Documents show the U.S. was given more warnings about potential terrorist attacks in the weeks leading up to 9/11, writes Vanity Fair contributing editor Kurt Eichenwald in a New York Times op-ed.
The documents predate the presidential daily briefing on Aug. 6, 2001, which said, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”
“The administration’s reaction to what Mr. Bush was told in the weeks before that infamous briefing reflected significantly more negligence than has been disclosed,” he wrote. “In other words, the Aug. 6 document, for all of the controversy it provoked, is not nearly as shocking as the briefs that came before it.”
The direct warnings to Bush, he writes, date back to the spring of 2001. On May 1, the CIA told the White House that there was “a group presently in the United States” that was planning an attack. On June 22, a daily briefing described the attack as "imminent." Administration officials, however, dismissed the warnings, saying that Osama bin Laden was merely feigning an attack to distract the U.S. from efforts against Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
“Intelligence officials, these sources said, protested that the idea of Bin Laden, an Islamic fundamentalist, conspiring with Mr. Hussein, an Iraqi secularist, was ridiculous, but the neoconservatives’ suspicions were nevertheless carrying the day,” Eichenwald wrote. “In response, the CIA prepared an analysis that all but pleaded with the White House to accept that the danger from Bin Laden was real.”
Briefings on June 29, July 1, and July 24 carried similar warnings. On July 9, Eichenwald writes, one official suggested staff members of the CIA Counterterrorism Center “put in for a transfer so that somebody else would be responsible when the attack took place.”
“[The Bush administration] got this information and they weren't looking at it in the context of here's this huge threat that's developed,” Eichenwald said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “Look at what the Pentagon said, ‘What's the nation state that's backing them? Oh, we think it's Iraq.’ And so, it was a frame of mind that was not unreasonable for them to have because they hadn't been getting the intelligence until very recently about the evolution and change of al-Qaida.”
Eichenwald, however, was criticized by former New York Gov. George Pataki, a Republican, for writing the piece.
“I think this is incredibly unfortunate,” he said on Morning Joe, adding that, "I think is incredibly unfair and a disservice to history.”
Eichenwald wrote a book, “500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars,” describing the intelligence briefings and actions taken by the Bush administration before and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.