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Profile: Ari Fleischer

Positions that Ari Fleischer has held:

  • White House Press Secretary (2001-2003)

Quotes

September 28, 2002

“This is not a matter open to negotiations with Iraq. This is a matter for discussions with the United Nations. It’s clear for all the world to see that Iraq’s intentions are to delay, to argue, to confuse and finally to defy, so they can continue to build up their arms. It makes it even more important for the United Nations to take strong action.” [Washington Post, 9/29/2002]

Associated Events

October 21, 2002

“Regime change remains Congress’ policy, assigned by the president, remains law of the land, it remains the American position and a position that the president and everybody in his Cabinet strongly supports.” [White House, 10/21/2002]

Associated Events

October 22, 2002

“The policy is regime change. Saddam Hussein is the heart of the regime.” [White House, 10/22/2002]

Associated Events

November 23, 2002

“The President’s position is either he will disarm or we will remove him so Iraq is disarmed” [White House, 10/23/2002]

Associated Events

December 2, 2002

“We have intelligence information about what Saddam Hussein possesses…. If Saddam Hussein indicates that he has weapons of mass destruction and that he is violating United Nations resolutions, then we will know that Saddam Hussein again deceived the world. If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world.” [White House, 12/2/2002; Washington Post, 12/3/2002]

Associated Events

December 5, 2002

“The president of the United States and the secretary of Defense would not assert as plainly and bluntly as they have that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction if it was not true, and if they did not have a solid basis for saying it…. President Bush has said Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Tony Blair has said Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Donald Rumsfeld has said Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Richard Butler has said they do. The United Nations has said they do. The experts have said they do. Iraq says they don’t. You can choose who you want to believe.” [Associated Press, 12/5/2003; CBC News, 12/5/2002]

Associated Events

January 9, 2003

“We know for a fact that there are weapons there.” [White House, 1/9/2003]

Associated Events

January 16, 2003

“The president views this as troubling and serious…. What the world wants to know is if Saddam Hussein has disarmed. Possession of chemical warheads is not a good indication that the man has disarmed.” [New York Times, 1/17/2003]

Associated Events

February 18, 2003

“Iraq, unlike Afghanistan, is a rather wealthy country. Iraq has tremendous resources that belong to the Iraqi people. And so there are a variety means that Iraq has to be able to shoulder much of the burden for their own reconstruction [sic].” [White House, 2/18/2003; Financial Times, 1/16/2004]

Associated Events

March 21, 2003

“Well, there is no question that we have evidence and information that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical particularly. This was the reason that the president felt so strongly that we needed to take military action to disarm Saddam Hussein, since he would not do it himself.” [White House, 3/21/2003]

Associated Events

Ari Fleischer was a participant or observer in the following events:

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A surprisingly high number of voters in Palm Beach County, Florida, cast their presidential votes for third-party presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan, and the Gore campaign believes many of these voters intended to vote for Al Gore (see 7:00 a.m. November 7, 2000 and After). The problem lay in Palm Beach’s “butterfly ballot,” designed by Democratic county elections supervisor Theresa LePore, which many voters found confusing (see September 2000). The ballot gave a list of names for offices with corresponding holes to punch, but in the presidential race, Gore’s name lined up more closely with the hole designated for Buchanan, who won 3,407 votes in Palm Beach, over 2,600 more than he won in any other county in Florida. Palm Beach is heavily populated with elderly Jewish voters who were, media reports will say, thrilled to cast their votes for Gore’s Jewish running mate Joe Lieberman; it is doubtful they would have become enthused about Buchanan and his history of anti-Semitism and Holocaust trivialization. Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer attempts to characterize Palm Beach as a “Buchanan stronghold.” But Buchanan readily admits that the Gore campaign is probably correct in saying that many Palm Beach voters intended to vote for Gore and not for him. [Vanity Fair, 10/2004; Leip, 2008] “It does seem to me that those are probably not my votes in those precincts in Palm Beach County,” Buchanan says. “My guess is that I probably got some votes down there that really did not belong to me. I feel—I do not feel well about that. I do not want to take any votes that don’t belong to me.… If the two candidates they pushed were Buchanan and Gore, almost certainly those are Al Gore’s votes, not mine.” Representative Mark Foley (R-FL) says that the Palm Beach voters “may be deranged” in voting for Buchanan, “but they have every right to vote for him” and their votes should not be questioned. Three Palm Beach voters file a lawsuit “seeking a new election claiming the punchcard ballot was so confusing that they accidentally voted” for Buchanan. It is not clear if the Gore campaign or local Democratic Party officials will ask for an actual recount, though some Democratic lawyers call the ballot design “illegal.” [National Journal, 11/9/2000]
Analyses: Ballot Confusion Cost Gore between 6,600 and 13,000 Votes - A subsequent analysis reported by the liberal news site Consortium News later alleges that Gore may have lost as many as 13,000 votes due to the “butterfly ballot.” Some voters say they attempted to vote for Gore, punched the hole for Buchanan by mistake, and attempted to correct the error by punching a second hole for Gore. The voting machines recorded those votes as “overvotes” and discarded them without counting them for either Gore or Buchanan. There may be over 10,000 of these particular overvotes remaining to be counted. 19,120 ballots in Palm Beach were disqualified because of double-voting, or “overvoting.” A sample of 144 ballots will be analyzed by Palm Beach election officials, and the results will show that 80 of those 144 ballots—56 percent—show punches for both Buchanan and Gore. If this sample accurately reflects the state of the remaining overvote ballots, then mathematically, Gore lost some 10,622 votes because of the confusion. Adding the approximately 2,700 votes that were given to Buchanan means that Gore lost some 13,000 votes in Palm Beach. [Consortium News, 11/22/2000] A 2001 investigation by The Nation will find that the “lost” Gore votes in Palm Beach number somewhat less than the Consortium News estimate: some 6,600 votes that likely would have gone to Gore were either not counted or inadvertently given to Buchanan. [Nation, 4/24/2001]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., Ari Fleischer, County of Palm Beach (Florida), Theresa LePore, Consortium News, The Nation, Mark Foley, Joseph Lieberman, Patrick Buchanan

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

After Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, the co-chair of Florida’s Bush campaign team (see After 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000 and After), certifies George W. Bush (R-TX) the winner of Florida’s presidential election (see 7:30 p.m. November 26, 2000), the Bush campaign continues publicly—“ostentatiously,” to quote one London newspaper—preparing for Bush to transition into the White House, naming possible cabinet members and requesting that the General Services Administration (GSA) fund a transition office for Bush to prepare to ascend to the presidency. Andrew Card, a former General Motors executive whom Bush has said will be his chief of staff, says of Bush, “He’s getting ready to be a great president.” Bush’s chief of staff in Texas, Clay Johnson, heads the transition team and Ari Fleischer serves as press secretary. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) has told Senate committee chairpersons to convene their members on January 4, 2001 to begin confirmation hearings on Bush cabinet nominees. The GSA, however, has not gone along with the push. GSA officials say that the 80,000 square feet of Washington office space will stay locked until either Bush or Democrat Al Gore is certified as president. Instead, says Bush’s running mate Dick Cheney, the campaign will set up transition offices funded by private contributions. “We feel it is our obligation to the American people to honor their votes by moving forward and assembling the administration they’ve chosen,” he says. [Guardian, 11/28/2000; Forbes, 2011]

Entity Tags: Katherine Harris, Ari Fleischer, Andrew Card, Clay Johnson, George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000, General Services Administration, Trent Lott, George W. Bush, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says he cannot confirm the extent of the alleged vandalism carried out by Clinton staffers in the last days of the Clinton administration (see January 23, 2001). President Bush intends to change the tone in Washington to a positive one, Fleischer says, and as a result, the White House will not comment on the charges of rampant vandalism and theft. “Whether things were done that were perhaps less gracious than should have been, it is not going to be what President Bush focuses on, nor will it be what his staff focuses on,” he says. “Whatever may have been done, we are going to just put our heads down and look ahead.” [NewsMax, 1/26/2001; Guardian, 1/26/2001]
Hints and Innuendos - However, the White House is “cataloguing” the damage allegedly done by Clinton staffers, Fleischer says. When asked what is being catalogued, Fleischer responds: “I choose not to. I choose not to describe what acts were done that we found upon arrival because I think that’s part of changing the tone in Washington.” Sensing more to the story, reporters hone in, asking why make a catalogue “if you’re going to give them a pass,” what the dollar estimate of damage might be, and other questions. When a reporter says, “You’ve got to blame somebody,” Fleischer cuts him off: “President Bush is not going to come to Washington for the point of blaming somebody in this town. And it’s a different way of governing, it’s a different way of leading.” When asked what he knows of the supposed apology offered to Vice President Cheney’s wife by former Vice President Gore’s wife (see January 24, 2001), Fleischer says, “I know that a phone call was made to the vice president’s office, but I really—I don’t recall who made it.” When asked where the majority of the alleged damage was, Fleischer says, “You know, I really stopped paying attention to all the different places.” Finally, when asked whether some of the damage could actually be the result of renovations and normal repairs, Fleischer says, “I don’t think that the people who were professionals, who make their business to go in and prepare a White House for new arrivals, would cut wires.” Fleischer ends the briefing, having given reporters enough hints and implications of severe, widespread vandalism to whet their appetites. [Salon, 5/23/2001]
Story Fed by Fleischer, White House Officials - The allegations of vandalism and theft will prove to be almost entirely false (see February 14, 2001 and May 18, 2001). Salon will later report that while Fleischer and other White House officials publicly remain above the fray, in private they are feeding the controversy by giving detailed off-the-record interviews to selected reporters, pundits, and talk show hosts. One White House reporter will later admit that the story was pushed by at least two “unnamed Bush aides.” Salon correspondents Kerry Lauerman and Alicia Montgomery add: “Fleischer and the off-the-record Bush staffers, meanwhile, got a lot of help from a press corps eager for early scoops from a new administration. For some reporters and pundits, the White House vandalism story was just too good to pass up.” [Salon, 5/23/2001] A Washington Post report later states: “A high-level Republican who saw some of the damage said the White House was leery about putting information out about this because chief of staff Andrew Card Jr. did not want to appear to be ratting on the Clinton administration. ‘People wanted to talk about this, and Andy said no,’ an official said.” [Washington Post, 1/26/2001]
Stories Debunked - It will not be long before the stories are proven almost entirely false (see February 8, 2001, February 14, 2001, and May 18, 2001).

Entity Tags: Andrew Card, Bush administration (43), Clinton administration, Alicia Montgomery, Kerry Lauerman, George W. Bush, Ari Fleischer

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

The Bush White House alleges that officials and aides from the outgoing Clinton administration vandalized the White House in the last days before Bush officials took over. Conservative news site NewsMax reports that the “slovenly misfits” of the Clinton administration “left the [White House] in a shambles” in the transition between the outgoing Clinton administration and the incoming Bush administration. Clinton aides engaged in “deliberate vandalism,” the report says, and cites a General Services Administration (GSA) official estimating that it may cost up to $250,000 to repair the damage. NewsMax quotes a report by another conservative publication, the American Spectator, which itself quotes “an inspector… called in to assess the vandalism as saying that several executive desks were damaged to the point that they must be replaced, and several more offices must be repainted because of graffiti.” [Guardian, 1/26/2001; NewsMax, 1/26/2001] Conservative Internet gossip writer Matt Drudge reports that “White House offices [were] left ‘trashed’” and so-called “[p]orn bombs [and] lewd messages” were left behind. No explanation of what Drudge meant by the “porn bomb” allegation is ever given. [Chicago Sun-Times, 1/27/2001] The allegations of vandalism and theft will prove to be almost entirely false (see February 8, 2001, February 14, 2001, and May 18, 2001).
Gore's Staffers Charged with Worst of Vandalism - British newspaper The Guardian repeats earlier claims that the worst of the damage was found in offices once occupied by staffers for former Vice President Al Gore, and that Gore’s wife, Tipper, has phoned Lynne Cheney, the wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, to apologize for the damage. The story is false (see January 24, 2001). [Guardian, 1/26/2001]
Reports: Cut Phone Lines, Extensive Damage, Pornographic Photos - Both the Washington Post and The Guardian report allegations that computer and telephone lines were “sliced,” voice-mail messages were changed to “obscene remarks and lewd greetings,” desks were overturned, and trash strewn throughout the premises. The reports add that filing cabinets were glued shut with Superglue, pornographic photographs displayed in printers, and “filthy graffiti scrawled on at least one hallway wall.” The Spectator’s inspector adds that “[e]ntire computer keyboards will have to be replaced because the damage to them is more extensive than simply missing keys,” referring to allegations that some White House keyboards had the “W” keys pried off. The Spectator also reports tales of former Clinton staffers reportedly “laughing and giggling about the mess their former colleagues left behind.” A Bush White House official calls the White House “a pigsty” in the aftermath of the transition. “The Gore and Clinton people didn’t ‘clean out’ the place because there was nothing clean about what they did before they left.” The GSA will pursue the former Clinton officials for reimbursement and expenses. The Spectator reports that “investigators” conclude the damage was “the result of a carefully organized campaign of vandalism unlike anything ever seen in the aftermath of a presidential transition.” [NewsMax, 1/26/2001; Guardian, 1/26/2001; Washington Post, 1/26/2001] The New York Daily News reports, “The destruction was so vast that a telecommunications staffer with more than a quarter-century of service was seen sobbing near his office one night last week.” [New York Daily News, 1/27/2001] CNN’s Paula Zahn observes: “All right, but this is the White House, for God’s sakes. We’re not talking about people living in a fraternity.” [Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, 5/21/2001] Fox News is particularly vehement in its coverage. “They trash[ed] the place,” says Fox commentator Sean Hannity. ”$200,000 in furniture [was] taken out.” Fellow Fox commentator Oliver North (see May-June, 1989) adds: “We should expect from white trash what they did at the White House.… I recommend that what the Bush White House do is peel the wallpaper off that they defaced with their graffiti and ship it off to the Clinton Library so people can see it.” Fox host Bill O’Reilly says, “I mean, the price tag right now is about $200,000, so that’s a felony right there.” And O’Reilly guest Tom Schatz says, referring to the famous film about fraternity life, “They turned it into Animal House.” [Knight Ridder, 2/8/2001; Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, 5/21/2001]
Air Force One 'Stripped Bare,' Reports Claim - The Guardian also reports that during former President Clinton’s last trip in Air Force One, the presidential jet was subjected to what it calls “an orgy of pilfering” (see January 25-27, 2001). It was “stripped bare” by aides, who reportedly took china, silverware, salt and pepper shakers, and other items, most bearing the presidential seal. [Guardian, 1/26/2001] On Fox, Hannity charges, “They strip[ped] Air Force One of the china and everything else that wasn’t bolted down.” [Knight Ridder, 2/8/2001]
Clinton Officials Admit to 'Pranks,' Bush Officials Allege Attempts at Theft - Clinton and Gore officials deny the reports of vandalism, but admit to carrying out pranks such as removing the “W” keys and affixing satirical signs to office doors that read, “Office of Strategery,” “Office of Subliminable Messages,” and “Division of Uniting.” A former Clinton official says, “It’s childish, but it’s also funny.” However, a senior Bush official accuses Clinton staffers of attempting to steal White House paintings and official seals from doors, and attempting to have those items shipped to themselves; Bush officials have ordered that all packages leaving the White House be X-rayed. [Washington Post, 1/26/2001]
Bush Aide Documenting Damages - A Bush White House aide has been delegated to document the vandalism, videos are being taken of the damages, and White House officials are being interviewed. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer has confirmed that the administration is reviewing reports of the alleged vandalism. [NewsMax, 1/26/2001] Bush himself downplays the reports, saying: “There might have been a prank or two, maybe somebody put a cartoon on the wall, but that’s okay. It’s time now to move forward.” [New York Daily News, 1/27/2001]

Entity Tags: Mary Elizabeth (“Tipper”) Gore, Sean Hannity, Matt Drudge, New York Daily News, Paula Zahn, Oliver North, Lynne Cheney, NewsMax, The Guardian, Fox News, General Services Administration, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., American Spectator, George W. Bush, Ari Fleischer, Bush administration (43), Bill O’Reilly, Tom Schatz, Clinton administration, Washington Post

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

The White House fails to produce the documentation it says it has compiled on the so-called Clinton “vandal scandal,” the allegations that Clinton staffers looted and vandalized the White House, Air Force One, and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House, in the last days of the Clinton administration (see January 26, 2001). As a result, the General Accounting Office (GAO) is unable to pursue an investigation of the allegations as requested by Bush officials. In January, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters that the White House was compiling a “catalogue” of damages and missing items; in recent days, Fleischer has said that no actual list was being documented, but instead White House staffers (or a single staffer, Fleischer is unclear) were keeping track of the damages “in their heads.” In a letter responding to the GAO’s March request for details about “damage that may have been deliberately caused” by the Clinton administration, Phillip Larsen, a special assistant to the president, tells GAO official Bernard Ungar: “After investigation, we have located no such record. And our repair records do not contain information that would allow someone to determine the cause of the damage that is being repaired.” [Knight Ridder, 6/4/2001]

Entity Tags: General Accounting Office, Ari Fleischer, Bush administration (43), Bernard Ungar, Phillip Larsen, Clinton administration

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

President Bush misstates US foreign policy when he says that the US will do “whatever it took to help Taiwan defend herself” in the event of attack by China. Since the Reagan administration, the US government has conducted what it calls a “One-China” policy, agreeing with the Chinese position that Taiwan is a breakaway province of China yet attempting to walk a fine line between the two contentious nations through tacit recognition of the island nation, and regular arms and economic aid packages. Taiwan insists it is a separate nation, while China regards Taiwan as a renegade province that is part of China proper. The US also announces a major arms sales package for Taiwan. The Chinese continue to detain a US surveillance plane downed in a midair collision with a Chinese fighter jet (see March 31, 2001), another source of strain between the US and China. Publicly, White House officials such as press secretary Ari Fleischer say that Bush’s comments about defending Taiwan from Chinese attack are consistent with US policy, but privately, officials scramble to mollify outraged Chinese government officials. [United Press International, 4/26/2001; International Herald Tribune, 4/30/2001] Later in the day, Bush hedges his earlier comments, saying that his statement does not reflect a change in official US policies towards China and Taiwan. “Our nation will help Taiwan defend itself,” Bush says “At the same time, we support the one-China policy, and we expect the dispute to be resolved peacefully.” Bush says any declaration of Taiwanese independence “is not part of the one-China policy.” A senior administration official explains that Bush’s comments are merely an attempt to “try to get the words straight…to reaffirm existing US policy.… No change was intended” and Bush simply “didn’t present the whole thought.” [CNN, 4/25/2001] Bush’s comment reflects the position of administration neoconservatives such as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who want the US to recognize Taiwan as an independent nation and pledge to defend Taiwan against Chinese aggression. At the same time, the United States has also said it has commitments to Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act, and it has been implicit but never stated the United States would help Taiwan defend itself. Bush said repeatedly during the 2000 presidential campaign that he intended to redefine the US’s position towards Taiwan. [CNN, 4/25/2001]

Entity Tags: Paul Wolfowitz, Ari Fleischer, Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer backs off of previous claims that Clinton administration officials vandalized the White House, and stole all manner of items, during the January 2001 transition between the Clinton and Bush administrations (see January 26, 2001). A General Services Administration report found the allegations virtually without merit (see May 18, 2001). Fleischer is asked about the report, and about his allegations that Bush officials had made a “catalogue” of the vandalism and theft that apparently does not exist. Fleischer now says that he had attempted to “knock… down” reports of alleged vandalism “and draw everybody back and away from this story because it was not something the White House was pursuing.” Fleischer continues: “And I indicated that there was no investigation going on, because there wasn’t. I said, if anything, somebody is cataloguing this. And the next day I further explained that meant that somebody was just keeping mental track of what was taking place. There were no written records about it all. But they were keeping on eye on and noting what did take place as this administration came into office.… The General Services Administration contacted the White House recently and asked if there were any written records of what took place. And just as I indicated, because there were no written records, the White House informed the General Services Administration that we had no written records to provide them. And I think that’s what their report indicated, the White House did not provide them any written records because there were none. Which is what I indicated at the time.” Fleischer says the White House intends “not to live in the past” and focus on “things that took place as this administration entered office…” [White House, 5/22/2001] Fleischer fails to acknowledge that it was his hints and innuendos to the White House press corps that encouraged the story to spread (see January 25, 2001).

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Ari Fleischer, General Services Administration, Clinton administration

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

In the aftermath of the General Services Administration’s report that the Clinton “vandal scandal” never happened (see May 18, 2001), some wonder how involved the Bush administration was in pushing the falsehoods onto the press—and how willing the press was to run with the juicy, but baseless, allegations. Former Clinton press secretary Jake Siewert says: “The media left a very damaging and false impression. I’d hope the reporters [would] go back and try to figure out what went wrong.” Siewert is less critical of the Bush administration’s role in the scandal, saying that “it’s hard to put any blame on the administration.” Siewert also declines to lay blame on Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer, “especially,” Siewert says, “if the guidance he got on the story was wrong” (see May 22, 2001). Washington Post reporter Lloyd Grove, whose short report sparked the entire controversy (see January 23, 2001), says Fleischer is at the heart of the story. “The person who really needs to explain what he was doing was Ari, why he let the story percolate, and why he juiced it with his coy responses,” Grove says. “I think it’s a fair point to ask to what extent Mr. Fleischer’s credibility has been damaged by this.” Washington Post reporter Mike Allen, who contributed much of the Post’s reporting of the alleged vandalism (see January 26, 2001), says Fleischer’s allegation that Clinton staffers “cut [the] wires” of telephones and computers sparked so much coverage (see January 25, 2001). “That seems tough to ignore,” Allen says. Journalism professor Geneva Overholser pins much of the blame on the press: “We wouldn’t have had to go through all this if we had done our job right in the first place.” The media should have pressed harder for documentation and should not have allowed White House sources to remain anonymous, she says. “It’s just amazing what we let people get away with saying.” One White House reporter says that Fleischer did not have to do much more than start the story rolling. “We’re often such willing co-conspirators,” the reporter says. “They don’t have to hatch anything.” [Salon, 5/23/2001; American Journalism Review, 7/2001]

Entity Tags: Geneva Overholser, Ari Fleischer, Bush administration (43), General Services Administration, Jake Siewert, Lloyd Grove, Mike Allen, Clinton administration

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Anthony Weiner.Anthony Weiner. [Source: Anthony Weiner]A Democratic House member and four former Clinton administration staff members demand an apology from President Bush over the disproven Clinton “vandal scandal” stories from January 2001 (see January 25, 2001 and January 26, 2001). Two weeks ago, the General Services Administration (GSA) released a report debunking the stories (see May 18, 2001). In response, the White House leaks a hastily compiled “list” of damages that Bush staffers allege was done during the transition period (see June 2-3, 2001).
Demand for Apology - Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY) is joined by former White House officials Rob Housman, Jeff Gulko, Bridger McGaw, and Matthew Donoghue in demanding that Bush apologize for besmirching Clinton officials’ reputations with the false allegations. Weiner calls White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who was at the center of much of the rumors, “shameless,” and adds, “A GAO [General Accounting Office] study has confirmed there was no destruction of keyboards, no graffiti, there was no vandalism.” (The GAO found that because the White House had no records of the damages, it could not begin an investigation of the charges.)
Semi-Denial - Fleischer’s deputy, Scott McClellan, notes that “there is no actual GAO ‘report,’ which the congressman refers to in his letter. There’s just a letter from GAO.” McClellan’s odd denial is, according to some Bush officials, an attempt to imply that there was actual damage done by Clinton staffers, but the Bush White House chose not to participate in the GAO’s proposed investigation because it wanted to “move forward” and keep a “positive tone.” One White House aide says: “We never kept a list of all the incidents, and therefore did not have anything to turn over. That doesn’t mean the incidents didn’t happen. We just were pleased to let the matter fade so that people could return to the focus on policy.”
Response to Semi-Denial - Weiner says that the Bush White House claims are disingenuous. “I believe that the responsibility for this largely lies with the White House,” he says. “They fed this story, they nurtured this story, they spread this story.” The “vandal scandal” story was, Weiner says, part of a “strategy by the nascent Bush administration to toss up as much dust and smoke about the Clinton administration to give themselves a soft landing. It makes good copy to say ‘Well, there’s a new sheriff in town, and we don’t vandalize offices.’ Well, neither did the preceding administration.” Clinton staffers were made into “cannon fodder” for Bush administration propaganda, Weiner says. Donoghue calls the tales “a uniquely Capitol punishment, and that is the besmirching of our reputations. Standing here, all I can think of is what Ray Donovan said years ago, which is ‘Where do I go to get my reputation back?’ And that’s why we’re here today.” (Donovan is a former Reagan administration Cabinet official acquitted of bribery charges in 1987.) Donoghue says that he, McGaw, and Gulko have had problems finding jobs after their White House stints in part because of the vandalism allegations. [Salon, 6/2/2001]

Entity Tags: Clinton administration, Ari Fleischer, Anthony D. Weiner, Bush administration (43), Scott McClellan, Jeff Gulko, Matthew Donoghue, General Services Administration, General Accounting Office, Bridger McGaw, George W. Bush, Rob Housman

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Bush officials release this photo as evidence of the ‘systematic vandalism’ performed by outgoing Clinton staffers in January 2001.Bush officials release this photo as evidence of the ‘systematic vandalism’ performed by outgoing Clinton staffers in January 2001. [Source: White House / Salon]The White House releases a list of damages it says were done by Clinton staffers as part of the Clinton “vandal scandal,” allegations that the White House and Air Force One were vandalized and looted in the final days of the Clinton administration (see January 26, 2001). White House press secretary Ari Fleischer gives the list to Washington Post reporter Mike Allen, but no one else.
Catalogue Based on Bush Staffers' Recollections - For months, White House officials have claimed they were keeping a “catalogue” detailing the damages done, but until now have failed to produce that catalogue; such a listing was not provided to the General Services Administration (GSA) when it reported that the stories of vandalism and looting were almost entirely false (see May 18, 2001). The General Accounting Office (GAO) reported in April that, partly because of the White House’s refusal to release its list of damages, it could confirm none of the often-sensational claims. According to Allen, the damages include “obscene graffiti in six offices, a 20-inch-wide presidential seal ripped off a wall, 10 sliced telephone lines, and 100 inoperable computer keyboards.” Also, pornographic or obscene phone messages were recorded on 15 telephone lines in various offices, requiring the answering machines to be reprogrammed; some printers had pornographic images inserted in stacks of blank copy paper. Doorknobs and nameplates are also listed as “missing.” Most of the alleged vandalism occurred, not in the White House, but in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, adjacent to the White House. Fleischer says the catalogue was not prepared until Friday, and is based on what Allen calls “the recollections of officials and career government employees, in response to Democrats’ ‘suggestion that the Bush White House made things up’” (see June 1, 2001).
Blaming Clinton Officials, Democrats, Press - Fleischer tells Allen: “The White House will defend itself and the career employees. We tried to be gracious, but the last administration would not take graciousness. By getting the information out, we hope to put an end to this, so everyone can go on with the policy and business of the government.” Former Clinton officials note that Fleischer’s catalogue bears little resemblance to the lurid claims of widespread destruction and looting made in January. Former presidential press secretary Joe Lockhart says the vandalism allegations were part of a failed Bush strategy to “make the new administration look good by comparison to the last one.” He adds: “If anyone did anything that harmed government property, that’s wrong. But to have suggested there was an organized effort that ran into hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage is grossly wrong and misleading.” House Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY) says that Fleischer and other Bush officials “deliberately misled the American people and smeared the names of public servants who were guilty of nothing.” Fleischer blames the press for keeping the story alive, saying: “Sometimes, stories just are like water running downhill and you can try to slow down the press, but you can’t stop them. All the White House comments were aimed at moving forward. It was all in the context of drawing reporters back from the story, because that’s what the president wanted.” [Washington Post, 6/3/2001]

Entity Tags: General Accounting Office, Anthony D. Weiner, Ari Fleischer, Clinton administration, General Services Administration, Joe Lockhart, Bush administration (43), Mike Allen

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

The General Accounting Office (GAO) intends to reopen its investigation into the so-called Clinton “vandal scandal,” which alleged that Clinton aides had vandalized and looted both the White House and Air Force One in the final days of the Clinton administration (see January 26, 2001). The General Services Administration has recently found that reports of vandalism and theft are almost wholly false (see May 18, 2001). The GAO wants the list of damages that White House press secretary Ari Fleischer recently gave the Washington Post (see June 2-3, 2001), a list that for months White House officials insisted never existed. “We are going to proceed and do the review,” says Bernard Ungar, the GAO’s director of physical infrastructure. “Now they say there is a list.” In April, the GAO asked for the list, which Fleischer had said in January was being compiled (see January 25, 2001); at that time, White House officials admitted that such a list did not exist except in some officials’ “heads” (see April 18, 2001). White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan says that President Bush and others have been downplaying the “vandal scandal” issue because Bush wanted to “move forward”; however, she says, “when it became clear on Friday that others wanted to pursue this issue, the White House staff reconstructed orally what happened.” Buchan is referring to demands from Anthony Weiner (D-NY) that Bush apologize for smearing Clinton staffers’ reputations with the false allegations (see June 1, 2001). “Nothing has fundamentally changed about this story from the very beginning,” says former Clinton press secretary Jake Siewert. “The White House has been smearing a whole class of people without providing any evidence. Most of us are perfectly willing to accept the fact if it turns out to be that something happened. It’s just been these vague allegations without any proof. If there’s damage, there will be a record. If I wanted to get a phone fixed, there’s a paper trail.” Buchan blames White House service staff, who work at the site regardless of what administration is in office, for the original rumors. [Knight Ridder, 6/4/2001] A year later, the GAO will release a report finding “minor damages” occurred during the Clinton-Bush transition (see June 12, 2002).

