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2004 Elections

The Politics of Terror

Project: US Electoral Politics
Open-Content project managed by Derek, mtuck

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White House political guru Karl Rove tells the Republican National Committee: “We can go to the American people on this issue of winning the war [against terrorism]. We can go to the country on this issue because they trust the Republican Party to do a better job of protecting and strengthening America’s military might and thereby protecting America.” In 2008, current deputy White House press secretary Scott McClellan will write: “Rove was the first administration official to publicly make the case for winning the war as a partisan issue, a marked shift in tone from [President] Bush’s repeated emphasis on unity and bipartisanship in confronting and defeating radical Islam.… Rove’s candor about this strategy infuriated suspicious Democrats, who condemned Rove for trying to politicize the war.” Bush will soon begin campaigning for Republicans in the midterm elections using Rove’s strategy. McClellan will note: “As governor [of Texas], he’d maintained good relations with friendly legislators by refusing to campaign against them, even if they were members of the opposing party. Bush’s actions prompted concern and anxiety among Democrats.” [McClellan, 2008, pp. 112-113]

Entity Tags: Scott McClellan, Bush administration (43), George W. Bush, Karl C. Rove, Republican National Committee

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

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

Speaking at the Republican National Committee’s annual winter conference, President Bush’s chief political strategist Karl Rove says, “We can go to the country on this issue [of terrorism], because [Americans] trust the Republican Party to do a better job of protecting and strengthening America’s military might and thereby protecting America.” Political commentator Joe Conason says that with this comment, Rove “revealed his plans to regain control of the Senate and retain control of the House by turning the war [on terrorism] into a partisan weapon. His wording was blander, of course, but his meaning was perfectly clear.” [New York Observer, 1/27/2002] Author Ron Suskind will similarly comment in 2006 that Rove’s comment suggested that “the historic public affirmation, thus far, of the ‘war on terror,’ would surely translate into equally historic gains in the 2002 mid-term elections.” [Suskind, 2006]

Entity Tags: Karl C. Rove

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

White House political adviser Karl Rove says that the Republican Party should campaign primarily on the war on terror in the 2002 midterm elections. “Americans trust the Republicans to do a better job of keeping our communities and our families safe,” Rove tells the Republican National Committee. “We can also go to the country on this issue because they trust the Republican Party to do a better job of protecting and strengthening America’s military might and thereby protecting America.” President Bush has said repeatedly that the war on terror should not be considered fodder for partisan political gain. Just days before Rove’s speech, Bush told a gathering in California, “It’s time to take the spirit of unity that has been prevalent when it comes to fighting the war and bring it to Washington, DC.” And Rove recently told reporters that Bush had told his aides: “Politics has no role in this. Don’t talk to me about politics for a while.” Now Rove is publicly advising Republicans to politicize the war. Democratic Party chairman Terry McAuliffe says: “If the White House is politicizing the war, that’s nothing short of despicable. For Karl Rove to politicize the issue is an affront to the integrity of the entire United States military.” McAuliffe’s Republican counterpart, Marc Racicot, calls on McAuliffe “to help stop the politics of obstruction.” [New York Times, 1/19/2002]

Entity Tags: Karl C. Rove, George W. Bush, Republican National Committee, Terry McAuliffe, Marc Racicot

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

Bush giving his speech in front of the Statue of Liberty.Bush giving his speech in front of the Statue of Liberty. [Source: September 11 News (.com)]The Bush administration’s public relations team decides to kick off its push for a war with Iraq, and its drive to the midterm elections, with President Bush’s speech commemorating the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. After much deliberation, Ellis Island in New York Harbor is chosen as the setting for Bush’s speech; the Ellis site won out over nearby Governors Island because the senior public relations officials want the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop. “We had made a decision that this would be a compelling story either place,” White House communications director Dan Bartlett will later recall. “We sent a team out to go and look and they said, ‘This is a better shot,’ and we said okay.” Leading that team is Scott Sforza, the former ABC producer who will later oversee the May 2003 “Mission Accomplished” event (see May 1, 2003 and April 30, 2008). [Rich, 2006, pp. 57-58] (Deputy press secretary Scott McClellan will later write of Sforza, “Reagan’s team had perfected this art of stagecraft, and the man in charge for Bush, deputy communications director Scott Sforza, took it to new heights.” [McClellan, 2008, pp. 82] Sforza is joined by former Fox News producer Gary Jenkins and former NBC cameraman Bob De Servi. They use three barges laden with stadium lights to illuminate the Statue of Liberty for the shoot. Former Reagan administration public relations chief Michael Deaver will later observe that the Bush team is far better at this kind of marketing presentation than the Reagan, Bush I, or Clinton public relations teams ever were. “[T]hey’ve taken it to an art form,” Deaver will say. The speech is designed to push Congress towards authorizing the war before the midterm elections (see January 19, 2002 and October 10, 2002), when, as author Frank Rich will later write, “the pressure on congressmen facing re-election to prove their war-waging machismo would be at its nastiest. Any weak sisters could expect a thrashing much like that Republicans inflicted on Democrats who had failed to vote for the ‘use of force’ resolution sought by the first President Bush after the Persian Gulf War in 1991” (see January 9-13, 1991). A senior administration official says, “In the end it will be difficult for someone to vote against it.” [Rich, 2006, pp. 57-58] In other preparatory moves for the speech, the government raises the National Threat Level from yellow to orange (see September 10, 2002), and announces the death or capture of some 2,700 al-Qaeda operatives since 9/11 (see September 10, 2002). The administration will also attempt to significantly revise its account of events on 9/11 itself (see September 11, 2002).

Entity Tags: Frank Rich, Dan Bartlett, Bob De Servi, Michael Deaver, Scott Sforza, Gary Jenkins, Bush administration (43), George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Domestic Propaganda

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

The video sleeve for ‘DC 9/11.’The video sleeve for ‘DC 9/11.’ [Source: Internet Movie Database (.com)]Showtime broadcasts a “docudrama” about the 9/11 attacks and the White House’s response, entitled DC 9/11: Time of Crisis. According to New York Times author and media critic Frank Rich, the film drastically rewrites history to portray President Bush as “an unironic action-movie superhero.” In the movie, Bush—portrayed by actor Timothy Bottoms, who played Bush in Comedy Central’s satiric That’s My Bush!—is shown overruling his Secret Service detail and ordering Air Force One to return to Washington immediately, an event which never happened (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (4:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). “If some tinhorn terrorist wants me, tell him to come and get me!” the movie Bush shouts. “I’ll be at home, waiting for the b_stard!” The movie Bush has other lines that establish his desire to get back to Washington, including, “The American people want to know where their damn president is!” and “People can’t have an AWOL president!” In one scene, a Secret Service agent questions Bush’s demand to return to Washington by saying, “But Mr. President—” only to be cut off by Bush, who snaps, “Try ‘Commander in Chief.’ Whose present command is: Take the president home!” In reality, most of the orders on 9/11 were given by Vice President Dick Cheney and counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, but in the movie, Bush is the man in charge. “Hike military alert status to Delta,” he orders Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. “That’s the military, the CIA, foreign, domestic, everything,” he explains. “And if you haven’t gone to Defcon 3, you oughtta.” To Cheney, he barks: “Vice? We are at war.” The White House team are, in Rich’s words, “portrayed as the very model of efficiency and derring-do.” [Washington Post, 6/19/2003; New York Times, 9/5/2003; Rich, 2006, pp. 25-26] New York Times reviewer Alessandra Stanley notes that Bush is the unquestioned hero of the film, with British Prime Minister Tony Blair portrayed as “not very eloquent” and Cheney depicted as “a kowtowing yes-man.” [New York Times, 9/5/2003]
Conservative Pundits Influenced Script - The movie is produced by Lionel Chetwynd, whom Rich calls “the go-to conservative in B-list Hollywood.” For the movie script, Chetwynd was given unprecedently broad access to top White House officials, including Bush. He also received the assistance of conservative Washington pundits Charles Krauthammer, Morton Kondracke, and Fred Barnes, who cover the Bush White House for such media outlets as Fox News, the Weekly Standard, and the Washington Post. Rich later writes that much of the film seems based on Bob Woodward’s “hagiographic [book] Bush at War (see November 25, 2002).” [Washington Post, 6/19/2003; Rich, 2006, pp. 25-26]
Propaganda Effort? - Before the movie airs, Toronto Sun columnist Linda McQuaig called the film an attempt to mythologize Bush in a fashion similar to Hollywood’s re-creation of the Wild West’s Wyatt Earp, and wrote that the film “is sure to help the White House further its two-pronged reelection strategy: Keep Americans terrified of terrorism and make Bush look like the guy best able to defend them.” Texas radio commentator Jim Hightower added that the movie would present Bush as “a combination of Harrison Ford and Arnold Schwarzenegger.… Instead of the doe-eyed, uncertain, worried figure that he was that day, Bush-on-film is transformed into an infallible, John Wayne-ish, Patton-type leader, barking orders to the Secret Service and demanding that the pilots return him immediately to the White House.” Chetwynd himself has acknowledged that he is a “great admirer” of Bush, and has close ties to the White House. In late 2001, Bush appointed him to the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. “This isn’t propaganda,” Chetwynd insisted during the shooting of the movie, adding: “Everything in the movie is [based on] two or three sources. I’m not reinventing the wheel here.… I don’t think it’s possible to do a revision of this particular bit of history. Every scholar who has looked at this has come to the same place that this film does. There’s nothing here that Bob Woodward would disagree with.… It’s a straightforward docudrama. I would hope what’s presented is a fully colored and nuanced picture of a human being in a difficult situation.” [Washington Post, 6/19/2003] Rich will later write that the film is “unmistakably a propaganda effort on behalf of a sitting administration.” [Rich, 2006, pp. 25-26]
Blaming the Clinton Administration - Perhaps most questionably, Stanley writes, the film “rarely misses a chance to suggest that the Clinton administration’s weakness was to blame for the disaster.” Bush, she notes, is portrayed as a more decisive leader than his predecessor: in the film, he tells Blair over the telephone: “I want to inflict pain [on the attackers]. Bring enough damage so they understand there is a new team here, a fundamental change in our policy.” [New York Times, 9/5/2003]
9/11 Widow Unhappy with Film - Kristen Breitweiser, who lost her husband in the attack on the World Trade Center, calls the film “a mind-numbingly boring, revisionist, two-hour-long wish list of how 9/11 might have gone if we had real leaders in the current administration.” She adds: “It is understandable that so little time is actually devoted to the president’s true actions on the morning of 9/11. Because to show the entire 23 minutes from 9:03 to 9:25 a.m., when President Bush, in reality, remained seated and listening to ‘second grade story-hour’ while people like my husband were burning alive inside the World Trade Center towers, would run counter to Karl Rove’s art direction and grand vision.” Breitweiser questions numerous aspects of the film: “Miscellaneous things that surprised me included the fact that the film perpetuates the big fat lie that Air Force One was a target. Forgive me, but I thought the White House admitted at the end of September 2001 that Air Force One was never a target, that no code words were spoken and that it was all a lie (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and September 12, 2001-March 2004). So what gives?… Not surprisingly, there is no mention of accountability. Not once does anyone say, ‘How the hell did this happen? Heads will roll!’ I was hoping that, at least behind closed doors, there were words like, ‘Look, we really screwed up! Let’s make sure we find out what went wrong and that it never happens again!’ Nope, no such luck.” [Salon, 9/8/2003]

Entity Tags: Charles Krauthammer, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Richard A. Clarke, Showtime, Alessandra Stanley, Tony Blair, Bob Woodward, Morton Kondracke, Lionel Chetwynd, Timothy Bottoms, Kristen Breitweiser, Donald Rumsfeld, Clinton administration, Fred Barnes, Frank Rich, Karl C. Rove, George W. Bush, Linda McQuaig, Jim Hightower

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Domestic Propaganda

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

Former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who earned accolades from former President George H. W. Bush for his bravery in standing up to Saddam Hussein before the 1991 Gulf War (see September 20, 1990) and journeyed to Niger to find out the truth behind the allegations of Iraqi attempts to purchase uranium (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002), says that he is publicly supporting Senator John Kerry (D-MA) for president. Wilson and his wife Valerie Plame Wilson have been the victims of Bush administration smear attacks since Wilson published an op-ed debunking the Iraq-Niger uranium claims (see July 6, 2003). Most notably, Plame Wilson was publicly identified as a covert CIA agent, apparently by two White House officials (see July 14, 2003). [Washington Post, 10/1/2003]

