I wrote this a couple of years ago about the importance of the August 6th PDB. I still like it.
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.
Never before have I seen any evidence that the FBI or the CIA thought that Al Qaeda had members here in United States. If I were president, I would want the FBI director to explain how come we haven’t located these Al Qaeda members. Where are they? What are they doing? Who are they with? Can we arrest them? I would pepper the FBI director with questions until he had answers.
The first paragraph of the second page reads:
Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.
This paragraph should elicit one of two responses. First, if you’re not taking Al Qaeda seriously, there’s nothing specific in this paragraph, so you can just ignore it. Let the FBI and CIA and other agencies do their jobs at their usual pace. On the other hand, you can remember that you’re responsible for the safety of millions of Americans. You can ask the FBI what kind of suspicious activities they have been seeing. You can ask your national security advisor to alert the FAA. You can also call the governor/mayor of New York and inform them of suspicious activities. You can ask them to have their state and local authorities look for suspicious activities.
Now, if President Bush was truly on the ball and had really studied all the information he been given, he would’ve known about not one but several different plans to hijack planes and use them as missiles. What if President Bush had called the head of the FAA and his national security advisor and the heads of the FBI and CIA down to Crawford after his August sixth daily brief? What if he told the head of the FAA that the FBI has information that suggested that Al Qaeda was preparing for hijacking of one or more planes here in the United States. Could that warning have saved lives? Could the FAA have done enough to have prevented the hijackings?
I know that it is far-fetched to think that President Bush would have been this in charge and on the ball that early in his presidency. I fault him for being so complacent, so nonchalant. On August sixth, we needed a president that was engaged, cerebral, who studied information that he’d been given and who took his job as president as seriously as he did after the September 11 attacks. (If you are interested in reading the spin that the Bush White House put on the PDB check this out.)
What your thoughts? Is the August sixth presidential daily brief as big a deal as I’m making it?