Entity Tags: Claire Buchan, Anthony D. Weiner, Ari Fleischer, Bush administration (43), General Accounting Office, George W. Bush, Clinton administration, Bernard Ungar, General Services Administration, Jake Siewert

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Some former Clinton administration officials are furious at the White House’s release of a “list” of alleged vandalism (see January 25, 2001 and January 26, 2001) to a Washington Post reporter (see June 2-3, 2001), and demand that the White House document its charges. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer admitted that the list was only put together a few days before and was entirely based on the recollections of Bush officials. He says the White House will document the charges on the list if asked by the General Accounting Office (see June 4, 2001). Former Clinton press secretary Jake Siewert calls Fleischer’s tactics “incredibly infuriating,” and says documentation of the vandalism allegations should be simple because the government keeps careful records of repairs to phones and computers. “If I needed my keyboard fixed, I had to submit a form,” says Siewert, who worked in the White House for more than six years. “There should have been records of all this stuff.” Bush officials say the existing repair records do not indicate the causes of damage, and therefore cannot validate the vandalism claims. The General Services Administration (GSA) concluded in an investigation that the charges of vandalism and looting were almost completely false (see May 18, 2001); the GAO said it was unable to open its own investigation because of “the lack of records… reported by the White House.” House Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY—see June 1, 2001) says through a spokesman, “The White House’s continuing campaign of disinformation and possible violation of federal law for noncompliance with a GAO investigation calls its credibility—and its list of damaged property—into serious question.” Weiner’s House colleague Bob Barr (R-GA), who has demanded a GAO investigation, has called the failure of the White House to document its vandalism charges “a disservice to the American taxpayers” and asked the GAO “to ensure proper records of federal government property are kept during future presidential transitions.” [Washington Post, 6/4/2001]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Anthony D. Weiner, Ari Fleischer, Clinton administration, General Accounting Office, Robert “Bob” Barr, General Services Administration, Jake Siewert

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

A number of key White House officials will later claim that, when they learn of the first crash at the World Trade Center, they initially think it is just an accident:
bullet President Bush says that, when he learns of the crash while in Sarasota, Florida: “my first reaction was—as an old pilot—how could the guy have gotten so off course to hit the towers? What a terrible accident that is” (see (Shortly After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 42]
bullet White House chief of staff Andrew Card, who is with the president, says: “It was first reported to me… that it looked like it was a, a twin-engine pro—prop plane, and so the natural reaction was: ‘What a horrible accident. The pilot must have had a heart attack.’” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002]
bullet Adviser Karl Rove, who is also with the president in Florida, is later questioned about his feelings after the first crash. When it is suggested, “I guess at that point, everyone is still thinking it is an accident,” Rove concurs, “Yes, absolutely.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002]
bullet White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, also traveling with the president on this day, says, “[W]hen only the first tower had been hit, it was all of our thoughts that this had been some type of terrible accident.” [CNN, 9/11/2006]
bullet National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who is in her White House office, is informed of the crash by her executive assistant (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). She later recalls, “I thought, what a strange accident.” [O, the Oprah Magazine, 2/1/2002; MSNBC, 9/11/2002]
bullet White House counselor Karen Hughes receives a phone call informing her of the first crash as she is about to leave her Washington, DC, home. She later recalls, “they thought it was a small plane at the time… so, of course, my immediate thought was what a terrible accident.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; CNN, 4/6/2004] She adds, “We all assumed it was some kind of weird accident; at that point terrorism didn’t occur to us.” [Hughes, 2004, pp. 234]
The 9/11 Commission will later describe, “In the absence of information that the crash was anything other than an accident, the White House staff monitored the news as they went ahead with their regular schedules.” It will only be when they learn of the second tower being hit at 9:03 that “nearly everyone in the White House… immediately knew it was not an accident.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 35] However, when couterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is called some time after the first crash but before the second by Lisa Gordon-Hagerty—a member of his staff who is at the White House (see (9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001)—she tells him, “Until we know what this is, Dick, we should assume the worst.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 1] And when CIA Director George Tenet learns of the first crash, reportedly he is told specifically, “The World Trade tower has been attacked,” and his initial reaction is, “This has bin Laden all over it” (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Woodward, 2002, pp. 4]

Entity Tags: Condoleezza Rice, Ari Fleischer, George J. Tenet, George W. Bush, Karl C. Rove, Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, Karen Hughes, Andrew Card, Richard A. Clarke

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Bush’s travels in the Sarasota, Florida, region, with key locations marked.Bush’s travels in the Sarasota, Florida, region, with key locations marked. [Source: Yvonne Vermillion/ MagicGraphix.com]White House officials and reporters who are traveling with President Bush in Florida learn that a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center while they are being driven to the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, but Bush is not notified about the crash at this time. [White House, 8/12/2002; St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004; Rochester Review, 9/2004] A number of senior officials who are together in a van learn about the crash as their vehicle is pulling into the school’s driveway. Those in the van include White House press secretary Ari Fleischer; White House communications director Dan Bartlett; Bush’s senior adviser, Karl Rove; Bush’s CIA briefer, Mike Morell; and White House photographer Eric Draper. [White House, 8/12/2002; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 138; Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 pdf file]
Press Secretary Is Contacted by an Assistant - Fleischer is alerted to the crash by Brian Bravo, an assistant in the White House press office. Bravo learned what happened when he was called by a friend in New York who had seen Flight 11 hitting the WTC, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), and then saw the television coverage of the incident. In response, he sent a pager message to Fleischer, simply stating, “A plane has hit the World Trade Center.” [White House, 8/8/2002; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 138; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] After seeing the message, Fleischer exclaims: “Oh, my God! I don’t believe it! A plane just hit the World Trade Center.” [Albuquerque Tribune, 9/10/2002; Bamford, 2004, pp. 17] He turns to Morell and asks the CIA officer if he knows anything about the incident. Morell says no and that he will make some calls to try and find out more. He will call the CIA’s operations center to see what people there know (see Shortly Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 pdf file; Morell and Harlow, 2015, pp. 47-48]
Other Officials Receive Calls from the White House - Around the time Fleischer is alerted to the crash, Rove is called from the White House by his assistant, Susan Ralston, who tells him what happened at the WTC (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New Yorker, 9/25/2001; Filipinas, 2/2004] And Bartlett receives a call from his assistant at the White House, who tells him: “There’s just been an incredible accident or something. A plane has hit the World Trade Center.” [White House, 8/12/2002]
Military Officers Are Called about the Crash - In another vehicle in the motorcade, Navy Captain Deborah Loewer, the director of the White House Situation Room, receives a call from Rob Hargis, the senior duty officer in the Situation Room, alerting her to the crash. [Dayton Daily News, 8/17/2003; McClatchy Newspapers, 8/29/2011; Priess, 2016, pp. 239-240] Meanwhile, as his vehicle is arriving at the school, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Herman, a senior presidential communications officer assigned to the White House, is contacted by his operations center, and notified that a plane has struck one of the Twin Towers and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice wants to talk on the phone with the president. [Marist Magazine, 10/2002]
Members of the Press Are Alerted to the Crash - Members of the press traveling in the motorcade also learn about the crash during the journey to the school. Reporter Richard Keil is told what happened when he talks on the phone with a friend who has seen the coverage of the incident on television. Keil then passes on the news to the other reporters and photographers in the press van. And Kia Baskerville, a CBS News White House producer, receives a call on her cell phone from a producer who tells her about the crash. [CBS News, 8/19/2002; Rochester Review, 9/2004]
President Is Not Told about the Crash - And yet, while these people are alerted to the crash, Bush reportedly is not called about it at this time and he will only be told what has happened after he arrives at the school (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004; Rove, 2010, pp. 249-250; Priess, 2016, pp. 240] This is despite the fact that his limousine is “bristling with communications gear,” according to the Los Angeles Times. [Los Angeles Times, 1/24/2001] “In the presidential limo, the communications system is almost duplicative of the White House,” author Philip Melanson will note. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] “Yet despite having a secure STU-III phone next to him… and an entire national security staff at the White House,” author James Bamford will comment, “it appears that the president of the United States knew less than tens of millions of other people in every part of the country who were watching the attack as it unfolded.” [Bamford, 2004, pp. 17] “It mystifies me why they didn’t call the president,” Robert Plunket, a reporter who is waiting for the president at the school, will remark. “He’s totally surrounded by state-of-the-art communications equipment and nobody tells him.” [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004]

Entity Tags: Dan Bartlett, Eric Draper, Brian Bravo, Deborah Loewer, George W. Bush, Karl C. Rove, Kia Baskerville, Thomas Herman, Ari Fleischer, Susan Ralston, Michael J. Morell, Richard Keil, Rob Hargis

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Karl Rove, Andrew Card, and Dan Bartlett.
Karl Rove, Andrew Card, and Dan Bartlett. [Source: White House, US Office Pristina, Kosovo, White House]President Bush is told that a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center for the first time by Karl Rove, his senior adviser, according to some accounts, although other accounts will state that he is first alerted to the crash by another member of his staff. Bush has just arrived at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, where he is going to attend a children’s reading event (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 41-42; Bush, 2010, pp. 126; Rove, 2010, pp. 249-250; Priess, 2016, pp. 240; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Rove Tells Bush about the Crash - During the drive to the school, several members of his staff were informed about the crash at the WTC (see (Between 8:48 a.m. and 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [White House, 8/12/2002; Dayton Daily News, 8/17/2003] Rove received a call alerting him to what had happened as he was arriving at the school (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He will later recall that he then walks over to Bush, who is “with Secretary of Education Rod Paige, shaking hands with staff and teachers outside the school,” and tells him about the crash. [New Yorker, 9/25/2001; Rove, 2010, pp. 249-250; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who arrived at the school around the time the president did, will give a similar account, writing that while Bush is shaking “hands with the teachers and staff who had lined up to greet him,” Rove “stepped beside the president and told him about the plane” hitting the WTC. [Fleischer, 2005, pp. 138-139]
Bush Thinks the Crash Was 'a Terrible Accident' - Rove tells Bush the crash appears to have been an accident involving a small, twin-engine plane. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002] Bush nods his head, gives “a quizzical look,” and says, “Get more details,” Rove will describe. [Rove, 2010, pp. 250] The president’s initial thoughts in response to the news are: “How could the [pilot] have gotten so off course to hit the towers? What a terrible accident that is.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 42; Washington Times, 10/7/2002] He says: “This is pilot error. It’s unbelievable that somebody would do this.” He confers with Andrew Card, his chief of staff, and says the plane’s pilot “must have had a heart attack.” [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
Someone Else First Gives Bush the News, Other Accounts Will State - Rove will claim that he “was the first to tell [Bush] the news” about the crash. [Rove, 2010, pp. 250] However, according to other accounts, Bush is first told about the crash by some other member of the White House staff. For example, Navy Captain Deborah Loewer, director of the White House Situation Room, will say she was the first person to inform Bush about it, running up to his limousine and giving him the news as soon as he arrived at the school (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 11/26/2001; Dayton Daily News, 8/17/2003; Priess, 2016, pp. 240] And in 2002, Bush will tell journalist and author Bill Sammon that he was first told about the crash by Card. He will say that as he was heading into the school, while Blake Gottesman, his personal aide, was giving him some final instructions in preparation for the reading event, Card said to him, “By the way, an aircraft flew into the World Trade Center.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 41-42; Washington Times, 10/7/2002] But on other occasions, Bush will state that he was first told about the crash by Rove. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 126] Bush is also told about the crash, after he arrives at the school, by Dan Bartlett, his communications director, according to some accounts. In response to the news, Bartlett will say, Bush asks, “Was it bad weather [that caused the crash]?” [White House, 8/12/2002; Draper, 2007, pp. 135] After learning about the crash, Bush will go to a classroom from where he will talk on the phone with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who is at the White House, and discuss what has happened with her (see (Shortly Before 9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Times, 10/7/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 126-127]

Entity Tags: Deborah Loewer, Ari Fleischer, Blake Gottesman, Dan Bartlett, Andrew Card, George W. Bush, Karl C. Rove, Rod Paige

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

President Bush and Sandra Kay Daniels read while the media watches.President Bush and Sandra Kay Daniels read while the media watches. [Source: White House / Eric Draper]President Bush stays in a classroom at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, and listens to the students reading a story about a pet goat for five minutes, despite having just been told that the nation is under attack. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 38-39] Bush has been in the classroom since 9:02 a.m., listening to 16 second graders demonstrating their reading skills (see 9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 8/25/2002; Washington Times, 10/8/2002] Andrew Card, his chief of staff, has just come into the room, and told him a second plane has crashed into the World Trade Center and America is under attack (see (9:07 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The teacher, Sandra Kay Daniels, now continues the reading demonstration, instructing the children: “At the count of three. Everyone should be on page 163.” The children then read a story called The Pet Goat, which is about a girl’s pet goat that protects the family home from a burglar. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 83-85; Washington Times, 10/7/2002; Editor & Publisher, 7/2/2004; Wall Street Journal, 7/2/2004] Despite having just heard that the nation is under attack, Bush picks up his copy of the textbook and tries to follow along as the children read. [Tampa Tribune, 9/1/2002; Washington Times, 10/7/2002] He will later explain why he stays where he is and listens to the rest of the reading demonstration, rather than leaving the classroom to go and respond to the attacks, writing: “I knew my reaction would be recorded and beamed throughout the world. The nation would be in shock; the president could not be. If I stormed out hastily, it would scare the children and send ripples of panic throughout the country.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 127]
Bush Remains Composed - Bush is in fact surprisingly calm for the rest of the reading demonstration. He “maintained his composure and sent an image of calm to the nation,” White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who is in the classroom at this time, will comment. [Fleischer, 2005, pp. 140] “He didn’t change his facial expression; he didn’t show what obviously had to be nothing but alarm and concern,” Fleischer will say. [White House, 8/8/2002] “It was pretty amazing to me how he could not show any sign of panic,” White House photographer Eric Draper, who is also in the classroom, will comment. [Albuquerque Tribune, 9/10/2002] A video recording of the event will show that Bush listens to the children reading The Pet Goat for five minutes. Finally, the children read the last line of the story, saying aloud, “More—to—come.” But even then, Bush will stay in the classroom for at least two more minutes, asking the children questions and talking briefly with the school’s principal (see (9:13 a.m.-9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Times, 10/7/2002; Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, Eric Draper, George W. Bush, Sandra Kay Daniels

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Ari Fleischer.Ari Fleischer. [Source: Publicity photo]White House press secretary Ari Fleischer holds up a message instructing President Bush to not say anything yet about the terrorist attacks in New York after Bush is informed about the second crash at the World Trade Center in the middle of a public event. [Washington Times, 10/7/2002; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 139-140] Bush has been listening to a reading demonstration at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida. [ABC News, 9/11/2002; Washington Times, 10/8/2002]
Fleischer Received a Pager Message about the Second Crash - Fleischer, who is at the back of the classroom where the demonstration is taking place, learned about the second crash when he received a message on his pager alerting him to it. The message, which was sent by a colleague in Washington, DC, stated simply, “Second tower hit.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 84; White House, 8/6/2002; Sioux City Journal, 10/5/2009] “Immediately [after reading the message] I thought: ‘This must be terrorism. There cannot be any other explanation,’” Fleischer will later recall. He instructed the president’s advance team to get members of the press out of the room as soon as the reading demonstration ended, so they wouldn’t ask Bush about the events in New York before the president was told a second plane had hit the WTC. He started writing a message for the president on the back of his legal pad. But then Andrew Card, Bush’s chief of staff, came into the room, and told the president a second plane had crashed into the WTC and America was under attack (see (9:07 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Bush Sees Fleischer's Message - Fleischer now moves in front of the president, with his back to the members of the press in the room, and holds up his pad so Bush can see the message on it. [White House, 8/6/2002; White House, 8/8/2002; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 139-140] Bush notices Fleischer trying to catch his attention and then reads the message, written in large block letters, which states: “DON’T SAY ANYTHING YET.” The message means, “Fleischer didn’t want him talking to the press about the World Trade Center,” according to journalist and author Bill Sammon. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 86-87; Washington Times, 10/7/2002] “Until he could get a better briefing, I didn’t think it would be wise for him to address what surely now was a nation riveted to television sets, eager for news,” Fleischer will comment. [Fleischer, 2005, pp. 140] “I thought the most important thing was… to ascertain all the information, all the facts, before speaking,” he will say. [White House, 8/8/2002] Regarding Fleischer’s message, Bush will comment that he “didn’t plan to” say anything yet. “I had settled on a plan of action,” he will write, adding, “When the lesson ended, I would leave the classroom calmly, gather the facts, and speak to the nation.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 127] After seeing Fleischer’s message, Bush will continue listening to the children reading for several minutes, despite now being aware that America is under attack (see (9:08 a.m.-9:13 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Times, 10/7/2002; Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Ari Fleischer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Bush in a holding room before giving his speech. Communications director Dan Bartlett points to the TV, and the clock reads 9:25. 
Bush in a holding room before giving his speech. Communications director Dan Bartlett points to the TV, and the clock reads 9:25. [Source: White House]After leaving the Booker Elementary School classroom, President Bush returns to an adjacent holding room where he is briefed by his staff, and gets his first look at the footage of the burning World Trade Center on a television that has been set up there. He instructs his press secretary, Ari Fleischer, to take notes to create an accurate accounting of events. According to some accounts, he speaks on the phone with Vice President Dick Cheney who is at the White House, and they both agree that terrorists are probably behind the attacks. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 92-93; Daily Mail, 9/8/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39] But White House adviser Karl Rove, who is also in the holding room, will later tell NBC News that Bush is unable to reach Cheney because the vice president is being moved from his office to the White House bunker at this time. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] The president speaks with New York Governor George Pataki and FBI Director Robert Mueller. Bush learns from Mueller that the planes that hit the WTC were commercial American aircraft, and at least one of them had apparently been hijacked after leaving Boston. According to some accounts, Bush also speaks with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice around this time. However, Rice herself will later suggest otherwise (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 93-94; Daily Mail, 9/8/2002; St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39] Fleischer and White House communications director Dan Bartlett quickly draft a statement for the president to deliver in the school’s library, which Bush rewords, scribbling three sheets of notes. Bush will deliver this at 9:30 a.m. (see 9:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). While he works on the statement, Bush briefly glances at the unfolding horror on the television. Turning to his aides in the room, he declares, “We’re at war.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 94; Albuquerque Tribune, 9/10/2002] According to the 9/11 Commission, the focus at the present time is on the president’s statement to the nation, and the only decision made by Bush’s traveling party is to return to Washington. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39] Bush will later claim that he makes no major decisions in response to the crisis until after Air Force One takes off at around 9:55 a.m. (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]

Entity Tags: George E. Pataki, Dan Bartlett, Condoleezza Rice, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush, Ari Fleischer, Robert S. Mueller III, Karl C. Rove

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

President Bush on the phone during the flight from Sarasota to Barksdale Air Force Base.President Bush on the phone during the flight from Sarasota to Barksdale Air Force Base. [Source: White House]President Bush and his staff have difficulty communicating with colleagues in Washington, DC, while they are traveling on Air Force One, after the plane takes off from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Northwest Indiana Times, 9/22/2002; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Bush had problems calling his colleagues at the White House while he was being driven to the airport, after leaving the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, at around 9:35 a.m. (see (9:34 a.m.-9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006]
Air Force One Should Have 'Outstanding Communications' - He ought to have more success after he boards Air Force One, at around 9:45 a.m. (see (9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001), since the plane has state-of-the-art communications systems. [Inside the White House, 9/1998; Hardesty, 2003, pp. 167] Its capabilities are “just as good as the communications from the Oval Office in terms of [the president] being able to call, in a secure way, the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, the generals that might have to fight a war, or the vice president or… the national security adviser,” White House chief of staff Andrew Card will later comment. The plane has the “capacity to have… outstanding communications,” he will say. [White House, 8/12/2002]
Communications Systems Are 'All Jammed' - However, Bush and his staff have great difficulty sending and receiving information about the day’s events while they are on Air Force One. [Northwest Indiana Times, 9/22/2002] The “multiple [communications] systems—commercial and terrestrial systems” on the plane are “all jammed,” according to Master Sergeant Dana Lark, superintendent of communications. Lark actually wonders, “Did someone sabotage our comms?” [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Bush Has Problems Communicating with Vice President Cheney - Bush finds that his calls are successful only intermittently. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] Attempts are made to establish an open line with Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who are at the White House, but the line keeps dropping. [Bush, 2010, pp. 131] “It was absolutely stunning, standing next to the president as he was talking to the vice president, then holding the phone off his ear because it cut off,” White House press secretary Ari Fleischer will comment. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] At one point, Bush pounds his desk in frustration and shouts: “This is inexcusable. Get me the vice president.” [CBS News, 9/11/2002] He also has difficulty reaching his wife, Laura, since the line keeps dropping when he tries to call her. He eventually talks to her shortly before 11:45 a.m., when Air Force One is approaching Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana (see (Shortly Before 11:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bush, 2010, pp. 132]
Officials in Washington Are Unable to Call the Plane - Some key individuals in Washington are unsuccessful when they try calling Air Force One. Scott Heyer, a communications officer in the White House Situation Room, is unable to contact the plane while it is flying from Sarasota to Barksdale Air Force Base, even when he tries calling its satellite phone (see 9:54 a.m.-11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/16/2004] And White House counselor Karen Hughes is unable to reach the president when she tries calling him while he is airborne (see (Between 10:31 a.m. and 11:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; NBC, 4/4/2004]
Bush Has His First Teleconference Hours after Leaving Sarasota - As a result of his problems communicating from the plane, Bush will hold his first teleconference with his principal advisers at around 3:15 p.m. (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001)—more than five hours after he takes off from Sarasota—after he arrives at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, where there is sophisticated communications equipment (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Northwest Indiana Times, 9/22/2002; Business Week, 11/4/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326] By that time, the communication problems will apparently have started to ease. Lark will recall that as Air Force One is flying to Offutt, “some of the commercial systems finally began to become available” and she actually receives a call from her chief. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Good Communications Are 'Critical' for the President - Bush’s communication problems may have a significant impact on the government’s ability to respond to the terrorist attacks. Thomas Kean, the chairman of the 9/11 Commission, will explain why the president’s ability to communicate during a crisis is so important, saying, “In the case of any kind of attack in the United States, what you’re supposed to do is get the president off the ground and Air Force One then becomes the command center.” Once he is airborne, the president is “commanding the forces of the United States from the air,” Kean will say. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] “The president literally can’t function in his constitutional role unless he can communicate, so [good communications are] absolutely critical,” Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Herman, a senior presidential communications officer, will similarly comment. [Marist Magazine, 10/2002] The president “is the only one who can give certain orders that need to be given,” Kean will note. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] However, Mark Rosenker, director of the White House Military Office, will claim that the communication problems have only a limited impact. “[F]or the most part I believe the president had the ability to do what was necessary to be in control and have command of his forces, and talk with his national security structure,” he will say. [White House, 8/29/2002]
Communications Systems Are Supposedly 'Saturated' - Lark will learn at a later date that the communication problems occur because, she will say, “the commercial systems were all just saturated.” [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Rosenker will similarly suggest that the problems may be partly due to the fact that communications from Air Force One “have to get through a regular telephone network,” and when there is a crisis, the increased volume of communications “jam and overuse the structure.” [White House, 8/29/2002] On top of their problems making and receiving calls, Bush and his staffers have difficulty monitoring the television coverage of the attacks while they are airborne, because the reception on the plane is poor and intermittent (see (9:54 a.m.-6:54 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [CBS News, 9/11/2002; Northwest Indiana Times, 9/22/2002; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]

Entity Tags: Thomas Kean, Condoleezza Rice, Ari Fleischer, Thomas Herman, Scott Heyer, Andrew Card, Mark Rosenker, Dana Lark, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush, Laura Bush, Karen Hughes

