Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 10, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

THE AUGUST 6 PDB REVEALED....The White House has finally declassified the August 6 Presidential Daily Brief. Here's an excerpt:

Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US

After US missile strikes on his base in Afghanistan in 1998, Bin Ladin told followers he wanted to retaliate in Washington, according to a ...(redacted portion) ... service.

....Al-Qa'ida 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-Qa'ida 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-1990s.

....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 is merely "historical"? I guess it depends on what the meaning of "recent" is.

On a similar note, Condi Rice's testimony on Thursday turns out to have been very carefully phrased indeed. She said the PDB "did not raise the possibility that terrorists might use airplanes as missiles," which is technically true, but it did raise the possibility that (a) al-Qaeda was interested in hijacking airplanes and (b) it was interested in buildings in New York. I guess that didn't raise any eyebrows in the West Wing.

Aside from that, what really struck me was that the whole thing was so short considerably shorter than your average op-ed column, in fact and written at about a high school level. This is an intelligence briefing prepared at the request of the president of the United States and he was apparently satisfied with it? Eleven paragraphs of pabulum considerably less authoritative than an average article in Foreign Affairs? Sheesh.

UPDATE: Here's a PDF of the actual document.

MORE: CNN's Bill Schneider: "I think [this memo] could be seriously damaging. What this says is, the White House knew what bin Laden was capable of planning, where he intended to do it, which was New York or Washington, D.C., how he was going to do it. There was only one thing missing, which was exactly when he was going to do it, which turns out to be September 11."

Kevin Drum 8:19 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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