Entity Tags: John Kerry, Joseph C. Wilson

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

White House adviser Karl Rove orders a Republican Party poll to determine public interest in a number of issues: Martha Stewart’s insider trading case, Enron’s collapse, and the 9/11 Commission’s investigation. The poll suggests that the public is not that interested in the Commission, which, according to author Philip Shenon, is “a relief at the White House.” Apparently, this is not the only poll Rove orders about the 9/11 Commission. Shenon will add that Rove “would have been a fool not to keep an eye on the Commission, given the potential trouble it could create for Bush on the eve of his reelection campaign—a campaign that would be centered almost entirely on the president’s record on terrorism.” Perhaps partly because of this, the Commission and its staff have “a sense of being watched” by Rove, and commissioner John Lehman will say that Rove views the Commission as a “mortal threat” to Bush’s reelection chances. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 175-176]

Entity Tags: Philip Shenon, 9/11 Commission, John Lehman, Karl C. Rove

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

The 9/11 Commission realizes that it will not meet its reporting deadline of May 2004 and decides it will have to ask for an extension. Any extension would have to be approved by Congressional leaders and the White House. In order to determine how much extra time the commission will need, Chairman Tom Kean and Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton poll the other commissioners and staff members to gauge their opinions. Commissioners Slade Gorton and Tim Roemer suggest six months, but this would push the reporting date back after the presidential election in November. Kean and Hamilton are aware that this will probably not be permitted by Republicans, as they will be worried that parts of the report critical of Bush will be leaked to the press. In addition, Kean wants the report out during the presidential campaign, in the hopes that the two candidates will have a “bidding war” over who will implement more of the commission’s recommendations. In the end, the commission decides to ask for a two-month extension, meaning the report will be issued in July. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 226-227] The extension is initially opposed by the White House (see January 19, 2004), but the administration changes its mind (see February 5, 2004), and the extension is finally granted (see March 2, 2004).

Entity Tags: Slade Gorton, Lee Hamilton, Thomas Kean, Tim Roemer, 9/11 Commission

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

The Washington Post reports, “A growing number of [9/11 Commission] members [have] concluded that the panel needs more time to prepare a thorough and credible accounting of missteps leading to the terrorist attacks.” As a result, the commission is asking Congress to vote on approving a several month extension to finish their report. “But the White House and leading Republicans have informed the panel that they oppose any delay, which raises the possibility that Sept. 11-related controversies could emerge during the heat of the presidential campaign.” [Washington Post, 1/19/2004] The White House will reverse its stance a month later (see February 5, 2004).

Entity Tags: White House, 9/11 Commission

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

In January 2004, the White House announced that it opposed giving the 9/11 Commission more time to complete its work (see January 19, 2004). But on this day, CNN reports, “After resisting the idea for months, the White House announced… its support for a request from the commission investigating the September 11, 2001 attacks for more time to complete its work.” 9/11 victims’ relatives and some politicians had been pressuring the White House to support the deadline extension. [CNN, 2/5/2004]

Entity Tags: White House, 9/11 Commission

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

9/11 Commission Chairman Tom Kean and Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton meet with Republican leaders in the House of Representatives, including Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader Tom Delay, to discuss an extension of the commission’s reporting deadline (see Mid-December 2003-Mid-January 2004). The extension is opposed by the House leadership, which has had bad relations with the commission for some time and has been very critical of the commission. For example, a month before the meeting Hastert had accused Democrats on the commission of “leaking things,” trying to “make it a political issue,” and inflict “death by a thousand cuts” on the Bush administration. It is unclear why the House leadership is so against the extension, even though it has been approved by Senate Republicans and the White House. One theory advanced by Democratic commissioners is that, although the White House has publicly dropped its opposition to the extension (see January 19, 2004 and February 5, 2004), it does not really want it and is simply getting Hastert to act as a proxy. Author Philip Shenon will comment: “If Hastert’s contempt for the commission was being stage-managed by anyone at the White House, it was assumed on the commission to be Dick Cheney. The vice president was a frequent, if rarely announced, visitor to the Speaker’s office.” However, Kean persuades Hastert and the other House leaders to accept the extension, removing the last hurdle. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 227-229]

Entity Tags: 9/11 Commission, Dennis Hastert, Lee Hamilton, Thomas Kean, Tom DeLay

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

The State Department issues a terror alert, warning “that al-Qaeda continues to prepare to strike US interests abroad” and such attacks “could possibly involve non-conventional weapons such as chemical or biological agents as well as conventional weapons of terror.” More specific information is not provided. [Command Post, 3/21/2004] The same day, former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke gives an interview that is harshly critical of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism efforts (see March 24, 2004). [CBS News, 3/21/2004]

Entity Tags: US Department of State, Richard A. Clarke

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

Richard Clarke, counterterrorism “tsar” from 1998 until October 2001, ignites a public debate by accusing President Bush of doing a poor job fighting al-Qaeda before 9/11. In a prominent 60 Minutes interview, he says: “I find it outrageous that the president is running for re-election on the grounds that he’s done such great things about terrorism. He ignored it. He ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11.… I think he’s done a terrible job on the war against terrorism.” He adds: “We had a terrorist organization that was going after us! Al-Qaeda. That should have been the first item on the agenda. And it was pushed back and back and back for months.” He complains that he was Bush’s chief adviser on terrorism, yet he never got to brief Bush on the subject until after 9/11. [CBS News, 3/21/2004; CBS News, 3/21/2004; Guardian, 3/23/2004; Salon, 3/24/2004] Author Philip Shenon will call the interview “gripping” and comment that Clarke is “made for television.” This is because of his “urgent speaking style” and his “shock of white hair and ghostly pallor,” which makes it look like he has “emerged from years of hiding in sunless back rooms of the West Wing to share the terrible secrets he ha[s] learned.” [Shenon, 2008, pp. 277] The next day, his book Against All Enemies is released and becomes a bestseller. [Washington Post, 3/22/2004] He testifies before the 9/11 Commission a few days later (see March 24, 2004).

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Richard A. Clarke, Philip Shenon

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, who remained in that position up until days before the October 2001 invasion of Afghanistan began, states in an interview that the Bush administration’s real focus at the start of the Afghanistan war was Iraq. “The reason they had to do Afghanistan first was it was obvious that al-Qaeda had attacked us. And it was obvious that al-Qaeda was in Afghanistan. The American people wouldn’t have stood by if we had done nothing on Afghanistan. But what they did was slow and small. They put only 11,000 troops into Afghanistan.… To this day, Afghanistan is not stable. To this day, we’re hunting down Osama bin Laden. We should have put US special forces in immediately, not many weeks later. US special forces didn’t get into the area where bin Laden was for two months.… I think we could have had a good chance to get bin Laden, to get the leadership, and wipe the whole organization out if we had gone in immediately and gone after him.” [Good Morning America, 3/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Richard A. Clarke

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

The White House discloses to Fox News that former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke was the anonymous official who gave a background briefing to reporters in August 2002 praising the Bush administration’s record on terrorism (see August 22, 2002). This move, which violates a longstanding confidentiality policy, is made hours before Clarke is to testify to the 9/11 Commission (see March 24, 2004). Clarke recently went public with criticism of the administration (see March 21, 2004) and is being attacked by it (see March 22, 2004 and Shortly After). Author Philip Shenon will comment, “In agreeing to allow Fox News to reveal that Clarke had given the 2002 briefing, the White House was attempting to paint him as a liar—a one-time Bush defender who had become a Bush critic in order to sell a book.” National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice says to the media: “There are two very different stories here. These stories can’t be reconciled.” [Fox News, 3/24/2004; Washington Post, 3/25/2004; Washington Post, 3/26/2004; Shenon, 2008, pp. 280-281]
Opposing Spin? - Shenon will add that in the briefing Clarke was “spin[ning] the facts” in order to try to knock down an article unfavorable to the administration published by Time magazine, although “the spin took him perilously close to dishonesty, albeit the sort of dishonesty practiced every day in official Washington.” Philip Zelikow, the 9/11 Commission’s executive director and a long-term opponent of Clarke (see January 3, 2001 and January 27, 2003), is delighted by the story and tells a Commission staffer that it might be enough to end the Clarke “circus,” adding, “Does it get any better than this?” [Shenon, 2008, pp. 280-281] Later trying a similar line of attack, Republican Senate leader Bill Frist will ask “[i]f [Clarke] lied under oath to the United States Congress” in closed testimony in 2002, and also ask if Clarke is attempting to promote his book. According to media critic Frank Rich, Frist’s credibility is undermined by his use of his Senate status to promote his own book, a virtually worthless primer entitled When Every Moment Counts: What You Need to Know About Bioterrorism from the Senate’s Only Doctor. Frist’s accusation that Clarke revealed classified information in his book falls flat when Clarke notes that the White House vetted his book for possible security transgressions before publication. [Washington Post, 3/27/2004; Rich, 2006, pp. 114-119]
No Evidence of Contradiction - A review of declassified citations from Clarke’s 2002 testimony provides no evidence of contradiction, and White House officials familiar with the testimony agree that any differences are matters of emphasis, not fact. [Washington Post, 4/4/2004]

Entity Tags: Philip Shenon, Richard A. Clarke, Condoleezza Rice, Philip Zelikow, Washington Times, Frank Rich, Bill Frist

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

Richard Clarke sworn in before the 9/11 Commission.Richard Clarke sworn in before the 9/11 Commission. [Source: CBC]Former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke testifies before the 9/11 Commission. Due to publicity generated by the publication of his book and a controversial appearance on 60 Minutes (see March 21, 2004), it is, in the words of author Philip Shenon, a “true Washington spectacle” and “one of those moments in the capital when anyone of importance in the city [is] in front of a television set.” Shenon will add, “It was being compared by reporters to the sort of drama that John Dean’s testimony provided in Watergate or Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North’s testimony offered in the Iran-Contra affair.” [Shenon, 2008, pp. 281-282]
Clarke Offers Apology - Clarke’s opening statement consists of little more than an apology to the relatives of the 9/11 victims. He says: “Your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you, and I failed you. For that failure, I would ask… for your understanding and forgiveness.” This leads to a moment of silence, then gasps and sobs. Shenon will point out, “It was the first apology that the 9/11 families had heard from anybody of importance in the Bush administration,” adding that it “was the moment of catharsis that many of the wives and husbands and children of the victims had been waiting for.”
Praises Clinton, Criticizes Bush - Under questioning, Clarke praises the Clinton administration, saying, “My impression was that fighting terrorism, in general, and fighting al-Qaeda, in particular, were an extraordinarily high priority in the Clinton administration—certainly no higher priority.” But he is very critical of the Bush administration, stating, “By invading Iraq… the president of the United States has greatly undermined the war on terrorism.” He says that under Bush before 9/11, terrorism was “an important issue, but not an urgent issue.… [CIA Director] George Tenet and I tried very hard to create a sense of urgency by seeing to it that intelligence reports on the al-Qaeda threat were frequently given to the president and other high-level officials. But although I continue to say it was an urgent problem, I don’t think it was ever treated that way.” He points out that he made proposals to fight al-Qaeda in late January 2001. While the gist of them was implemented after 9/11, he complains, “I didn’t really understand why they couldn’t have been done in February [2001].” He says that with a more robust intelligence and covert action program, “we might have been able to nip [the plot] in the bud.”
Republican Commissioners Ask Tough Questions - However, Clarke faces tough questioning from some of the Republican commissioners. Jim Thompson, who had been in contact with the White House before the hearing (see Morning, March 24, 2004), challenges Clarke over a briefing he gave in 2002 (see August 22, 2002 and March 24, 2004), which, according to Thompson, contradicts what Clarke is saying now. In addition, fellow Republican John Lehman confronts Clarke over what he sees as discrepancies between Clarke’s book and his private interviews with the Commission. Clarke replies that the differences arose because the Commission did not ask him about all the issues he covered in his book, such as his opposition to the invasion of Iraq. He adds that he will not accept any position in any administration formed by Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.
Clarke Approved Saudi Flights - Clarke also clears up a mystery about the departure of Saudi Arabian nationals after the attacks, which has caused some controversy (see September 14-19, 2001), saying that he was the White House official that approved them. He did this after clearing it with the FBI, although he does not know “what degree of review the FBI did over those names.” [Washington Post, 3/24/2004; New York Times, 3/24/2004; 9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004; Shenon, 2008, pp. 282-289]
Testimony 'Arresting' - Author and media critic Frank Rich will later call Clarke’s testimony “arresting.” Rich will write that Clarke’s forceful, confident demeanor—“sonorous voice, secret-agent aura, and vaguely intimidating body language”—serves to brush back antagonistic Republicans such as Lehman and Thompson. Rich will write that the juxtaposition of Clarke’s damning testimony with President Bush’s bizarre comedy routine that same evening (pretending to hunt for Iraqi WMD under the Oval Office furniture—see March 24, 2004) is jarring. [Rich, 2006, pp. 114-119]