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

In a phone call with Vice President Dick Cheney, President Bush authorizes the military to shoot down hostile aircraft. Minutes earlier, in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, a military aide had asked Cheney for the authority to engage what appeared to be an inbound aircraft, and Cheney had promptly given it (see (Between 10:10 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). During a subsequent quiet moment, deputy White House chief of staff Josh Bolten, who is also in the PEOC, suggested to Cheney that he contact the president to confirm the engage order. Therefore at 10:18 a.m., according to White House logs, Cheney calls Bush, who is on board Air Force One, and speaks with him for two minutes. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer notes that at 10:20 a.m., Bush informs him that he has authorized the shootdown of aircraft, if necessary. According to the 9/11 Commission, “Fleischer’s 10:20 note is the first mention of shootdown authority.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 41 and 465] Bush’s senior adviser Karl Rove, who is also on Air Force One, gives a similar account, later telling NBC News that “at about 10:20,” Bush goes from his office into the private cabin in front of it, “and took a phone call, and came back in and said that he had talked to the vice president and to the secretary of defense and gave the authorization that [the] military could shoot down any planes not under control of their crews that were gearing critical targets.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] But other accounts indicate the president gives the shootdown authorization earlier than this. Bush and Cheney will claim that Bush gives the authorization during a call estimated to occur between about 10:00 and 10:15 (see (Between 10:00 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 40] Similarly, according to journalists Bob Woodward and Bill Sammon, Bush gives it in a call with Cheney soon after 9:56, when Air Force One takes off (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 102; Woodward, 2002, pp. 17-18; Washington Post, 1/27/2002] Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke says it is given even earlier. He states that, at some point between about 9:38 and 9:56, he is instructed to tell the Pentagon it has authorization from the president to shoot down hostile aircraft (see (9:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 11/29/2003; Clarke, 2004, pp. 8]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Karl C. Rove, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Ari Fleischer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

President Bush’s travels on 9/11.President Bush’s travels on 9/11. [Source: Yvonne Vermillion / MagicGrapix.com]Air Force One begins heading for Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana after the base is identified as a suitable interim destination for the president’s plane. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325] Washington, DC, was the plane’s original destination. [White House, 8/29/2002; Lompoc Record, 9/11/2011] But after taking off from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport in Florida without a fixed destination (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001), Air Force One changed course at around 10:10 a.m. and headed west (see (10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). This was because it had been determined that Washington was too unsafe for President Bush to return there (see (9:55 a.m.-10:04 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39, 325] At that time, the plane’s new destination was undecided.
Military Base Sought for President to Make a Statement - Andrew Card, Bush’s chief of staff, who is with the president on Air Force One, will later recall, “And so we started looking at potential Air Force bases or Navy bases where we could land the plane.” [White House, 8/16/2002] Mark Rosenker, the director of the White House Military Office, will recall that Card comes up to him in the communications area of the plane and says, “We need to find a facility, a base that we can get to in a relatively short period of time so that the president can make a statement.” [White House, 8/29/2002]
Secret Service Told of Bush's Desire to Land - Card will recall: “I had a goal of landing the plane within an hour and a half. It was somewhat arbitrary, but I wanted to get the president down.” [White House, 8/16/2002] Card similarly tells Edward Marinzel, the head of the president’s Secret Service detail, that Bush wants to land so he can make a statement to the press. It is also noted “that the stop would provide an opportunity for the airplane to be refueled and those on board to effect necessary communication,” Marinzel will say. [United States Secret Service, 2001]
Offutt Air Base Rejected as Destination - Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gould, Bush’s military aide, quickly researches the possibilities. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325] The first plan that is considered, according to Rosenker, is to fly all the way out to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, but this idea is dismissed because it would take too long to get there, and it is “very important to the president to address the nation and make sure that the people could see that he was safe and in total control of the situation.” [White House, 8/29/2002] (Air Force One will in fact head to Offutt later in the day, landing there at 2:50 p.m. (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001).)
Barksdale Makes 'the Greatest Sense' - Instead, at around 10:20 a.m., Gould identifies Barksdale Air Force Base as “an appropriate interim destination,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325-326] Rosenker will recall: “Barksdale made the greatest sense to us. It was a highly secure Air Force base, had B-52s there; they had the capability to do what was necessary to secure Air Force One and to make sure that the president was safe, and make sure that we could provide the appropriate communications facility so the president could make his statement.” [White House, 8/29/2002]
Bush Agrees with Decision to Head to Barksdale - The final decision to head to Barksdale Air Base is made by Card, “after talking to the military and the Secret Service,” according to White House press secretary Ari Fleischer. [Fleischer, 2005, pp. 142] Bush agrees with the decision and Barksdale becomes his plane’s new destination. [Bush, 2010, pp. 130; Rove, 2010, pp. 255] Air Force One will land at Barksdale Air Force Base at around 11:45 a.m. (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325]

Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, Edward Marinzel, Andrew Card, Mark Rosenker, Thomas Gould, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Will Chandler.Will Chandler. [Source: National Geographic]Vice President Dick Cheney phones President Bush and tells him the White House has received a credible threat against Air Force One. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 106-107; Woodward, 2002, pp. 18; CBS News, 9/11/2002] The White House has just received an anonymous phone call in which the caller said the president’s plane would be the next terrorist target (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Woodward, 2002, pp. 18; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554] The caller referred to the plane as “Angel,” which is the Secret Service’s code name for Air Force One. [Fleischer, 2005, pp. 141-142] Details of the call were passed on to government officials, including Cheney, in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House. [White House, 11/19/2001; Newsweek, 12/30/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554]
Cheney Tells Bush about a 'Credible' Threat - Cheney now tells Bush: “We’re getting reports of a threat against you. It appears credible,” Major Robert Darling of the White House Military Office, who is with Cheney in the PEOC, will later recall. Cheney says, “We’re scrambling fighter escorts and the Secret Service is taking internal precautions on board Air Force One.” [Darling, 2010, pp. 61] Bush turns to Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gould, his military aide, and passes on the news, saying, “A call came into the White House switchboard saying, ‘Angel is next.’” Bush then continues talking with Cheney and says, “We’re at war, Dick, and we’re going to find out who did this and we’re going to kick their ass.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 107; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 141-142]
Pilot Is Told of the Threat and Asks for a Guard at the Cockpit Door - Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, is told about the threat. [CBS News, 9/11/2002] Noting that “Angel” is “a classified call sign of Air Force One,” Tillman will comment that “the only people that knew that call sign was us, [the] Secret Service, and the staff.” Therefore, he will say, “for somebody [to] call into the White House and say that Angel was next, that was just incredible.” [US Air Force, 2/29/2012 pdf file] “It was serious before that, but now… no longer is it a time to get the president home,” Tillman will comment. “We actually have to consider everything we say. Everything we do could be intercepted and we have to make sure that no one knows what our position is.” Tillman asks to have an armed guard at his cockpit door. Will Chandler, the chief of security, is therefore summoned to the front of the plane and stands watch at the base of the stairs leading to the cockpit. No one is then allowed up these stairs. Secret Service agents double-check the identity of everyone on the plane, while the crew reviews the emergency evacuation plan. [CBS News, 9/11/2002; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Threat Influences the Decision to Fly to Nebraska - White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who is on Air Force One with Bush, will say the threat against the president’s plane is what leads to the decision to take Bush to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001) and is also one of the reasons why Bush does not head back to Washington, DC, right away. [White House, 9/12/2001] However, during the afternoon, the Secret Service will determine that the reported threat was unfounded. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554] Shortly after Bush learns about the threat, Tillman will be informed that an aircraft that may have been hijacked is heading toward Air Force One (see (10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CBS News, 9/11/2002; CBS News, 1/17/2009] White House chief of staff Andrew Card will say he in fact learned a threat had been made against Air Force One almost an hour earlier, while he was being driven with Bush to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (see (Between 9:35 a.m. and 9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [White House, 8/12/2002; White House, 8/16/2002; White House, 8/16/2002]

Entity Tags: Mark Tillman, Ari Fleischer, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush, Robert J. Darling, US Secret Service, Will Chandler, Thomas Gould

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Vice President Dick Cheney calls President Bush, who is on Air Force One, and urges him not to return to Washington, DC. [New York Times, 9/16/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 108-109; Washington Post, 1/27/2002] Cheney, who is in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, wants Bush to instead go to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, according to the New York Times. This is because Cheney “knew from his days as secretary of defense” that Offutt has “an extraordinarily sophisticated Strategic Command communications center.” [New York Times, 9/16/2001] According to journalist and author Bill Sammon, Cheney tells Bush that he and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice both think Washington is “no longer safe enough for his return.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 108-109] Cheney says, “There’s still a threat to Washington.” Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward will describe: “Signals intelligence and all kinds of reports were flooding in. Given what had happened—four hijackings—it wasn’t prudent to come back.” Cheney says he is worried that “the terrorists might be trying to decapitate the government, to kill its leaders,” and Bush agrees with him. Cheney says they have “a responsibility to preserve the government, its continuity of leadership.” [Woodward, 2002, pp. 18; Washington Post, 1/27/2002] White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who is with the president on Air Force One, will recall that around this time—presumably just after the call from Cheney—Bush tells others on the plane “that the vice president didn’t think it was safe for us to return to Washington until we could get a handle on how many hijacked planes there were. All planes flying in the continental United States had been ordered to land, but it wasn’t clear that all had done so.” [Fleischer, 2005, pp. 142] According to some reports, Air Force One is traveling north toward Washington at the time of Cheney’s call, and shortly afterwards it changes course and heads west toward Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana (see (10:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 108-109; Washington Post, 1/27/2002] However, other accounts, including the 9/11 Commission Report, will state that Air Force One turned west at around 10:10 a.m. (see (10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and began heading toward Barksdale about 10 minutes later (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325]

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush, Ari Fleischer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Ann Compton.Ann Compton. [Source: Harvard University]Reporters on Air Force One are told that President Bush is being evacuated, but they currently have no idea where the plane is heading. [Salon, 9/12/2001; BBC, 9/1/2002; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Thirteen reporters are gathered in a small cabin at the back of the president’s plane. [CBS News, 8/19/2002; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 145] White House press secretary Ari Fleischer comes in and tells them, “This is off the record, but the president is being evacuated.” He says Bush is being evacuated “for his safety and the safety of the country.” Ann Compton of ABC Radio responds: “You can’t put that off the record. That’s a historic and chilling fact. That has to be on the record.” [ABC News, 9/11/2002; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] “I’ve covered the White House for more than 25 years,” she will later reflect, adding, “I have never heard of a president being evacuated.” [BBC, 9/1/2002] Fleischer’s statement “sent chills down my spine,” she will say. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Air Force One is currently heading for Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325] But the reporters on board are unaware of the plane’s destination. When they have inquired where they were going, the people they asked said they didn’t know. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Salon, 9/12/2001; Rochester Review, 9/2004]

Entity Tags: Ann Compton, George W. Bush, Ari Fleischer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Local media outlets report the arrival of Air Force One, with President Bush on board, at Barksdale Air Force Base, near Shreveport, Louisiana (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001), even though the president’s location is meant to be a secret. [Salon, 9/12/2001; Rove, 2010, pp. 258] White House press secretary Ari Fleischer has given instructions to the pool of reporters on Air Force One to prevent them revealing the president’s whereabouts. He told the reporters they could only say they were at “an unidentified location in the United States.” He also told them to refrain from using their cell phones, and to not even turn their phones on, because the signals from them might allow someone to identify their location. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Salon, 9/12/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 110] Bush’s senior adviser, Karl Rove, who is traveling on Air Force One, will later recall, “The president’s whereabouts were a closely guarded secret, or at least we thought so.” However, Rove will describe, “Watching local Shreveport television on the final approach to Barksdale, we saw our plane appear, preparing to touch down with fighter escorts covering us.” Why a television crew is at Barksdale Air Force Base, and therefore able to film Air Force One landing there, is unclear. [Rove, 2010, pp. 258] Mark Rosenker, the director of the White House Military Office, who is traveling with the president on Air Force One, will suggest that the media “perhaps intercepted a message—whether it be by land line or whether it be by two-way radio on the ground—that we were on our way.” [White House, 8/29/2002] According to Rove, “An enterprising local TV news director had stationed a camera just off the base on the flight path.” Consequently, “Everyone now knew where the president was.” The Secret Service is alarmed, but, Rove will comment, “[I]t didn’t seem likely there was a terrorist cell operating in northwest Louisiana and armed with surface-to-air missiles.” [Rove, 2010, pp. 258] Shortly before Bush records a statement at the base, to be broadcast on television (see 12:36 p.m. September 11, 2001), Air Force personnel will inform the reporters traveling with the president that media outlets have reported that Air Force One has landed at Barksdale. The traveling White House staff will then rescind the instruction that the reporters cannot reveal their location. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Salon, 9/12/2001]

Entity Tags: Karl C. Rove, Mark Rosenker, Ari Fleischer, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

President Bush at Barksdale Air Force Base, accompanied by Lieutenant General Thomas Keck.
President Bush at Barksdale Air Force Base, accompanied by Lieutenant General Thomas Keck. [Source: White House]President Bush is provided with a high level of security when he gets off Air Force One at Barksdale Air Force Base, near Shreveport, Louisiana, and is promptly driven to a conference center on the base from where he makes a brief phone call. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Newseum et al., 2002, pp. 164; Rove, 2010, pp. 258-259] Air Force One landed at Barksdale at 11:45 a.m. and was immediately surrounded by Air Force personnel in full combat gear, with their rifles drawn (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 9/11/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] Bush remained on board while a retractable set of stairs was lowered for him to leave the plane by.
Reporters Updated on President's Actions - A dark blue Dodge Caravan now pulls up next to these stairs, and a Secret Service agent and two Air Force officers take positions at the bottom of the stairs. The Dodge then pulls away, perhaps 40 feet back from the plane, and is swept inside and outside with dogs. Some members of the president’s staff come down the stairs from the plane. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer approaches the pool of reporters who have been traveling on Air Force One and who are waiting under the plane’s left wing for the president to disembark. Fleischer gives them a brief update on the president’s actions during the flight and adds: “You will see [the president] disembark here shortly. He will head inside and that’s all I’m going to indicate at this moment. You will have additional information shortly.” Fleischer then answers several questions from the reporters.
President Gets off Plane and into Minivan - Bush then descends from Air Force One. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 111] The Shreveport Secret Service office has been mobilized to oversee security arrangements while the president is at Barksdale. However, there is no presidential limousine waiting to drive Bush away from the plane. [Rove, 2010, pp. 258] Normally the president’s armored limousine would be flown in ahead of time on a military transport plane, but there has been no time to get it to Barksdale. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 112] Bush instead gets into the Dodge Caravan, which is being guarded by a Humvee with a .50-caliber machine gun on top. [Rove, 2010, pp. 258] White House chief of staff Andrew Card gets in with him. The media and some of Bush’s staff, including his senior adviser, Karl Rove, and his communications director, Dan Bartlett, get into an Air Force minibus. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 112]
Bush Taken to Conference Center on Base - The Dodge then drives off at high speed. Bush will later recall that it “blasted off down the runway at what felt like 80 miles an hour. When the man behind the wheel started taking turns at that speed, I yelled, ‘Slow down, son, there are no terrorists on this base!’” [Bush, 2010, pp. 132] The Humvee pulls out behind the Dodge, and the airman manning the machine gun on top cocks his weapon and puts a live round in the chamber. The minibus carrying the reporters follows moments later. [Rove, 2010, pp. 258-259] The small motorcade drives to the Dougherty Conference Center, a two-story building on the base. At the stroke of noon, Bush and his aides enter the building. A car blocks the driveway and several armed soldiers stand guard while the president is inside. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 112]
Bush Speaks to Vice President - Bush and his aides are met by Colonel Curtis Bedke, the commander of the 2nd Bomb Wing, and Lieutenant General Thomas Keck, the commander of the 8th Air Force, apparently as they are entering the conference center. [2d Bomb Wing, 6/30/2002 pdf file; American History, 10/2006 pdf file] Inside, Bush picks up a telephone and speaks briefly with Vice President Dick Cheney, who is at the White House. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 112] Bush tells Keck he needs to get to a secure phone. Keck says there is one in his office, but this is in a different building on the base. [American History, 10/2006 pdf file] The pool of reporters waits in the parking lot outside the conference center for about 10 minutes while the president is inside. Bush and his staff finally come out at 12:11 p.m., to be taken to the 8th Air Force headquarters building (see (12:11 p.m.-1:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 112]

Entity Tags: Barksdale Air Force Base, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Dan Bartlett, Curtis M. Bedke, Ari Fleischer, Thomas Keck, George W. Bush, Andrew Card, Karl C. Rove, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

President Bush is taken to the headquarters of the 8th Air Force at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, from where he calls government officials in New York and Washington, DC, prepares and records a speech to the nation, and watches television coverage of the terrorist attacks. [Salon, 9/12/2001; Associated Press, 10/2/2001; American History, 10/2006 pdf file] After landing at Barksdale (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001), Bush was initially driven to a conference center on the base, where he made a brief phone call (see (11:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Newseum et al., 2002, pp. 164]
Bush Is Driven to the 8th Air Force Headquarters - Bush emerges from there at 12:11 p.m. accompanied by his senior adviser, Karl Rove, his chief of staff, Andrew Card, his military aide, some other aides, and several Secret Service agents. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 112; American History, 10/2006 pdf file] He is then driven to “Building 245” on the base—the headquarters of the 8th Air Force—in a small motorcade that also includes the pool of reporters who have been traveling with him on Air Force One. Inside the building, they all can see a sheet of paper that has been taped to a door, with words written in large black type, “Defcon Delta”—the highest possible state of military alert. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 112] Bush and his staff go to the office of Lieutenant General Thomas Keck, the commander of the 8th Air Force, where they get to work responding to the attacks. [American History, 10/2006 pdf file]
Bush Prepares a Speech to the Nation - Bush and Card together draft a speech to the nation that the president is going to record at the base, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. [Times-Picayune, 9/8/2002] However, according to journalist and author Bill Sammon, the speech is drafted by Bush’s press secretary, Ari Fleischer, who is with the president at Barksdale, and edited by White House counselor Karen Hughes, who is back in Washington. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 113] Once the speech is ready, Keck escorts Bush to the building’s conference room to be filmed delivering it. [American History, 10/2006 pdf file] The reporters traveling on Air Force One go to the conference room after entering the 8th Air Force headquarters building and are there when Bush records his speech at 12:36 p.m. (see 12:36 p.m. September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 9/11/2001]
Bush Watches TV, Makes Phone Calls - Bush watches the latest developments on a television in Keck’s office. After recording his speech, he sees the footage, shown on CNN, of the World Trade Center towers collapsing for the first time, according to Keck. He then tells Keck, “I don’t know who this is, but we’re going to find out and we’re going to go after them, and we’re not just going to slap them on the wrist.” Keck replies, “We’re with you.” There is a secure phone in Keck’s office, and, while he is at the base, Bush uses it to talk with Vice President Dick Cheney at the White House (see (12:11 p.m.-1:25 p.m.) September 11, 2001), Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon (see 1:02 p.m. September 11, 2001), and Hughes. He also talks over the secure phone with New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, New York Governor George Pataki, and New York Senator Charles Schumer.
Bush Is Informed of the Intelligence about the Attacks - Keck remains at Bush’s side for the entire time the president is in the 8th Air Force headquarters building. He works intently, monitoring base security and keeping up to date with the latest information from the 8th Air Force Command. He and his team keep Bush and his aides informed about the intelligence coming in via Air Force channels about the morning’s attacks and ongoing events. After nearly two hours at Barksdale, Bush and his entourage prepare to leave the base. Keck will accompany the president as he is driven back to Air Force One. [Associated Press, 10/2/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; American History, 10/2006 pdf file; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]

Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, Charles Schumer, Donald Rumsfeld, George E. Pataki, Andrew Card, Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush, Karl C. Rove, US Secret Service, Thomas Keck, Karen Hughes

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

President Bush records a speech at Barksdale Air Force Base.President Bush records a speech at Barksdale Air Force Base. [Source: Win McNamee / Reuters]President Bush delivers a short speech to the nation in a windowless conference room at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, which is recorded and will be broadcast on television about half an hour later. [Time, 9/14/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 113-117] Since arriving at Barksdale (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001), Bush has been spending time in the office of Lieutenant General Thomas Keck, the commander of the 8th Air Force (see (12:11 p.m.-1:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [American History, 10/2006 pdf file] Bush will later recall that by 12:30 p.m., “it had been almost three hours since I had spoken to the country” (see 9:30 a.m. September 11, 2001) and he is “worried people would get the impression that the government was disengaged.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 133]
Bush Taken to Conference Room to Record Statement - A short statement to the nation has therefore been prepared for Bush to deliver. Keck escorts the president from his office to the conference room in the 8th Air Force headquarters building to record it. Bush is also accompanied to the room by his chief of staff, Andrew Card, his senior adviser, Karl Rove, his communications director, Dan Bartlett, his press secretary Ari Fleischer, and several Secret Service agents. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 113; American History, 10/2006 pdf file] A hurried attempt has been made to prepare the room for the president’s speech. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325] Airmen have arranged three US flags behind the wooden lectern behind which Bush will speak, and have tried to add some lighting to brighten up the dark room. The reporters who have been traveling with the president on Air Force One went to the conference room after entering the 8th Air Force headquarters building, and are assembled there when Bush comes in. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; American History, 10/2006 pdf file]
Tape of Speech Taken to Satellite Truck to Be Broadcast - Bush delivers his 219-word speech in precisely two minutes. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Woodward, 2002, pp. 19] After doing so, he leaves the room without acknowledging, or taking any questions from, the reporters in the room. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Newseum et al., 2002, pp. 165] Keck, who stays to watch Bush deliver the speech, then escorts the president back to his office. [American History, 10/2006 pdf file] Master Sergeant Rich Del Haya, the officer in charge of the 8th Air Force public affairs office, is then called to the 8th Air Force headquarters building to collect the videotape of the speech. He runs out of the building with it, accompanied by a CBS network producer and reporter, and drives toward the base’s far north entrance. Gate officials contact a state trooper outside the base, who escorts the three to a satellite truck of the local CBS affiliate. [Times-Picayune, 9/8/2002] The recording of the president’s speech will be broadcast from the satellite truck at 1:04 p.m. (see 1:04 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 117]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Andrew Card, Karl C. Rove, Thomas Keck, Ari Fleischer, Rich Del Haya, Dan Bartlett, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Members of President Bush’s staff decide to remove any nonessential passengers traveling with the president on Air Force One when it leaves Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, and determine that they will leave behind some congressmen, numerous White House staffers, and most of the journalists that have been accompanying them. [Sarasota Magazine, 11/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 118; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 145; Rove, 2010, pp. 259]
Reporters Traveling with President Reduced to Five - While the president’s staffers are preparing to leave Barksdale, Bush’s chief of staff Andrew Card pulls White House press secretary Ari Fleischer aside and tells him they need to reduce the number of people flying on the president’s plane. Usually, when the president flies, numerous personnel get to his destination ahead of him to prepare for his arrival, but at the present time, Bush’s support team is limited to those already on Air Force One. “Given the heightened sense of security,” Fleischer will later recall, “the Secret Service didn’t want the president to wait for the normal entourage to board the makeshift motorcade that would be assembled upon landing.” Card says the traveling White House staff is going to be reduced and the members of Congress on board will also be left behind at Barksdale, and he tells Fleischer to decrease the number of reporters flying with the president. Card wants the pool of reporters reduced from the current 13 to three, but agrees to Fleischer’s request to make it five. Fleischer decides the reporters that remain with them will be Ann Compton of ABC Radio, Sonya Ross of the Associated Press, Associated Press photographer Doug Mills, and a CBS cameraman and soundman. [Fleischer, 2005, pp. 145-146] White House assistant press secretary Gordon Johndroe passes on the bad news to the reporters. While they are waiting on a bus to be driven back to Air Force One, he comes on board and tells them there will only be five seats on the president’s plane for the media. [USA Today, 9/11/2001]
Reporters Angry at Being Left Behind - The reporters and nonessential personnel remaining at Barksdale Air Force Base will be standing on the tarmac and watching as Air Force One takes off from there, heading for its next destination (see 1:37 p.m. September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 5/3/2011] Some of the reporters will be angry at being left behind. As the president and his entourage are approaching the plane, Reuters correspondent Steve Holland will shout out to Fleischer, “Ari, what about us?” Another angry reporter will call out, “Who’s in charge here, the military or the civilians?” [White House, 8/8/2002; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 146]
'Skeleton Crew' Remaining on Air Force One - As well as the eight reporters, others removed from the plane include Representatives Adam Putnam (R-FL) and Dan Miller (R-FL), Bush’s senior education adviser Sandy Kress, Bush’s personal aide Blake Gottesman, and several Secret Service agents. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Sarasota Magazine, 11/2001] Fleischer will recall that after the nonessential passengers have been left behind, those who continue on Air Force One are just “a skeleton crew.” [White House, 8/8/2002] Those remaining at Barksdale will be escorted to a building and stay there until another plane flies them from the base back to Washington, DC, later in the afternoon (see (3:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sarasota Magazine, 11/2001]

Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, Adam Putnam, Andrew Card, Ann Compton, Steve Holland, US Secret Service, Gordon Johndroe, Sonya Ross, Blake Gottesman, Doug Mills, Barnett A. (“Sandy”) Kress, Dan Miller

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Air Force One departs Barksdale Air Force Base.Air Force One departs Barksdale Air Force Base. [Source: Reuters]Air Force One takes off from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana to fly President Bush to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. While Bush has been at Barksdale, base personnel have refueled Air Force One and restocked it with provisions for its continuing journey, on the basis that it may have to serve as the president’s flying command center for the foreseeable future. [Associated Press, 10/2/2001; 2d Bomb Wing, 6/30/2002 pdf file; BBC, 9/1/2002]
Reduced Number of Passengers on Board - For security reasons, the number of people traveling on Air Force One has been reduced (see (1:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Fleischer, 2005, pp. 145-146] Those continuing with the president include Bush’s chief of staff Andrew Card, his senior adviser Karl Rove, his communications director Dan Bartlett, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, and assistant press secretary Gordon Johndroe. The number of Secret Service agents accompanying the president has been reduced, as has the number of reporters. The five remaining journalists are Ann Compton of ABC Radio, Sonya Ross of the Associated Press, Associated Press photographer Doug Mills, and a CBS cameraman and sound technician. [Salon, 9/12/2001; Associated Press, 9/12/2001]
President Given Thumbs-up by Airmen - Lieutenant General Thomas Keck, the commander of the 8th Air Force, has been at Bush’s side for most of his time at Barksdale, and accompanies the president as he is being driven across the base to Air Force One. The president passes a row of B-52 bombers and is given a thumbs-up by the planes’ crew members. Keck explains to Bush that this means the troops “are trained, they’re ready, and they’ll do whatever you want them to.” Military police salute and other Air Force crew members cheer the president as he passes them. [American History, 10/2006 pdf file]
Fighter Escort Rejoins Air Force One - Air Force One is being guarded by soldiers with their guns drawn when Bush reaches it, and a pack of military dogs is patrolling the tarmac. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 117-118] After the plane takes off, two F-16 fighter jets pull up alongside it to provide an escort. [American History, 10/2006 pdf file] These are presumably the same fighters, belonging to the 147th Fighter Wing of the Texas Air National Guard, that escorted Air Force One as it came in to land at Barksdale (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2003, pp. 87; Bombardier, 9/8/2006 pdf file]
Destination Chosen Due to 'Continuity of Government' Plan - Bush’s destination, Offutt Air Force Base, is home to the US Strategic Command (Stratcom), which controls the nation’s nuclear weapons. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Woodward, 2002, pp. 19] Bush will later say the decision to head there was based on Offutt’s “secure housing space and reliable communications.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 133] The base’s secure teleconferencing equipment will allow the president to conduct a meeting of his National Security Council later in the afternoon (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 119; Woodward, 2002, pp. 19, 26] According to the 9/11 Commission Report, Offutt has been chosen as the president’s next destination “because of its elaborate command and control facilities, and because it could accommodate overnight lodging for 50 persons. The Secret Service wanted a place where the president could spend several days, if necessary.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325] But according to White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke, the decision to head to Offutt instead of back to Washington, DC, was due to a plan called “Continuity of Government.” This program, which dates back to the Reagan administration, originally planned to set up a new leadership for the US in the event of a nuclear war. It was activated for the first time shortly before 10:00 a.m. this morning (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 4/7/2004; ABC News, 4/25/2004]

