Reporter Kurt Eichenwald, author of a key book exploring the terror war, castigates the Bush administration in a New York Times editorial published Sept. 11, 2012 for covering up months of "negligence" that led to the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington D.C. 11 years ago.
Eichenwald claims that classified daily intelligence briefings delivered to President George W. Bush in the months preceding the attacks, only one of which has been made public, paint a picture of an administration already fixated on Iraq and determined that the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) warnings about al Qaeda were off the mark.
"While those documents are still not public, I have read excerpts from many of them, along with other recently declassified records, and come to an inescapable conclusion: 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 explained.
The one daily briefing that was made public (PDF), delivered August 6, 2001, was already damning enough thanks to its headline: "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." That document wasn't released until 2004, and then only under pressure from the 9/11 Commission, the formation of which the Bush administration initially resisted, favoring an investigation by Congress instead.
But even as shocking as that August 6 document may be, "for all of the controversy it provoked, is not nearly as shocking as the briefs that came before it," Eichenwald wrote.
"Operatives connected to Bin Laden, one reported on June 29, expected the planned near-term attacks to have 'dramatic consequences,' including major casualties," he explained. "On July 1, the brief stated that the operation had been delayed, but 'will occur soon.' Some of the briefs again reminded Mr. Bush that the attack timing was flexible, and that, despite any perceived delay, the planned assault was on track."
He elaborated on that point speaking to CBS "This Morning" on Tuesday, saying: "The worst of them, the neoconservatives at the Pentagon, as the CIA was coming in and saying al Qaeda is going to attack, said, 'Oh, this is just a false flag operation. Bin Laden's just trying to take our eye off of the real threat, Iraq.' And so there are presidential daily briefs that are literally saying, 'No, they're wrong. This isn't fake. It's real.'"
Eichenwald added: "In the aftermath, the White House and others said, 'Well, they didn't tell us enough.' No. They told them everything they needed to know to go on a full alert, and the White House didn't do it."
The negligence was so apparent that Eichenwald claimed high-level discussions took place within the CIA about letting certain agents resign or be reassigned so someone else would be held responsible once the attacks took place, but it wasn't possible because there was no time to train replacements.
The lesson, he summarizes, isn't that the attacks of 9/11 could have been prevented, but that they might have been if the administration were more responsive. "We can’t ever know," he concludes. "And that may be the most agonizing reality of all."
This video is was broadcast by CBS News on Sept. 11, 2012.
Photo: Screenshot via CBS.com.