Entity Tags: John Lehman, Clinton administration, Richard A. Clarke, Bush administration (43), Frank Rich, 9/11 Commission, James Thompson

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

At a campaign appearance in New Hampshire, President Bush refers to the 9/11 attacks, saying, “Had I known that the enemy was going to use airplanes to strike America, to attack us, I would have used every resource, every asset, every power of this government to protect the American people.” He also suggests that his predecessor, Democrat Bill Clinton, was more to blame for the attacks than he was, as the 9/11 Commission is looking at “eight months of my administration and the eight years of the previous administration.” This speech comes one day after his former counterterrorism “tsar,” Richard Clarke, had given damaging high-profile testimony to the Commission (see March 24, 2004). Author Philip Shenon will comment that Bush “was apparently hoping that his audience would forget that the August 6 [Presidential Daily Brief item (see August 6, 2001)] had warned specifically that planes might be hijacked by al-Qaeda within the United States.” [Shenon, 2008, pp. 289]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Philip Shenon

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

Former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, lambasted by Bush administration supporters (see March 24, 2004) for his criticism of the administration’s foreign policies (see March 21, 2004 and March 24, 2004), counters some of that criticism by noting that when he resigned from the administration a year earlier, he was highly praised by President Bush (see January 31, 2003).
Differing Characterizations from Administration - On Meet the Press, Clarke reads aloud the handwritten note from Bush that lauds his service, telling host Tim Russert: “This is his writing. This is the president of the United States’ writing. And when they’re engaged in character assassination of me, let’s just remember that on January 31, 2003: ‘Dear Dick, you will be missed. You served our nation with distinction and honor. You have left a positive mark on our government.’ This is not the normal typewritten letter that everybody gets. This is the president’s handwriting. He thinks I served with distinction and honor. The rest of his staff is out there trying to destroy my professional life, trying to destroy my reputation, because I had the temerity to suggest that a policy issue should be discussed. What is the role of the war on terror vis-a-vis the war in Iraq? Did the war in Iraq really hurt the war on terror? Because I suggest we should have a debate on that, I am now being the victim of a taxpayer-paid—because all these people work for the government—character assassination campaign.”
Never Briefed Bush on Terrorism - Clarke also notes that the letter proves he never briefed Bush on terrorism because he was not allowed to provide such a briefing (see Early January 2001). He tells Russert: “You know, they’re saying now that when I was afforded the opportunity to talk to him about cybersecurity, it was my choice. I could have talked about terrorism or cybersecurity. That’s not true. I asked in January to brief him, the president, on terrorism, to give him the same briefing I had given Vice President Cheney, Colin Powell, and [Condoleezza] Rice. And I was told, ‘You can’t do that briefing, Dick, until after the policy development process.’” [MSNBC, 3/28/2004; Salon, 3/29/2004]
Administration Should Declassifiy August 2002 Briefing - Clarke also calls on the administration to declassify “all six hours” of the briefing he gave to top officials in August 2002 about the impending threat of a terrorist attack (see August 22, 2002). The administration has selectively declassified material from that briefing to impugn Clarke’s honesty and integrity. “I would welcome it being declassified,” Clarke says. “But not just a little line here and there—let’s declassify all six hours of my testimony.” He also asks that the administration declassify the strategy reports from 2001 that he authored, and all of his e-mails between January 2001 and September 2001, to prove that the charges laid against him by the administration are false. He calls on the White House to end what he calls the “vicious personal attacks” and “character assassination,” and focus on issues. “The issue is not about me,” he tells a CNN reporter. “The issue is about the president’s performance in the war on terrorism.” [MSNBC, 3/28/2004; CNN, 3/28/2004]

Entity Tags: Colin Powell, George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Bush administration (43), Richard A. Clarke, Tim Russert

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

The Bush administration bows to growing pressure in the wake of former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke’s testimony before the 9/11 Commission (see March 21, 2004) and agrees to allow National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to testify before the Commission in public and under oath. It also agrees that President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney can be interviewed in private by the whole Commission. However, according to the New York Times, “In exchange for her appearance, the [9/11 Commission] agreed not to seek testimony from other White House aides at public hearings, although it can continue to question them in private.” [New York Times, 3/31/2004] There was some debate in the administration over whether Rice would testify or not. As she is national security adviser and there are no allegations of criminal wrongdoing, there are good grounds for Rice refusing to testify under the doctrine of executive privilege, and this argument is made in particular by White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and David Addington, Vice President Cheney’s counsel. However, Rice insists that she wants to testify. According to author Philip Shenon, she is “uncharacteristically frantic” over the issue. White House chief of staff Andy Card will say, “Condi desperately wanted to do it.” Shenon will write of the decision, which is made by President Bush: “The political pressure on the White House was too great, and Rice’s persuasive powers with the president were more than a match for Alberto Gonzales’s. Rice was as strong-willed as any member of the White house staff. Gonzales was strong-willed until the president told him otherwise.” [Shenon, 2008, pp. 289-292] Author and media critic Frank Rich will later write: “The dirty little secret about the uproar over Clarke’s revelations were that many of them had been previously revealed by others, well before he published his book. But as the Bush administration knew better than anyone, perception was all, and perception began with images on television. Clarke had given the charges a human face.” The administration is sending Rice to testify publicly before the Commission, Rich will write, in part because she is the most telegenic of Bush’s top advisers, and has the best chance of “rebranding” the story with her face and testimony. [Rich, 2006, pp. 119]

Entity Tags: White House, Frank Rich, Philip Shenon, George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Bush administration (43), Alberto R. Gonzales, 9/11 Commission, David S. Addington, Andrew Card

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

Condoleezza Rice sworn in before the 9/11 Commission.Condoleezza Rice sworn in before the 9/11 Commission. [Source: Larry Downing/ Reuters]National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice testifies before the 9/11 Commission under oath and with the threat of perjury. The Bush administration originally opposed her appearance, but relented after great public demand (see March 30, 2004). [Independent, 4/3/2004] The testimony is a huge media event and major television networks interrupt their programming to carry it live. First, the Commission’s Democratic Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton reads a statement trying to establish a tone of non-confrontation and saying that the Commission’s purpose is “not to put any witness on the spot,” but “to understand and to inform.”
Rice Reads Lengthy Statement - Knowing that she has a deal to appear only once and for a limited time, Rice begins by reading a statement much longer than those read by other witnesses testifying before the Commission, a move specifically approved by Hamilton and the Commission’s chairman Tom Kean. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 293, 295] In the statement she repeats her claim that “almost all of the reports [before 9/11] focused on al-Qaeda activities outside the United States.… The information that was specific enough to be actionable referred to terrorists operation overseas.” Moreover, she stresses that the “kind of analysis about the use of airplanes as weapons actually was never briefed to us.” But she concedes: “In fact there were some reports done in ‘98 and ‘99. I think I was—I was certainly not aware of them.” [Washington Post, 4/8/2004]
Heated Questioning from Democrats - The exchanges with the Republican commissioners are polite, but Rice’s interactions with the Democrats on the Commission become heated. According to author Philip Shenon, her strategy is to “try to run out the clock—talk and talk and talk, giving them no chance to ask follow-up questions before the 10 minutes that each of the commissioners had been allotted had run out.” [Shenon, 2008, pp. 295] During questioning several subjects are discussed:
bullet Why didn’t counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke brief President Bush on al-Qaeda before September 11? Clarke says he had wished to do so, but Rice states, “Clarke never asked me to brief the president on counterterrorism.”
bullet What was the content of the briefing President Bush received on August 6, 2001 (see August 6, 2001)? While Rice repeatedly underlines that it was “a historical memo… not threat reporting,” commissioners Richard Ben-Veniste and Tim Roemer ask her why it cannot therefore be declassified. [Washington Post, 4/8/2004] Asked what the PDB item’s still-secret title is, Rice gives it as “Bin Laden Determined to Attack inside the United States,” leading to an audible gasp from the audience. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 298] Two days later, the White House will finally publish it, and it will be shown to contain more than just historical information.
bullet Did Rice tell Bush of the existence of al-Qaeda cells in the US before August 6, 2001? Rice says that she does not remember whether she “discussed it with the president.”
bullet Were warnings properly passed on? Rice points out: “The FBI issued at least three nationwide warnings to federal, state, and law enforcement agencies, and specifically stated that although the vast majority of the information indicated overseas targets, attacks against the homeland could not be ruled out. The FBI tasked all 56 of its US field offices to increase surveillance of known suspected terrorists and to reach out to known informants who might have information on terrorist activities.” But commissioner Jamie Gorelick remarks: “We have no record of that. The Washington field office international terrorism people say they never heard about the threat, they never heard about the warnings.” [Washington Post, 4/8/2004]
bullet Under questioning from Democratic commissioner Bob Kerrey, she admits that she worked with Philip Zelikow, the Commission’s executive director, during the Bush administration transition, and that they discussed terrorism issues.
bullet She claims that a plan Clarke presented to her to roll back al-Qaeda in January 2001 (see January 25, 2001) was not actually a plan, but merely “a set of ideas and a paper” that had not been implemented. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 299-300]
Central Issues Unresolved - Rice does not apologize to the families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks, as Clarke did weeks earlier. The Associated Press comments, “The blizzard of words in Condoleezza Rice’s testimony Thursday did not resolve central points about what the government knew, should have known, did, and should have done before the September 11 terrorist attacks.” [Associated Press, 4/8/2004]
Testimony an 'Ambitious Feat of Jujitsu' - The Washington Post calls her testimony “an ambitious feat of jujitsu: On one hand, she made a case that ‘for more than 20 years, the terrorist threat gathered, and America’s response across several administrations of both parties was insufficient.’ At the same time, she argued that there was nothing in particular the Bush administration itself could have done differently that would have prevented the attacks of September 11, 2001—that there was no absence of vigor in the White House’s response to al-Qaeda during its first 233 days in office. The first thesis is undeniably true; the second both contradictory and implausible.” [Washington Post, 4/9/2004]
'Cherry-Picking' Rice's Testimony - In 2009, Lawrence Wilkerson, who is chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2004, will recall: “John [Bellinger, the legal adviser to the National Security Council] and I had to work on the 9/11 Commission testimony of Condi. Condi was not gonna do it, not gonna do it, not gonna do it, and then all of a sudden she realized she better do it. That was an appalling enterprise. We would cherry-pick things to make it look like the president had been actually concerned about al-Qaeda. We cherry-picked things to make it look as if the vice president and others, Secretary Rumsfeld and all, had been. They didn’t give a sh_t about al-Qaeda. They had priorities. The priorities were lower taxes, ballistic missiles, and the defense thereof.” [Vanity Fair, 2/2009]

Entity Tags: Jamie Gorelick, Lee Hamilton, Lawrence Wilkerson, George W. Bush, John Bellinger, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bob Kerrey, Bush administration (43), Tim Roemer, Condoleezza Rice, Thomas Kean, Richard Ben-Veniste, 9/11 Commission, Richard A. Clarke

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

President Bush talks about the Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) he was given on August 6, 2001, entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US.” He claims, “There was nothing in this report to me that said, ‘Oh, by the way, we’ve got intelligence that says something is about to happen in America.‘… There was nothing in there that said, you know, ‘There is an imminent attack.’ That wasn’t what the report said. The report was kind of a history of Osama’s intentions.” [Associated Press, 4/12/2004] He adds, “[T]he PDB was no indication of a terrorist threat. There was not a time and place of an attack. It said Osama bin Laden had designs on America. Well, I knew that. What I wanted to know was, is there anything specifically going to take place in America that we needed to react to.… I was satisfied that some of the matters were being looked into. But that PDB said nothing about an attack on America. It talked about intentions, about somebody who hated America—well, we knew that.… Had I known there was going to be an attack on America, I would have moved mountains to stop the attack.” [US President, 4/19/2004] The complete text of the PDB was released the day before Bush’s comments and in fact the PDB does very clearly discuss an imminent attack on the US. For instance, it says that FBI information “indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.” And it discusses a call to a US “embassy in the UAE in May [2001] saying that a group of bin Laden supporters was in the US planning attacks with explosives” (see August 6, 2001).