Entity Tags: Dan Bartlett, Barksdale Air Force Base, Thomas Keck, Ann Compton, Ari Fleischer, Doug Mills, George W. Bush, Gordon Johndroe, US Secret Service, 147th Fighter Wing, Sonya Ross, Karl C. Rove, Andrew Card, Richard A. Clarke

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

President Bush speaking with Karl Rove and Ari Fleischer on Air Force One on September 11.President Bush speaking with Karl Rove and Ari Fleischer on Air Force One on September 11. [Source: George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum]Bush administration officials give differing accounts about whether a threat was made against Air Force One, the president’s plane, on September 11. [Washington Post, 9/27/2001; Slate, 9/28/2001; Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 pdf file] The White House reportedly received an anonymous phone call at around 10:30 a.m. on September 11 in which the caller said Air Force One would be the next terrorist target and used code words indicating they had inside information about government procedures (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Vice President Dick Cheney promptly phoned President Bush on Air Force One and told him about the threat (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/13/2001; Woodward, 2002, pp. 18; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554]
Press Secretary Reveals Threat during News Briefing - White House press secretary Ari Fleischer reveals the existence of the threat on September 12, after conferring with Cheney and White House counselor Karen Hughes about whether the administration should respond to criticisms of Bush’s failure to return to Washington, DC, immediately after the previous day’s attacks. Hughes advises Fleischer to mention the threat during his press briefing on this day. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 157] Fleischer therefore says in the briefing, “[W]e have specific and credible information that the White House and Air Force One were also intended targets of these attacks.” He says the threat against the president’s plane led to the decision to take Bush to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001) and was one of the reasons why Bush did not head back to Washington right away in response to the attacks. [White House, 9/12/2001]
Cheney Recalls 'Credible Threat' - On September 16, Cheney similarly tells NBC’s Meet the Press, “We received a threat to Air Force One,” and adds, “I think it was a credible threat, enough for the Secret Service to bring it to me.” [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001] And later in the month, White House adviser Karl Rove, who was with Bush on Air Force One on September 11, recalls that those on the president’s plane were informed of “a specific threat made to Air Force One,” which was a “declaration that Air Force One was a target.” [New Yorker, 9/25/2001]
Unnamed Officials Doubt whether Threat Was Made - Other officials, however, contradict these accounts. Near the end of September, CBS News reports that the phone call in which the threat was reportedly made “simply never happened.” It says that, according to unnamed sources, “White House staffers apparently misunderstood comments made by their security detail.” [Slate, 9/28/2001] And some unnamed Bush administration officials tell the Associated Press that “they now doubt whether there was actually a call made threatening Air Force One.” The officials say they “have been unsuccessful in trying to track down whether there was such a call, though officials still maintain they were told of a telephone threat [on] September 11 and kept Bush away from Washington for hours because of it.” [Associated Press, 9/26/2001] Fleischer will later recall that he learns, weeks after publicly revealing the existence of the supposed threat against Air Force One, “that the threat was unfounded.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554] “I learned it was a mistake from the press,” he will say, “who had been tipped by someone who knew.” [Fleischer, 2005, pp. 158]
Threat Was 'Almost Surely Bogus' - At the start of November, when asked about the alleged call in which Air Force One was threatened, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice says: “I don’t know if it was a crank call or a real threat. I don’t think we’re going to ever know.” [White House, 11/1/2001] And at the end of 2001, Newsweek reports that the reported threat to Air Force One has been determined to be “almost surely bogus,” although it adds, “White House officials say they do not know where it came from.” [Newsweek, 12/30/2001] White House spokesman Dan Bartlett says in 2004 that “there hadn’t been any actual threat” against Air Force One on September 11. Word of a threat, he says, “resulted from confusion in the White House bunker, as multiple conversations went on simultaneously.” Around the same time, however, Cheney’s office says it still cannot rule out that a threat to Air Force One was made. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Dan Bartlett, Karen Hughes, Karl C. Rove, Condoleezza Rice

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

William Safire’s New York Times editorial published November 12, 2001, in which he calls the alleged meeting between Atta and an Iraqi agent an “undisputed fact.”William Safire’s New York Times editorial published November 12, 2001, in which he calls the alleged meeting between Atta and an Iraqi agent an “undisputed fact.” [Source: PBS]Media coverage relating to an alleged meeting between hijacker Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi spy named Ahmed al-Ani took place in Prague, Czech Republic, has changed repeatedly over time:
bullet September 18, 2001: It is first reported that 9/11 plotter Mohamed Atta met in Prague, Czech Republic, with an Iraqi diplomat in April 2001. The name of the diplomat, Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, is mentioned in follow up articles. [Associated Press, 9/18/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/19/2001; CNN, 10/11/2001; New York Times, 11/19/2003]
bullet October 20, 2001: The story is denied by some Czech officials (see October 16, 2001). [New York Times, 10/20/2001]
bullet October 26, 2001: The story is confirmed by the Czech interior minister (see October 26, 2001). [New York Times, 10/27/2001]
bullet October 27, 2001: It is claimed Atta met with Iraqi agents four times in Prague, and was given a vial of antrax. Atta is alleged to have had further meetings with Iraqi agents in Germany, Spain, and Italy (see October 27, 2001). [London Times, 10/27/2001]
bullet November 12, 2001: Conservative columnist William Safire calls the meeting an “undisputed fact” in a New York Times editorial (see November 12, 2001). [New York Times, 11/12/2001]
bullet December 9, 2001: Vice President Cheney asserts that the existence of the meeting is “pretty well confirmed” (see December 9, 2001). [Washington Post, 12/9/2001]
bullet December 16, 2001: The identities of both al-Ani and Atta, alleged to have been at the meetings, are disputed by a Czech police chief (see December 16, 2001). [New York Times, 12/16/2001; Associated Press, 12/16/2001]
bullet January 12, 2002: It is claimed at least two meetings took place, including one a year earlier. [Daily Telegraph, 1/12/2002]
bullet February 6, 2002: It is reported that senior US intelligence officials believe the meeting took place, but they believe it is not enough evidence to tie Iraq to the 9/11 attacks (see February 6, 2002). [New York Times, 2/6/2002]
bullet March 15, 2002: Evidence that the meeting took place is considered between “slim” and “none.” [Washington Post, 3/15/2002]
bullet March 18, 2002: William Safire again strongly asserts that the meeting took place. [New York Times, 3/18/2002]
bullet April 28-May 2, 2002: The meeting is largely discredited. For example, the Washington Post quotes FBI Director Mueller stating that, “We ran down literally hundreds of thousands of leads and checked every record we could get our hands on, from flight reservations to car rentals to bank accounts,” yet no evidence that Atta left the country was found. According to the Post, “[a]fter months of investigation, the Czechs [say] they [are] no longer certain that Atta was the person who met al-Ani, saying ‘he may be different from Atta.’” [Washington Post, 5/1/2002] Newsweek cites a US official who contends that, “Neither we nor the Czechs nor anybody else has any information [Atta] was coming or going [to Prague] at that time” (see April 28, 2002). [Newsweek, 4/28/2002; Washington Post, 5/1/2002; New York Times, 5/2/2002]
bullet May 8, 2002: Some Czech officials continue to affirm the meeting took place. [Prague Post, 5/8/2002]
bullet May 9, 2002: William Safire refuses to give up the story, claiming a “protect-Saddam cabal” in the high levels of the US government is burying the evidence. [New York Times, 5/9/2002]
bullet July 15, 2002: The head of Czech foreign intelligence states that reports of the meeting are unproved and implausible. [Prague Post, 7/15/2002]
bullet August 2, 2002: With a war against Iraq growing more likely, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer suggests the meeting did happen, “despite deep doubts by the CIA and FBI.” [Los Angeles Times, 8/2/2002]
bullet August 19, 2002: Newsweek states: “The sole evidence for the alleged meeting is the uncorroborated claim of a Czech informant.” According to Newsweek, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is nonetheless pushing the FBI to have the meeting accepted as fact. [Newsweek, 8/19/2002]
bullet September 10, 2002: The Bush administration is no longer actively asserting that the meeting took place. [Washington Post, 9/10/2002]
bullet September 17, 2002: Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld “accept reports from Czech diplomats” that the meeting took place. [USA Today, 9/17/2002]
bullet September 23, 2002: Newsweek reports that the CIA is resisting Pentagon demands to obtain pictures of the alleged meeting from Iraqi exiles. One official says, “We do not shy away from evidence. But we also don’t make it up.” [Newsweek, 9/23/2002]
bullet October 10, 2002: British officials deny the meeting ever took place (see October 4-10, 2002). [Financial Times, 10/4/2002; Guardian, 10/10/2002]
bullet October 20, 2002: Czech officials, including President Vaclav Havel, emphatically deny that the meeting ever took place. It now appears Atta was not even in the Czech Republic during the month the meeting was supposed to have taken place. President Havel told Bush “quietly some time earlier this year” that the meeting did not happen (see Early 2002, probably May or later). [United Press International, 10/20/2002; New York Times, 10/21/2002]
bullet December 8, 2002: Bush adviser Richard Perle continues to push the story, stating, “To the best of my knowledge that meeting took place.” [CBS News, 9/5/2002] He says this despite the fact that in October 2002, Czech officials told Perle in person that the meeting did not take place (see October 20, 2002).
bullet July 9, 2003: Iraqi intelligence officer Ahmed al-Ani is captured by US forces in Iraq. [Washington Post, 7/9/2003]
bullet July 10, 2003: In a story confirming al-Ani’s capture, ABC News cites US and British intelligence officials who have seen surveillance photos of al-Ani’s meetings in Prague, and who say that there is a man who looks somewhat like Atta, but is not Atta. [ABC News, 7/10/2003]
bullet September 14, 2003: Vice President Cheney repeats the claims that Atta met with al-Ani in Prague on NBC’s Meet the Press. He says “we’ve never been able to develop anymore of that yet, either in terms of confirming it or discrediting” the meeting, but he also cites the when making the claim that Iraq officially supported al-Qaeda (see September 14, 2003 and September 14, 2003). [Washington Post, 9/15/2003]
bullet July 25, 2003: The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry makes public its conclusion that the meeting never took place (see January-July 2003).
bullet December 13, 2003: It is reported that al-Ani told interrogators he did not meet Atta in Prague. [Washington Post, 9/29/2003; Reuters, 12/13/2003]
bullet February 24, 2004: CIA Director George Tenet says of the meeting: “We can’t prove that one way or another.” [New York Times, 7/9/2004]
bullet June 16, 2004: The 9/11 Commission concludes that the meeting never happened. They claim cell phone records and other records show Atta never left Florida during the time in question (see June 16, 2004). [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004]
bullet June 17, 2004: Vice President Cheney says no one has “been able to confirm” the Atta meeting in Prague or to “to knock it down” He calls reports suggesting that the 9/11 Commission has reached a contradictory conclusion “irresponsible,” even though the 9/11 Commission did conclude just that the day before (see June 17, 2004). [CNN, 6/18/2004]
bullet July 1, 2004: CIA Director Tenet says that the CIA is “increasingly skeptical” the meeting ever took place (see July 1, 2004). [New York Times, 7/9/2004]
bullet July 12, 2004: The 9/11 Commission publicly concludes the meeting never took place (see July 12, 2004).
bullet March 29, 2006: Cheney says of the meeting: “And that reporting waxed and waned where the degree of confidence in it, and so forth, has been pretty well knocked down now at this stage, that that meeting ever took place” (see March 29, 2006).
bullet September 8, 2006: A bipartisan Senate report confirms that the meeting never took place (see September 8-10, 2006). [US Senate and Intelligence Committee, 9/8/2006 pdf file]
bullet September 10, 2006: Cheney still breathes life into reports of the meeting, reversing position and refusing to deny that the meeting took place (see September 10, 2006). [Meet the Press, 9/10/2006]
bullet April 2007: In a new book, former CIA Director Tenet claims, “It is my understanding that in 2006, new intelligence was obtained that proved beyond any doubt that the man seen meeting with [a] member of the Iraqi intelligence service in Prague in 2001 was not Mohamed Atta” (see 2006). [Tenet, 2007, pp. 355]

Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, 9/11 Commission, Mohamed Atta, Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Vaclav Havel, William Safire, Robert S. Mueller III

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

A secret report to NATO allies says the US privately wants to hear allied views on “post-Taliban Afghanistan after the liberation of the country.” However, the US is publicly claiming it has no intentions to overthrow the Taliban. [Guardian, 9/21/2001] For instance, four days later, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer denies that military actions there are “designed to replace one regime with another.” [US Department of State, 12/26/2001]

Entity Tags: Taliban, Bush administration (43), Ari Fleischer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

Secretary of State Colin Powell is asked in a television interview, “Will you release publicly a white paper which links [bin Laden] and his organization to this attack to put people at ease?” Powell responds, “We are hard at work bringing all the information together, intelligence information, law enforcement information. And I think in the near future we will be able to put out a paper, a document that will describe quite clearly the evidence that we have linking him to this attack.” [MSNBC, 9/23/2001] The next day, the New York Times reports that this report is expected to be published “within days… Officials say they are still arguing over how much information to release…” [New York Times, 9/24/2001] But later that day, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says, “I think that there was just a misinterpretation of the exact words the secretary used on the Sunday shows.… I’m not aware of anybody who said white paper, and the secretary didn’t say anything about a white paper yesterday.” [White House, 9/24/2001] The New Yorker will report a short time later that, according to a senior CIA official, US intelligence had not yet developed enough information about the hijackers. “One day we’ll know, but at the moment we don’t know” (see Late September 2001). [New Yorker, 10/8/2001] But no such paper is ever released.

Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, Colin Powell

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Bill Maher.Bill Maher. [Source: HBO publicity photo]White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer warns, “There are reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do.” [Associated Press, 9/26/2001] Fleischer was responding to comments made by Bill Maher, the host of the discussion/comedy show Politically Incorrect. Maher said the hijackers were not cowards but that it was cowardly for the US to launch cruise missiles on targets thousands of miles away. [New York Times, 9/28/2001] Many advertisers and affiliate stations pull their support of the show in response. [Washington Post, 9/29/2001] ABC cancels Maher’s show at the end of its season because of the controversy. [Toronto Star, 6/26/2002] Several journalists are fired around the same time for criticizing Bush. Fleischer’s comments and the general chill on free speech are widely criticized by major newspapers (for instance, [New York Times, 9/29/2001; Washington Post, 9/29/2001; Dallas Morning News, 10/4/2001] ).

Entity Tags: Bill Maher, Ari Fleischer

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer tells reporters that they should only print expurgated transcripts of the statements made by Osama bin Laden and other terror leaders, for fear that they might incite anti-American violence or worse, contain coded messages to other terrorists. “At best,” the messages are nothing more than “propaganda inciting people to kill Americans,” Fleischer says of bin Laden’s statements. “At worst, he could be issuing orders to his followers to initiate such attacks.” [BBC, 10/11/2001] The statements, and their presumed coded messages, might wind up “in the hands of people who can read it and see something in it,” Fleischer says. [Rich, 2006, pp. 31] Fleischer’s demand dovetails with a request from National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice that the five major television networks not broadcast complete versions of videotaped statements from bin Laden and others (see October 11, 2001). Most American newspapers follow the lead of the New York Times in refusing to comply with Fleischer’s demand. The Times will write in response: “The White House effort is ill advised. … Even if full statements [from bin Laden] were withheld from networks and newspapers, any bin Laden associate… could easily pick them up from foreign broadcast outlets or webcasts. More important, the American people should have unfettered access to information about the terrorist leader and his views.” [Current Events, 11/9/2001]

Entity Tags: New York Times, Condoleezza Rice, Osama bin Laden, Ari Fleischer

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Five major US television networks agree to self-censor their news broadcasts of statements by Osama bin Laden and his associates. The agreement, made by ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and Fox News, comes after a conference call between National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and the heads of the networks; Rice’s call comes after White House press secretary Ari Fleischer warns reporters that statements from suspected terrorists could contain anything from incitement to coded messages, and asks them not to print full transcripts of bin Laden’s messages (see October 10, 2001). [BBC, 10/11/2001; Rich, 2006, pp. 31] Rice asks that, instead of automatically airing bin Laden videotapes, news executives should carefully review the tapes and remove any “inflammatory language” before broadcasting. [Current Events, 11/9/2001] The networks say they will now review them first, and edit or censor them as needed. While the American news networks are willing to comply with Rice’s recommendation, the Arab news network Al Jazeera disagrees: chief editor Ibrahim Halil says, “I don’t think the United States, which taught the world about freedom of expression, should now begin to limit it.” Al Jazeera has been the first to broadcast many of the statements in question, broadcasts which were often picked up by American news networks and shown in their entirety. [BBC, 10/11/2001]
'A Silky Form of Censorship' - According to the New York Times, the five networks have never before consulted one another as a group and made such a collective policy decision about news coverage. The executives deny that they were threatened or pressured by Rice or any other White House officials: “Ms. Rice made no specific request of news organizations, other than that we consider the possible existence of such messages in deciding whether and how to air portions of al-Qaeda statements,” says an ABC spokesman. They also deny that the decision amounts to censorship. CBS says it is committed to “responsible journalism that informs the public without jeopardizing American lives.” CBS president Andrew Heyward says: “The issue… was raised by the transmission of unedited, extended propaganda messages from a terrorist group… with the will to kill thousands of people. No network wants to serve as the platform for that propaganda.” And Fox News chairman Roger Ailes notes that “[Rice] was very, very careful to talk about freedom of the press and not to suggest how we do our job.” Matthew Felling of the Center for Media and Public Affairs, a media watchdog group, has a different view. He calls the decision “a silky form of censorship.” Network executives say that the likelihood of bin Laden using his statements to send coded messages to “sleeper” agents in the US is unlikely, and if he is, the agents could get the statements from printed transcripts or Internet video. “What sense would it make to keep the tapes off the air if the message could be found transcripted in newspapers or on the Web?” one executive asks. “The videos could also appear on the Internet. They’d get the message anyway.” [BBC, 10/11/2001; Current Events, 11/9/2001]
Notion that Censorship Could Disrupt Al-Qaeda Communications Fantastical, Says Media Critic - Author and media critic Frank Rich is fascinated by the assumptions behind Rice’s assertions: in 2006, he will write that the Bush administration “entertain[s] at least a passing fantasy that al-Qaeda, despite its access both to the Internet and to the Arabic superstation Al Jazeera… could be disrupted by having its videos kept off the likes of Fox.” The administration’s “ambitions to manage the news [knows] no bounds.” [Rich, 2006, pp. 31]
British Broadcasters Refuse Similar Request - A similar request by the British government is flatly refused; the BBC issues a short statement reading, “Government interference will be resisted.” The Canadian government does not issue such a request, leaving the decision of whether to air unedited broadcasts of the terrorists’ statements up to news executives and editors. [Toronto Star, 9/8/2002]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Al Jazeera, Center for Media and Public Affairs, CNN, Andrew Heyward, Ari Fleischer, Al-Qaeda, CBS News, ABC News, New York Times, Roger Ailes, Fox News, Condoleezza Rice, Ibrahim Halil, Frank Rich, Matthew Felling, NBC News, British Broadcasting Corporation

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer makes a comment about the recent anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001). He says: “There is a suspicion that this is connected to international terrorists. Having said that, investigators also do not rule out that it could be something domestic, that it could be a lone person operating doing this, or it could be terrorism. The suspicion is that it is terrorism, but there is no hard evidence yet at this point to lead anybody who is investigating these matters to reach a conclusion on any of these sources.” [Voice of America, 10/23/2001] The same day, House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-MO) echoes Fleisher’s comment and links the attacks to overseas terrorists. He says, “I don’t think there’s a way to prove that, but I think we all suspect that.” [US Department of State, 10/23/2001] In 2004, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen will say that, at the time it was widely believed that the anthrax attacks were somehow connected to the 9/11 attacks several weeks before. He will cite Fleischer and Gephardt’s comments as one reason why so many made the connection. [Washington Post, 7/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, Richard Cohen, Richard Gephardt

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 2001 Anthrax Attacks

On October 26, 2001, Peter Jennings starts ABC News’s World News Tonight evening news broadcast with the comment: “We’re going to begin this evening with what we believe is a meaningful lead in the most sensitive anthrax case so far, despite a very recent denial by the White House. ABC News has learned what made the anthrax so dangerous in the letter to Senator Tom Daschle was a particular additive which only one country, as far as we know, that’s a very important caveat, only one country as far as we know, has used to produce biological weapons.”
Bentonite - ABC News reporter Brian Ross then adds: “The discovery of bentonite came in an urgent series of tests conducted at Fort Detrick, Maryland, and elsewhere. [Bentonite is] a substance which helps keep the tiny anthrax particles floating in the air by preventing them from sticking together. It’s possible other countries may be using it, too, but it is a trademark of Saddam Hussein’s biological weapons program.”
Significance - Jennings ends the story by commenting: “This news about bentonite as the additive is being a trademark of the Iraqi biological weapons program is very significant. Partly because there’s been a lot of pressure on the Bush administration inside and out to go after Saddam Hussein. And some are going to be quick to pick up on this as a smoking gun. There is a battle about Iraq that’s been raging in the administration.”
Repeated - The story is repeated by ABC over the next several days, especially by Ross. Qualifications in the initial story are dropped over the next few days as Ross definitely claims that the anthrax “was laced with bentonite” and “the anthrax found in a letter to Senator Daschle is nearly identical to samples they recovered in Iraq in 1994.” On October 28, Ross claims, “[D]espite continued White House denials, four well-placed and separate sources have told ABC News that initial tests on the anthrax by the US Army at Fort Detrick, Maryland, have detected trace amounts of the chemical additives bentonite and silica.” [ABC News, 10/29/2001; Salon, 4/9/2007; Salon, 8/1/2008]
ABC News Keeps Promoting Story despite White House Denial - On October 29, ABC News notes that White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer has denied that bentonite was found on the letters. Fleischer says that no test or analysis has shown the presence of bentonite, and “no other finding contradicts or calls into question” that conclusion. But ABC News continues to push the story and quotes former UN weapons inspector Tim Trevan, who says that bentonite “means to me that Iraq becomes the prime suspect as the source of the anthrax used in these letters.” ABC News even brings up the alleged meeting between 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi spy in Prague, and quotes former UN weapons inspector Richard Butler: “There are reports that one of the things that may have happened at that meeting was that [Atta] was given by the Iraqi some sample of anthrax.… We do not know if that is true. I believe it is something that should be investigated.” [ABC News, 10/29/2001]
Dropped, Sort Of - ABC News finally drops the story on November 1, when Ross reports: “The White House said that despite initial test results which we reported suggesting the presence of a chemical called bentonite, a trademark of the Iraqi weapons program, a further chemical analysis has ruled that out. The White House says there are chemical additives in that anthrax including one called silica.” Yet this account is not entirely correct, because the White House denied the story from the very beginning, as ABC News made clear in their first stories on the subject, and their quoting of White House Press Secretary Fleischer. [TVNewser, 8/6/2008] But an ABC News article the same day by Gary Matsumoto continues to push the bentonite theory, despite acknowledging that lab results do not show signs of bentonite. He argues that perhaps a different form of bentonite was used that did not show the usual signs. He also argues that perhaps the anthrax was coated with silica, which would be another sign of high sophistication and possible government involvement in the attacks. This is the theory the White House is pushing (see October 25-29, 2001), although it too will eventually be discredited by the FBI (see August 2006). [ABC News, 11/1/2001]
Iraq's Link to Bentonite Questioned - In October 2002, the Washington Post will reveal that early in the anthrax investigation, “US authorities dismissed the possibility that Iraq could have sponsored the attacks because investigators determined that the spores had been coated with silica to make them disperse quickly, rather than the mineral bentonite, regarded by the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command as Iraq’s additive of choice.” Furthermore, “Iraq’s alleged preference for bentonite appears to be based on a single sample of a common pesticide collected by UN authorities from Iraq’s Al Hakam biological weapons facility in the mid-1990s.” [Washington Post, 10/28/2002]
Common Clay - Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald will later note: “The very idea that bentonite is ‘a troubling chemical additive,’ let alone that it is some sort of unique Iraqi hallmark, is inane. Bentonite is merely a common clay that is produced all over the world, including from volcanic eruptions.” A geology professor comments: “It is not ‘a chemical additive’ and it is not unique to Iraq. It is widespread and common, and readily available wherever you can get ‘drilling mud.’” [Salon, 4/9/2007]
No Correction - But even though it emerges that bentonite was never actually detected in the anthrax samples, ABC News will not correct its story until after it is heavily pressured to do so in late 2008 (see August 6, 2008).

Entity Tags: Tim Trevan, Richard Butler, Glenn Greenwald, Gary Matsumoto, Peter Jennings, Ari Fleischer, ABC News, Brian Ross

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Domestic Propaganda, 2001 Anthrax Attacks, US Domestic Terrorism

The White House repeats its warning to the UN that the US will act if the UN fails to pass a stronger resolution. Speaking in New Mexico, George Bush says: “Either the United Nations will do its duty to disarm Saddam Hussein, or Saddam Hussein will disarm himself. In either case, if they refuse to act, in the name of peace, in the name of a secure tomorrow, in the name of freedom, the United States will lead a coalition and disarm Saddam Hussein.” [US President, 11/4/2002] And Ari Fleischer, the White House Press Secretary, says, “The United Nations has debated this long enough. The time has come for people to raise their hands and cast their vote.” [White House, 10/28/2002]

Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, George W. Bush, United Nations, Saddam Hussein

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

On December 17, 2001, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer speaks of the anthrax attacks investigation and says that it is “increasingly looking like it was a domestic source.” On January 13, 2002, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge similarly states, “the primary direction of the investigation is turned inward.” [Salon, 2/8/2002] This is confirmation of earlier reports that the investigation is focusing on the profile of a disgruntled American scientist acting alone (see November 10, 2001).

Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Tom Ridge

Timeline Tags: 2001 Anthrax Attacks, US Domestic Terrorism

Cynthia McKinney.
Cynthia McKinney. [Source: House of Representatives]US Representative Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) calls for a thorough investigation into whether President Bush and other government officials may have been warned of the 9/11 attacks but did nothing to prevent them. She is the first national-level politician to do so. She states: “News reports from Der Spiegel to the London Observer, from the Los Angeles Times to MSNBC to CNN, indicate that many different warnings were received by the administration.… I am not aware of any evidence showing that President Bush or members of his administration have personally profited from the attacks of 9/11.… On the other hand, what is undeniable is that corporations close to the administration have directly benefited from the increased defense spending arising from the aftermath of September 11. The Carlyle Group, Dyn-Corp, and Halliburton certainly stand out as companies close to this administration.” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 4/12/2002] McKinney’s comments are criticized and ridiculed by other politicians and the media. For instance, Representative Mark Foley (R-FL) states, “She has said some outrageous things but this has gone too far.… Maybe there should be an investigation as she suggests—but one focused on her.” Senator Zell Miller (D-GA) says her comments were dangerous and irresponsible. [Washington Post, 4/12/2002] An editorial in her home state calls her the “most prominent nut” promoting 9/11 “conspiracy theories.” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 4/15/2002] One columnist says she is possibly “a delusional paranoiac” or “a socialist rabble-rouser who despises her own country.” [Orlando Sentinel, 4/21/2002] White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says McKinney “must be running for the hall of fame of the Grassy Knoll Society.” [Washington Post, 4/12/2002] One month after McKinney’s comments, the Bush administration comes under fire after reports reveal it had been warned five weeks before 9/11 about possible al-Qaeda plane hijackings, and McKinney claims vindication. She will lose reelection later in the year, but win her seat back in 2004. [Office of Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, 5/16/2002]

Entity Tags: Mark Foley, Halliburton, Inc., Zell Miller, Cynthia McKinney, Ari Fleischer, George W. Bush, Bush administration (43), Carlyle Group

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

During the White House daily press briefing, Ari Fleischer is peppered with questions about Bush’s Iraq policy by Helen Thomas, a reporter for Hearst News Service. [White House, 5/1/2002; Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 2-3] After the briefing, Fleischer meets with the president and recounts his exchange with Thomas. According to Adam Levine, a White House communications assistant who is present, the president’s mood immediately changes. “Did you tell her I don’t like motherf_ckers who gas their own people?,” Bush asks. “Did you tell her I don’t like assholes who lie to the world? Did you tell her I’m going to kick his sorry motherf_cking ass all over the Middle East?” Fleischer responds, “I told her half of that.” [Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 2-3 Sources: Adam Levine]

Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, George W. Bush, Adam Levine

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

The New York Post has a banner headline on May 16, 2002.The New York Post has a banner headline on May 16, 2002. [Source: New York Post]The Bush administration is embarrassed when the CBS Evening News reveals that President Bush had been warned about al-Qaeda domestic attacks in August 2001 (see August 6, 2001). [New York Times, 5/15/2002; Washington Post, 5/16/2002] CBS’s David Martin reports: “The president’s daily intelligence brief is delivered to the president each morning, often by the director of central intelligence himself. In the weeks before 9/11 it warned that an attack by Osama bin Laden could involve the hijacking of a US aircraft.” [McClellan, 2008, pp. 113] Bush had repeatedly said that he had “no warning” of any kind. Press secretary Ari Fleischer states unequivocally that while Bush had been warned of possible hijackings, “[t]he president did not—not—receive information about the use of airplanes as missiles by suicide bombers.” [New York Times, 5/15/2002; Washington Post, 5/16/2002] “Until the attack took place, I think it’s fair to say that no one envisioned that as a possibility.” [MSNBC, 9/18/2002] Fleischer claims the August memo was titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike the US,” but the real title is soon found to end with “Strike in US” [Washington Post, 5/18/2002] The Guardian will state a few days later, “[T]he memo left little doubt that the hijacked airliners were intended for use as missiles and that intended targets were to be inside the US.” It further states that, “now, as the columnist Joe Conason points out in the current edition of the New York Observer, ‘conspiracy’ begins to take over from ‘incompetence’ as a likely explanation for the failure to heed—and then inform the public about—warnings that might have averted the worst disaster in the nation’s history.” [Guardian, 5/19/2002] Current deputy press secretary Scott McClellan will point out in 2008: “The [CBS] report left much open to question. Was it suggesting that the president had received info that should have led him to act? Was it just a possible warning sign, like many others that may have gone unheeded? Or was it something else, possibly a nonspecific bit of intelligence from years earlier?” McClellan will write that the uncertainty “mattered little to Democratic leaders in Congress. They saw an opportunity to attack the president’s strong suit—his leadership in the war on terrorism—and cut into his enormous popularity ahead of the midterm elections that coming November.” [McClellan, 2008, pp. 113]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), David Martin, Osama bin Laden, George W. Bush, Scott McClellan, Ari Fleischer, Joe Conason

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer misstates the title of a key presidential daily brief item from August 2001 about al-Qaeda’s intentions to attack the US (see August 6, 2001). Fleischer says: “The president was aware that bin Laden, of course, as previous administrations have well known, that bin Laden was determined to strike the United States. In fact, the label on the president’s (presidential daily briefing) was ‘Bin Laden Determined to Strike the United States.’” [Fox News, 5/17/2002] Author Philip Shenon will later point out that “Fleischer had left out the title’s all-important preposition—‘in’ the United States.” [Shenon, 2008, pp. 214] The full title is “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 261] The Washington Post soon points out the misstatement: “White House press secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters yesterday […] the headline on the document was, ‘Bin Laden Determined to Strike the United States.’ But sources who have read the memo said the headline ended with the phrase ‘in US.’” [Washington Post, 5/19/2008]

Entity Tags: Philip Shenon, Ari Fleischer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Bush administration issues a remarkable series of terror warnings that many believe are politically motivated. Vice President Cheney warns it is “not a matter of if, but when” al-Qaeda will next attack the US. [CNN, 5/20/2002] Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge says the same thing. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld says terrorists will “inevitably” obtain weapons of mass destruction (see May 21, 2002). FBI Director Mueller says more suicide bombings are “inevitable.” [Washington Post, 5/22/2002] Authorities also issue separate warnings that al-Qaeda militants might target apartment buildings nationwide, banks, rail and transit systems, the Statue of Liberty, and the Brooklyn Bridge. USA Today titles an article, “Some Question Motives Behind Series of Alerts.” [USA Today, 5/24/2002] David Martin, CBS’s national security correspondent, says, “Right now they’re putting out all these warnings to change the subject from what was known prior to September 11 to what is known now.” It had been revealed the week before that Bush received a briefing in August 2001 entitled, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US” (see August 6, 2001). [Washington Post, 5/27/2002] Remarkably, even Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says the alerts were issued “as a result of all the controversy that took place last week.” [Washington Times, 5/22/2002; Village Voice, 5/23/2002] A retired CIA official reveals that the administration “made a political decision” to make any threat public, even those deemed to be hoaxes. In response to the alleged threat to New York, the former head of the FBI bureau there states that “there really isn’t any hard information.” [Rolling Stone, 9/21/2006 pdf file] Time notes, “Though uncorroborated and vague, the terror alerts were a political godsend for an administration trying to fend off a bruising bipartisan inquiry into its handling of the terrorist chatter last summer. After the wave of warnings, the Democratic clamor for an investigation into the government’s mistakes subsided.” [Time, 5/27/2002]

Entity Tags: Robert S. Mueller III, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Tom Ridge, Ari Fleischer, Al-Qaeda, David Martin

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, Domestic Propaganda

The General Accounting Office (GAO) concludes its own investigation of the so-called Clinton “vandal scandal” (see January 26, 2001), and finds that some minor destruction of property did take place within the White House during the final days of the Clinton administration. [New York Times, 6/12/2002]
Keyboards Damaged, Glue on Desks, Graffiti in Restroom, Stolen Plaque - The GAO finds that about $13,000 to $14,000 of damage actually took place; initial reports from Bush administration sources placed the damages at closer to $250,000. Much of that money was spent on replacing computer keyboards, some of which had the “W” key either pried off or defaced. Other damage included glue smeared on desk drawers, derogatory graffiti written on a stall in a White House men’s bathroom, disparaging messages left on telephone answering machines, and signs with satirical or disparaging messages affixed to White House office doors. A file cabinet had a sticker reading “Jail to the Thief” stuck inside one drawer, obviously referring to allegations that President Bush had stolen the 2000 presidential election. And a foot-wide presidential seal went missing from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. The GAO report notes that similar pranks and property damage were reported during earlier transitions, including the 1993 transition between the first Bush administration and the incoming Clinton administration. “We were unable to conclude whether the 2001 transition was worse than previous ones,” the report says. “Any intentional damage at the White House complex, which is a national treasure, is both inappropriate and a serious matter. The theft of or willful damage to government property would constitute a criminal act.” Representative Bob Barr (R-GA), a Clinton critic who requested the GAO investigation as well as an earlier investigation conducted by the General Services Administration (see May 18, 2001), says of the GAO report, “The Clinton administration treated the White House worse than college freshmen checking out of their dorm rooms.” [New York Times, 6/12/2002; Los Angeles Times, 6/12/2002]
Most Allegations Never Confirmed - Salon correspondent Kerry Lauerman notes that the GAO report is “a far cry from what was promised by Republicans like… Barr.” He asks: “Whatever happened to the looting and trashing Barr said would be documented? The expensive paintings that were supposedly stolen from the White House? The ‘cut wires’ that White House press secretary Ari Fleischer had publicly referred to (see January 25, 2001)? The never-explained ‘porn bombs’ that anonymous GOP sources had complained about? The presidential seals that were stolen, or the historical doorknobs that had been yanked off for souvenirs?” Some of the allegations of missing items, such as the missing seal and antique doorknobs, cannot be demonstrated as the result of theft, but are merely listed as “missing.” And many of the items, such as the antique doorknobs, were not on original inventory lists, but, as Lauerman writes, “suddenly showed up on a White House list compiled in June 2001—based on the months-old ‘recollections’ of staffers—which does not exactly scream reliability” (see June 2-3, 2001). [Salon, 6/13/2002]
Bush White House Demands Further Investigations - Bush officials are reported to be “deeply disappointed” with the report, with White House counsel Alberto Gonzales demanding more details, including the full text of the graffiti and other messages that Gonzales describes as “especially offensive or vulgar.” Gonzales is disappointed that the report did not include, for example, “portions of a sign of a mock Time magazine cover” that was among the prank signs left in the White House, and that apparently contained a profanity. “It is vital to include the substance of specific graffiti, messages and signs observed” in order to fully document the acts of vandalism, Gonzales argues. “The content of a message can—and often does—indicate who wrote the message, and when” and “often provides an insight into the mindset or intention of the person who wrote it.” The GAO responds that such details are “unnecessary and inappropriate.” A Bush administration official accuses the GAO of “undertak[ing] a concerted effort to downplay the damage found in the White House complex.” Lauerman writes: “[I]t’s safe to say that a close reading of the GAO report doesn’t validate the charges of wanton, widespread destruction by the Clinton team. What it does show is the lengths to which the Bush administration went to try to make the scandal charges stick.” [New York Times, 6/12/2002; Salon, 6/13/2002]
Degrees of Cooperation - Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri says: “The real scandal here is how much time and money the Republicans have wasted in a vendetta against the Clinton administration. It’s troubling that the White House cooperated so enthusiastically with this investigation, but refused to provide the GAO with records of the energy task force headed by Vice President Cheney” (see May 16, 2001). Bush spokeswoman Anne Womack responds: “The GAO confirmed that damage was done at the White House. We have considered this matter closed for more than a year. Our focus is on moving forward.” [New York Times, 6/12/2002]
Tremendous Cost of Investigation - Lauerman concludes: “The White House made 78 staffers available for interviews with the GAO, and clearly spent an enormous amount of energy just to try to stick another scandal to the Clintons. (Gonzales’ time alone, billed by the hour, might cost more than the $9,000-plus the GAO blamed on the Clintons.) After 11 months, and an investigation that Democrats told the Washington Post cost $200,000, one somehow expected more. Now that all the facts are in, it seems pretty clear which administration should get the blame for the White House vandal scandal.” [Salon, 6/13/2002]

Entity Tags: Alberto R. Gonzales, Anne Womack, Bush administration (43), Ari Fleischer, Robert “Bob” Barr, Clinton administration, General Services Administration, Kerry Lauerman, George W. Bush, Jennifer Palmieri, General Accounting Office

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Vice President Dick Cheney phones Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Bob Graham (D-FL). Cheney’s call comes early in the morning, and Graham takes it while still shaving. Cheney is agitated; he has just read in the newspaper that telephone calls intercepted by the NSA on September 10, 2001 warned of an imminent al-Qaeda attack. But, the story continues, the intercepts were not translated until September 12, the day after the 9/11 attacks (see September 10, 2001). Cheney is enraged that someone leaked the classified information from the NSA intercepts to the press. As a result, Cheney says, the Bush administration is considering terminating all cooperation with the joint inquiry by the Senate and House Intelligence Committees on the government’s failure to predict and prevent the attacks (see September 18, 2002). (Graham co-chairs the inquiry.) Classified records would no longer be made available to the committees, and administration witnesses would not be available for interviews or testimony. Furthermore, Cheney says, unless the committee leaders take action to find out who leaked the information, and more importantly, take steps to ensure that such leaks never happen again, President Bush will tell the citizenry that Congress cannot be trusted with vital national security secrets. “Take control of the situation,” Cheney tells Graham. The senator responds that he, too, is frustrated with the leaks, but Cheney is unwilling to be mollified.
Quick Capitulation - At 7:30 a.m., Graham meets with the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Porter Goss (R-FL), and the ranking members of the committees, Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL, who will later be accused of leaking the information) and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). They decide to request that the Justice Department conduct a criminal inquiry into whether anyone on either committee, member or staffer, leaked the information to the press. One participant in the meeting later says, “It was a hastily made decision, made out of a sense of panic… and by people with bleary eyes.” Another person involved in the decision later recalls: “There was a real concern that any meaningful oversight by Congress was very much at stake. The political dynamic back then—not that long after September 11—was completely different. They took Cheney’s threats very seriously.” In 2007, reporter Murray Waas will observe that Cheney and other administration officials saw the leak “as an opportunity to undercut Congressional oversight and possibly restrict the flow of classified information to Capitol Hill.”
Graham: Congress Victimized by White House 'Set Up' - In 2007, after his retirement from politics, Graham will say: “Looking back at it, I think we were clearly set up by Dick Cheney and the White House. They wanted to shut us down. And they wanted to shut down a legitimate Congressional inquiry that might raise questions in part about whether their own people had aggressively pursued al-Qaeda in the days prior to the September 11 attacks. The vice president attempted to manipulate the situation, and he attempted to manipulate us.… But if his goal was to get us to back off, he was unsuccessful.” Graham will add that Goss shared his concerns, and say that in 2003, he speculates to Goss that the White House had set them up in order to sabotage the joint inquiry; according to Graham, Goss will respond, “I often wondered that myself.” Graham will go on to say that he believes the NSA leak was not only promulgated by a member of Congress, but by White House officials as well; he will base his belief on the fact that Washington Post and USA Today reports contain information not disclosed during the joint committee hearing. “That would lead a reasonable person to infer the administration leaked as well,” he will say, “or what they were doing was trying to set us up… to make this an issue which they could come after us with.”
White House Goes Public - The same day, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer tells reporters, “The president [has] very deep concerns about anything that would be inappropriately leaked that could… harm our ability to maintain sources and methods and anything else that could interfere with America’s ability to fight the war on terrorism.”
Investigation Will Point to Senate Republican - An investigation by the Justice Department will determine that the leak most likely came from Shelby, but Shelby will deny leaking the intercepts, and the Senate Ethics Committee will decline to pursue the matter (see August 5, 2004). [National Journal, 2/15/2007]

Entity Tags: National Security Agency, George W. Bush, Bush administration (43), Daniel Robert (“Bob”) Graham, Ari Fleischer, House Intelligence Committee, Nancy Pelosi, Senate Ethics Committee, Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Shelby, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Porter J. Goss, US Department of Justice, Murray Waas

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Civil Liberties

The White House formally announces plans to create a public diplomacy agency, to be called the Office of Global Communications, that will be charged with projecting a more positive image of the US abroad. [Washington Post, 7/30/2002; CBS News, 7/30/2002; Guardian, 7/31/2002; Los Angeles Times, 1/5/2003] It will help the world understand “what America is all about and why America does what it does,” says White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. The task formerly belonged to the State Department, but Bush’s advisers didn’t think it was “doing a good enough job, so they’re going to take it on,” a former Coalition Information Center (CIC) official tells the Guardian. “Nobody [was] that impressed with [State Department public diplomacy head] Charlotte Beers (see October 2, 2001) and what she’s done. She listens to people. She’s done a lot of listening, but you need to go further than that.” [Guardian, 7/31/2002] This new public diplomacy office, said to be the brainchild of President Bush’s senior adviser, Karen Hughes, has actually “existed for months, quietly working with foreign news media outlets to get the American message out about the war on terrorism,” according to CBS News. [CBS News, 7/30/2002]

Entity Tags: Karen Hughes, Hill and Knowlton, Charlotte Beers, Ari Fleischer, George W. Bush, US Department of State

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Domestic Propaganda

Ari Fleischer.Ari Fleischer. [Source: Washington Post]White House press secretary Ari Fleischer says that White House lawyers believe President Bush does not need the approval of Congress before launching an attack against Iraq. Fleischer goes on to say that such a consultation with Congress is important, if not constitutionally necessary, because “Congress has an important role to play.… The president knows that any decision he makes on a hypothetical congressional vote will be guided by more than one factor, more than legal factors alone.” Bush “would consider a variety of legal, policy, historical factors in making up his mind about this, if it again becomes a relevant matter. The president knows that in a democracy, it’s vital to have the support of the public if he reaches any point where he makes decisions about military action.” [CNN, 8/26/2002] Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution specifically states that Congress, not the executive branch, has the responsibility of declaring war with another nation. In modern US history, the judiciary has concurred with a number of presidents that the executive branch has limited powers to authorize military strikes, though not the power to commit US forces to a region for an extended period of time without Congressional approval. [University of Missouri-Kansas City, 8/16/2007] And the 1973 War Powers act requires the president to consult with Congress before deploying the military in “hostilities,” to notify Congress of troop commitments within 48 hours of deployment, and to end hostilities within 60 days unless Congress declares war or grants an extension to the deployment. In previous deployments since the law’s passage, presidents have often ignored the law, and Congress has usually not pressed the issue. White House lawyers say Bush has such authority based on his constitutional power to make military decisions as commander in chief, as well as under the terms of the 1991 Gulf War resolution and the September 14, 2001 Congressional resolution approving military action against terrorism. But House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-MO) says that it is “imperative” that Congress debate and vote on any plan to attack Iraq. “This issue is much more than just a legal debate. The president will need the decisive support of the public and their elected representatives in order to initiate and sustain the effort that will be required to eliminate the threat posed by this regime.” [CNN, 8/26/2002]

Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, Richard Gephardt, George W. Bush, Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

After a meeting between President Bush and Saudi ambassador Bandar bin Sultan, Ari Fleischer tells the press, “The president stressed that he has made no decisions, that he will continue to engage in consultations with Saudi Arabia and other nations about steps in the Middle East, steps in Iraq.” [CNN, 8/27/2002]

Entity Tags: Bandar bin Sultan, Ari Fleischer, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Prince Bandar, Saudi ambassador to the US, meets privately for more than an hour with President Bush and National Security Adviser Rice in Crawford, Texas. [Daily Telegraph, 8/28/2002] Press Secretary Ari Fleischer characterizes it as a warm meeting of old friends. Bandar, his wife Princess Haifa, and seven of their eight children stay for lunch. [Fox News, 8/27/2002] Bandar, a long-time friend of the Bush family, donated $1 million to the George W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas. [Boston Herald, 12/11/2001] This relationship later becomes news when it is learned that Princess Haifa gave between $51,000 and $73,000 to two Saudi families in California who may have financed two of the 9/11 hijackers (see December 4, 1999). [New York Times, 11/23/2002; MSNBC, 11/27/2002]

Entity Tags: Bandar bin Sultan, George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Ari Fleischer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld holds a “top secret” briefing on Iraq for selected Congressional members, including, among others, Senator John McCain (R-AZ). The briefing takes place in the most secure room in the Capitol, a small, windowless chamber that is ostentatiously swept for bugs before the briefing. At the outset, the lawmakers are sworn to deepest secrecy. But during the briefing, Rumsfeld tells the assembled members nothing they couldn’t learn by watching the nightly news. McCain abruptly leaves the meeting, and later says, “It was a joke.” Vice President Cheney has said that the administration doesn’t trust the 535 members of Congress not to leak classified information, and therefore they must make their decisions concerning war with Iraq without the benefit of complete intelligence briefings (see Before September 9, 2002 and After). McCain reflects the feelings of many members in expressing his aggravation with the administration. “It becomes almost insulting after a while,” he says. “Everyone that goes to them is frustrated.” Rather than give “pretend” briefings that convey little information, McCain says, President Bush should just suspend the briefings entirely. House member Robert Menendez (D-NJ) says many members are skipping the briefings entirely to avoid signing a secrecy pledge that restricts what they can and cannot talk about. Menendez, briefed earlier by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and CIA Director George Tenet, says, “I heard nothing that was new, compelling, or that I have not heard before.” White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says, “The White House will continue to as fully inform as possible members of Congress, while also preserving sensitive intelligence information so no inadvertent disclosure jeopardizes sources or methods or missions.” The White House has had some success with Democrats who might be resistant to its arguments for war by choosing to give more complete briefings to a few selected Democratic leaders, including House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-MO). As a result, Democratic leaders in Congress are more supportive of the push towards war than many of their rank-and-file colleagues. [Washington Post, 9/15/2002]

Entity Tags: George J. Tenet, Condoleezza Rice, Ari Fleischer, Donald Rumsfeld, Robert Menendez, US Department of Defense, John McCain, George W. Bush, Richard Gephardt, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

In an interview with the BBC, Secretary of State Colin Powell states that he favors the return of UN inspectors as a necessary “first step” in dealing with Iraq. He says: “Iraq has been in violation of these many UN resolutions for most of the last 11 or so years. So as a first step, let’s see what the inspectors find, send them back in, why are they being kept out.” Regarding the decision of whether or not the use of military action would be required, he says: “The world has to be presented with the information, with the intelligence that is available. A debate is needed within the international community so that everybody can make a judgment about this.” [Independent, 9/2/2002] His comments directly contradict statements made by Vice President Dick Cheney in a speech to the Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco on August 7 (see August 7, 2002), and another speech to the Nashville convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars on August 26 (see August 26, 2002).
White House Insists No Conflict - Interestingly, it also comes one day after Scott McClellan, the White House deputy press secretary, told reporters: “The view of the administration is united and one in the same. We are singing from the same songbook.” [CNN, 8/30/2002] But commentators are concluding otherwise, which spurs another statement from Washington, this one from White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, who the next day tells reporters as they accompany him on Air Force One: “There is no difference in position between Cheney, Powell, and President Bush. It’s much ado about no difference.” [CNN, 9/3/2002]
Powell 'Shocked' at Cheney's Remarks - Privately, Powell is “shocked” by Cheney’s statements, according to his chief of staff, Larry Wilkerson. Wilkerson will later recall: “Here we were saying one thing out of one side of our mouth, and here was the vice president speaking to what you might call a semi-official military audience and he was saying the exact opposite. Undercutting every bit of diplomacy before that diplomacy actually got off the ground. And I remember Powell coming back from a principals’ meeting where he had made some remonstrance to the president about what’s going on. And the president had said something which he was wont to say about most things like this. He said, ‘Oh, that’s just Dick.’” [Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 176-177]

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Ari Fleischer, Colin Powell, Lawrence Wilkerson, Scott McClellan

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

White House and Pentagon officials publicly disclose that the Department of Defense has finished a highly detailed plan for attacking Iraq that was delivered to President Bush’s desk in early September by Gen. Tommy R. Franks. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says, “The president has options now, and he has not made any decisions.” The New York Times interviews senior officials who explain that the plan includes specific details, including the “number of ground troops, combat aircraft and aircraft carrier battle groups that would be needed,” and the “detailed sequencing for the use of air, land, naval and Special Operations forces to attack thousands of Iraqi targets, from air-defense sites to command-and-control headquarters to fielded forces.” Officials also tell the Times that any attack would begin “with a lengthy air campaign led by B-2 bombers armed with 2,000-pound satellite-guided bombs to knock out Iraqi command and control headquarters and air defenses.” The principal goal of the air attacks, they say, “would be to sever most communications from Baghdad and isolate Saddam Hussein from his commanders in the rest of the country.” [New York Times, 9/21/2002] The disclosure of this information notably comes only a few days after Iraq has offered to unconditionally admit weapons inspectors (see September 16, 2002).

Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, George W. Bush, Thomas Franks

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

The New York Times publishes a highly detailed set of military options the Pentagon has recently given President Bush for attacking Iraq (see September 20, 2002). General Tommy Franks gave Bush the document just before a US speech at the UN calling for military action against Saddam Hussein. The attack would begin with a lengthy air campaign by B-2 bombers using satellite-guided bombs to knock out Iraqi command centers and air defenses, to isolate Hussein from field commanders. Ground forces would stage out of Kuwait. “The President has options now, and he has not made any decisions,” states White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. [New York Times, 9/21/2002] These plans assume that only 5,000 troops would remain in Iraq by December 2006, a date only 45 months from the proposed invasion date - D-Day. The plans discussed goals and strategies for the invasion: “POTUS/SECDEF [President of US/Secretary of Defense] directed effort; limited to a very small group… Integrate / consider all elements of national power… [State Department] will promote creation of a broad-based, credible provisional government - prior to D-day… Iraqi regime has WMD capability.” [National Security Archive, 2/14/2007] The release of the military plans causes no widespread outrage or official US investigation, suggesting the White House approved the leak.

