Not To Be Confused With The ODB

So, the President’s Daily Briefing document of August 6, 2001 has now been released to the public. If this was supposed to be some kind of smoking gun that shows that Bush was asleep at the wheel on terrorism it’s sorely lacking in that department.

The PDB simply states that Osama bin Laden was looking at ways of attacking the US – which is about as informative a statement as “fire is hot” or “Paris Hilton has been ridden more times than Space Mountain.” It’s not as though such things were major state secrets – Bin Laden had already attacked the USS Cole a little more than a year beforehand, and had tried to attack LA with explosives on New Year’s 2000.

Furthermore the brief specifically states:

We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a [deleted text] service in 1998 saying that Bin Ladin wanted to hijack a US aircraft to gain the release of “Blind Shaykh” ‘Umar’ Abd aI-Rahman and other US-held extremists. (Emphasis mine)

Which means that the FBI and the CIA didn’t have anything actionable that would alert the DOT or the FAA to the possibility of hijackings any more than the normal threat levels. There was not enough specificity to take any concrete actions, nor was there anything that suggested that al-Qaeda planned to use aircraft as weapons, nor was there any evidence to suggest that the Pentagon and the World Trade Center were being targeted.

Now, I’m not suggesting that our government is off the hook in regards to September 11 – it is clear that our intelligence watch lists weren’t tied to our terrorist watch lists weren’t tied to our police watch lists – a situation that illustrates why programs like those contained in the PATRIOT Act and the much-attacked Total Information Awareness program are necessary to prevent terrorist attacks. It is ironic that those who are currently attacking the government for not doing enough to prevent September 11 are the same people who attacked the government for doing the things necessary to prevent the next September 11.

The lessons of September 11 are clear: we need more communications between intelligence and law enforcement, we cannot wait until threats become imminent to remove them, and we have to consider that terrorism isn’t something that happens “over there” but can directly effect each and every one of us.

The problem with the recent September 11 committee is that they seem as a whole more interested in pointing blame than fixing the problems – an honest assessment of what needs to be done would show that programs like PATRIOT and the TIA can prevent the kind of information hoarding and inaction that allowed the September 11 atrocities to go forward despite the chain of evidence that existed between different agencies. As always, commissions like this tend to generate much more heat than light.

5 thoughts on “Not To Be Confused With The ODB

  1. The report says:
    -bin Laden wants to attack the US (that’s actually the title)
    -he may hijack planes
    -he will bomb official buildings

    After reading this report (having someone reading it out loud, to be precise), nothing was done to PREVENT 9/11. The Commission is examining if it could have been prevented, not if the lessons have been taken.

    Last week, the CIA informed french authorities that a bombing may happen in the subway. The whole thing was closed down and searched for 3 hours. This is no “magic bullet”, it’s called to take notice of an information, and take the necessary measure to PREVENT terrorism. Of course it was difficult to imagine 9/11, and of course the report doesn’t say that planes will hit the WTC at 8.45 on 9/11!! Anyway, an adequate politician would have done SOMETHING after reading this report, unless he wanted to use it to go to war afterwards (Pearl Harbor style)…

    I don’t think Bush is the only failure responsible for 9/11, but he sure was the president, and didn’t do much. He seems to be no genius in terms of war leader and national security caïd whatever the adds repeat.

  2. -bin Laden wants to attack the US (that’s actually the title)

    Which was old news. Bin Laden declared war on the US numerous times throughout the 1990’s and yet our response was not to eliminate him and the rest of al-Qaeda but to launch a few token strikes against aspirin factories and camel tents. When given the opportunity, the previous Administration failed to apprehend bin Laden when they had the chance, an appalling failure and a breech of responsibility.

    -he may hijack planes

    But not use them as weapons, which had never been done before.

    -he will bomb official buildings

    Using conventional bombs, not aircraft.

    There is nothing in the PDB which suggests the methods and the magnitude of the September 11 attacks. As even Richard Clarke said, there was nothing that could have been done to prevent the attacks, especially not by August 8. Had Clinton taken out bin Laden when he had the chance, perhaps, but the point is now academic.

  3. Is it not the role of our elected officials to take the necessary measures to protect us? It’s really nice to prevent us to board in with a pen (true story; just happened to me!!), but it would have been better not to let them board in with knives at the time.

    The report doesn’t exactly describe 9/11, and this is the reason why G.W.Bush couldn’t prevent it?? What a great leader!

    Was there any report published on how the war in Iraq is gonna end? Precisely, I mean: date, time, total number of death,political legacy…

  4. The report doesn’t exactly describe 9/11, and this is the reason why G.W.Bush couldn’t prevent it??

    Saying that “something bad might happen to you sometime” is not actionable intelligence. Hell, I can go to a psychic if I want vague warnings. There’s nothing about that statement that would give someone an idea of how to prevent it.

    Something that says “there is a chance that terrorists will hijack a plane in the eastern corridor of the US in the next 60 days and use it as a missle against targets in the continental US” is actionable intelligence. It gives a specific timeframe, a general location, and an idea of specific methodology of attack.

    The Aug. 6 PDB does not contain information that would allow someone to make a concrete action to prevent a specific attack – it isn’t actionable because of Jamie S. Gorelick personally ensuring that information could not be shared between the FBI and the CIA.

  5. Was there any report published on how the war in Iraq is gonna end? Precisely, I mean: date, time, total number of death,political legacy…

    No, because such information is no more knowable than how your life will end. Precisely, I mean: date, time, method of death, personal legacy…

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