Entity Tags: George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

In a news conference, President Bush is asked about the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) item entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US” (see August 6, 2001). Bush explains: “I asked for the briefing. And the reason I did is because there had been a lot of threat intelligence from overseas. And part of it had to do with the Genoa G8 conference that I was going to attend. And I asked at that point in time, let’s make sure we are paying attention here at home as well. And that’s what triggered the report.” [US President, 4/19/2004] Although Bush had shown some interest in counterterrorism around that time (see July 5, 2001 and June 20, 2001), the CIA analysts who drafted the PDB item will deny he asked for it specifically, saying they drafted it on the CIA’s initiative (see July 13, 2004). The main threat to the late July 2001 Genoa conference, as discussed in numerous articles even before the conference, was an al-Qaeda plot to fly an airplane into the conference building, killing Bush and other world leaders (see Mid-July 2001). But Bush’s tacit admission that a plot involving planes as weapons helped inspire the well-known August briefing passes without comment by the mainstream media. However, a professor will write a letter to the editor of Britain’s Financial Times noting Bush’s remark and commenting, “If President Bush had been sufficiently alarmed by the Italian defenses [against a suicide air attack] in Genoa to request a special report, he must have been able to recognize that, yes, it could happen in the US.” [Financial Times, 4/27/2004]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

In a press conference, President Bush states, “We knew he [Osama bin Laden] had designs on us, we knew he hated us. But there was nobody in our government, and I don’t think [in] the prior government, that could envision flying airplanes into buildings on such a massive scale.” [Guardian, 4/15/2004] He also says, “Had I any inkling whatsoever that the people were going to fly airplanes into buildings, we would have moved heaven and earth to save the country.” [New York Times, 4/18/2004; US President, 4/19/2004] Bush made similar comments two days earlier (see April 11, 2004). In July 2004, he will claim even more generally, “Had we had any inkling whatsoever that terrorists were about to attack our country, we would have moved heaven and earth to protect America.” [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 7/22/2004]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

On May 17, 2004, security officials say that recent intelligence has led to increased concern about the possibility of a major terrorist attack in the US. It is believed that the attack could take place as early as the summer and before November, perhaps in an attempt to affect the outcome of the Presidential election. Potential targets include the dedication of the National World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, the G8 economic summit on Sea Island, Georgia, Fourth of July celebrations, the Democratic convention in Boston, the Republican convention in New York, and the Olympics in Greece. However, no specific target, time or date is identified for the possible attack. Sources do state that the assessment is new and is the result of intelligence gathered over time. However, an official with the Department of Homeland Security, speaking on condition of anonymity, states that “We are not aware of any new highly credible intelligence indicating a planned attack in the US this summer. Nothing in the current intelligence is exceptionally specific.” [CNN, 5/25/2004] The next day, Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller hold a news conference to warn of a “plane attack inside the United States.” They warn that terrorists are “poised for an immediate attack.” Ashcroft says “credible intelligence from multiple sources indicates that al-Qaeda plans to attempt an attack on the United States in the next few months. This disturbing intelligence indicates al-Qaeda’s specific intention to hit the United States hard.” [CNN, 5/26/2004] The Justice Department asks for assistance in locating seven alleged terrorist operatives and states an increased concern about attacks over the summer. [CBS News, 6/14/2004] It is later revealed the threat actually came from a group that falsely claimed responsibility for the terror attacks in Madrid. One expert says that the group is “not really taken seriously by Western intelligence.” These warnings come as the administration is under heavy criticism for failures in Iraq. The Abu Ghraib torture scandal dominates headlines. [Rolling Stone, 9/21/2006 pdf file] This warning also comes on the heels of other bad news for the Bush administration. During a May 16 interview on Meet the Press, Secretary of State Colin Powell is cut off by an aide while discussing misleading CIA information regarding WMD in Iraq. He admits that “it turned out that the sourcing was inaccurate and wrong and in some cases, deliberately misleading. And for that, I am disappointed and I regret it.” [MSNBC, 6/15/2004] Three days later, Newsweek reports that White House counsel Alberto Gonzalez warned in a January 25, 2002 internal White House memo that US officials could be prosecuted for war crimes due to the unprecedented and unusual methods used by the Bush administration in the war on terrorism. [Newsweek, 5/19/2004]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Robert S. Mueller III, Central Intelligence Agency, Colin Powell, US Department of Homeland Security, Al-Qaeda, Alberto R. Gonzales, John Ashcroft

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Iraq under US Occupation

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

The 9/11 Commission’s executive director, Philip Zelikow, has a comparison between Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton that shows Bush in a bad light removed from the 9/11 Commission report.
Clinton and Bush - The comparison was drafted by commission staffer Alexis Albion at the request of vice-chairman Lee Hamilton, a Democrat, and shows how Clinton and Bush addressed terrorism in general and al-Qaeda in particular in their public remarks. It is intended as a measure of how the two presidents had prioritized the issue, although there is the obvious problem that Clinton was in office for eight years, but Bush only eight months before the attacks. Albion found that Clinton addressed terrorism dozens of times, including in every State of the Union address and a speech to the UN General Assembly, and that he often warned about al-Qaeda and similar groups. By contrast, Bush rarely talked about terrorism, and when he did he focused on state-sponsored terrorism and missile defense against rogue states.
Controversial - Albion and other members of her team are aware that the comparison will anger the Bush White House, in particular because other sections of the report will not be especially critical of the current administration. A statement that Bush spoke little about terrorism before 9/11 will probably be seen as the commission’s most direct personal criticism of him. However, they feel strongly that it should be in the report, as what the president says sets the agenda for the rest of the government and media.
Zelikow's Reaction - Zelikow is angered by the comparison, almost yelling that it is “unreasonable” and “unfair,” as Bush “hadn’t been in office long enough to make a major address on terrorism.” Author Philip Shenon will describe Zelikow’s rage about this issue: “Zelikow’s anger was so off the scale on this issue that some of the staff members wondered if this was simply a show on his part to intimidate them into backing down.” Albion is supported by Daniel Marcus, the commission’s lawyer. According to Shenon: “[Marcus] thought it was one of Zelikow’s most overt displays of his partisanship, of his desire to protect the administration. Obviously it was significant if Bush, who was now claiming that he had been gravely worried throughout 2001 about terrorist threats, never bothered to mention it in public during that same period. ‘You’d think he would say something about it once in a while, right?’ asked Marcus.” However, Zelikow gets his way and the comparison is removed from the report.
Endnotes - Despite this, Albion does manage to reinsert material from the comparison into the endnotes at the back of the commission’s final report. For example, endnote 2 to chapter 6 reads: “President Clinton spoke of terrorism in numerous public statements…. Clinton repeatedly linked terrorism groups and WMD as transnational threats for the new global era.” Endnote 164 to the same chapter reads: “Public references by candidate and then President Bush about terrorism before 9/11 tended to reflect… [his concern with] state-sponsored terrorism and WMD as a reason to mount a missile defense.” [Shenon, 2008, pp. 396-398]

Entity Tags: Daniel Marcus, Alexis Albion, Philip Zelikow, 9/11 Commission

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

In November 2002, as the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry was finishing its investigation, it formally asked for a report by the CIA to determine “whether and to what extent personnel at all levels should be held accountable” for the failure to stop the 9/11 attacks. [New York Times, 9/14/2004] The CIA report by the agency’s inspector general is completed in June 2004. Newsweek calls the report “hard-hitting” and says it “identifies a host of current and former officials who could be candidates for possible disciplinary procedures imposed by a special CIA Accountability Board.” [Newsweek, 10/24/2004] While the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry and 9/11 Commission Reports didn’t single out individuals for blame, this one does, and it is said to find “very senior-level officials responsible. Those who have read the classified report say that it faults about 20 intelligence officials, including former CIA Director George Tenet, his former Deputy Director of Operations James Pavitt, and the former head of the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center Cofer Black. Tenet in particular is faulted for focusing too little attention on combating al-Qaeda as a whole in the years prior to 9/11.” [Los Angeles Times, 10/19/2004; Los Angeles Times, 10/6/2005; Washington Post, 10/6/2005] The report is submitted to John McLaughlin, interim acting CIA Director, but he returns it to the inspector general with a request “for more information.” [New York Times, 9/14/2004] It continues to remain completely classified, and even the 9/11 Commissioners (who all have high level security clearances) are not allowed to see it before they complete their own 9/11 investigation. [Newsweek, 10/24/2004] In late September 2004, Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) and Jane Harman (D-CA), chairman and highest ranking Democrat of the House Intelligence Committee respectively, send a letter to the CIA. [New York Times, 10/27/2004] They request that at least their committee, as the oversight committee that originally mandated the creation of the report, be allowed to see the report. But even this committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee are not allowed to see it. One anonymous official who has read the report tells the Los Angeles Times, “It is infuriating that a report which shows that high-level people were not doing their jobs in a satisfactory manner before 9/11 is being suppressed.… The report is potentially very embarrassing for the administration, because it makes it look like they weren’t interested in terrorism before 9/11, or in holding people in the government responsible afterward.” This official says the report has been deliberately stalled, first by John McLaughlin, then by Porter Goss, his replacement as CIA Director. (Ironically, Goss was the co-chairman of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry that originally called for the report.) This official further notes that the only legal and legitimate reason the CIA can give for holding back such a report is national security, yet this reason has not been invoked. The official claims that Goss is “basically sitting on the report until after the [November 2004 Presidential] election. No previous director of CIA has ever tried to stop the inspector general from releasing a report to the Congress, in this case a report requested by Congress.” [Los Angeles Times, 10/19/2004; Los Angeles Times, 10/20/2004] One anonymous CIA official says, “Everybody feels it will be better off if this hits the fan after the election.” [Newsweek, 10/24/2004] The previously mentioned official speaking to The Los Angeles Times comments that the successful delay of the report’s release until after the election has “led the management of the CIA to believe it can engage in a cover-up with impunity.” [Los Angeles Times, 10/19/2004] More details of the report are revealed to the media in January 2005.(see January 7, 2005). In October 2005, CIA Director Porter Goss will announce that he is not going to release the report, and also will not convene an accountability board to hold anyone responsible.(see October 10, 2005).

