Former CIA Director George Tenet has now said publicly what we have suspected for years: the Bush Administration–specifically then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice–was given intelligence briefings and warnings which specified that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda were planning “spectacular” attacks within the United States. These warnings, Tenet told Politico, were given months prior to the infamous “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” daily intelligence report.
Tenet and Cofer Black, who was then chief of the CIA’s counterterrorism center, confirm that they called an emergency meeting with Rice on July 10 of 2001 to warn the White House about the impending danger of a terrorist attack on American soil.
Beginning in May of 2001, Tenet and Black launched an initiative known as “the Blue Sky paper” and presented it to Bush’s national security team. The CIA called for a joint CIA and military campaign to end the Al Qaeda threat by “getting into the Afghan sanctuary, launching a paramilitary operation, and creating a bridge with Uzbekistan.”
“And the word back, was ‘we’re not quite ready to consider this. We don’t want the clock to start ticking.’”
Why? So no paper trail would exist in the case of any attack.
Black asserts that the Bush Administration was living in the past and had not adjusted to the new threats posed by Al Qaeda and Bin Laden:
“I think they were mentally stuck back eight years [before]. They were used to terrorists being Euro-lefties—they drink champagne by night, blow things up during the day, how bad can this be? And it was a very difficult sell to communicate the urgency to this.”
In July, after the CIA received even more confirmations of upcoming attacks, Tenet and Black demanded an immediate meeting with Rice. At the briefing, Tenet recalls that Rice was told:
“There will be significant terrorist attacks against the United States in the coming weeks or months. The attacks will be spectacular. They may be multiple. Al Qaeda’s intention is the destruction of the United States.”
Rice’s response was less than urgent. She asked:
“What do you think we need to do?”
Black responded by slamming his fist on the table, and shouting:
“We need to go on a wartime footing now!”
Yet after the meeting, nothing happened in the way of action from the Administration. Black remarked:
“Yeah. What did happen? To me it remains incomprehensible still. I mean, how is it that you could warn senior people so many times and nothing actually happened? It’s kind of like The Twilight Zone.”
Tenet was asked how he now feels in light of the failure to act in a way that would have prevented the deaths of over 3,000 Americans on that fateful day in mid-September of 2001:
“Well, look, there…I still look at the ceiling at night about a lot of things. And I’ll keep them to myself forever. But we’re all human beings.”