Entity Tags: Saddam Hussein, US Department of Defense, George W. Bush, Ari Fleischer, Thomas Franks

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

During a White House meeting with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, George Bush makes the claim that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden work together. “They’re both risks, they’re both dangerous,” Bush tells reporters. “The danger is, is that they work in concert,” he says in response to a question from a Reuters reporter. “The difference, of course, is that al-Qaeda likes to hijack governments. Saddam Hussein is a dictator of a government. Al-Qaeda hides, Saddam doesn’t, but the danger is, is that they work in concert. The danger is, is that al-Qaeda becomes an extension of Saddam’s madness and his hatred and his capacity to extend weapons of mass destruction around the world. Both of them need to be dealt with. The war on terror, you can’t distinguish between al-Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror. And so it’s a comparison that is - I can’t make because I can’t distinguish between the two, because they’re both equally as bad, and equally as evil, and equally as destructive.” [Knight Ridder, 9/25/2002; Washington Post, 9/26/2002; US President, 9/30/2002; Center for Public Integrity, 1/23/2008] Later in the day, Bush’s comments are downplayed by White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, who says that Bush did not mean bin Laden and Hussein are working together, but rather that there is the danger that they could work together. He explains: “Clearly, al-Qaeda is operating inside Iraq. In the shadowy world of terrorism, sometimes there is no precise way to have definitive information until it is too late.” [Washington Post, 9/26/2002; White House, 9/25/2003] Bush fails to mention that the Defense Intelligence Agency has found no evidence of any such connections (see July 2002), or that eight days before his statement, the director of the CIA, George Tenet, told a Senate committee that no such connections can be shown to exist (see September 17, 2002). [Center for Public Integrity, 1/23/2008]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, Al-Qaeda, Alvaro Uribe, Ari Fleischer, George J. Tenet, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

During the daily press “gaggle,” Ari Fleischer acknowledges there is no evidence that Iraq was involved in the September 11 attacks. A reporter asks if there is “still no evidence of a connection between Iraq and 9/11?” to which Fleischer responds, “That’s correct.” [White House, 9/26/2002]

Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Tom Daschle.Tom Daschle. [Source: Salon]Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle blasts the Bush administration for trying to use the debate over the Iraq war resolution for political purposes, and for smearing the patriotism of Democrats who question the need for the resolution. After reading through a number of statements by White House and Congressional Republicans, including one from President Bush who said Senate Democrats were “not interested in the security of the American people,” the usually conciliatory and soft-spoken Daschle retorts, “‘Not interested in the security of the American people’? You tell Senator [Daniel] Inouye he’s not interested in the security of the American people. You tell those who fought in Vietnam and in World War II they’re not interested in the security of the American people. That is outrageous. Outrageous. The president ought to apologize.” Inouye (D-HI) lost his arm while fighting in World War II. Daschle also cites a Republican pollster who says war as a political issue could tip the elections in favor of the Republicans, references Dick Cheney’s use of Iraq as an issue to promote the campaign of a GOP House candidate in Kansas (see September 25, 2002), and recalls White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card’s statement that “from a marketing point of view,” it makes sense to raise the issue of Iraq after Labor Day when lawmakers would be back from their August break (see September 6, 2002). White House press secretary Ari Fleischer counters that Daschle is taking Bush’s comment out of context, and is relying on erroneous or misleading press releases to make his charges. Fleischer advises to “take a deep breath,” “stop finger-pointing,” and join Bush in “protect[ing] our national security and our homeland defense.” Daschle responds to Fleischer’s comments by saying there is “no context” in which Bush or any other Republican can fairly question whether Senate Democrats are interested in national security. He says the White House’s explanation of Bush’s remarks are “not worth the paper they’re printed on.” Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) charges that Daschle and his fellow Democrats are unfairly attacking the president. “Who is the enemy here, the president of the United States or Saddam Hussein? [Daschle] needs to cool the rhetoric.” Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) retorts, “There is nothing more sobering than the decision to go to war. But the administration has turned the decision into a bumper-sticker election theme.” [CNN, 9/26/2002]

Entity Tags: Robert C. Byrd, Andrew Card, Ari Fleischer, Bush administration (43), Saddam Hussein, Tom Daschle, Trent Lott, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Daniel Inouye

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

During his daily press briefing, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer denies that oil is a motivating factor behind the drive for war with Iraq. He says, “It is not a factor. This is about preserving the peace and saving the lives of Americans.” [White House, 10/9/2002; New York Daily News, 10/10/2002; MSNBC, 11/7/2002]

Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Iraqi Minister Abdul Tawab Mullah Hawaish, who is in charge of Iraq’s weapons programs, invites reporters and members of the Bush administration to visit two of the alleged WMD sites, Furat and Nasser al-Azim. Bush had referred to the sites in his October 7 speech (see October 7, 2002). “The American administration are invited to inspect these sites,” Hawaish says, “As I am responsible for the Iraqi weapons programs, I confirm here that we have no weapons of mass destruction and we have no intention to produce them…. I am saying here and now that we do not have weapons of mass destruction and we do not have programs to develop them.” [BBC, 10/10/2002; Reuters, 10/10/2002] But the White House rejects the offer. Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says, “This matter is not up to Iraq…. It is… up to the United Nations to decide.” [White House, 10/10/2002] Reporters, however, accept the offer and tour the Nasser State Establishment, a facility that Iraq claims produces goods for civilian use as well as components for conventional weapons. [Reuters, 10/10/2002]

Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, Bush administration (43), Abdul Tawab Mullah Hawaish

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

At a White House press conference, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer is asked, “Ari, back to the postwar plans for Iraq, you’ve disputed our use of the word ‘occupation.’ I don’t understand why. Are American and/or other forces not going to be occupying Iraqi territory? And are not at least some of the Iraqis going to be objecting to it?” Fleischer responds: “… I dispute that notion, because I have made the case about Afghanistan. I don’t think anybody views the United States as an occupying power in Afghanistan. The presence of the United States military is the presence of the military. Obviously, we have military in other places around the world. Are we an occupying power? I just disagree with that comparison, especially the comparison to Japan. The Japanese, of course, fought the United States for a four-year sustained period in World War II. The country actively fought the United States. As we saw in 1991 in Iraq, the Iraqi military actively surrendered to the American military at first chance. Now, that’s not to predict what the ultimate outcome could be if we go to war, because there nobody is saying a war will not have difficulties and there will not be casualties. My point is, the likelihood is much more like Afghanistan, where the people who live right now under a brutal dictator will view America as liberators, not conquerors.” [White House, 10/11/2002]

Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

When a reporter asks White House spokesman Ari Fleischer whether the countries that helped North Korea with its nuclear weapons program risk being punished, Fleischer indicates they will not, provided they have changed their behavior. North Korea’s nuclear program was and is substantially assisted by Pakistan, now a US ally. Fleischer says: “Well, yes, since September 11th, many things that people may have done years before September 11th or some time before September 11th, have changed. September 11th changed the world and it changed many nations’ behaviors along with it. And don’t read that to be any type of acknowledgment of what may or may not be true. But September 11th did change the world.” Fleischer says that this does not mean the US will forgive and forget, but authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will give his remarks as an example of Bush administration officials no longer talking about nuclear proliferation. They will comment: “There was absolutely no mention of [CIA Director] George Tenet’s top-secret working group which had Pakistan’s relationship with North Korea and Libya in its sights (as well as all the other nuclear misdeeds committed by Pakistan). History had begun all over again, according to the administration, much as it had done in [1979] when the Soviets rolled into Kabul.” [White House, 10/18/2002; Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 316]

Entity Tags: White House, Ari Fleischer

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

US Ambassador to the UN John Negroponte provides the five permanent members of the UN Security Council with a revision of the UN draft resolution on disarming Iraq. [Associated Press, 10/21/2002; Daily Telegraph, 10/22/2002] The Bush administration makes it clear that it expects the UN Security Council to vote on this draft of the resolution soon and signals that US officials are losing their patience with other member states. State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher, states, “We’re also making clear it is time to wrap this up.” [Associated Press, 10/21/2002] Similarly, Ari Fleischer tells reporters the following day, “It’s coming down to the end. The United Nations does not have forever.” [White House, 10/22/2002] The same day, Bush will say in a Pennsylvania speech: “The United Nations can’t make its mind up. If Saddam won’t disarm, we will lead a coalition to disarm him for the sake of peace…. [The United Nations] must resolve itself to be something more than the League of Nations, must resolve itself to be more than a debating society, must resolve itself to keep international peace.” [CNN, 10/22/2002; US President, 10/28/2002] Summing up US feelings, an unnamed official tells the New York Times that the administration’s message to the other permanent members is, “You’re either with us or against us.” [New York Times, 10/23/2002]
bullet The revision drops the words “all necessary means,” stipulating in its place that Iraq’s failure to abide by the new resolution would result in “serious consequences.” [Associated Press, 10/21/2002; Associated Press, 10/21/2002; Washington Post, 10/23/2002; New York Times, 10/23/2002]
bullet The revision does not require that UN inspectors be accompanied by armed guards, a requirement in the earlier draft which many current and former UN inspectors opposed. [Associated Press, 10/21/2002; New York Times, 10/23/2002]
bullet A provision in the previous draft requiring that member states help the UN enforce “no-fly” and “no-drive” zones around the inspection sites remains in the draft resolution, but in brackets, suggesting that the US and Britain are willing to negotiate on this point. [Associated Press, 10/21/2002; Daily Telegraph, 10/22/2002; New York Times, 10/23/2002]
bullet The revision does not require that the five permanent members of the Security Council be permitted to appoint their own officials to the inspection teams. [Associated Press, 10/21/2002; Daily Telegraph, 10/22/2002; New York Times, 10/23/2002]
bullet The revision stipulates that Iraq must declare its weapons of mass destruction within 30 days of the resolution’s passing, after which the weapons inspectors would have another 45 days to commence its work on disarmament. [ABC News, 10/23/2002 Sources: John Negroponte] If Iraq does not meet the deadline, its failure to do so will be considered a “material breach” of the resolution. [Associated Press, 10/21/2002 Sources: John Negroponte]
bullet The revised draft still contains phrases that set a hair trigger for the implementation of “serious consequences.” The revision stipulates that further “false statements and omissions” by Iraq would amount to “a further material breach.” [Economist, 10/23/2002; New York Times, 10/23/2002]
Reactions - In spite of the revision, the oppositional stances of France, Russia, Mexico, and China remain unchanged. Bulgaria, Colombia, Norway, Singapore show some support for the revision. [Associated Press, 10/21/2002; Daily Telegraph, 10/22/2002; London Times, 10/28/2002]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, John Negroponte, Ari Fleischer, Richard A. Boucher

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer denies that the US intends to control Iraq’s oil reserves. He claims, “The only interest the United States has in the region is furthering the cause of peace and stability… not his country’s ability to generate oil.” Asked if the US would take over Iraq’s oil fields in the event of a US invasion of Iraq, Fleischer explains, “No. The purpose of any plan the United States has is to make certain that Saddam Hussein complies with all UN resolutions.” Asked if the US would administer Iraq’s oil fields after an invasion he said, “I think that it’s impossible for anybody to speculate about anything and everything that could possibly happen under any military scenario. And I wouldn’t even try to start guessing what the military may or may not do.” [White House, 10/9/2002; MSNBC, 11/7/2002]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Ari Fleischer

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

The Bush administration and the United Nations disagree over how intrusive the inspections should be. The US wants the inspectors to be as aggressive as possible by visiting sensitive sites and demanding interviews with Iraqi scientists without the presence of minders. Hans Blix, on the other hand, advocates a more measured approach to achieving disarmament. He says that inspection team recruits should be “firm” with their Iraqi counterparts but never “angry and aggressive.” One of his aides tells The Washington Post in late November 2002: “We’re not going to do in-your-face inspections. He [Blix] wants effective inspections. It’s not our job to provoke, harm or humiliate.” The inspectors argue that it makes no sense—nor is logistically feasible—to begin the inspections process with intrusive inspections of Iraq’s most sensitive sites. One UN official explains to The Washington Post, “If you only have 11 people, you cannot go to a big new site, but you can go check on a known monitoring site.” The Independent reports that inspectors “believe it would not only be counterproductive, but could damage the prospect of ascertaining whether President Saddam does indeed possess an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.” [Washington Post, 11/17/2002] In December, Washington calls for an increase in the UN inspectors’ staff so that the UN’s two agencies can conduct multiple simultaneous inspections each day. On December 4, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says, “We want to make certain that they [the inspections] are aggressive enough to be able to ascertain the facts in the face of an adversary who in the past did everything in his power to hide the facts.” [BBC, 12/4/2002]

Entity Tags: Hans Blix, Ari Fleischer, United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

The UN Security Council unanimously votes 15-0 in favor of UN Resolution 1441, which stipulates that Iraq is required to readmit UN weapons inspectors under tougher terms than required by previous UN resolutions. The resolution does not give the US authority to use force against Iraq. [United Nations, 11/8/2002] The resolution makes it very clear that only the UN Security Council has the right to take punitive action against Iraq in the event of noncompliance. [Common Dreams, 11/14/2002] After the resolution is passed, top Bush administration officials make public statements threatening to use military force against Iraq if Saddam’s regime does not comply with the resolution. George Bush, Colin Powell, John Negroponte, Andrew Card, and Ari Fleischer make statements asserting that the resolution does not prevent the US from using force.
bullet A provision that would have authorized UN member states to use “all necessary means” to disarm Iraq is relocated to the preamble of the resolution where it has no practical significance. [New York Times, 11/6/2002; United Nations, 11/9/2002]
bullet A provision requiring that security guards accompany the inspectors is removed. [New York Times, 11/6/2002]
bullet The resolution requires Iraq to provide the UN with the names of all its weapons experts. [New York Times, 11/6/2002; London Times, 11/9/2002; United Nations, 11/9/2002]
bullet The resolution states that weapons inspectors will be authorized to remove Iraqi scientists, as well as their families, from Iraq in order to interview them. An official later tells the Washington Post that the power to interview Iraqi scientists was “the most significant authority contained in the resolution” and “the one thing that is most likely to produce overt Iraqi opposition.” [United Nations, 11/9/2002; Washington Post, 12/12/2002]
bullet The resolution overturns provisions of the previous Resolution 1154 that required UN inspectors to notify Baghdad before inspecting Saddam Hussein’s presidential sites. Resolution 1154 had also required that inspections of those sensitive sites occur in the presence of diplomats. The new resolution demands that Iraq allow the inspectors “immediate, unimpeded, unconditional and unrestricted access” to any sites chosen by the inspectors. [United Nations, 11/9/2002] Unnamed diplomats and US officials tell USA Today that the US may attempt to claim that Iraq is engaged in a pattern of defiance and deceit if it hinders the inspectors in any way. [USA Today, 12/19/2002 Sources: Unnamed diplomats and US officials]
bullet The resolution includes a provision calling for “no-fly” and “no-drive” zones in the areas surrounding suspected weapons sites to prevent the Iraqis from removing evidence prior to or during inspections. [United Nations, 11/9/2002]
bullet The final resolution includes statements stipulating that an Iraqi failure to comply with the terms of the resolution, including “false statements or omissions” in the weapons declaration it is required to submit, will “constitute a further material breach” of its obligations. Additional wording included in the same provision explains that any breach of the resolution will “be reported to the Council for assessment.” Also, towards the end of the resolution, it states that the chief weapons inspector should “report immediately to the Council any interference” by Iraq so that the Council can “convene immediately to consider the situation and the need for full compliance with all the relevant council resolutions in order to restore international peace and security.” [New York Times, 11/6/2002; CNN, 11/8/2002; London Times, 11/9/2002; United Nations, 11/9/2002]
bullet Paragraph 8 of UN Security Council Resolution 1441 states that Iraq “shall not take or threaten hostile acts directed against any representative or personnel of the United Nations or the IAEA or of any Member State taking action to uphold any Council resolution.” The US contends that this applies to the US- and British- patrolling of the “no-fly” zones that the two countries imposed shortly after the Gulf War. The “patrolling,” which has never been officially sanctioned by the UN and which is not recognized by Iraq, often includes aerial attacks on Iraqi sovereign territory. Iraq consistently fires on the attacking jets in self-defense. Other UN Security Council members explicitly oppose this interpretation of the resolution before its passage. [United Nations, 11/9/2002; Associated Press, 11/12/2002]
bullet The resolution gives Iraq seven days to announce whether or not it will comply with the resolution, and 30 days (December 8) to declare its chemical, biological, and nuclear-related capabilities—even those that are unrelated to weapons programs. 10 days after Iraq’s acceptance of the terms, inspectors will send an advanced team to Baghdad, but will have a total of 45 days to begin the actual work. The inspection team will be required to provide the UN Security Council with a report 60 days (January 27) after the commencement of its work. [Guardian, 11/7/2002; Associated Press, 11/8/2002; United Nations, 11/9/2002; Associated Press, 11/13/2002] Diplomats and US officials speaking off the record tell USA Today that the declaration due on December 8 represents a hidden trigger, explaining that any omissions will be considered a material breach and sufficient justification for war. [USA Today, 12/19/2002 Sources: Unnamed diplomats and US officials]
bullet Syria requested that the resolution include a provision stating that Iraq’s compliance with the terms would result in the lifting of sanctions. This provision was not included. [CNN, 11/8/2002]
bullet Syria requested that the resolution declare the entire Middle East a “nuclear-free and weapons of mass destruction-free zone.” This provision was not included. [CNN, 11/8/2002]
bullet France did not want the resolution to include any wording that might authorize the use of force. Instead it argued that the resolution should include only terms for tougher inspections. In the event of Iraqi noncompliance with the terms, France argued, a separate resolution should be agreed upon to decide what further action would be necessary. France lost its argument, and the new resolution includes a warning to Iraq “that it will face serious consequences” in the event of its failure to comply with the terms of the resolution. [Guardian, 11/7/2002]

Entity Tags: John Negroponte, Ari Fleischer, George W. Bush, Colin Powell, Andrew Card

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

In the wake of news that two Saudis living in San Diego, California, may have helped two of the 9/11 hijackers, reports surface that the US has a secret, short list of wealthy individuals who are the alleged key financiers of al-Qaeda and other Islamic militant groups. The Washington Post claims there are nine names on the list: seven Saudis, plus one Egyptian, and one Pakistani. [Washington Post, 11/26/2002] ABC News claims the list consists of 12 names, all Saudis, and says they were financing al-Qaeda through accounts in Cyprus, Switzerland, and Malaysia, among other countries. [ABC News, 11/25/2002] They also claim the Saudi government has a copy of the list. US officials privately say all the people listed have close personal and business ties with the Saudi royal family. [ABC News, 11/26/2002] A secret report by French investigator Jean-Charles Brisard names seven prominent Saudi financiers of terror; the number matches the seven Saudis mentioned in the Washington Post article, though it’s not known if all the names are the same. The Saudis mentioned by Brisard include Yassin al-Qadi, Adel Batterjee, and Wael Hamza Julaidan (who has had his assets frozen by the US.) [US Department of State, 9/6/2002] Brisard says al-Qaeda has received between $300 million and $500 million over the last ten years from wealthy businessmen and bankers. He claims that the combined fortunes of these men equal about 20 percent of Saudi Arabia’s GDP (gross domestic product). [Brisard, 12/19/2002 pdf file; Los Angeles Times, 12/24/2002] However, Brisard’s study has been mistakenly described as a United Nations report. While he submitted the study to the UN, the UN didn’t request it. [Money Laundering Alert, 10/2003] It is also reported that a National Security Council task force recommends that the US demand that Saudi Arabia crack down on al-Qaeda’s financiers within 90 days of receiving evidence of misdeeds and if they do not, the US should take unilateral action to bring the suspects to justice. However, the US government denies this report and calls Saudi Arabia a “good partner in the war on terrorism.” [Washington Post, 11/26/2002] Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says: “I think the fact that many of the hijackers came from that nation [Saudi Arabia] cannot and should not be read as an indictment of the country.” [Radio Free Europe, 11/27/2002]

Entity Tags: United States, Yassin al-Qadi, Saudi Arabia, National Security Council, Adel Abdul Jalil Batterjee, Ari Fleischer, Jean-Charles Brisard, Wael Hamza Julaidan, Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says during a press briefing: “I will say this is something that the president has said publicly, that Iraq did, in fact, seek to buy these tubes for the purpose of producing, not as Iraq now claims conventional forces, but for the purpose of trying to produce nuclear weapons. And so it’s, on the one hand, mildly encouraging that Iraq would now admit to what it’s been doing. But on the other hand, a lie is still a lie, because these—they sought to produce these for the purpose of production of nuclear weapons, not conventional.” He also states that the evidence of WMD is that Saddam Hussein will claim there are no WMD and that proves there are WMD because Hussein is a liar. “Saddam Hussein does not exactly have a track record of telling the world the truth. So he, on December 8th, has to indicate whether or not he has weapons. Let’s see what he says. If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world.” When asked how he knows Iraq has WMD, Fleischer says, “We have intelligence information about what Saddam Hussein possesses… It’s no secret. We’ve said many times—you’ve heard the President say repeatedly that he has chemical and biological weapons, and he has missiles that can reach an access of 150 kilometers, all three of which are violations of his sworn commitments to the United Nations.” [White House, 12/2/2002]

Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

The White House calls for more aggressive inspections. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says, “We want to make certain that they [the inspections] are aggressive enough to be able to ascertain the facts in the face of an adversary who in the past did everything in his power to hide the facts.” The White House recommends increasing the UN inspectors’ staff so that the two agencies can conduct multiple simultaneous inspections each day. [BBC, 12/4/2002]

Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says: “The president of the United States and the Secretary of Defense would not assert as plainly and bluntly as they have that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction if it was not true, and if they did not have a solid basis for saying it.” When pressed for details, he adds: “President Bush has said Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Tony Blair has said Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Donald Rumsfeld has said Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Richard Butler has said they do. The United Nations has said they do. The experts have said they do. Iraq says they don’t. You can choose who you want to believe.” [CBC News, 12/5/2002; Associated Press, 12/5/2003]

Entity Tags: Richard Butler, Donald Rumsfeld, Ari Fleischer, Tony Blair, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

FBI agents raid Ptech offices.FBI agents raid Ptech offices. [Source: ABC News]Federal agents search the offices of Ptech, Inc., a Boston computer software company, looking for evidence of links to Osama bin Laden. A senior Ptech official confirms that Yassin al-Qadi, one of 12 Saudi businessmen on a secret CIA list suspected of funneling millions of dollars to al-Qaeda, was an investor in the company, beginning in 1994. Ptech appears to have connections to other potential terrorist financiers (see 1994). In particular, there seem to be many ties between Ptech and BMI Inc., a New Jersey-based company whose list of investors has been called a “who’s who of designated terrorists and Islamic extremists” (see 1986-October 1999). [Newsweek, 12/6/2002; WBZ 4 (Boston), 12/9/2002] A former FBI counterterrorism official states, “For someone like [al-Qadi] to be involved in a capacity, in an organization, a company that has access to classified information, that has access to government open or classified computer systems, would be of grave concern.” [WBZ 4 (Boston), 12/9/2002] On the day after the raid, US authorities will claim that Ptech’s software has been scrutinized and poses no danger. But security expert John Pike comments, “When you look at all of the different military security agencies that they have as customers, it’s very difficult to imagine how they would not be encountering sensitive information, classified information.” [National Public Radio, 12/8/2002] The search into Ptech is part of Operation Greenquest, which has served 114 search warrants in the past 14 months involving suspected terrorist financing. Fifty arrests have been made and $27.4 million seized. [Forbes, 12/6/2002] However, the raid appears to have been largely for show. Ptech was notified by US officials in November that they were being investigated, and they were told in advance exactly when the raid would take place (see May-December 5, 2002). Top officials in the US government appear to have made up their minds before the results of the raid can even be examined. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer comments on the Ptech raid only hours after it ends: “The one thing I can share with you is that the products that were supplied by this company to the government all fell in the nonclassified area. None of it involved any classified products used by the government. The material has been reviewed by the appropriate government agencies, and they have detected absolutely nothing in their reports to the White House that would lead to any concern about any of the products purchased from this company.” [White House, 12/6/2002] The fact that the raid takes place at all appears to be due to the persistence of Operation Greenquest investigators, who are engaged at this time in a bureaucratic battle with other investigators over who will control US government investigations into terrorist financing (see After March 20, 2002-Early 2003). Greenquest will lose this battle early in 2003 and get shut down (see May 13-June 30, 2003). In his 2003 book Black Ice, author Dan Verton will call Ptech an “innocent” casualty of Operation Greenquest’s “scorched-earth” tactics. [Verton, 2003, pp. 223] No charges will be brought against Ptech, and the company will continue fulfilling sensitive government contracts under a new name (see May 14, 2004).

Entity Tags: Operation Greenquest, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Yassin al-Qadi, Central Intelligence Agency, Ari Fleischer, BMI Inc., Ptech Inc.