Entity Tags: Jane Harman, John E. McLaughlin, Central Intelligence Agency, Peter Hoekstra, Porter J. Goss, 9/11 Congressional Inquiry

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

During a speech before the James Madison Institute, a conservative think-tank based in Florida, Vice President Dick Cheney states that Saddam Hussein “had long-established ties with al-Qaeda.” [Associated Press, 6/14/2004]

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

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

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

White House lawyers send an angry letter to the 9/11 Commission, which causes the Commission to water down its staff report account of Vice President Dick Cheney’s actions on September 11. [Newsweek, 6/20/2004] Members of the team of investigators on the 9/11 Commission examining the events of the morning of 9/11 believe that a key part of Cheney’s account, regarding the shootdown order, is false (see (Mid 2004)). [Shenon, 2008, pp. 265] The Commission has found that Cheney issued the shootdown order, but he and President Bush have stated that this was only after the president had authorized the shooting down of threatening aircraft during a phone call between the two men. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 40-41] However, the Commission has found “no documentary evidence for this call.” Newsweek learns that “some on the Commission staff [are], in fact, highly skeptical of the vice president’s account and made their views clearer in an earlier draft of their staff report.” Some staffers “flat out didn’t believe the call ever took place.” But when the early draft was circulated among the Bush administration, it provoked an angry reaction. White House spokesman Dan Bartlett will say, “We didn’t think it was written in a way that clearly reflected the accounting the president and vice president had given to the Commission.” In a series of phone calls and a letter from its lawyers, the White House forcefully lobbies the Commission to change the language in its report. According to Newsweek, “Ultimately the chairman and vice chair of the Commission, former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean and former representative Lee Hamilton… agreed to remove some of the offending language. The report ‘was watered down,’ groused one staffer.” [Newsweek, 6/20/2004] The amended staff report will be presented days later, on June 17, at the final round of the Commission’s public hearings. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; New York Times, 6/17/2004] Cheney will again be angry at how the Commission has dealt with the shootdown issue in its final report, and tries to get this report changed on the eve of its release (see Shortly Before July 22, 2004). [Shenon, 2008, pp. 267]

Entity Tags: Dan Bartlett, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, 9/11 Commission, Thomas Kean, White House, Lee Hamilton

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

President Bush defends Vice President Dick Cheney’s claim this week that Saddam Hussein had longstanding ties with al-Qaeda. Speaking at a news conference with Afghan president Hamid Karzai, Bush asserts that Hussein “had ties to terrorist organizations.” He does not mention al-Qaeda by name. The day before, Cheney claimed that Hussein was “a patron of terrorism” and said “he had long established ties with al-Qaeda” (see June 14, 2004). [Boston Globe, 6/16/2004]

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Saddam Hussein, George W. Bush

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

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

President Bush repeats the US government claim that al-Qaeda had links to the Saddam Hussein government of Iraq, suggesting that militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is the link between the two. “Al-Zarqawi’s the best evidence of a connection to al-Qaeda affiliates and al-Qaeda. He’s the person who’s still killing.” [CNN, 6/15/2004]

Entity Tags: Saddam Hussein, Al-Qaeda, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, George W. Bush

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

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

Vice President Dick Cheney, infuriated by the 9/11 Commission’s intent to report that no serious connections between Iraq and al-Qaeda ever existed (see July 12, 2004) and the media’s acceptance of the same position, decides to launch a media counterattack. His first target is not the Commission itself, but the media, particularly the New York Times, which has just published a front-page article entitled “Panel Finds No Qaeda-Iraq Tie.” Cheney’s first appearance is on CNBC’s Capital Report. Correspondent Gloria Borger notes, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you… as exercised about something as you seem today.” Cheney leads off by calling the Times reporting “outrageous,” and accuses the newspaper of manufacturing a division between the administration’s claims of a “Qaeda-Iraq tie” and the Commission’s report that no such ties ever existed. “There’s no conflict,” he says. He asserts that “[W]e don’t know” if Iraq was involved in 9/11 and adds that no one has “been able to confirm” or “knock… down” the claim that 9/11 plotter Mohamed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague in April of 2001. Reporters who doubt the connection are “lazy,” he says. When Borger notes that Commission investigators have found no evidence to support that allegation, Cheney asserts that he “probably” knows information the 9/11 Commission does not. [CNN, 6/18/2004; Shenon, 2008, pp. 381-385] A few days later, the Commission says that after asking Cheney for any additional evidence he might have, they stand by their position. Cheney maintains his position as well, but does not turn over any new evidence. [Los Angeles Times, 7/2/2004; Shenon, 2008, pp. 381-385]

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Gloria Borger, Al-Qaeda, 9/11 Commission, Mohamed Atta, New York Times

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

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

President Bush forcefully disputes statements by the 9/11 Commission (see July 12, 2004) that there was no evidence of collaboration between Iraq and al-Qaeda. “The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al-Qaeda, because there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda,” Bush says. [CNN, 6/17/2004; Washington Post, 6/18/2004]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush

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

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

Several 9/11 Commission members, including chairman Thomas Kean and vice-chairman Lee Hamilton, are alarmed at Vice President Dick Cheney’s response to the commission’s claim that no link exists between Iraq and al-Qaeda (see June 17, 2004). They have no desire to go toe-to-toe with an enraged White House over the question. Hamilton privately asks Doug MacEachin, the principal author of that portion of the report, to go back and sift the evidence again to ensure that he missed nothing that might bear out the White House’s arguments. Publicly, Kean and Hamilton are much more resolute. If Cheney has information that he has not shared with the commission, as Cheney has implied, he needs to turn it over promptly. “I would like to see the evidence that Mr. Cheney is talking about,” Hamilton says. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 381-385] No more evidence is found, and the commission ultimately sticks by their conclusions.

Entity Tags: Doug MacEachin, Thomas Kean, Lee Hamilton, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Bush administration (43), 9/11 Commission

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

Fahrenheit 9/11 movie poster.
Fahrenheit 9/11 movie poster. [Source: Lions Gate Films]Fahrenheit 9/11, a film by well-known documentarian and author Michael Moore, is released in the US. Amongst other things, this film reveals connections between the Bush family and prominent Saudis including the bin Laden family. [New York Times, 5/6/2004; New York Times, 5/17/2004; Toronto Star, 6/13/2004] It reviews evidence the White House helped members of Osama bin Laden’s family and other Saudis fly out of the US in the days soon after 9/11. [New York Times, 5/17/2004; Toronto Star, 6/13/2004; New York Times, 6/18/2004; Los Angeles Times, 6/23/2004; Newsweek, 6/30/2004] It introduces to the mainstream damning footage of President Bush continuing with a photo-op for seven minutes (see (9:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001) after being told of the second plane hitting the WTC on 9/11. [New York Times, 6/18/2004; Washington Post, 6/19/2004; Newsweek, 6/20/2004; Los Angeles Times, 6/23/2004] Disney refused to let its Miramax division distribute the movie in the United States, supposedly because the film was thought too partisan. [New York Times, 5/6/2004; Guardian, 6/2/2004; Los Angeles Times, 6/11/2004; Agence France-Presse, 6/23/2004] The film won the top award at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival—the first documentary to do so in nearly 50 years. [BBC, 5/24/2004; Guardian, 5/24/2004; Agence France-Presse, 6/23/2004] It is generally very well received, with most US newspapers rating it favorably. [Agence France-Presse, 6/23/2004; Editor & Publisher, 6/27/2004] The film is an instant hit and is seen by tens of millions. [Associated Press, 6/27/2004; BBC, 6/28/2004; Associated Press, 6/28/2004; CBS News, 6/28/2004] There are some criticisms that it distorts certain facts, such as exaggerating the possible significance of Bush and bin Laden family connections, and gripes about a $1.4 billion number representing the money flowing from Saudi companies to the Bush family. However, the New York Times claims that the public record corroborates the film’s main assertions. [New York Times, 5/17/2004; New York Times, 6/18/2004; Newsweek, 6/30/2004] Shortly before the film’s release, the conservative organization Citizens United tried to block the film’s distribution (see June 27, 2004). The effort failed (see August 6, 2004).

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Bin Laden Family, Michael Moore, Osama bin Laden, Citizens United, Walt Disney Company, Miramax

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

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror, Media Coverage of Electoral Events

In November 2002, as the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry was finishing its investigation, it had formally asked for a report by the Justice Department (which oversees the FBI) to determine “whether and to what extent personnel at all levels should be held accountable” for the failure to stop the 9/11 attacks. An identical request was made to the CIA (see June-November 2004). [New York Times, 9/14/2004] The Justice Department report, titled “A Review of the FBI’s Handling of Intelligence Information Related to the September 11 Attacks,” is completed this month. [Washington Post, 4/30/2005] It centers on three FBI failures before 9/11: the failure to follow up on the arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui in August 2001 (see August 16, 2001), the failure to follow up on FBI agent Ken Williams’ memo (see July 10, 2001) warning about Islamic militants training in US flight schools, and the FBI’s failure to follow up on many leads to hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar. The report provides some new details about miscommunications, inaction, and other problems. [New York Times, 9/14/2004] The report remains classified. Senior Senate Judiciary Committee members Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) call for its release. The senators state, “While the needs of national security must be weighed seriously, we fear the designation of information as classified, in some cases, serves to protect the executive branch against embarrassing revelations and full accountability. We hope that is not the case here.” [Washington Times, 7/12/2004; New York Times, 9/14/2004] One problem complicating the issuing of even a declassified version is the possibility that the material would taint the criminal proceedings against Zacarias Moussaoui. In early 2005, the Justice Department inspector general’s office will ask the judge presiding over Moussaoui’s case for permission to release a declassified version of the report. But the judge will turn down the request in April 2005, even after Moussaoui pleads guilty (see April 30, 2005). The report will finally be released in June 2005 without the section on Moussaoui (see June 9, 2005). [New York Times, 2/13/2005]

Entity Tags: Zacarias Moussaoui, Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, Charles Grassley, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ken Williams, Patrick J. Leahy, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

Deforest B. Soaries Jr.Deforest B. Soaries Jr. [Source: MSNBC]On July 6, John Kerry named John Edwards as his running mate. [Rolling Stone, 9/21/2006 pdf file] This produced a slight increase in the opinion polls and a media focus on the Kerry campaign. [MSNBC, 6/4/2007] Two days later, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge warns that “Al-Qaeda is moving forward with its plans to carry out a large-scale attack in the United States in an effort to disrupt our democratic process.” [Department of Homeland Security, 7/8/2004] Officials cite “alarming” intelligence about a possible al-Qaeda strike inside the United States this fall and admit they are reviewing a proposal that could allow for the postponement of the November presidential election in the event of an attack. Officials point to the recent Madrid train bombings as an attempt by al-Qaeda to influence the political process in a democratic nation (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004). Intercepted chatter leads one analyst to say, “they want to interfere with the elections.” It is reported that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently asked the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel to analyze the necessary legal steps that would permit the postponement of the election were an attack to take place. [Newsweek, 7/19/2004] The head of the US Election Assistance Commission, Deforest B. Soaries Jr., confirms he has written to Tom Ridge to discuss this prospect. [MSNBC, 6/4/2007] Soaries notes that, while a primary election in New York on September 11, 2001 was suspended by the State Board of Elections after the attacks, “the federal government has no agency that has the statutory authority to cancel and reschedule a federal election.” Soaries advises Ridge to seek emergency legislation from Congress that would grant such power to the DHS. DHS spokesman Brian Roehrkasse says, “We are reviewing the issue to determine what steps need to be taken to secure the election.” [Newsweek, 7/19/2004] A top European spy says of the threat, “I am aware of no intelligence, nothing that shows there will be an attack before the US presidential election.” No attack will materialize and no further information on the threat will be presented to the public. [Rolling Stone, 9/21/2006 pdf file] Ridge will later concede that he had no “precise knowledge” of the attack he warned against, and he never made plans to raise the color-coded threat level. [Rich, 2006, pp. 146]

Entity Tags: US Election Assistance Commission, Deforest B. Soaries Jr., John Edwards, John Kerry, Tom Ridge, Brian Roehrkasse

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

On July 8, 2004, the New Republic predicts a “July surprise” from the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign involving the arrest of a high-value target in Pakistan by the end of the month. The magazine reports that in the spring of 2004, the administration increased pressure on Pakistan to kill or capture Osama bin Laden, his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, or Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, all believed to be hiding in Pakistan. Bush officials such as CIA Director George Tenet, Secretary of State Colin Powell and his assistant, Christina Rocca, State Department counterterrorism chief Cofer Black, and others all visited Pakistan in recent months to urge Pakistan to increase its efforts in the war on terrorism. The New Republic comments, “This public pressure would be appropriate, even laudable, had it not been accompanied by an unseemly private insistence that the Pakistanis deliver these high-value targets (HVTs) before Americans go to the polls in November.” Bush spokespeople deny that the administration exerted any such pressure. But according to one source in the Pakistani ISI, “The Pakistani government is really desperate and wants to flush out bin Laden and his associates after the latest pressures from the US administration to deliver before the [upcoming] US elections.” Another source in the Pakistani Interior Ministry says, “The Musharraf government has a history of rescuing the Bush administration. They now want Musharraf to bail them out when they are facing hard times in the coming elections.” And another ISI source says that the Pakistanis “have been told at every level that apprehension or killing of HVTs before [the] election is [an] absolute must.” The Pakistanis have even been given a target date, according to the second ISI source: “The last ten days of July deadline has been given repeatedly by visitors to Islamabad and during [ISI director Lieutenant General Ehsan ul-Haq’s] meetings in Washington.” The source says that a White House aide told ul-Haq last spring that “it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July”—the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston. One Pakistani general said recently, “If we don’t find these guys by the election, they are going to stick this whole nuclear mess [relating to A. Q. Khan] up our _sshole.” The Bush administration apparently is using a carrot-and-stick approach to make sure such an arrest takes place on schedule. The New Republic observes: “Pushing Musharraf to go after al-Qaeda in the tribal areas may be a good idea despite the risks. But, if that is the case, it was a good idea in 2002 and 2003. Why the switch now? Top Pakistanis think they know: This year, the president’s reelection is at stake.” [New Republic, 7/29/2004] Pakistan will announce the capture of al-Qaeda leader Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani on July 29, just hours before Democratic presidential John Kerry’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. The authors of the New Republic article will claim vindication for their prediction (see July 25-29, 2004).

