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Some Questions

rummychertoffcondi.jpg

The whole did she or did she not talk with Tenet in July of 2001 question appears to have been resolved — as Andrea Mitchell reported on MSNBC, by the WH sending a squad of folks over to the National Archives to do a damage control search for pushback on the new Woodward book (and isn't that a switch from the last two fawning tomes where they were racing themselves to find a microphone to prop Woody's research methods up and talk about his burnished journalistic credentials?)…and finding that Bob Woodward's assertion that a meeting took place was correct all along. 

But that only scratches the surface on needed answers. 

Mahablog reports that Roger Cressey received the same briefing that Condi did, and he talked about it a bit on MSNBC yesterday.  Yowza.

And it turns out that it wasn't just Condi who got the briefings on the substantial Al Qaeda threat in July of 2001:

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and former Attorney General John Ashcroft received the same CIA briefing about an imminent al-Qaida strike on an American target that was given to the White House two months before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The State Department's disclosure Monday that the pair was briefed within a week after then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was told about the threat on July 10, 2001, raised new questions about what the Bush administration did in response, and about why so many officials have claimed they never received or don't remember the warning.

A thinking person might ask, "gee, wasn't that just two months before 9/11?"  Why, yes, it was. 

Three top officials of the Bush Administration…warned of a major threat by al qaeda…two months before US soil was attacked.  And yet, these warnings were not included in the report of the 9/11 Commission, despite George Tenet giving testimony about them because….what, exactly?  

Nor is it clear why the 9/11 commission never reported the briefing, which the intelligence officials said Tenet outlined to commission members Ben-Veniste and Zelikow in secret testimony at CIA headquarters. The State Department confirmed that the briefing materials were "made available to the 9/11 Commission, and Director Tenet was asked about this meeting when interviewed by the 9/11 Commission."

The three former senior intelligence officials, however, said Tenet raised the matter with the panel himself, displayed slides from the PowerPoint presentation and offered to testify on the matter in public.

Ben-Veniste confirmed to McClatchy Newspapers that Tenet outlined for the 9/11 commission the July 10 briefing to Rice in secret testimony in January 2004. He referred questions about why the commission omitted any mention of the briefing in its report to Zelikow, the report's main author. Zelikow didn't respond to e-mail and telephone queries from McClatchy Newspapers.

Clarke, the former White House counterterrorism chief, Ben-Veniste and the former senior intelligence officials all challenged some aspects of Woodward's account of the briefing given to Rice, including assertions that she failed to react to the warning and that it concerned an imminent attack inside the United States.

Clarke told McClatchy Newspapers that Rice focused in particular on the possible threat to President Bush at an upcoming summit meeting in Genoa, Italy, and promised to quickly schedule a high-level White House meeting on al-Qaida. That meeting took place on September 4, 2001.

Wish they'd been able to get a response from Zelikow, since he was the Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission and now works for Rice at the State Department, that would put him right in the center of all of this, now wouldn't it?

Froomkin has had some fantastic background on all of this — here and here

Is this all just more of the WHIG versus the CIA ongoing battle to see who takes the fall for the Iraq mess?  The NYTimes seems to suggest that is the case:

The dispute that has played out in recent days gives further evidence of an escalating battle between the White House and Mr. Tenet over who should take the blame for the failure to stop the Sept. 11 attacks and assertions by Bush administration officials that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling chemical and biological weapons and cultivating ties to Al Qaeda.

Mr. Tenet resigned as director of central intelligence in the summer of 2004 and was honored that December with a Presidential Medal of Freedom at a White House ceremony. Since leaving the C.I.A., Mr. Tenet has stayed out of the public eye, largely declining to defend his record even after several government investigations assailed the faulty intelligence that helped build the case for the Iraq war.

Mr. Tenet is now completing work on a memoir that is scheduled to be published early next year. It is unclear how much he will use the book to settle old scores, although recent books have portrayed him both as dubious about the need to invade Iraq and angry that the White House has made the C.I.A. the primary scapegoat for the war.

Well, this could get interesting. Last time the WHIG v. CIA mess heated up (see here and here), we got the Fitzgerald investigation, the Cheney mark-up on the Wilson op-ed, the peek into the White House push-back operation, and a window into Dick Cheney's behind-the-scenes machination drawer.

The White House has already had to send a pushback squad to the National Archives to dig up material that they had to finally admit confirmed that this meeting took place between Condi, Tenet and Black a mere two months before 9/11 — guess it wasn't so incomprehensible after all, eh, Condi?  Wonder what else will get coughed up this round?

…someone pass me the popcorn…

(H/T to Needlenose for the photo.)

UPDATE:  Paul Lukasiak has a couple of excellent points that I wanted to bring up from the comments:

1) It appears that this “brush off” from Rice (and Ashcroft and Rumsfeld) was what lead to the creation of the August 6 “Bin Laden Determined to Attack the US” PDB. Having gone to the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, and the National Security Advisor and gotten no action, the CIA’s only hope was to present (basically the same) briefing to Bush…. who brushed it off as well.

2) Rice wanted Ashcroft and Rummy briefed…. but not Powell? This is especially strange, given that Rice claims to believe that she wasn’t warned about attacks in the United States — Powell should have been in the loop, and Ashcroft less involved, if the operational assumption was that US interests abroad would be targetted…

Hmmm…more questions.  And I'd love to see someone asking those, wouldn't you?

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com

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