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The New York Times reports that the Defense Department “is considering issuing a secret directive to the American military to conduct covert operations aimed at influencing public opinion and policy makers in friendly and neutral countries’ in order to stem the tide of anti-Americanism. The Pentagon has considered several tactics it may employ to improve America’s image abroad. For example, the Times explains that the Pentagon “might pay journalists to write stories favorable to American policies,” or hire “outside contractors without obvious ties to the Pentagon to organize rallies in support of American policies.” Another idea would be to set “up schools with secret American financing to teach a moderate Islamic position laced with sympathetic depictions of how the religion is practiced in America.” Several official sources interviewed by the Times opposed the plans. One military officer tells the newspaper: “We have the assets and the capabilities and the training to go into friendly and neutral nations to influence public opinion. We could do it and get away with it. That doesn’t mean we should.” Retired Adm. Dennis C. Blair, a former commander of American forces in the Pacific, says that it probably wouldn’t be very effective. “Running ops against your allies doesn’t work very well…. I’ve seen it tried a few times, and it generally is not very effective,” he says. [New York Times, 12/16/2002] The White House defends the program. “The president has the expectation that any program that is created in his administration will be based on facts, and that’s what he would expect to be carried out in any program that is created in any entity of the government,” White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says. [New York Times, 12/16/2002]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, Dennis C. Blair, Ari Fleischer

Timeline Tags: US Military, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Domestic Propaganda

UNMOVIC inspectors say they have yet to uncover evidence indicating that Iraq has resumed its production of weapons of mass destruction. After providing the UN Security Council with a summary of the inspectors’ findings, Hans Blix tells reporters in New York, “We have now been there for some two months and been covering the country in ever wider sweeps and we haven’t found any smoking guns.” [Guardian, 1/10/2003] But Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary, insists that the absence of evidence is of little concern, asserting, “The problem with guns that are hidden is you can’t see their smoke. We know for a fact that there are weapons there.” [Guardian, 1/10/2003] When asked how he knows this, Fleischer quotes from the UN weapons inspectors’ report and notes, “So while they’ve [UN Inspectors] said that there’s no smoking gun, they said the absence of it is not assured. And that’s the heart of the problem. The heart of the problem is Iraq is very good at hiding things.” [White House, 1/9/2003] John Negroponte, the US ambassador to the UN, accuses Iraq of “legalistic” cooperation, claiming that it needs to act proactively. He also says, “There is still no evidence that Iraq has fundamentally changed its approach from one of deceit to a genuine attempt to be forthcoming.” [Guardian, 1/10/2003] Colin Powell also seems undaunted by Blix’s remarks. “The lack of a smoking gun does not mean that there’s not one there,” he says, “If the international community sees that Saddam Hussein is not cooperating in a way that would not allow you to determine the truth of the matter, then he is in violation of the UN resolution [1441] (see November 8, 2002)…You don’t really have to have a smoking gun.” [News24, 1/10/2003] Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the British ambassador to the UN, echoes views from Washington, asserting that the “passive cooperation of Iraq has been good in terms of access and other procedural issues,” and adds, “But proactive cooperation has not been forthcoming—the kind of cooperation needed to clear up the remaining questions in the inspectors’ minds.” [Guardian, 1/10/2003]

Entity Tags: John Negroponte, United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, Ari Fleischer, Jeremy Greenstock, Hans Blix, Colin Powell

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer asserts during his daily press briefing, “We know for a fact that there are weapons there.” [White House, 1/9/2003]

Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

UN weapons inspectors discover a cache of 12 warheads designed to carry chemical warfare agents in the Ukhaider Ammunition Storage Area located about 80 miles [120km] south of Baghdad. News of the discovery is announced immediately. According to officials, the warheads were not included in Iraq’s December 7 declaration to the UN (see December 7, 2002). [Washington Post, 1/16/2003; Reuters, 1/17/2003; New York Times, 1/17/2003; New York Times, 1/18/2003] The warheads—meant for 122 mm rockets with a range of 11-22 miles—are in perfect condition. Though they seem to be configured for Sarin gas, they are empty and have no trace of chemical weapons. [Washington Post, 1/16/2003; Reuters, 1/17/2003; Reuters, 1/17/2003; Newsday, 1/18/2003; New York Times, 1/31/2003] Iraqi officials call their failure to include information about this cache in Iraq’s December 7 declaration an oversight and promise to check if they have any other old warheads in storage. General Hussam Mohammed Amin, head of Iraq’s weapons-monitoring directorate and the chief liaison to UN inspectors, says the warheads were imported in 1986 and therefore are too old to be of any use. “These are 122 mm rockets with an empty warhead. There are no chemical or biological agents or weapons of mass destruction,” he explains. “These rockets are expired… they were in closed wooden boxes… that we had forgotten about,” he adds. [Reuters, 1/17/2003; Reuters, 1/17/2003] “It doesn’t represent anything. It’s not dangerous.” [Washington Post, 1/16/2003] He refers to the discovery as a mere “storm in a teacup.” [Reuters, 1/17/2003; Reuters, 1/17/2003] The Bush administration considers the discovery significant. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says: “The president views this as troubling and serious…. What the world wants to know is if Saddam Hussein has disarmed. Possession of chemical warheads is not a good indication that the man has disarmed.” Fleischer disputes the notion that empty warheads do not represent a threat. “Putting chemical weapons into a chemical warhead is done at the last minute,” he notes. However officials from other countries seem to disagree. A French diplomat tells reporters, “I have only one thing to say—empty.” [New York Times, 1/18/2003] The inspectors feel that the discovery is “evidence that their search was beginning to yield results and should be given more time to work,” reports the New York Times. [New York Times, 1/18/2003]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Hussam Mohammad Amin, Ari Fleischer, United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Joost Hiltermann.Joost Hiltermann. [Source: Representational Pictures]Reporter Russell Mokhiber attempts to pin down White House press secretary Ari Fleischer on the Bush administration’s condemnations of Iraq over its gassing of Iraqi Kurds in Halabja, when the US at the time tried to protect Iraq from international criticism (see January 17, 2003). Mokhiber says, “You and the president have repeatedly said that Saddam Hussein gassed his own people. The biggest such attack was in Halabja in March 1988, where some 6,800 Kurds were killed. Last week, in an article in the International Herald Tribune, Joost Hiltermann writes that while it was Iraq that carried out the attack, the United States at the time, fully aware that it was Iraq, accused Iran. This was apparently part of the US tilt toward Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war. The tilt included billions of dollars in loan guarantees. Sensing he had carte blanche, Saddam escalated his resort to gas warfare—graduating to ever more lethal agents. So, you and the president have said that Saddam has repeatedly gassed his own people. Why do you leave out the part that the United States in effect gave Saddam the green light?” Fleischer responds that Mokhiber needs to ask someone “other than the White House,” and claims he has no idea whether those charges are accurate. Mokhiber presses forward, saying that recent media reports show “a number of major American corporations—including Hewlett-Packard and Bechtel—helped Saddam Hussein beef up its military in the 1980s [and] supplied Iraq with cluster bombs, intelligence and chemical and biological agents.” Mokhiber notes that the same articles report the current Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, “went to Baghdad in December 1983 and met with Saddam Hussein, and this was at a time when Iraq was using chemical weapons almost on a daily basis in defiance of international conventions. So there are some specifics, and the question is—if Iraq is part of the axis of evil, why aren’t the United States and these American corporations part of the axis of evil for helping him out during his time of need?” Fleischer again refuses to answer directly, saying, “I think that you have to make a distinction between chemical and biological. And, clearly, in a previous era, following the fall of the Shah of Iran, when there was a focus on the risks that were underway in the region as a result of the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Iran, different administrations, beginning with President Carter, reached different conclusions about the level of military cooperation vis-a-vis Iraq. Obviously, Saddam Hussein since that time has used whatever material he had for the purpose therefore of attacking Kuwait, attacking Saudi Arabia, attacking Israel. And, obviously, as circumstances warrant, we have an approach that requires now the world to focus on the threat that Saddam Hussein presents and that he presents this threat because of his desire to continue to acquire weapons and his willingness to use those weapons against others.” Fleischer attempts to brush off any follow-up, refusing to admit that the US had any part in Hussein’s acquisition or use of chemical weapons, and saying, “I think that he gassed his own people as a result of his decisions to use his weapons to gas his own people.” When Mokhiber presses the point, Fleischer retorts, “… I think the suggestion that you blame America for Iraq’s actions is way beyond the pale.” [White House, 1/21/2003]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Ari Fleischer, Russell Mokhiber

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, US-Iraq 1980s

Ari Fleischer says during his daily press briefing: “Iraq, unlike Afghanistan, is a rather wealthy country. Iraq has tremendous resources that belong to the Iraqi people. And so there are a variety of means that Iraq has to be able to shoulder much of the burden for their own reconstruction [sic].” [White House, 2/18/2003; Financial Times, 1/16/2004]

Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Iraq agrees to destroy all the equipment associated with its Al Samoud missile program, including warheads, SA-2 missile engines, machinery to produce missile motors, fuel, launchers, testing equipment, components as well as all software and documentation. The UN had earlier concluded that the missile program was in violation of UN resolutions because the range of the missiles exceeds the 150km limit imposed in 1991 after the Gulf War (see February 12, 2003). Responding to news of Iraq’s decision, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer dismisses any suggestion that it is an example of Iraqi cooperation. Instead he describes it as “deception.” He says, “This is the deception the president predicted. We do expect that they will destroy at least some of their missiles.” He also says that Iraq’s actions constitute “propaganda, wrapped in a lie, inside a falsehood.” And Donald Rumsfeld offers a similar interpretation of Iraq’s actions. He says: “I don’t see a change in the pattern at all. You know, this is exactly what’s been going to for years…. They refuse to cooperate, don’t cooperate, drag it out, wait until someone finally nails them with one little piece of the whole puzzle and refuse to do anything about it and then finally when they see the pressure building, they say well, maybe we’ll do some of that.” Bush similarly states: “The discussion about these rockets is part of [Saddam’s] campaign of deception. See, he’ll say, ‘I’m not going to destroy the rockets,’ and then he’ll have a change of mind this weekend and destroy the rockets and say, ‘I’ve disarmed.’” And Powell says: “I think it’s just more indication of the reality that we have been trying to convey to the world, that Saddam Hussein is trying to string it out, trying to divert attention, trying to pretend he is cooperating when he is not cooperating, try[ing] to use process as an excuse for not cooperating and not complying with the will of the international community.” [BBC, 1/28/2003; Associated Press, 2/28/2003; Fox News, 2/28/2003; New York Times, 3/1/2003]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, Ari Fleischer, Colin Powell, Iraq

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

The Observer breaks the Koza memo (see January 31, 2003) story. Neither the US State Department nor the White House denies the authenticity of the leaked memo. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer tells reporters, “As a matter of long-standing policy, the administration never comments on anything involving any people involved in intelligence.” And Patrick Weadon, speaking for the NSA, says, “At this point, we’re not issuing a statement.” [Sydney Morning Herald, 3/4/2003; Washington Post, 3/4/2003; Baltimore Sun, 3/4/2003] The intended victims of the operation are deeply angered by the memo. President Ricardo Lagos demands an immediate explanation from the US and Chile’s ambassador to Britain Mariano Fernandez explains to The Observer, “We cannot understand why the United States was spying on Chile. We were very surprised. Relations have been good with America since the time of George Bush Senior.” [Observer, 3/9/2003] Martin Bright, one of the reporters who helped break the story, later tells the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the exposed operation has “caused an enormous diplomatic rift between the Chileans and the Americans and the UK.” He says he believes that the leaked memo is partially responsible for Chile’s increasingly defiant stance at the UN. The UN quickly begins a top-level investigation of the spy operation. [Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 3/6/2003; Observer, 3/9/2003] The Observer notes that the leaked memo could make it more difficult for the US to obtain UN authorization to wage war on Iraq. [Observer, 3/2/2003] The US media networks largely ignore the story. Though NBC, CNN, and Fox News Channel all arrange for interviews with Martin Bright soon after the story is broken, all three quickly cancel. In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Bright explains, “It happened with NBC, Fox TV and CNN, who appeared very excited about the story to the extent of sending cars to my house to get me into the studio, and at the last minute, were told by their American desks to drop the story.” [Salon, 3/3/2003; Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 3/6/2003]

Entity Tags: Ricardo Lagos, Patrick Weadon, Ari Fleischer, Britain Mariano Fernández

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

President Bush holds a press conference—only his eighth since taking office—in which he conflates Iraq and Saddam Hussein with the 9/11 attacks and the global war on terror at least 12 times. For instance, he says: “Iraq is a part of the war on terror. It’s a country that trains terrorists; it’s a country that could arm terrorists. Saddam Hussein and his weapons are a direct threat to this country.” Perhaps his most alarming statement is, “September the 11th should say to the American people that we’re now a battlefield.” [White House, 3/6/2003; Salon, 5/4/2006; PBS, 4/25/2007] Bush insists that he has not yet decided to take military action against Iraq (see March 6, 2003). [Salon, 5/4/2006]
Scripted and Orchestrated - Oddly, none of the 94 assembled journalists challenge Bush’s conflations, no one asks about Osama bin Laden, and no one asks follow-up questions to elicit information past the sound bites Bush delivers. There is a reason for that. In 2007, PBS’s Bill Moyers will report that “the White House press corps will ask no hard questions… about those claims,” because the entire press conference is scripted. “Sure enough, the president’s staff has given him a list of reporters to call on,” Moyers will report. Press Secretary Ari Fleischer later admits to giving Bush the list, which omits reporters from such media outlets as Time, Newsweek, USA Today, and the Washington Post. After calling on CNN reporter John King, Bush says, “This is a scripted—” and then breaks into laughter. King, like his colleagues, continues as if nothing untoward is happening. Author and media commentator Eric Boehlert will later say: “[Bush] sort of giggled and laughed. And, the reporters sort of laughed. And, I don’t know if it was out of embarrassment for him or embarrassment for them because they still continued to play along after his question was done. They all shot up their hands and pretended they had a chance of being called on.” Several questions later, Bush pretends to choose from the available reporters, saying: “Let’s see here… Elizabeth… Gregory… April.… Did you have a question or did I call upon you cold?” The reporter asks, “How is your faith guiding you?” Bush responds: “My faith sustains me because I pray daily. I pray for guidance.” Boehlert will later say: “I think it just crystallized what was wrong with the press coverage during the run up to the war. I think they felt like the war was gonna happen and the best thing for them to do was to get out of the way.” [White House, 3/6/2003; Salon, 5/4/2006; PBS, 4/25/2007]
Defending the Press's Complicity - New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller, a participant in the conference, will later defends the press corps’ “timid behavior,” in Boehlert’s characterization, by saying: “I think we were very deferential because… it’s live, it’s very intense, it’s frightening to stand up there. Think about it, you’re standing up on prime-time live TV asking the president of the United States a question when the country’s about to go to war. There was a very serious, somber tone that evening, and no one wanted to get into an argument with the president at this very serious time.” [Salon, 5/4/2006]
Compliant Media Coverage - The broadcast news media, transmitting the live feed of the conference, could not have been more accommodating, author and media critic Frank Rich will later note. “CNN flashed the White House’s chosen messages in repetitive rotation on the bottom of the screen while the event was still going on—‘People of good will are hoping for peace’ and ‘My job is to protect America.’” After the conference, Fox News commentator Greta van Susteren tells her audience, “What I liked tonight was that in prime time [Bush] said to the American people, my job is to protect the American people.” [Rich, 2006, pp. 70]
Follow-Up Coverage Equally Stage-Managed - Boehlert notes that the post-conference coverage is equally one-sided. On MSNBC’s flagship news commentary show, Hardball, host Chris Matthews spends an hour discussing the conference and the upcoming invasion. Matthews invites six guests on. Five are advocates of the war, and one, given a few moments for “balance,” questions some of the assumptions behind the rationale for war. The five pro-war guests include an “independent military analyst,” retired General Montgomery Meigs, who is one of around 75 retired military officers later exposed as participants in a Pentagon propaganda operation designed to promote the war (see April 20, 2008 and Early 2002 and Beyond). [Salon, 5/4/2006]
Some Criticism Leveled - Several journalists later write harsh critiques of the conference and the media’s complicity (see March-April 2003).

Entity Tags: Montgomery Meigs, USA Today, Washington Post, Time magazine, MSNBC, George W. Bush, Greta Van Susteren, Ari Fleischer, Bill Moyers, CNN, Chris Matthews, Elisabeth Bumiller, John King, Frank Rich, Eric Boehlert, Newsweek

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Domestic Propaganda

Some of the documents turned over to the UN by Iraq.Some of the documents turned over to the UN by Iraq. [Source: CIA]United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission chief arms inspector Hans Blix provides a quarterly report to the UN Security Council on the progress of inspections in Iraq, as required by UN Security Resolution 1284 (1999). It is the twelfth such report since UNMOVIC’s inception. Blix’s report to the Council does not contain any evidence to support US and British claims that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction or the programs to develop such weapons. [United Nations, 3/7/2003 pdf file; CNN, 3/7/2003] International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamed ElBaradei also reports to the Council and says there are no signs that Iraq has reconstituted its nuclear weapons program. [United Nations, 3/7/2003 pdf file]
UNMOVIC Report by Hans Blix -
bullet There is no evidence that Iraq has mobile biological weapons factories, as was recently alleged by Colin Powell in his February 5 presentation (see February 5, 2003) to the UN. “Several inspections have taken place… in relation to mobile production facilities,” Blix says. “No evidence of proscribed activities has so far been found.” He further explains that his inspectors had examined numerous mobile facilities and large containers with seed processing equipment. [United Nations, 3/7/2003 pdf file; CNN, 3/7/2003; Agence France-Presse, 3/7/2003]
bullet The Iraqi government has increased its cooperation with inspectors since the end of January. It is attempting to quantify the biological and chemical weapons that it says were destroyed in 1991. [United Nations, 3/7/2003 pdf file; CNN, 3/7/2003; Los Angeles Times, 3/7/2003; Associated Press, 3/7/2003]
bullet Iraq’s destruction of several Al Samoud II missiles represents a real step towards disarmament. “The destruction undertaken constitutes a substantial measure of disarmament,” he says. “We are not watching the destruction of toothpicks. Lethal weapons are being destroyed.” [CNN, 3/7/2003; Los Angeles Times, 3/7/2003; Associated Press, 3/7/2003] Blix adds, “The destruction undertaken constitutes a substantial measure of disarmament—indeed, the first since the middle of the 1990s.” Major Corrine Heraud, the chief weapons inspector for UNMOVIC in this operation, calls the level of cooperation from the Iraqis “unprecedented,” something that she never would have expected and did not encounter during the 1996-98 inspections. [Middle East Policy Council, 6/2004]
bullet Blix says that the UN inspectors needed a few more months to finish their work. “Even with a proactive Iraqi attitude induced by continued outside pressure, it will still take some time to verify sites and items, analyze documents, interview relevant persons and draw conclusions,” he says, concluding, “It will not take years, nor weeks, but months.” [CNN, 3/7/2003; Los Angeles Times, 3/7/2003; Associated Press, 3/7/2003]
bullet Iraqi scientists have recently accepted inspectors’ requests to be interviewed without “minders.” “Since we started requesting interviews, 38 individuals were asked for private interviews, of which 10 accepted under our terms, seven during the past week,” Blix explains. [CNN, 3/7/2003]
bullet Some Iraqi scientists have agreed to interviews without “minders”—but more cooperation is needed. Blix says, “While the Iraqi side seems to have encouraged interviewees not to request the presence of Iraqi officials or the taping of the interviews, conditions ensuring the absence of undue influences are difficult to attain inside Iraq.” [CNN, 3/7/2003] Iraq needs to turn over more documents. “Iraq, with a highly developed administrative system, should be able to provide more documentary evidence about its proscribed weapons. Only a few new such documents have come to light so far and been handed over since we began.” [CNN, 3/7/2003] There is no evidence of underground weapons facilities. Blix says: “There have been reports, denied by Iraq, that proscribed activities are conducted underground. Iraq should provide information on underground structures suitable for the production or storage of weapons of mass destruction. During inspections of declared or undeclared facilities, inspectors examined building structures for any possible underground facilities. In addition, ground-penetrating radar was used in several locations. No underground facilities for chemical or biological production or storage were found.” [CNN, 3/7/2003]
IAEA report by Mohamed ElBaradei -
bullet There is no evidence that the aluminum tubes imported by Iraq in July 2001 were meant for a nuclear weapons program. ElBaradei says: “Extensive field investigation and document analysis have failed to uncover any evidence that Iraq intended to use these 81mm tubes for any project other than the reverse engineering of rockets.… Moreover, even had Iraq pursued such a plan, it would have encountered practical difficulties in manufacturing centrifuges out of the aluminum tubes in question.” [United Nations, 3/7/2003 pdf file; Los Angeles Times, 3/7/2003; Associated Press, 3/7/2003; Washington Post, 3/8/2003]
bullet There is no evidence that Iraq tried to obtain uranium from Niger. Documents provided to the International Atomic Energy Agency by the US were determined to be forgeries. The documents were a collection of letters between an Iraqi diplomat and senior Niger officials discussing Iraq’s interest in procuring a large amount of uranium oxide (see Afternoon October 7, 2002). “Based on thorough analysis, the IAEA has concluded, with the concurrence of outside experts, that documents which formed the basis for the reports of recent uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger are in fact not authentic,” ElBaradei explains. “We have therefore concluded that these specific allegations are unfounded” (see June 12, 2003). [United Nations, 3/7/2003 pdf file; Los Angeles Times, 3/7/2003; Associated Press, 3/7/2003; Washington Post, 3/8/2003; Globe and Mail, 3/8/2003; Guardian, 3/8/2003]
bullet The IAEA has yet to come across evidence of a nuclear weapons program. “After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq,” ElBaradei states. “[T]here is no indication of resumed nuclear activities in those buildings that were identified through the use of satellite imagery as being reconstructed or newly erected since 1998, nor any indication of nuclear-related prohibited activities at any inspected sites.” [United Nations, 3/7/2003 pdf file; Los Angeles Times, 3/7/2003; Associated Press, 3/7/2003; Globe and Mail, 3/8/2003; Washington Post, 3/8/2003]
bullet In a direct response to allegations made by Colin Powell on February 5 (see February 5, 2003) related to the attempted procurement of magnets that could be used in a gas centrifuge, ElBaradei, says: “The IAEA has verified that previously acquired magnets have been used for missile guidance systems, industrial machinery, electricity meters, and field telephones. Through visits to research and production sites, reviews of engineering drawings, and analyses of sample magnets, IAEA experts familiar with the use of such magnets in centrifuge enrichment have verified that none of the magnets that Iraq has declared could be used directly for a centrifuge magnetic bearing.” [United Nations, 3/7/2003 pdf file]
bullet Iraq’s industrial capacity “has deteriorated” at the inspected sites because of lack of maintenance and funds. [United Nations, 3/7/2003 pdf file]
bullet ElBaradei concludes: “After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq.… I should note that, in the past three weeks, possibly as a result of ever-increasing pressure by the international community, Iraq has been forthcoming in its cooperation, particularly with regard to the conduct of private interviews and in making available evidence that contributes to the resolution of matters of IAEA concern.” [Middle East Policy Council, 6/2004]
Inspections 'Fruitful,' Say French, Russians - Both sides claim that the reports give further support to each of their respective stances on the issue of Iraqi disarmament. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin tells the Council that the reports “testify to the progress” of the inspections. He states that France will not support another resolution because “we cannot accept any ultimatum, any automatic use of force.” Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov says that the reports demonstrate that inspections have been “fruitful.”
Inspections Not Working, US Claims - The Bush administration does not alter its position, despite statements by the two inspectors that Iraq is cooperating with inspections and complying with demands to disarm. Colin Powell, responding to the inspectors’ reports, reiterates the administration’s position that the inspections are not working and that Saddam is not cooperating. “We must not walk away,” Powell says. “We must not find ourselves here this coming November with the pressure removed and with Iraq once again marching down the merry path to weapons of mass destruction, threatening the region, threatening the world.” He claims that Iraq’s behavior is a “a catalog still of noncooperation” and repeats the administration’s allegation that the “Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.” Back at the White House, Ari Fleischer tells reporters, “As the president has said, if the United Nations will not disarm Saddam Hussein, it will be another international organization, a coalition of the willing that will be made up of numerous nations that will disarm Saddam Hussein.” [CNN, 3/6/2003; CNN, 3/7/2003; Independent, 3/7/2003; US Department of State, 3/7/2003 pdf file]
Bush: Missile Destruction 'Meaningless' - Bush himself will call the destruction of Iraqi missiles “meaningless” and nothing more than an Iraqi “campaign of destruction,” shocking UNMOVIC inspectors: “We didn’t know what to make of [his words],” one inspector says afterwards. Former State Department official Patrick Lang will write: “In the final weeks of the countdown to war, the administration’s actions resembled nothing so much as some of the madder scenes from Alice in Wonderland. The fact that the documents the administration had used to ‘prove’ that Iraq was working on nuclear weapons were forged only led to greater insistence that Iraq was a danger. The absence of discovery of WMD by the UN inspectors was only further evidence that the Iraqis were the greatest deceivers in history and that they had succeeded in concealing their location. The destruction of the Al Samoud missiles was just more evidence of a ‘grand deception.’” [Middle East Policy Council, 6/2004]
Uranium Allegations 'Outrageous,' Says Former Ambassador - The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times do give the story front-page coverage, and on CNN, former ambassador Joseph Wilson (see July 6, 2003) calls the uranium allegation “outrageous,” adding that the claim “taints the whole rest of the case that the government is trying to build against Iraq.” The US government is “simply stupid” for not finding out the truth sooner: “a couple of phone calls” could have proven that such a deal between Iraq and Niger could not have happened: “All this stuff is open,” Wilson says. “It’s a restricted market of buyers and sellers.” [Rich, 2006, pp. 71]
IAEA Report 'Widely Ignored' - Author and media critic Frank Rich will later note, “With America’s March 17 deadline for war (see March 17, 2003 and March 17, 2003) dominating the news, ElBaradei’s pronoucements were widely ignored. The news of the forged uranium documents did not make any of the three network evening newscasts and did not appear in the following day’s New York Times. (It would turn up a day later, in a four-hundred word story on page A13.)” [Rich, 2006, pp. 71]

Entity Tags: Corrine Heraud, Ari Fleischer, Colin Powell, Dominique de Villepin, Patrick Lang, Frank Rich, Mohamed ElBaradei, International Atomic Energy Agency, Joseph C. Wilson, United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, Igor Ivanov, Hans Blix

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says during his daily press briefing, “Well, there is no question that we have evidence and information that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical particularly. This was the reason that the president felt so strongly that we needed to take military action to disarm Saddam Hussein, since he would not do it himself.” [White House, 3/21/2003]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Ari Fleischer

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Iraq under US Occupation

As the initial media exuberance over the “shock and awe” assault on Iraq (see March 19-20, 2003) begins to fade, questions begin to mount about the plans for rebuilding Iraq after the invasion and inevitable toppling of the Saddam Hussein regime. Bush administration officials had assumed that military operations would end in 30 days, according to White House briefings. Some senior administration officials admit to the New York Times that that assumption now seems “overly optimistic.” As reported by David Sanger, those officials “say that the American military will likely need to retain tight control over the country for longer than they anticipated.” But administration officials insist that they remain committed to giving over control of the country to the newly liberated Iraqis very soon. “The Iraqi people will administer Iraq,” says White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, adding that President Bush is as committed to that goal now as he was before the war began. However, some military officials now admit that the Iraqi resistance is far stiffer than had been anticipated, and the reception of American occupiers by the Iraqi people has been far less welcoming than US planners foresaw. The White House says that initial plans for an “Iraqi Interim Authority” as the genesis of a new Iraqi government have been put on hold until Baghdad can be secured and the remnants of the Hussein regime can be eliminated. Similarly, plans to turn over power to local Iraqi governance have also been delayed indefinitely, until cities like Basra can be purged of guerrilla resistance. “There were many of us who hoped to be creating a new government even before Iraq was fully under coalition control,” says one senior official. The White House intended to demonstrate quickly that “this is a liberation, not an occupation.” Now, “[t]hat may not be possible for some weeks.” To make matters more difficult, turf wars between the State Department and the Pentagon are inhibiting efforts to implement post-invasion plans, with Defense Department officials such as Douglas Feith blocking the hiring of outside experts for General Jay Garner’s reconstruction team (see January 2003). State officials say that Feith and other Pentagon ideologues want to place “like-minded former officials who have strong views about what a new Iraq should look like” in those slots, a charge which the Pentagon denies. [New York Times, 4/2/2003]

Entity Tags: US Department of State, Ari Fleischer, Bush administration (43), Jay Garner, David Sanger, George W. Bush, Douglas Feith, US Department of Defense

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says, “… make no mistake—as I said earlier—we have high confidence that [the Iraqis] have weapons of mass destruction. That is what this war was about and it is about. And we have high confidence it will be found.” [White House, 4/10/2003]

Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Iraq under US Occupation

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer is asked if the administration feels “some awkwardness” over the fact that no weapons of mass destruction have yet been found in Iraq. Fleischer responds: “No. We know Saddam Hussein is there, but we haven’t found him yet, either. The fact of the matter is we are still in a war, and not everything about the war is yet known. But make no mistake—as I said earlier—we have high confidence that they have weapons of mass destruction. That is what this war was about and it is about. And we have high confidence it will be found.” [White House, 4/10/2003]

Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, Bush administration (43), Saddam Hussein

