An article in Tuesday's New York Times says the Bush administration was guilty of "significantly more negligence than has been disclosed" in their response to pre-9/11 warnings that Al Qaeda intended to attack the United States. That is the "inescapable conclusion," writes journalist Kurt Eichenwald, based on his research into recently declassified documents and excerpts of still-classified reports.
Bush administration officials have consistently claimed no one could have predicted anything like the 9/11 attacks. In testimony to the 9/11 Commission, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said, "No one could have imagined them taking a plane, slamming it into the Pentagon ... into the World Trade Center, using planes as missiles." Bush's Secretary of State, Colin Powell, made similar denials, as did former Vice President Dick Cheney.
According to Eichenwald's piece, officials at the CIA's Counterterrorism Center were exasperated at the White House's suggestion that they were inflating threats. Neoconservatives in the Bush administration reportedly told them that Bin Laden had successfully led them away from the real threat: Saddam Hussein.
On Tuesday's Hardball, NBC News terrorism analyst Robert Cressey said much of Eichenwald's reporting was old news. "A lot of what he said is part of the 9/11 Commission narrative," he told host Chris Matthews. "There were opportunities, there were certainly clues, and the intelligence community was very active in talking about a potential threat."
Writes Eichenwald: "Could the 9/11 attack have been stopped, had the Bush team reacted with urgency to the warnings contained in all of those daily briefs? We can’t ever know." But what we do know, he says, is "shocking."