out this fine mess? The real questions should have dealt with Bush's longstanding relationship with Lay, and how that access may or may not have gotten Enron some favorable policy decisions.

Sadly, both the press and politicians bought into Bush's answer to the question that wasn't asked, and the political dimension of the Enron scandal faded from the public memory. It became simply a business scandal. Nothing to see here, folks; move on.

Essentially, the same thing may be happening right now with the release of the PDB. When Condi earnestly says that they didn't know the exact time and place of the attacks, she is answering a question that wasn't asked. The real question here is asking if the White House could have done more to prevent 9/11. It is now clear that the answer to that question, whether the White House admits it or not, is an unequivocal "yes."

In short, they blew it. Big time.