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

Journalist Russell Mokhiber asks White House press secretary Ari Fleischer: “You said in April that the war was about weapons of mass destruction (see April 10, 2003). The war resulted in thousands of innocent civilian deaths.… Do you personally feel any remorse given the public case that is being made that this war was based on that false pretext?” Fleischer responds with an assertion about Iraq being safer because of the removal of a brutal tyrant: “Number one, you have no basis to say that it is a false pretext. Number two, when you take a look at the mass graves that have been discovered all around Iraq, I think that world breathes a sign of relief that the brutal dictator Saddam Hussein, with no regard to human rights, was removed from power so that the Iraqi people can at long last have a life to build a future that is based on freedom and opportunity and not on tyranny.” Mokhiber redirects Fleischer back onto the topic of WMD, noting, “But you said the war was based on weapons of mass destruction.” Fleischer says, “That still stands, per earlier in the conversation.” [US Department of State, 6/9/2003; CommonDreams, 6/9/2003]

Entity Tags: Russell Mokhiber, Ari Fleischer

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

According to White House press secretary Ari Fleischer’s deputy and imminent successor Scott McClellan, “Armed with updated talking points from the vice president’s office… Fleischer dispute[s] the notion that Cheney and others in the administration must have known about [former ambassador Joseph] Wilson’s findings” (see March 5, 2002). Fleischer denies that Vice President Dick Cheney asked for someone to go to Niger to investigate claims that Iraq had tried to buy enriched uranium from there (see (February 13, 2002)), and denies Cheney’s awareness of the mission until it was reported. However, Fleischer “inadvertently drop[s] a small bombshell,” according to McClellan. He tells reporters, “Now we’ve long acknowledged—and this is old news, we’ve said it repeatedly—that the information on [Nigeran uranium] did, indeed, turn out to be incorrect.” McClellan will later acknowledge that the admission is anything but “old news,” and will write: “But Fleischer now appeared to suggest for the first time that the president’s 16 words in the State of the Union address had been based primarily on the Niger documents (see 9:01 pm January 28, 2003). Up until that point, the White House had maintained that the president’s language had been deliberately broad so as to include African countries other than Niger” (see January 28-29, 2003). Reporters “jump[ed] all over the story,” McClellan will recall. “Admitting that something the president had said was wrong was big news, and it would need to be discussed among senior advisers and approved by the president.” McClellan will note, “Throughout the day, there was much discussion among the president’s advisers on whether or not to acknowledge the obvious.” According to McClellan, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice is one of the strongest advocates for making the admission, and “her point of view prevail[s].” [McClellan, 2008, pp. 168-169]

Entity Tags: Scott McClellan, Ari Fleischer, Condoleezza Rice, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Office of the Vice President, Joseph C. Wilson

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer has a telephone conversation with conservative syndicated columnist Robert Novak. Neither Fleischer nor Novak will reveal the contents of that conversation, though the conversation takes place shortly after the publication of Joseph Wilson’s op-ed debunking the administration’s attempts to claim that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger (see July 6, 2003) and a week before Novak, using White House sources, will reveal that Wilson’s wife is a CIA agent (see July 14, 2003). [New York Times, 7/19/2005] Fleischer will later testify (see January 29, 2007) that he learned that Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, was a CIA agent from White House official Lewis “Scooter” Libby (see 12:00 p.m. July 7, 2003). Libby told Fleischer that the knowledge of Plame Wilson’s CIA status is not widely known. [MSNBC, 2/21/2007]

Entity Tags: Valerie Plame Wilson, Joseph C. Wilson, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Ari Fleischer, Bush administration (43), Robert Novak

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Vice President Dick Cheney writes talking points for press secretary Ari Fleischer and other White House officials to use with the press to address the recent New York Times op-ed by former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who revealed that during a 2002 fact-finding mission to Africa, he found nothing to support administration claims that Iraq had attempted to purchase weapons-grade uranium from Niger (see July 6, 2003). After Wilson’s op-ed, the White House was forced to back away from its claims about the uranium purchase (see July 6-7, 2003, July 7, 2003, and July 8, 2003), a move that Cheney and other White House officials believed damaged the administration’s credibility over its justifications for the Iraq invasion. Cheney then rewrites the talking points to provide White House officials with more information that can be used to discredit Wilson, and to maximize the chances that reporters will conclude that Wilson’s wife, CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson, sent her husband on a “junket” to Niger (see July 7, 2003 or Shortly After). The lead talking point changes from the original version as drafted by Cheney press aide Cathie Martin: “The vice president’s office did not request the mission to Niger,” to Cheney’s: “It is not clear who authorized Joe Wilson’s trip to Niger.” Cheney will admit that in rewriting the talking points to draw attention to Plame Wilson’s putative role in arranging for the Niger mission, reporters might find out that she was a CIA officer. However, he will deny that he did anything on purpose to give reporters that information. FBI investigators will not be convinced by Cheney’s explanation.
Telling Reporters Cheney, Aides Knew Nothing of Wilson Mission - Another reason for revising the talking points is to give the impression that Cheney had little to no role in Wilson’s mission to Niger, and knew nothing of the trip before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq (see March 5, 2002). Cheney will later admit to FBI investigators that he rewrote the talking points to lead reporters to that conclusion—a conclusion that he hopes will paint Wilson’s trip to Niger as a nepotistic jaunt envisioned to discredit the administration. That conclusion is false (see February 19, 2002, July 22, 2003, and October 17, 2003). Cheney’s subsidiary talking points include: “The vice president’s office did not request the mission to Niger”; the “vice president’s office was not informed of Joe Wilson’s mission”; Cheney’s office was not briefed about the mission until long after it occurred; and Cheney and his aides, including his chief of staff, Lewis Libby, only learned about the mission from reporters a year later. [Washington Post, 2/21/2007; Murray Waas, 12/23/2008]
Talking Points Revised Just before Libby Outs Plame Wilson to Reporter - Cheney revises the talking points on July 8, hours before Libby reveals Plame Wilson’s CIA identity to reporter Judith Miller and tells Miller that Plame Wilson sent her husband to Niger (see 8:30 a.m. July 8, 2003). Both Cheney and Libby will later testify that Libby’s purpose in meeting with Miller is to leak classified intelligence information that the White House hopes will discredit Wilson’s allegations that the White House manipulated intelligence to bolster its justification for the invasion (see July 12, 2003).
Talking Points Used in Morning 'Press Gaggle' - In the July 8 morning briefing for the White House press corps, informally known as the “press gaggle,” Fleischer reiterates the talking points, telling the reporters: “The vice president’s office did not request the mission to Niger. The vice president’s office was not informed of his mission and he was not aware of Mr. Wilson’s mission until recent press accounts… accounted for it. So this was something that the CIA undertook.… They sent him on their own volition.”
'Growing Body of Evidence' that Cheney Directed Libby to Out Plame Wilson - In 2008, reporter Murray Waas will write, “That Cheney, by his own admission, had revised the talking points in an effort to have the reporters examine who sent Wilson on the very same day that his chief of staff was disclosing to Miller Plame [Wilson]‘s identity as a CIA officer may be the most compelling evidence to date that Cheney himself might have directed Libby to disclose Plame [Wilson]‘s identity to Miller and other reporters.” Waas will write that Cheney’s admission adds to the “growing body of evidence that Cheney may have directed Libby to disclose Plame [Wilson]‘s identity to reporters and that Libby acted to protect Cheney by lying to federal investigators and a federal grand jury about the matter.” Cheney’s admission is not, Waas will note, the “smoking gun” that would prove he directed Libby to leak Plame Wilson’s identity. Neither does it prove that Libby outed Plame Wilson on his own by acting “overzealously” to follow Cheney’s “broader mandate” to besmirch and discredit Wilson. Waas will write that special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald believes that Libby lied and placed himself in criminal jeopardy in order to protect Cheney, perhaps to conceal the fact that Cheney had told him to leak Plame Wilson’s identity to the press. [Murray Waas, 12/23/2008]

Entity Tags: Murray Waas, Catherine (“Cathie”) Martin, Bush administration (43), Ari Fleischer, Joseph C. Wilson, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Judith Miller, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Valerie Plame Wilson

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Just after a morning meeting where White House political strategist Karl Rove emphasized that White House officials need to tell reporters that Vice President Dick Cheney did not send Joseph Wilson to Niger (see 8:45 a.m. July 7, 2003), Cheney’s communications director, Cathie Martin, e-mails talking points to White House press secretary Ari Fleischer that state:
bullet “The vice president’s office did not request the mission to Niger.”
bullet “The vice president’s office was not informed of Joe Wilson’s mission.”
bullet “The vice president’s office did not receive briefing about Mr. Wilson’s misson after he returned” (see March 5, 2002).
bullet “The vice president’s office was not aware of Mr. Wilson’s mission until recent press reports accounted for it” (see 4:30 p.m. June 10, 2003). [Office of the Vice President, 7/7/2003; US Department of Justice, 3/5/2004 pdf file]
Minutes later, Fleischer presents these talking points in the morning press briefing. He says of the Wilson op-ed: “Well, there is zero, nada, nothing new here. Ambassador Wilson, other than the fact that now people know his name, has said all this before. But the fact of the matter is in his statements about the vice president—the vice president’s office did not request the mission to Niger. The vice president’s office was not informed of his mission and he was not aware of Mr. Wilson’s mission until recent press accounts—press reports accounted for it. So this was something that the CIA undertook as part of their regular review of events, where they sent him.” [White House, 7/7/2003; Marcy Wheeler, 10/30/2009] In 2007, Martin will testify that Cheney dictated the talking points to her (see January 25-29, 2007).

Entity Tags: Catherine (“Cathie”) Martin, Joseph C. Wilson, Karl C. Rove, Ari Fleischer, Bush administration (43), Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Hours after White House press secretary Ari Fleischer reiterates talking points from Vice President Dick Cheney emphasizing the lack of knowledge that Cheney and his office had of the trip taken to Niger by former ambassador Joseph Wilson (see July 7-8, 2003 and 9:22 a.m. July 7, 2003), Cheney’s chief of staff Lewis Libby has lunch with Fleischer. Fleischer will later testify during Libby’s perjury trial (see January 16-23, 2007) that Libby speaks extensively of the role of Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, in sending her husband to Niger. According to Fleischer’s later testimony (see January 29, 2007), Libby tells him: “Ambassador Wilson was sent by his wife. His wife works for the CIA.” Fleischer will testify that Libby calls her by her maiden name, Valerie Plame. “He added it was ‘hush-hush,’ and ‘on the QT,’ and that most people didn’t know it,” Fleischer will add. [White House, 7/7/2003; Christian Science Monitor, 11/15/2005; Murray Waas, 12/23/2008; Marcy Wheeler, 1/29/2009; Marcy Wheeler, 10/30/2009] Fleischer will later testify that the conversation is “kind of weird” and note that Libby typically “operated in a very closed-lip fashion.” [US District Court for the District of Columbia, 9/27/2004 pdf file; United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, 12/8/2004 pdf file] Libby will remember the lunch meeting, and testify that he thanked Fleischer for making a statement about the Niger issue, but will deny discussing Plame Wilson. [US District Court for the District of Columbia, 9/27/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Valerie Plame Wilson, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Ari Fleischer, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Joseph C. Wilson

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer attempts to downplay and denigrate the report by former ambassador Joseph Wilson on the Iraq-Niger uranium claim (see February 13, 2002, March 4-5, 2002, and July 6, 2003). He asks the rhetorical question, “Wouldn’t any government deny it?” referring to Nigerien denials of any involvement in such a deal. Wilson quickly retorts in his own interviews that since he never spoke to any current Nigerien government officials, such denials must be part of another report. Wilson refrains from citing the reports by US Ambassador to Niger Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick and General Carlton Fulford (see November 20, 2001 and February 24, 2002) because, as he later writes, “I had wanted to limit my comments to my own personal experience.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 336] Fleischer is apparently unaware of an admission by a senior White House official that the administration erred in claiming that Iraq had attempted to buy uranium from Niger (see July 8, 2003).

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, Carlton W. Fulford, Joseph C. Wilson, Ari Fleischer

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer learns from White House communications director Dan Bartlett that Valerie Plame Wilson, the wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson, is a CIA agent. Bartlett is unhappy with press reports that say Vice President Cheney is responsible for sending Wilson to Niger to investigate claims that Iraq was attempting to buy uranium from that country (see (February 13, 2002)). According to later testimony by Fleischer, Bartlett says: “I can’t believe he [Wilson] is saying the vice president sent him to Niger. His wife sent him, she works at CIA.” It is unclear whether Bartlett is speaking directly to Fleischer or merely speaking aloud in Fleischer’s hearing. [Marcy Wheeler, 1/29/2007; MSNBC, 2/21/2007] After this pronouncement, Fleischer begins reading the CIA report of Wilson’s trip (see March 8, 2002), which he has gotten from National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. [Marcy Wheeler, 1/29/2007]

Entity Tags: Joseph C. Wilson, Ari Fleischer, Bush administration (43), Central Intelligence Agency, Dan Bartlett, Valerie Plame Wilson

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

While aboard Air Force One (see July 11, 2003), White House communications director Dan Bartlett and press secretary Ari Fleischer urge reporters, including Time correspondent John Dickerson, to write about the origins of Joseph Wilson’s CIA-backed mission to Niger (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002). Dickerson will later write that when he subsequently learns Wilson’s wife is a CIA official (see July 14, 2003), he then understands what he calls “the wink-wink nudge-nudge I was getting about who sent Wilson.” [Office of Special Counsel, 10/3/2005 pdf file; Slate, 2/7/2006]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Ari Fleischer, Joseph C. Wilson, John Dickerson, Dan Bartlett

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

While in Uganda for a presidential trip to various sites in Africa, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer tells two reporters that Joseph Wilson’s wife Valerie Plame Wilson is a CIA official, according to Fleischer. He also tells the two men, NBC’s David Gregory and Time’s John Dickerson, that Plame Wilson is responsible for sending her husband to Niger to investigate claims of an Iraqi attempt to buy Nigerien uranium (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002). Fleischer says, “If you want to know who sent Ambassador Wilson to Niger, it was his wife, she works there.” Reporter Tamara Lippert of Newsweek is present for parts of the conversation. Fleischer will recount the story as part of his testimony in the Lewis Libby perjury trial (see July 11, 2003). [Marcy Wheeler, 1/29/2007] Later, Dickerson will say that Fleischer does not talk about Plame Wilson in his hearing, but merely prods him to investigate the origins of Wilson’s Niger mission (see July 11, 2003). Dickerson will write: “I have a different memory. My recollection is that during a presidential trip to Africa in July 2003, Ari and another senior administration official had given me only hints. They told me to go inquire about who sent Wilson to Niger. As far as I can remember—and I am pretty sure I would remember it—neither of them ever told me that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA.” [Slate, 1/29/2007]

Entity Tags: Joseph C. Wilson, Bush administration (43), Ari Fleischer, David Gregory, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, John Dickerson, Tamara Lippert, Valerie Plame Wilson

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Referring to President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address (see Mid-January 2003 and 9:01 pm January 28, 2003), CIA Director George Tenet says in a written statement: “I am responsible for the approval process in my agency.… These 16 words should never have been included in the text written for the president.” Tenet denies that the White House is responsible for the mistake, putting the blame squarely on himself and his agency. His statement comes hours after Bush blamed the CIA for the words making it into the speech (see July 11, 2003). [CNN, 7/11/2003; Central Intelligence Agency, 7/11/2003; New York Times, 7/12/2003]
CIA Chose to Send Wilson to Niger - Tenet also confirms that it was the CIA’s choice to send former ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002), apparently in an effort to rebut claims that Vice President Dick Cheney ordered the mission. Tenet states: “There was fragmentary intelligence gathered in late 2001 and early 2002 on the allegations of Saddam’s efforts to obtain additional raw uranium from Africa, beyond the 550 metric tons already in Iraq. In an effort to inquire about certain reports involving Niger, CIA’s counterproliferation experts, on their own initiative, asked an individual with ties to the region [Wilson] to make a visit to see what he could learn.” Tenet says that Wilson found no evidence to believe that Iraq had attempted to purchase Nigerien uranium, though this did not settle the issue for either the CIA or the White House. [Central Intelligence Agency, 7/11/2003]
Coordinated with White House - Tenet’s admission was coordinated by White House advisers for what reporter Murray Waas will call “maximum effect.” Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, White House political strategist Karl Rove, and Cheney’s chief of staff Lewis Libby had reviewed drafts of Tenet’s statement days in advance; Hadley and Rove had suggested changes in the draft. [National Journal, 3/30/2006] Cheney rejected an earlier draft, marking it “unacceptable” (see July 11, 2003).
White House Joins in Blaming CIA - National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice also blames the CIA. Peppered with questions from reporters about the claim, she continues the White House attempt to pin the blame for the faulty intelligence on the CIA: “We have a higher standard for what we put in presidential speeches” than other governments or other agencies. “We don’t make the president his own fact witness. That’s why we send them out for clearance.” Had the CIA expressed doubts about the Niger claim before the State of the Union? she is asked (see January 26 or 27, 2003, March 8, 2003, March 23, 2003, April 5, 2003, Early June 2003, June 9, 2003, and June 17, 2003). “The CIA cleared the speech in its entirety,” she replies. “If the CIA, the director of central intelligence, had said, ‘Take this out of the speech,’ (see January 27, 2003) it would have been gone without question. If there were doubts about the underlying intelligence, those doubts were not communicated to the president, to the vice president or to me.… What we’ve said subsequently is, knowing what we know now, that some of the Niger documents were apparently forged, we wouldn’t have put this in the president’s speech—but that’s knowing what we know now.” Another senior White House official, defending the president and his advisers, tells ABC News: “We were very careful with what the president said. We vetted the information at the highest levels.” But another intelligence official, also interviewed by ABC, contradicts this statement. [CNN, 7/11/2003; White House, 7/11/2003; Washington Post, 7/12/2003; New York Times, 7/12/2003; Rich, 2006, pp. 99; McClellan, 2008, pp. 171-172] Tenet’s mea culpa is apparently enough for Bush; press secretary Ari Fleischer says, “The president has moved on.” [White House, 7/11/2003; Rich, 2006, pp. 99] White House press secretary Scott McClellan will later claim that at this point Rice is unaware that her National Security Council is far more responsible for the inclusion than the CIA. He will write that the news media reports “not unfairly” that Rice is blaming the CIA for the inclusion. [McClellan, 2008, pp. 171-172]
News Reports Reveal Warnings Not to Use Claim - Following Tenet’s statement, a barrage of news reports citing unnamed CIA officials reveal that the White House had in fact been explicitly warned not to include the Africa-uranium claim. These reports indicate that at the time Bush delivered his State of the Union address, it had been widely understood in US intelligence circles that the claim had little evidence supporting it. [Boston Globe, 3/16/2003; New York Times, 3/23/2003; Associated Press, 6/12/2003; Knight Ridder, 6/12/2003; Associated Press, 6/12/2003; Knight Ridder, 6/13/2003; ABC News, 6/16/2003; Newsday, 7/12/2003; Washington Post, 7/20/2003] For example, CBS News reports, “CIA officials warned members of the president’s National Security Council staff the intelligence was not good enough to make the flat statement Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa.” And a Washington Post article cites an unnamed intelligence source who says, “We consulted about the paper [September 2002 British dossier] and recommended against using that material.” [CBS News, 7/10/2003; CNN, 7/10/2003; Washington Post, 7/11/2003]
Claim 'Technically True' since British, Not US, Actually Made It - White House officials respond that the dossier issued by the British government contained the unequivocal assertion, “Iraq has… sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa” and that the officials had argued that as long as the statement was attributed to the British intelligence, it would be technically true. Similarly, ABC News reports: “A CIA official has an idea about how the Niger information got into the president’s speech. He said he is not sure the sentence was ever cleared by the agency, but said he heard speechwriters wanted it included, so they attributed it to the British.” The same version of events is told to the New York Times by a senior administration official, who claims, “The decision to mention uranium came from White House speechwriters, not from senior White House officials.” [ABC News, 6/12/2003; CBS News, 7/10/2003; New York Times, 7/14/2003; New York Times, 7/19/2003]
Decision Influenced by Office of Special Plans - But according to a CIA intelligence official and four members of the Senate Intelligence Committee who are investigating the issue, the decision to include the Africa-uranium claim was influenced by the people associated with the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans (see September 2002). [Information Clearing House, 7/16/2003]
Reactions - Rice says that the White House will not declassify the October 2002 NIE on Iraq (see October 1, 2002) to allow the public to judge for itself whether the administration exaggerated the Iraq-Niger claim; McClellan will write that Rice is currently “unaware of the fact that President Bush had already agreed to ‘selective declassification’ of parts of the NIE so that Vice President Cheney, or his top aide Scooter Libby, could use them to make the administration’s case with selected reporters” (see 8:30 a.m. July 8, 2003). [McClellan, 2008, pp. 171-172] Two days later, Rice will join Bush in placing the blame for using the Iraq-Niger claim solely on the CIA (see July 13, 2003). McClellan will later write, “The squabbling would leave the self-protective CIA lying in wait to exact revenge against the White House.” [McClellan, 2008, pp. 172]
Former Ambassador Considers Matter Settled - Former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who recently wrote an op-ed for the New York Times revealing his failure to find any validity in the claims during his fact-finding trip to Niger (see July 6, 2003 and February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002), is pleased at Tenet’s admission. According to his wife, CIA analyst Valerie Plame Wilson, “Joe felt his work was done; he had made his point.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 140]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, George J. Tenet, Central Intelligence Agency, Joseph C. Wilson, Condoleezza Rice, Ari Fleischer, Bush administration (43), Karl C. Rove, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Murray Waas, Valerie Plame Wilson, ABC News, Stephen J. Hadley, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Scott McClellan, CBS News, Office of Special Plans

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

The same day that Vice President Dick Cheney tells his chief of staff, Lewis Libby, to disclose classified information from a CIA report to discredit war critic Joseph Wilson (see July 12, 2003), Libby and Cheney, along with Cheney’s press spokesperson Cathie Martin, fly to and from Norfolk, Virginia. During the flight, the three discuss how they can rebut Wilson’s criticisms of the administration’s war effort and discredit him. They consider passing information to reporters such as Time correspondent Matthew Cooper (see 12:45 p.m. July 11, 2003) and the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler (see July 12, 2003). [US District Court for the District of Columbia, 10/28/2005 pdf file; Washington Post, 10/30/2005; National Journal, 6/14/2006] Cheney tells Libby to leak classified information from the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraqi WMD to reporters (see July 12, 2003). Cheney also tells him to steer reporters towards a recent statement by CIA Director George Tenet that asserts Wilson had been sent to Niger by CIA counterproliferation officers “on their own initiative” (see 3:09 p.m. July 11, 2003). [Raw Story, 10/1/2005; New York Times, 10/1/2005; National Journal, 6/14/2006] He also tells Libby to alert reporters to the morning’s attack on Wilson by White House press secretary Ari Fleischer (see 3:20 a.m. July 12, 2003). [Washington Post, 10/30/2005] And Cheney tells Libby to ask the CIA to back his assertion that the Office of the Vice President knew nothing of the Wilson mission and “didn’t get the report back,” referring to the CIA’s report on Wilson’s debriefing (see March 5, 2002). [Murray Waas, 12/23/2008] According to the FBI’s investigation, Cheney and Libby discuss whether to tell reporters that Wilson’s wife works for the CIA. [Washington Post, 2/21/2007] Libby will “out” Plame Wilson to Cooper later this afternoon (see 2:24 p.m. July 12, 2003) as well as to New York Times reporter Judith Miller (see Late Afternoon, July 12, 2003). Cheney may have given Libby direct orders to leak Plame Wilson’s identity to the press, according to classified transcripts of Libby’s later testimony to FBI investigators. According to Libby’s notes of the conversation, Cheney says that the CIA has told him that Wilson was sent to Niger “at our behest,” referring to the agency (see Shortly after February 13, 2002). Libby’s notes also state that Cheney told him Wilson’s “wife works in that division.” Plame Wilson is a senior official for the CIA’s Joint Task Force on Iraq (see April 2001 and After), a bureau within the agency’s counterproliferation division. [Murray Waas, 12/23/2008]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, George J. Tenet, Joseph C. Wilson, Ari Fleischer, Judith Miller, Catherine (“Cathie”) Martin, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Matthew Cooper, Glenn Kessler, Office of the Vice President, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, in Nigeria with President Bush and his entourage, hosts an early-morning press gaggle in which he discusses war critic Joseph Wilson and the Iraq-Niger uranium claims. (The gaggle takes place at 8:20 a.m. local time; Eastern Daylight Savings Time in the US is five hours behind.) In light of recent admissions that the claims of Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Niger were false (see July 11, 2003 and 3:09 p.m. July 11, 2003), Fleischer tries to steer the press’s attention onto Wilson, saying that he “also said that in June 1999 a businessman approached him and insisted that the former official, Wilson, meet an Iraqi delegation to discuss expanding commercial relations between Iraq and Niger. The former official interpreted the overture as an attempt to discuss uranium sales. This is in Wilson’s report back to the CIA. Wilson’s own report, the very man who was on television saying Niger denies it, who never said anything about forged documents, reports himself that officials in Niger said that Iraq was seeking to contact officials in Niger about sales.” Fleischer is referring in part to a 1999 trip by Wilson to Niger to investigate earlier claims of Iraqi interest in Nigerien uranium (see Fall 1999). [White House, 7/12/2003] In the CIA debriefing for his 2002 trip to Niger to investigate the uranium claims (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002 and March 4-5, 2002), Wilson did not say that Iraqi officials were attempting to engage Nigerien officials in negotiations to buy uranium; in neither of his missions to Niger did any Nigeriens ask him to meet with Iraqi officials to discuss commercial ventures of any kind. Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will later subpoena the transcript of Fleischer’s press gaggle for his investigation into the Plame Wilson identity leak (see January 22, 2004). [Marcy Wheeler, 11/1/2005]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Ari Fleischer, Central Intelligence Agency, Joseph C. Wilson, Patrick J. Fitzgerald

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer reveals Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA status to Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus. Fleischer, returning from Africa aboard Air Force One, attacked the credibility of Plame Wilson’s husband, war critic Joseph Wilson, just hours before (see 3:20 a.m. July 12, 2003). Since then, Vice President Dick Cheney has coordinated a White House strategy to discredit Wilson (see July 12, 2003). Fleischer tells Pincus that the White House paid no attention to the 2002 mission to Niger by Wilson (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002) because it was set up as a boondoggle by Wilson’s wife, whom Fleischer incorrectly identifies as an “analyst” with the agency working on WMD issues. Pincus will not reveal the Fleischer leak until October 2003. [Pincus, 7/12/2003 pdf file; Nieman Watchdog, 7/6/2005; Marcy Wheeler, 2/12/2007] Reporter Murray Waas will later write that Fleischer outed Plame Wilson to Pincus and others “in an effort to undermine Wilson’s credibility.” [American Prospect, 4/22/2005] Fleischer will later testify that he did not inform Pincus of Plame Wilson’s identity (see June 10, 2004 and January 29, 2007). “No sir,” he will say. “I would have remembered it if it happened.” [Marcy Wheeler, 1/29/2007]

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Joseph C. Wilson, Bush administration (43), Ari Fleischer, Murray Waas, Valerie Plame Wilson, Walter Pincus

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

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