9/11 - Can we talk about it?


In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the United States, many wanted to know if it could have been prevented and how the country would prevent further attacks. There was also a collective sense that Americans needed to come together, rather than cast blame anywhere but squarely on the masterminds of the attack.

That debate continues and did so on Morning Joe Tuesday on the 11th anniversary of the attack.

Kurt Eichenwald, contributing editor of Vanity Fair and author of 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars, argues that the Bush administration possessed but dismissed intelligence that such a massive attack by Al Qaeda was set to happen on U.S. soil in the months leading up to that September.

The intelligence demonstrated a “constant reiteration of, ‘There are people in the United States; they’re going to attack; there are going to be large casualties,’” he said on Morning Joe.

Eichenwald explains further in a New York Times Op-Ed, “The Deafness Before the Storm.”

The direct warnings to Mr. Bush about the possibility of a Qaeda attack began in the spring of 2001. By May 1, the Central Intelligence Agency told the White House of a report that “a group presently in the United States” was planning a terrorist operation. Weeks later, on June 22, the daily brief reported that Qaeda strikes could be “imminent,” although intelligence suggested the time frame was flexible.

But some in the administration considered the warning to be just bluster. 

Eichenwald also noted that Al Qaeda developed in the eight years that Republicans were out of office. “[The Bush administration] got this information and they weren’t looking at it in the context of these huge threats,” he said. “It was a frame of mind that was not unreasonable for them to have.”

Republican George Pataki who was governor of New York at the time of the attack disputed Eichenwald’s assessment as partisan.

“I just think this is incredibly unfortunate,” he said on Morning Joe. “On September 11 and for weeks, months thereafter, President Bush provided inspired, effective leadership. To look 11 years later and say, ‘Aha, this was happening in the summer,” and to go through and selectively take out quotes and say, ‘You should have done that, you should have done that,’ I think it’s incredibly unfair and a disservice to history.”

“I haven’t read your book and I don’t intend to,” he continued.

Eichenwald, though, argued for continued analysis of the day and the days leading up to it.

“We cannot say we’re not going to pay attention to history because that part of history is my party…[or] we can’t talk about it, we can’t learn from it because it’s upsetting,” Eichenwald argued. “It’s 11 years later. Of course we can talk about it.”


9/11 - Can we talk about it?