Bush Ignored Terrorism
Before 911 - Public Record
The Daily Mis-Lead

In the face of Richard Clarke's well-documented testimony to the 9/11 commission yesterday, the White House is continuing to say that it made counterterrorism its top priority upon coming into office in January 2001. White House spokesman Scott McClellan, echoing similar comments from top Administration officials, said that "this Administration made going after Al Qaida a top priority from very early on" in the face of increased terror warnings before 9/11.[1] But, according to the public record, the Administration made counterterrorism such a "top priority" that it never once convened its task force on counterterrorism before 9/11, attempted to downgrade counterterrorism at the Justice Department, and held only two out of more than one hundred national security meetings on the issue of terrorism. Meanwhile, the White House was cutting key counterterrorism programs -- Bush himself admitted that he "didn't feel the sense of urgency" about terrorism before 9/11.[2]
According to the Washington Post, President Bush and Vice President Cheney never once convened the counterterrorism task force that was established in May 2001[3] -- despite repeated warnings that Al Qaida could be planning to hijack airplanes and use them as missiles. This negligence came at roughly the same time that the Vice President held at least 10 meetings of his Energy Task Force[4] and attended at least six meetings with Enron executives.[5]
Similarly, Newsweek reported that internal government documents show that, before 9/11, the Bush Administration moved to "de-emphasize" counterterrorism.[6] When the "FBI officials sought to add hundreds more counterintelligence agents" to deal with the problem, "they got shot down" by the White House.
Additionally, the Associated Press reported in 2002 that "President Bush's national security leadership met formally nearly 100 times in the months prior to the Sept. 11 attacks yet terrorism was the topic during only two of those sessions." This is consistent with evidence Clarke has presented showing that his January 2001 "urgent" memo asking for a meeting of top officials on the imminent Al Qaida threat was rejected for almost eight months.[7] At the time, the White House said that they simply "did not need to have a formal meeting to discuss the threat".[8]
Finally, the White House threatened to veto efforts putting more money into counterterrorism,[9] tried to cut funding for counterterrorism grants,[10] delayed arming the unmanned airplanes[11] that had spotted bin Laden in Afghanistan, and terminated "a highly classified program to monitor Al Qaida suspects in the United States.[12]
1. Press Briefing Scott McClellan, 03/22/2004.
2. The George W. Bush Presidency: An Early Assessment,
3. Statement by the President, 05/08/2001.
4. Process Used to Develop the National Energy Policy,
US General Accounting Office.
5. "Cheney: We Met With Enron Execs", ABC News,
6. Freedom of Information Center, 05/27/2002.
7. "Clarke's Take On Terror", CBS News, 03/21/2004.
8. "White House Rebuttal to Clarke Interview",
Washington Post, 03/22/2004.
9. Freedom of Information Center, 05/27/2002.
10. "FBI Budget Squeezed After 9/11", Washington Post,
11. "Officials: U.S. missed chance to kill bin Laden",
Helena Independent Record, 06/25/2003.
12. "In the Months Before 9/11, Justice Department
Curtailed Highly Classified Program to Monitor Al
Qaeda Suspects in the U.S.", PR Newswire, 03/21/2004.



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