Monday, April 12, 2004

The August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing

The short version: there's nothing to see here. Read it for yourself.

The long version: there's still nothing to see here. The media thinks they can convince people that there is, but it will take some hard spinning to do that.

The only part that even hints that something like 9/11 might be possible is the following:
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.

Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.

I suppose someone might have made a leap of logic here and connected surveillance of federal buildings with hijacking, but they would have been wrong. The WTC was not a federal building, it was not surveyed, and the surveyors turned out to be Yemeni tourists anyway. I would be interested in what "suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings" had been observed. From what Condoleeza Rice said, however, none of that "suspicious activity" aside from the "surveillance" was recent, and the memo gave the indication that the FBI had the situation well in hand in the next paragraph:
The FBI is conducting approximately 70 full field investigations throughout the US that it considers Bin Ladin-related. CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our Embassy in the UAE in May saying that a group of Bin Ladin supporters was in the US planning attacks with explosives.

We can always speculate that if only we had pursued just the right angle, we might have stopped things. It wasn't for lack of alerts: the Bush administration gave five of them to US airlines over the summer based on non-specific threats. In the end, it is not possible to fully secure the US, and we have to take the fight to the enemy.

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