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Pervez Musharraf, Colin Powell, Christina Rocca, Cofer Black, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Abdul Qadeer Khan, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, Mullah Omar, John Kerry, George J. Tenet, George W. Bush, Ehsan ul-Haq

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

After discovering information possibly linking Iran and Hezbollah to travel by the 9/11 hijackers in 2000 and early 2001 (see January-June 2004), the 9/11 Commission becomes worried about the impact the information might have on the current political situation. The material was discovered in NSA files late on in the commission’s investigation, as the commission initially paid little attention to the NSA (see Late 2002-July 2004 and Between July 1 and July 17, 2004). Commission staffers are worried because the information about the Iran links is not conclusive and the reports about it “might raise as many questions as they would answer.” In addition, they are aware that faulty intelligence had contributed to the decision to invade Iraq, and “the Bush administration seem[s] eager to engage in saber rattling with Iran.” However, commission chairman Tom Kean comments on the Iran information in the press and these comments become headline news (see July 16, 2004). [Shenon, 2008, pp. 373] The relevant passages in the final report point out that apparent links between travel by the future 9/11 hijackers and Hezbollah officials could be a “coincidence” and that al-Qaeda detainees have stated the only reason for traveling through Iran was because it did not place telltale stamps in passports. In addition, the report says that there is “no evidence that Iran or Hezbollah was aware of the planning for what later became the 9/11 attack,” and that the “topic requires further investigation by the US government.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 240-1]

Entity Tags: 9/11 Commission, Hezbollah, Iran, National Security Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

Shortly before the 9/11 Commission is due to release its final report (see July 22, 2004), Commission Chairman Thomas Kean says, “We believe.… that there were a lot more active contacts, frankly, [between al-Qaeda and] Iran and with Pakistan than there were with Iraq.” [Time, 7/16/2004] This is based on a review of NSA material performed by one commission staffer (see January-June 2004) and a day trip to NSA headquarters by a group of staffers to examine material there (see Between July 1 and July 17, 2004). [Shenon, 2008, pp. 155-7, 370-373] The US media immediately runs prominent stories on the Commission’s evidence regarding Iran and nearly completely ignores evidence regarding Pakistan. The Commission’s final report mentions that around ten of the hijackers passed through Iran in late 2000 and early 2001. At least some Iranian officials turned a blind eye to the passage of al-Qaeda agents, but there was no evidence that the Iranian government had any foreknowledge or involvement in the 9/11 plot (see Mid-July 2004). [Time, 7/16/2004; Reuters, 7/18/2004] In the wake of these findings, President Bush states of Iran, “As to direct connections with September 11, we’re digging into the facts to determine if there was one.” This puts Bush at odds with his own CIA, which has seen no Iran-9/11 ties. [Los Angeles Times, 7/20/2004] Bush has long considered Iran part of his “axis of evil,” and there has been talk of the US attacking or overthrowing the Iranian government. [Reuters, 7/18/2004] Provocative articles appear, such as one in the Daily Telegraph titled, “Now America Accuses Iran of Complicity in World Trade Center Attack.” [Daily Telegraph, 7/18/2004] Yet, while this information on Iran makes front page news in most major newspapers, evidence of a much stronger connection between Pakistan and 9/11 is nearly completely ignored. For instance, only UPI reports on a document suggesting high-level Pakistani involvement in the 9/11 attacks that is revealed this same week. [United Press International, 7/22/2004] Furthermore, the 9/11 Commission’s final report will contain almost nothing on Pakistan’s ties to al-Qaeda, despite evidence given to the Commission that, according to one commissioner speaking to the Los Angeles Times, showed that Pakistan was “up to their eyeballs” in intrigue with al-Qaeda. [Los Angeles Times, 7/16/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004]

Entity Tags: Thomas Kean, Pakistan, George W. Bush, Central Intelligence Agency, Iran, 9/11 Commission, Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

The 9/11 Commission’s final report.
The 9/11 Commission’s final report. [Source: 9/11 Commission]The 9/11 Commission completes its work and releases its final report. They blame incompetence for the reason why the US government did not prevent the attack. The Washington Post summarizes the report, “The US government was utterly unprepared on Sept. 11, 2001, to protect the American people from al-Qaeda terrorists.” [Washington Post, 7/23/2004] The report itself states, “We believe the 9/11 attacks revealed four kinds of failures: in imagination, policy, capabilities, and management.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004] The Washington Post reports, “Though openly dreaded for months by many Republicans and quietly feared by the White House, the report was much gentler on the Bush administration than they feared. Rather than focus criticism on the Bush administration, the commission spread the blame broadly and evenly across two administrations, the FBI, and Congress.” [Washington Post, 7/23/2004] More to the point, as former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke notes in a New York Times editorial, “Honorable Commission, Toothless Report,” because the commission wanted a unanimous report from a bipartisan group, “it softened the edges and left it to the public to draw many conclusions.” [New York Times, 7/25/2004] The Washington Post comments, “In many respects, the panel’s work has been closer to the fact-finding, conspiracy-debunking Warren Commission of the mid-1960s, which investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, than to the reform-oriented Church Commission, which exposed assassination plots and CIA abuses during the mid-1970s.” [Washington Post, 7/18/2004]

Entity Tags: John F. Kennedy, Richard A. Clarke, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Al-Qaeda, Bush administration (43), Church Commission, 9/11 Commission, US Congress, Warren Commission

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani.Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani. [Source: FBI]Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a high-level al-Qaeda operative from Tanzania suspected of participating in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in East Africa, is captured in Gujrat, Pakistan, after a violent standoff with Pakistani police. [CNN, 8/3/2004] Ghailani’s arrest is publicly announced on July 29, four days later. The announcement by Pakistan’s Interior Minister Faisal Hayat is made in an unusual late-night press conference that takes place just hours before John Kerry accepts the Democratic nomination for president. [Salon, 8/17/2004] Pakistani authorities say the announcement of Ghailani’s arrest was delayed four days because of the need to confirm his identity before making the proclamation. [BBC, 7/30/2004] But former Pakistani official Husain Haqqani later claims the announcement was timed to upstage the Kerry speech. [Salon, 8/17/2004; United States Conference on International Religious Freedom, 6/30/2005] An article in the New Republic published earlier in the month reported that the Bush administration was asking Pakistan to make high-profile arrests of al-Qaeda suspects during the Democratic National Convention in order to redirect US media attention from the nomination of John Kerry (see July 8, 2004). [New Republic, 7/29/2004] John Judis, who co-wrote the article predicting such an arrest, says the day after the arrest is announced, “Well, the latest development pretty much confirms what we wrote in the article, which is that there was pressure for Pakistan to produce a high-value target during the last 10 days of July and to announce that arrest.” He also asks why is it “they announced [the arrest] at all? Because when you have somebody who’s been in hiding since 1998, they have an enormous amount of information and contacts. By announcing this guy’s arrest, what you do is you warn off everybody who’s been associated with him from the last five or six years. You tell them that they better get their act together or they are going to be found. So, there’s some, really a lot of questions of why they announced this thing when they did.… It may be in this case that we—that we, and the Pakistanis got somebody and prematurely announced this person’s arrest in order to have an electoral impact.” [Democracy Now!, 7/30/2004]

Entity Tags: John Judis, Faisal Hayat, John Ashcroft, John Kerry, Husein Haqqani, George W. Bush, Al-Qaeda, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

Former White House counsel John Dean examines the idea that the government may postpone the presidential elections in the light of an alleged terror threat (see July 8, 2004), and finds it wanting. Dean notes that the idea of postponing the elections is bogus: “There is no such proposal. In fact, it is not legally possible because there are no laws giving the president, or anyone else, such authority.” A Homeland Security spokesperson has said, “DHS is not looking into a contingency plan,” and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice has said, “I don’t know where the idea that there might be some postponement of elections comes from.” As others have noted, Rice pointed out that even during the Civil War, then-President Abraham Lincoln refused to consider the idea of postponing the 1864 elections. Christopher Cox (R-CA), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said flatly: “Were we to postpone the elections, it would represent a victory for the terrorists.… The election is going to go forward.” Dean writes “that the Bush administration has completely disregarded the need to protect the workings of our electoral process, which is highly susceptible to terror attacks,” noting that large-scale, well-timed terror strikes could catastrophically disrupt the election process. [FindLaw, 7/26/2004] Author and media critic Frank Rich is more prosaic, writing in 2006 that both the terror alerts and the vague threats to consider suspending the elections are merely attempts to frighten and cow the American citizenry. [Rich, 2006, pp. 146]

Entity Tags: US Department of Homeland Security, House Homeland Security Committee, Condoleezza Rice, Christopher Cox, Frank Rich, John Dean

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

The Bush administration issues a terror alert in the wake of the Democratic presidential convention, which ended on July 29, 2004. New Code Orange alerts are put into effect for New York City, Newark, and Washington, DC. Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge says, “Now this afternoon, we do have new and unusually specific information about where al-Qaeda would like to attack.… Compared to previous threat reporting, these intelligence reports have provided a level of detail that is very specific. The quality of this intelligence, based on multiple reporting streams in multiple locations, is rarely seen and it is alarming in both the amount and specificity of the information.… As of now, this is what we know: reports indicate that al-Qaeda is targeting several specific buildings, including the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in the District of Columbia; Prudential Financial in Northern New Jersey; and Citigroup buildings and the New York Stock Exchange in New York.” [Department of Homeland Security, 8/1/2004; Washington Post, 8/3/2004] But Ridge fails to mention that the so-called “casing disks” are from 2000 and 2001, nor does he discuss the fact that the decision on whether to issue the alerts had been hotly debated by officials over the weekend. Within 24 hours, the age of the intelligence is leaked, causing a controversy about the merit and urgency of the orange alert. [Suskind, 2006, pp. 325-326] The next day it will be revealed that the warning was based on information from the computer of recently captured al-Qaeda operative Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan (see August 2, 2004). President Bush and his top advisors learned of the arrest and subsequent “turning” of Noor Khan just the day before. They decide to publicize an alert based on data captured with Noor Khan, even though doing so could jeopardize a sting operation launched just days earlier in which Noor Khan is contacting dozens of al-Qaeda operatives around the world (see July 24-25, 2004). [Guardian, 8/8/2004] But even though Khan was arrested just weeks before, one senior law enforcement official who was briefed on the alert says, “There is nothing right now that we’re hearing that is new. Why did we go to this level?… I still don’t know that.” Homeland Security officials admit that that there is no indication that any terrorist action was imminent. “What we’ve uncovered is a collection operation as opposed to the launching of an attack,” says one. However, administration officials insist that even three-year-old intelligence, when coupled with other information about al-Qaeda’s plans to attack the US, justifies the security response in the three cities. President Bush says of the alerts, “It’s serious business. I mean, we wouldn’t be, you know, contacting authorities at the local level unless something was real.” A senior counterterrorism official says, “Most of the information is very dated but you clearly have targets with enough specificity, and that pushed it over the edge. You’ve got the Republican convention coming up, the Olympics, the elections…. I think there was a feeling that we should err on the side of caution even if it’s not clear that anything is new.” [Washington Post, 8/3/2004] Former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean says he worries “every time something happens that’s not good for President Bush, he plays this trump card, which is terrorism. It’s just impossible to know how much of this is real and how much of this is politics, and I suspect there’s some of both.” But conservatives defend the alert and Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry swiftly moves to disassociate his campaign from Dean’s remarks. [New York Observer, 8/4/2007] Author William Rivers Pitt points out that Laura Bush and daughters Barbara and Jenna make high-profile visits to the Citigroup Center in New York City on the first day of Ridge’s new orange alert. Noting this was one of the target buildings, Pitt asks, “George W. Bush sent his entire family to the very place that was supposedly about to be blown to smithereens?” Pitt concludes, “Bush and his administration officials are using terrorism—the fear of it, the fight against it—to manipulate domestic American politics. They are, as they have every day for almost three years now, using September 11 against their own people.” [Truthout (.org), 8/4/2004]

