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How Could Bush/Cheney Miss the Warnings of 9/11?

By       Message Burt Hall     Permalink
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OVERVIEW

Faced with the highest level threat in decades and severe warnings of upcoming attacks, President Bush, Vice-President Cheney and their national security team did not take reasonable and prudent precautions to protect the nation. The warnings were:

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A history of al-Qaeda attacks, a Bin Laden declaration of war, and expert advice that the al-Qaeda network was the gravest and most immediate threat to the United States.

An unprecedented surge of warnings during the spring and summer that a major catastrophe was about to befall our nation. These warnings came from three Heads of State and a number of other close foreign allies.

The warnings reported that (1) al-Qaeda intended to hijack our aircraft and use them as weapons and (2) al-Qaeda members were here in the U.S. planning the attacks and learning to fly.

From the outset, the President did not give the al-Qaeda threat the serious attention it deserved. As the threat grew and became more menacing, he made no attempt to prevent the attacks, or protect commercial aviation, or inform the public of the impending danger.

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Gross neglect of the threat and failure to prepare for the attacks had two adverse consequences: (1) it left our nation completely vulnerable and (2) made it easy for the 9/11 terrorists to succeed. Following the disaster, the President evaded any responsibility. Instead, he conducted a massive cover-up and allowed others to bear the brunt of White House mistakes.

The 9/11 Commission did not assess White House preparedness for the attacks, as required by statue. The Commission report focused on weaknesses and opportunities at lower levels of government and ignored those at the very top. The Commission's decision not to assess White House preparedness was never disclosed to the public or Congress. Its report omitted the urgent and specific warnings from Heads of State and our other allies. It also omitted a desperate visit by the CIA Director to the White House in July, when the warnings could not "get any worse", pleading for military and covert action now.

Discussed also are lessons learned regarding: (1) the consequences of disregarding a high level threat and personal responsibility, (2) how to remove politics from independent commissions, (3) the need to reopen the 9/11 investigation and (4) a suggested global strategy to reverse the threat of terrorism.

For a look at how the most advanced threat in U.S. history had developed into a clear and present danger, we begin with its emergence during the last two years of the Clinton administration.

TERRORISM UNDER THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION

The al-Qaeda threat escalated when, in 1998, Osama Bin Laden declared war on the United States and bombed two U.S. embassies, killing 224 people and wounding about 5000. Clinton became the first President to coordinate counterterrorism directly from the White House and have the chief coordinator report directly to him. The President responded as follows:

" More than doubled anti-terrorism budgets.

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" Launched cruise missiles at al-Qaeda training camps.

" Tried diplomatically to have Bin Laden expelled from Afghanistan.

" Gave the CIA a death warrant -- covert authority to capture or kill Bin Laden and his chief lieutenants.

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Burt Hall previously was Group Director, U.S. Government Accountability Office on national security matters. He served also on a congressional commission, similar to the 9/11 one, and with the Office of Management and Budget. He is a graduate of (more...)
 

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