Tag Archives: embassies

The August 6 Presidential Daily Briefing

I wrote this a couple of years ago about the importance of the August 6th PDB. I still like it. 

Bush working on his crawford mansion

No other document, in my opinion, reveals how clueless the Bush administration truly was prior to 9/11. This document is little over a page long, yet it holds some alarming information. First, read the memo. Now, re-read the memo and imagine that you are the President of the United States in August 2001. You are responsible for the well being of over 275 million people. Secondly, focus on the title – Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US. Now, in August of 2001, this was not common knowledge. In 1993, the World Trade Center was bombed, but it is not clear to me that the Bush White House (well, I’m really talking about Bush, Cheney and Rice) clearly understood the connection between Ramzi Yousef, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Osama bin Laden. US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya are bombed in 1998. Hundreds of Africans were killed. A third Embassy was targeted but the attack was thwarted by the Ugandan police. October 12, 2000, the USS Cole was bombed. 17 sailors were killed. We cannot forget the Millennium Day Bomber who intended to bomb the LA airport. Just because he was caught does not mean that he isn’t part of the picture. As a matter fact, the Millennium Day Bomber is probably the most vivid example of Al Qaeda (he trained with Al Qaeda) trying to come into the United States. It was due to nothing but a lot of luck and some skill that this plot was thwarted. The US Customs agent said that the Millennium Day Bomber was acting hinky.

This should be the most superficial knowledge that the president should have as he was reading the August 6th daily brief.

The seventh paragraph of the PDB should have sent chills up and down the spine of any American who read it.

Al Qaeda members – including some who are US citizens – have resided in or traveled to the US for years, and the group apparently maintains a support structure that could aid attacks. Two Al Qaeda members found guilty in the conspiracy to bomb our embassies in East Africa were US citizens, and a senior EIJ member lived in California in the mid-’90s. Continue reading The August 6 Presidential Daily Briefing

My problem with this latest terrorist attack

From its earliest creation, the no-fly list has been problematic at best. I don’t know how you get on this list. I also have no idea how you get off the list. It remains unclear who checks the list to make sure the people who are on this list should be on it. From my standpoint, I really don’t care who is in charge of the list and who maintains it just as long as the list is accurate. Five years ago, Yusef Islam, more commonly known as Cat Stevens, the guy who sang Peace Train was found to be on the no-fly watch list.

Now, five years later, we have a Nigerian student, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, whose name was on some list, but not the no-fly list. More than a month ago, this guy’s father went to the Nigerian embassy and told officials that he was worried about his son. I don’t know how often this happens. Maybe fathers go to embassies on a daily basis and state that their sons have joined radical sects of Islam. I think it probably happens rarely and would investigate it, but what does a trauma surgeon know about terrorism? American officials did little or nothing with the information. It seems to me that a rookie could take the information given by the father, a prominent businessman in Nigeria, and combine it with the fact that Umar Farouk was living in London, a place where we know several radical clerics live. It seems that that information, in and of itself, is enough to start an investigation.

This the same kind of problem we saw in 9/11. We saw the same lack of connecting the dots.

Abdulmutallab seems to have almost the exact same background as Osama bin Laden. Both have prominent fathers. Both grew up relatively well off compared to the rest of the population. Both went off to some foreign environment and got radicalized. This seems to be a pattern. I wonder if our intelligence officials have picked up on it.

Now I’m not a chemist. I did take two years of chemistry plus a year of organic chemistry. (I won’t mention the physical chemistry, since I really don’t remember any of it.) PETN is an explosive. It’s one of the key ingredients in Semtex, a plastic explosive. It is the exact same chemical that Richard Reid (the shoe bomber) tried to detonate. I have no idea how one would get his hands on something like this. I would figure that it is a relatively controlled substance. Can dogs smell the stuff? Can it be x-rayed? (If not, then why are we taking off our shoes?)

It seems to me that mob rule, which is what happened here when the passengers overpowered Abdulmutallab, isn’t a consistently effective way to control terrorism. Are we all going to have to learn karate before getting on our next flight?

Finally, Republicans are acting as expected. They are running around and pointing the finger at Barack Obama. Some have even stated that the Obama administration hasn’t taken the risk of terrorism seriously. This is of course utter nonsense. What the Bush administration could not achieve is now left for Obama to try to do — make the FBI and Homeland Security work for the American people. About two years, ago, I asked Richard Clarke if the CIA is working with the FBI in close harmony. His answer was “not really.” This is what we need.