Entity Tags: Tom Ridge, Taliban, William Rivers Pitt, George W. Bush, John Kerry, Joseph Lieberman, Al-Qaeda, Howard Dean, Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

Former president Bill Clinton questions the priorities of the Bush administration’s “war on terror,” asking why the administration is issuing groundless terror alerts “[b]ased on four-year-old information” (see August 1, 2004). He asks rhetorically, “Now, who is the threat from? Iraq? Saddam Hussein? No. From bin Laden. And al-Qaeda. How do we know about the threat? Because the Pakistanis found this computer whiz [Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan and got his computer and gave it to us so it could be analyzed (see August 2, 2004). … [W]e basically are dependent on [Pakistan] to find bin Laden…to break in and find the computer people and give it to us because we got all our resources somewhere else in Iraq.” He continues to ask why Bush isn’t focusing on bin Laden: “Why did we put our number one security threat in the hands of the Pakistanis with us playing a supporting role and put all of our military resources into Iraq, which was, I think, at best, our number five security threat[?] After the absence of a peace process in the Middle East, after the conflict between India and Pakistan and all the ties they had to Taliban, after North Korea and their nuclear program. In other words, how did we get to the point where we got 130,000 troops in Iraq and 15,000 in Afghanistan? It’s like saying… Okay, our big problem is bin Laden and al-Qaeda. We now know from the 9/11 Commission, again, that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with it. Right? We now know that al-Qaeda is an ongoing continuing threat, even though when I was president we took down over 20 of their cells, they still had enough left to do 9/11, and since then, in the Bush years, they’ve taken down over 20 of their cells. But they’re operating with impunity in that mountainous region going back and forth between Pakistan and Afghanistan and we have only 15,000 troops in that country.…[W]e would have a better chance of catching them if we had 150,000 troops there rather than 15,000.” Asked if the US could have captured bin Laden in the days and months after 9/11, he replies, “[W]e will never know if we could have gotten him because we didn’t make it a priority….” [Canadian Broadcast Corporation, 8/6/2004]

Entity Tags: William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, 9/11 Commission, Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein

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

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

At the request of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, President George Bush issues an Executive Order on the “War on Terrorism” authorizing the military “to find and finish” terrorist targets, including certain al-Qaeda network members, the al-Qaeda senior leadership, and other high-value targets. The order was cleared by the national-security bureaucracy. This gives more responsibility to the Defense Department that was previously given to the CIA. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005 Sources: unnamed pentagon consultant]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: US Military, Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

Three psychologists, Sheldon Solomon, Jeff Greenburg, and Tom Pyszcznyski, conduct an experiment on 131 students at Rutgers University. All 131 are registered to vote and say they intend to vote in the upcoming presidential election. A control group registers a 4-1 preference for Democrat John Kerry over President Bush, a Republican—an unsurprising result given the relatively liberal makeup of the student body. However, among the students who are subjected to so-called “mortality reminders”—subliminal flashes of the phrases “911” and “WTC” in between word associations—the preference is 2-1 for Bush. [Unger, 2007, pp. 318; New Republic, 8/27/2007]

Entity Tags: Rutgers University, George W. Bush, John Kerry, Sheldon Solomon, Jeff Greenburg, Tom Pyszcznyski

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror, Voter ID/Outreach

Vice President Dick Cheney says that a victory by Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in the upcoming election will put the US at risk of another “devastating” terrorist attack along the lines of 9/11. Kerry’s running mate, John Edwards, calls Cheney’s remarks “un-American.” Cheney tells a group of Republican supporters in Iowa that they need to make “the right choice” in the November 2 election. “If we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we’ll get hit again—that we’ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States,” Cheney says. “And then we’ll fall back into the pre-9/11 mindset, if you will, that in fact these terrorist attacks are just criminal acts and that we’re not really at war. I think that would be a terrible mistake for us.” Edwards responds: “Dick Cheney’s scare tactics crossed the line.… What he said to the American people was that if you go to the polls in November and elect anyone other than us, and another terrorist attack occurs, then it’s your fault. This is un-American. The truth is that it proves once again that they will do anything and say anything to keep their jobs.” Edwards says that a Kerry administration “will keep the American people safe, and we will not divide the country to do it.” Cheney spokeswoman Anne Womack says Cheney’s comments merely reflect “a difference in policy” between the Bush/Cheney and Kerry/Edwards tickets, and adds: “This is nothing new. This is nothing inconsistent with his views. This is an overreaction to something we have used repeatedly and consistently. This is something that both the president and vice president have talked about consistently, the need to learn the lessons of 9/11. He was not connecting the dots.” Later, Womack complains that Cheney’s remarks were taken out of context: “If you take the whole quote, the vice president stands by his statement. But if you just take a chunk, that’s not what he meant.” [CNN, 9/7/2004]

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Anne Womack, John Kerry, John Edwards

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

President Bush, campaigning for reelection, says in a speech, “And as a result of the United States military, Taliban no longer is in existence. And the people of Afghanistan are now free.” [White House, 9/27/2004]

Entity Tags: Taliban, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

On a September 30, 2004, presidential debate with John Kerry, President Bush says, “75 percent of known al-Qaeda leaders have been brought to justice.” But there is no evidence to support such a number. He uses this same number in other speeches around this time. In 2003, Bush’s top advisers typically said that more than one-third of the most wanted leaders had been found. Prior to the Republican convention in early September, the White House had claimed that “two-thirds” of the “senior al-Qaeda and associated leaders, operational managers, and key facilitators” had been captured or killed. But while the White House numbers were increasing as the November 2004 presidential election drew closer, the number of top al-Qaeda figures captured or killed remained essentially unchanged - Hassan Ghul was captured in early 2004 (see January 23, 2004). In October 2004, the Washington Post learns 28 of the approximately 30 names on a classified and unpublished “high-value targets” list of al-Qaeda leaders. Only 14, or half, are known to be killed or captured. (Other al-Qaeda leaders captured in 2004, such as Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani (see July 25-29, 2004), apparently are not considered important enough to be included in the list seen by the Washington Post.) [Washington Post, 10/22/2004; American Prospect, 11/1/2004] In 2008, it will be reported that, of the 37 people the CIA deemed the most important al-Qaeda leaders in 2002, only 15 have been captured or killed. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 280-281]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Al-Qaeda, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

In the 2004 presidential campaign, Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry accuses the Bush administration of allowing bin Laden to escape Afghanistan in late 2001 by not sending enough US troops to contain him when he was trapped in the Tora Bora region. The New York Times publishes an op-ed by Gen. Tommy Franks, the former head of US Central Command. Franks writes, “On more than one occasion, Senator Kerry has referred to the fight at Tora Bora in Afghanistan during late 2001 as a missed opportunity for America. He claims that our forces had Osama bin Laden cornered and allowed him to escape. How did it happen? According to Mr. Kerry, we ‘outsourced’ the job to Afghan warlords. As commander of the allied forces in the Middle East, I was responsible for the operation at Tora Bora, and I can tell you that the senator’s understanding of events doesn’t square with reality.… We don’t know to this day whether Mr. bin Laden was at Tora Bora in December 2001. Some intelligence sources said he was; others indicated he was in Pakistan at the time; still others suggested he was in Kashmir. Tora Bora was teeming with Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives, many of whom were killed or captured, but Mr. bin Laden was never within our grasp.” Franks is a vocal supporter of Bush’s reelection. [New York Times, 10/19/2004] Shortly after Franks’ comments, four Knight Ridder reporters who had been at Tora Bora during the battle revisit the issue. They discover that “Franks and other top officials ignored warnings from their own and allied military and intelligence officers that the combination of precision bombing, special operations forces, and Afghan forces that had driven the Taliban from northern Afghanistan might not work in the heartland of the country’s dominant Pashtun tribe.” [Knight Ridder, 10/30/2004] Author Peter Bergen asserts, “There is plenty of evidence that bin Laden was at Tora Bora, and no evidence indicating that he was anywhere else at the time.” Bergen cites after-action US intelligence reports and interviews with US counterterrorism officials that express confidence bin Laden was at Tora Bora. He notes that bin Laden discussed his presence at the Tora Bora battle in a audio message released in 2003. [PeterBergen (.com), 10/28/2004] In 2005, Gary Berntsen, who was in charge of an on-the-ground CIA team trying to find bin Laden (see September 26, 2001), will claim that he gave Franks definitive evidence that bin Laden was trapped in Tora Bora (see Late October-Early December 2001). [Financial Times, 1/3/2006] In 2006, former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will comment, “Yes, we know [bin Laden] absolutely was there.… And yes, he did escape. And Gen. Franks and the president can deny it until the cows come home, but they made a mistake. They did let him go away.” [PBS Frontline, 6/20/2006] In late 2006, it will be reported that the CIA possesses a video showing bin Laden walking out of Afghanistan at the end of the Tora Bora battle. It has not been reported if the CIA was aware of this video in 2004 or not (see Mid-December 2001).

Entity Tags: Richard A. Clarke, Thomas Franks, Peter Bergen, George W. Bush, John Kerry, Al-Qaeda, Bush administration (43), Gary Berntsen, Osama bin Laden, Taliban

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

Knight Ridder Newspapers reveals that a new CIA report released to top US officials the week before says there is no conclusive evidence linking Islamist militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the former Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein. The CIA reviewed intelligence information at the request of Vice President Dick Cheney some months before. One official familiar with the report says it does not make clear judgments, and the evidence of a possible link is murky. For instance, the report claims that three of al-Zarqawi’s associates were arrested by the Iraqi government before the Iraq war, and Hussein ordered one of them released but not the other two. The report doubts that al-Zarqawi received medical treatment at a Baghdad hospital in May 2002, and flatly denies reports that al-Zarqawi had a leg amputated there or anywhere else (see January 26, 2003). One US official says, “The evidence is that Saddam never gave al-Zarqawi anything.” Several days after the report is given to top officials, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld backs away from previous claims he had made of a link between Hussein and al-Qaeda, saying, “To my knowledge, I have not seen any strong, hard evidence that links the two.” It is widely acknowledged that al-Zarqawi spent time in Iraq before the start of the Iraq war, but he generally stayed in a border region outside of Hussein’s control. [Knight Ridder, 10/4/2004]

Entity Tags: Saddam Hussein, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Central Intelligence Agency, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld

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

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

A nationwide Harris Poll conducted among 1,016 US adults finds that 63 percent of the respondents “believe that Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, was a serious threat to US security.” Slightly less, 62 percent, say they believe that Saddam Hussein “had strong links to al-Qaeda.” 41 percent of those polled say that Saddam Hussein “helped plan and support” the 9/11 hijackers and 37 percent believe that several of the hijackers were Iraqis. 38 percent say that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction at the time of the US invasion. [Harris Poll, 10/21/2004]

Entity Tags: Saddam Hussein

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

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

In a two-pronged attack on Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, Vice President Dick Cheney and Attorney General John Ashcroft cast aspersions on Kerry’s ability to fight terrorism, with Ashcroft leaving the impression that God will withdraw his protection from the US if Kerry becomes president. Cheney tells a campaign audience in Ohio that one day soon the US might face terrorists “in the middle of one of our cities with deadlier weapons than have ever before been used against us,” including a nuclear bomb. Cheney says: “The biggest threat we face now as a nation is the possibility of terrorists ending up in the middle of one of our cities with deadlier weapons than have ever before been used against us—biological agents or a nuclear weapon or a chemical weapon of some kind—to be able to threaten the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans.… You have to get your mind around that concept.” Cheney questions Kerry’s strength of character and resolve to face such a possibility: “John Kerry would lead you to believe he has the same kind of view that George Bush has, that he would be tough and aggressive. I don’t believe it. I don’t think there’s any evidence to support the proposition that he would, in fact, do it.” A Kerry campaign spokesperson retorts that Cheney “has the audacity to question whether a decorated combat veteran who has bled on the battlefield [Kerry] is tough and aggressive enough to keep America safe.… He wants to scare Americans about a possible nuclear 9/11 while the Bush administration has been on the sidelines while the nuclear threats from North Korea and Iran, the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism, have increased.” Kerry’s running mate, John Edwards, notes: “You don’t keep this country safe by giving a speech. You keep it safe by what you do.” As for Ashcroft, he tells an audience at the US Chamber of Commerce that God has protected the nation from another 9/11-like attack. “For three years, our nation has been blessed,” Ashcroft says. “But the hand of Providence has been assisted by the dedicated men and women of the Department of Justice. In three years, we have compiled a record of achievement that is impressive by peacetime standards.” [New York Times, 10/19/2004] The New York Times will later chide Ashcroft “for suggesting that God had spared America from an attack since 9/11 because President Bush’s team was assisting ‘the hand of Providence,’” and Cheney for being “irresponsible” and “reckless” in “suggesting that a vote for Mr. Kerry is a vote for the terrorists.” The Times writes that a large “part of the government’s role is to maintain the highest possible level of credibility. Turning our fears about a terrorist attack into just another campaign commercial undermines this trust and makes us all more vulnerable.” [New York Times, 10/21/2004; Rich, 2006, pp. 147]

Entity Tags: John Kerry, George W. Bush, John Edwards, US Department of Justice, John Ashcroft, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, New York Times

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

Former President Jimmy Carter says in an interview, “President Bush has exploited the September 11, 2001, attacks for political gain.” He adds: “I think the basic reason is that our country suffered, in 9/11, a terrible and shocking attack… and George Bush has been adroit at exploiting that attack and he has elevated himself, in the consciousness of many Americans, to a heroic commander in chief, fighting a global threat against America. He’s repeatedly played that card, and to some degree quite successfully.” [Reuters, 10/25/2004]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, James Earl “Jimmy” Carter, Jr.

