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Context of 'August 7, 2001: Version of President Bush’s Al-Qaeda Briefing Is Incomplete, Poorly Distributed'

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National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice later testifies to the 9/11 Commission that in the first eight months of Bush’s presidency before 9/11, “the president receive[s] at these [Presidential Daily Briefings] more than 40 briefing items on al-Qaeda, and 13 of those [are] in response to questions he or his top advisers posed.” [Washington Post, 4/8/2004] The content of the warnings in these briefings are unknown. However, CIA Director George Tenet claims that none of the warnings specifically indicates terrorists plan to fly hijacked commercial aircraft into buildings in the US. [New York Times, 4/4/2004] Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will later emphasize, “Tenet on 40 occasions in… morning meetings mentioned al-Qaeda to the president. Forty times, many of them in a very alarmed way, about a pending attack.” [Vanity Fair, 11/2004] These briefings are normally given in person by CIA Director George Tenet, and are usually attended by Vice President Cheney and National Security Adviser Rice. In the Clinton administration, up to 25 officials recieved the PDB. But in the Bush adminisration before 9/11, this was sharply reduced to only six people (see After January 20, 2001). Other top officials have to make due with an Senior Executive Intelligence Brief generally released one day later, which is similar to the PDB but often contains less information (see August 7, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 256, 533]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Al-Qaeda, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George J. Tenet, Condoleezza Rice

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A Senior Executive Intelligence Brief (SEIB), entitled “Sunni Terrorist Threat Growing,” is sent to top White House officials. It indicates a heightened threat of Sunni extremist attacks, particularly in the Middle East and Europe, against US facilities and personnel. (Bin Laden is the most wanted Sunni extremist by this time.) The briefing states this is considered the most significant spike in threat reporting since the Millennium. The SEIB is usually released one day after the corresponding President Daily Briefing is given to the president and contains similar content (see January 20-September 10, 2001), so it is probable Bush is given this warning. Based on this warning, a terrorist threat advisory will be shared throughout the US intelligence community on March 30, and the FBI will send out a warning to its field offices in April (see April 13, 2001). [US District Court of Eastern Virginia, 5/4/2006, pp. 1 pdf file]

Entity Tags: White House, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

On April 19, 2001, the interagency Counterterrorism Security Group (CSG) chaired by counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke discusses recent reports that al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida is planning an attack. The next day, a Senior Executive Intelligence Brief (SEIB) with the title “Bin Laden Planning Multiple Operations” is sent to top White House officials. The New York Times will later report that President Bush and Vice President Cheney were among those who received this warning. Since SEIBs are usually based on previous days’ President Daily Briefings, President Bush probably learned about this report on April 19 (see January 20-September 10, 2001). [New York Times, 4/18/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 255; US District Court of Eastern Virginia, 5/4/2006, pp. 2 pdf file]

Entity Tags: White House, Richard A. Clarke, Abu Zubaida, George W. Bush, Counterterrorism and Security Group, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A Senior Executive Intelligence Brief (SEIB) about Osama bin Laden sent to top White House officials on May 3, 2001, is entitled, “Bin Laden Public Profile May Presage Attack.” Apparently it suggests that recent public comments by bin Laden could be hinting at future attacks, but details of what exactly he said or did to cause this warning have not be made public. The New York Times will later report that President Bush and Vice President Cheney were among those who received this warning. Since SEIBs are typically based on the previous day’s President Daily Briefings (see January 20-September 10, 2001), President Bush was probably informed about this warning on May 2. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 255; US District Court of Eastern Virginia, 5/4/2006, pp. 2 pdf file]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, White House

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A Senior Executive Intelligence Brief (SEIB) sent to top White House officials is entitled, “Terrorist Groups Said Cooperating on US Hostage Plot.” It warns of a possible hostage plot against the US abroad to force to release of prisoners being held in the US, including Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman (see July 1990). The report notes operatives might hijack an aircraft or storm a US embassy overseas. SEIBs are typically based on the previous day’s President Daily Briefing (see January 20-September 10, 2001), so it is probable President Bush is given this information. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 255-256, 533; US District Court of Eastern Virginia, 5/4/2006, pp. 2 pdf file] This report leads to an FAA warning to airlines noting the potential for “an airline hijacking to free terrorists incarcerated in the United States.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 255-256]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, White House, Omar Abdul-Rahman

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A Senior Executive Intelligence Brief (SEIB) sent to top White House officials on May 26, 2001, is entitled, “Bin Laden Network’s Plans Advancing.” Further details are unknown. The New York Times will later report that President Bush and Vice President Cheney were among those who received this warning. SEIBs are typically summaries of the previous days’ President Daily Briefings (see January 20-September 10, 2001), so it is probable Bush is given this warning on May 25. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 255; US District Court of Eastern Virginia, 5/4/2006, pp. 2 pdf file]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, White House

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

During this time, President Bush and other top White House officials are given a series of Presidential Daily Briefings relating to an al-Qaeda attack (see January 20-September 10, 2001). The exact contents of these briefings remain classified, but according to the 9/11 Commission they consistently predict upcoming attacks that will occur “on a catastrophic level, indicating that they would cause the world to be in turmoil, consisting of possible multiple—but not necessarily simultaneous—attacks.” CIA Director Tenet later will recall that he feels President Bush and other officials grasp the urgency of what they are being told. [9/11 Commission, 4/13/2004] But Deputy CIA Director John McLaughlin later states that he feels a great tension, peaking these months, between the Bush administration’s apparent misunderstanding of terrorism issues and his sense of great urgency. McLaughlin and others are frustrated when inexperienced Bush officials question the validity of certain intelligence findings. Two CIA officials even consider resigning in protest (see Summer 2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004] Dale Watson, head of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, wishes he had “500 analysts looking at Osama bin Laden threat information instead of two.” [9/11 Commission, 4/13/2004]

Entity Tags: Dale Watson, Counterterrorism Division (FBI), Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Osama bin Laden, George W. Bush, George J. Tenet, Bush administration (43), John E. McLaughlin

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A Senior Executive Intelligence Brief (SEIB) with the title “Bin Laden Attacks May Be Imminent” is sent to top White House officials. The details of this brief are not known. It is probable President Bush received this warning since SEIBs are usually rehashes of the previous days’ President Daily Briefing (see January 20-September 10, 2001). Also on this day a CIA cable is distributed with the title, “Possible Threat of Imminent Attack from Sunni Extremists.” The cable warns that there is a high probability of near-term “spectacular” terrorist attacks resulting in numerous casualties. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 256, 534]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, George W. Bush, White House, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A Senior Executive Intelligence Brief (SEIB) sent to top White House officials is entitled, “Bin Laden and Associates Making Near-Term Threats.” It reports that multiple attacks are expected over the coming days, including a “severe blow” against US and Israeli “interests” during the next two weeks. SEIBs usually contain the same information as the previous day’s President Daily Briefings (see January 20-September 10, 2001), so it is probable Bush received this warning. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 256, 534]

Entity Tags: White House, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A Senior Executive Intelligence Brief (SEIB) sent to top White House officials is entitled, “Bin Laden Planning High-Profile Attacks.” It states that bin Laden operatives expect near-term attacks to have dramatic consequences of catastrophic proportions. Despite evidence of delays possibly caused by heightened US security, the planning for the attacks is continuing. The briefing also contains another report entitled, “Bin Laden Threats Are Real.” SEIBs are typically based on the previous day’s President Daily Briefings (see January 20-September 10, 2001), so it is probable Bush is given this warning. Also on this day, Saudi Arabia declares its highest level of terror alert. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 256-257, 534; US District Court of Eastern Virginia, 5/4/2006, pp. 3 pdf file]

Entity Tags: White House, Saudi Arabia, Osama bin Laden, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A Senior Executive Intelligence Brief (SEIB) entitled “Planning for Bin Laden Attacks Continues, Despite Delays” is sent to top White House officials. SEIBs are typically based on the previous day’s presidential daily briefing (see January 20-September 10, 2001), so it is probable President Bush is given this warning. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 258, 534; US District Court of Eastern Virginia, 5/4/2006, pp. 4 pdf file]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

By mid-July 2001, new intelligence indicates that the new al-Qaeda attack has been delayed, maybe for as long as two months, but not abandoned. So on this day, a Senior Executive Intelligence Brief (SEIB) sent to top White House officials is entitled, “Bin Laden Plans Delayed but Not Abandoned.” On July 25, a similar SEIB will be titled, “One Bin Laden Operation Delayed, Others Ongoing.” The SEIB is usually released one day after the corresponding President Daily Briefing and contains similar content (see January 20-September 10, 2001), so it is probable Bush receives this information. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 259, 534] After 9/11, it will be discovered that in fact the 9/11 attack was originally planned to take place in the early summer but was delayed (see May-July 2001).

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, White House

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

One day after President Bush receives a Presidential Daily Briefing entitled, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US,” a version of the same material is given to other top government officials. However, this Senior Executive Intelligence Brief (SEIB) does not contain the most important information from Bush’s briefing. It does not mention that there are 70 FBI investigations into possible al-Qaeda activity, does not mention a May 2001 threat of US-based explosives attacks, and does not mention FBI concerns about recent surveillance of buildings in New York City. The Associated Press will report that this type of memo “goes to scores of Cabinet-agency officials from the assistant secretary level up and does not include raw intelligence or sensitive information about ongoing law enforcement matters” due to fear of media leaks. SEIBs were sent to many more officials during the Clinton administration. The Associated Press will also state that “some who saw the memo said they feared it gave policy-makers and members of the congressional intelligence committees a picture of the domestic threat so stale and incomplete that it didn’t provide the necessary sense of urgency one month before the Sept. 11 attacks.” [Associated Press, 4/13/2004] Attorney General John Ashcroft will later say he does not recall seeing the SEIB before 9/11 (see Between August 7 and September 10, 2001).

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, George W. Bush, Bush administration (43), Osama bin Laden, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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