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

Several members of the National Security Council conclude that Osama bin Laden’s presence on the international stage is helping George Bush’s presidential campaign. (The CIA has apparently concluded the same (see October 29, 2004 and October 29, 2004).) Author Ron Suskind will write, “While the CIA glimpsed at the issue of bin Laden’s motivations and turned away, there were those who understood just how acutely this heated, global dialog—of ideas and message and the preservation of power, of us and them—was a two way street. On that score, any number of NSC principals could tell you something so dizzying that not even they will touch it: that Bush’s ratings track with bin Laden’s ratings in the Arab world. No one doubts that George Bush is earnest when he thinks of the victims of 9/11 and speaks of his longing to bring the culprits to justice. Yet he is an ambitious man, atop a nation of ambitious and complex desires, who knows that when the al-Qaeda leader displays his forceful presence, his own approval ratings rise, and vice versa.” [Suskind, 2006, pp. 336-7]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Osama bin Laden, National Security Council

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

The White House decides that the Department of Homeland Security should raise the threat level to orange in the days before the presidential election. The ostensible reason for this is an Osama bin Laden videotaped speech (see October 29, 2004). However, many in the administration, including Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge, believe the proposal to raise the threat level may be politically motivated (see October 29, 2004). In his 2009 book The Test of Our Times, Ridge will write: “The timing of the tape may have been a surprise; the content was not. Within the department no one felt it necessary to consider additional security measures or to call the Homeland Security Council into session.” The situation is different among White House officials. “A vigorous, some might say dramatic, discussion ensued” over the need for the alert, Ridge will write. “Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft strongly urged an increase in the threat level and was supported by then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.… There was absolutely no support for that position within our department. None. I wondered, ‘Is this about security or politics?’ Post-election analysis demonstrated a significant increase in the president’s approval rating in the days after the raising of the threat level.” Ridge will continue: “As the minutes passed at our video conference, we concluded that others in the administration were operating with the same threat information that we had at DHS, and they didn’t know any more than we did. And we concluded that the idea was still a bad one. It also seemed possible to me and to others around the table that something could be afoot other than simple concern about the country’s safety.” The administration chooses not to raise the threat level. Ridge will write: “I believe our strong interventions had pulled the ‘go-up’ advocates back from the brink. But I consider the episode to be not only a dramatic moment in Washington’s recent history, but another illustration of the intersection of politics, fear, credibility, and security.” He will write that the episode is a strong influence on his upcoming decision to resign his post and leave Washington. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 8/9/2009; TPM Muckraker, 8/20/2009; MSNBC, 9/2/2009]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Bush administration (43), Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft, US Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Advisory Council, Tom Ridge

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

Bin Laden makes his Towers of Lebanon speech.Bin Laden makes his Towers of Lebanon speech. [Source: Al-Jazeera]Four days before the presidential election in the US, Osama bin Laden releases a new video in which he addresses the US people and alludes to his role in 9/11. The tape was handed to an employee at Al Jazeera’s bureau in Islamabad, Pakistan, on the day it was broadcast. [MSNBC, 10/30/2004]
Bin Laden Had Idea of 'Destroying Towers in America' - In his strongest admission yet that he was involved in planning 9/11, bin Laden says, “Allah knows that the plan of striking the towers had not occurred to us, but the idea came to me when things went just too far with the American-Israeli alliance’s oppression and atrocities against our people in Palestine and Lebanon.” After likening the US and Israel to “a crocodile devouring a child,” he continues, “As I looked at those destroyed towers in Lebanon, it occurred to me to punish the oppressor in kind by destroying towers in America, so that it would have a taste of its own medicine and would be prevented from killing our women and children.” He attempts to isolate the US from other Western countries, pointing out that “security is one of the pillars of human life” and that al-Qaeda has not attacked Sweden, for example, because Sweden has not attacked the Middle East. “If the US leaves Muslims alone, they will leave it alone.”
Criticizes Bush's Inaction on 9/11 - Bin Laden is critical of President Bush and his inaction on 9/11, saying: “It did not occur to us that the commander in chief of the American armed forces would leave fifty thousand of his citizens in the two towers to face this great horror on their own, just when they needed him most. It seems that a little girl’s story about a goat and its butting was more important than dealing with airplanes and their butting into skyscrapers.” He comments that the Bush administration favors certain corporations and has mismanaged public funds: “To some analysts and diplomats, it seems as if we and the White House are on the same team shooting at the United States’ own goal, despite our different intentions.” He concludes: “I say unto you in truth that your security lies not in the hands of Kerry, Bush, or al-Qaeda. It lies in your own hands, and whichever state does not encroach on our security thereby ensures its own. Allah is our master; you have none. Peace be upon those who follow true guidance.” [Laden, 2005, pp. 237-244]
Speech Will Benefit Bush - Despite the criticism of Bush in the speech, most commentators think it will actually help Bush get reelected. For example, Time magazine correspondent Karen Tumulty says: “I find it hard to find any way that this helps John Kerry. What we’ve seen over and over and over again is that when terrorism is the topic, and when people are reminded of 9/11, Bush’s numbers go up.” [CNN, 10/29/2004] The CIA also concludes this is what bin Laden intended (see October 29, 2004). And on this evening, an aide brings up the new bin Laden video tape to Bush’s senior adviser Karl Rove, who is with the president in Ohio, campaigning for the election. “This has the feel of something,” Rove says slowly, “that’s not gonna hurt us at all.” [Draper, 2007, pp. 263]

Entity Tags: Karen Tumulty, Karl C. Rove, George W. Bush, John Kerry, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) says, “[Osama] bin Laden may have just given us a little boost. Amazing, huh?” He is referring to the videotape of bin Laden giving a speech that was released just four days before the 2004 US presidential elections (see October 29, 2004), and two days prior to his comment. McCain clarifies, “[The video] is helpful to President Bush because it puts the focus on the war on terrorism.” The CIA and other intelligence agency analysts also agree that the video helps Bush win reelection, and that that was bin Laden’s intention (see October 29, 2004). [The Hour, 10/31/2004]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, John McCain, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

A former CIA officer will tell New Yorker reporter Seymour Hersh that, in mid-2004, the White House began putting pressure on CIA analysts “to see more support for the administration’s political position.” But after Porter Goss becomes the new CIA director (see September 24, 2004) and the November 2004 election passes, a “political purge” of employees who have written papers that dissent with Bush policies begins. One former official notes that only “true believers” remain. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005]
'Creeping Politicization' - An anonymous former CIA official tells Newsday: “The agency is being purged on instructions from the White House. Goss was given instructions… to get rid of those soft leakers and liberal Democrats.” [Newsday, 11/14/2004] In 2007, CIA analyst Valerie Plame Wilson will write, “Employees’ worst fears about the creeping politicization of the CIA” are confirmed when Goss issues the memo about the agency supporting the administration. She will observe: “Although a CIA spokesman explained the memo as a statement of the agency’s nonpartisan nature, it appeared to be just the opposite. It had a kind of creepy Orwellian Ministry of Truth ring to it—further dismaying CIA staffers who believed the agency was rapidly losing credibility and power as partisan politics began to degrade its work product.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 212] Days after the November 2004 presidential election, Goss circulates an internal memorandum to all CIA employees, telling them their job is to “support the administration and its policies in our work.” [New York Times, 11/17/2004] The memo also contains a caveat that they should “let the facts alone speak to the policymaker.” However, an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times calls this mere “lip service,” and says the memo leaves “the impression that in the second Bush administration, the White House will run the CIA.… Goss has confirmed the worst fears of critics who warned he was too partisan when Bush appointed him.” [Los Angeles Times, 11/21/2004]
Morale 'Dangerously Low,' Many Senior Officials Leave - Plame Wilson will recall hearing from her colleagues throughout August, while she was on leave, “that morale was dangerously low, and there was a spirit of outright revolt towards Porter Goss and his ‘Gosslings.’ Everyone was calculating the benefits of staying or jumping from the fast-sinking ship.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 213] Such new policies inspire more employees to leave. By the time the purge is completed in early 2005, about 20 senior CIA officials will have resigned or retired. Only one member of the leadership team from George Tenet’s tenure will remain. [Washington Post, 1/6/2005] Newsweek says the “efforts at cleaning house may have only thrown the spy agency into deeper turmoil.” [Newsweek, 2/21/2005] Plame Wilson will write: “At least one thousand years of hard-earned operational experience walked out when our country’s national security needs were greatest. It was devastating.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 213]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Porter J. Goss, Valerie Plame Wilson, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Civil Liberties

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror

In a New York Times editorial printed one day before the presidential election, columnist William Safire implies that Osama bin Laden is trying to influence the American electorate to vote against President Bush and for his challenger, Democratic candidate John Kerry. Safire writes that bin Laden’s recent message to American voters (see October 29, 2004) proves that “his intercession in our election” has not yet been “as successful as his pre-election panicking of Spain’s voters,” referring to a recent election where Spanish voters repudiated the conservative incumbent and elected a more liberal choice. Safire says bin Laden has echoed themes from Kerry’s campaign, specifically Kerry’s frequent assertions that Bush has not been truthful with the American people, and says the Islamist figure “delight[ed]” in the anti-Bush film Fahrenheit 911. Safire says that bin Laden’s apparent calls for some form of reconciliation or an easing of armed conflict between al-Qaeda and the West is his attempt to persuade Americans that voting for Kerry will bring about peace in the Middle East. “Generals do not call for a truce when they’re winning,” he writes. “Only warriors thrust on the defensive become conciliatory, hoping that negotiations will give them time to regroup and resupply. Bin Laden’s vain hope seems to be that the defeat of Bush will give him time to buy or steal a horrific weapon as an ‘equalizer.’” Safire goes on to accuse UN arms inspector Mohamed ElBaradei of joining with bin Laden in trying to mount an “October surprise” to defeat Bush, and details what he believes is a conspiracy between ElBaradei, the United Nations, and CBS News to publish a story concerning US troops’ failure to secure explosive devices in time to affect the election. He says the New York Times refused to hold the article until October 31, as CBS allegedly desired, and printed the article a week before. Safire writes, “If Kerry wins, the Egyptian [ElBaradei] should be chief UN inspector for life,” and he calls bin Laden’s recent videotaped message “anti-Bush overkill” that will “help ensure the president’s re-election.” [New York Times, 11/1/2004] Contradicting Safire’s assertions, Bruce Hoffman of the RAND Corporation says he “agrees with those who see bin Laden probably preferring the current administration.” The Christian Science Monitor quotes a senior US intelligence official as saying that bin Laden released the videotaped message to help Bush’s re-election chances: “Bin Laden knows us well enough to realize that we will take offense at him, the most reviled man in the world, criticizing our president” (see October 29, 2004 and October 29, 2004). [Christian Science Monitor, 11/1/2004]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, CBS News, Bruce Hoffman, George W. Bush, John Kerry, United Nations, William Safire, Mohamed ElBaradei, New York Times

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Category Tags: The Politics of Terror, Media Coverage of Electoral Events

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