Join Date: 05/13/2012
NY Times reporter: Bush White House didn't listen to 9/11 warnings
(CBS News) Eleven years after the 9/11 attacks, there is new information on what the George W. Bush administration knew about al-Qaeda's plans.
We learned after 9/11 that a presidential briefing paper in August 2001 was headlined "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S."
But Tuesday in the New York Times, investigative reporter Kurt Eichenwald says the White House received ominous warnings as early as May 2001.
CBS News spoke with Eichenwald Monday. He said, "What I've been able to see are the presidential daily briefs before August 6 of 2001. And they're horrific, and they are - our reports are 'an attack is coming,' 'there are going to be mass casualties.' The worst of them, the Pentagon, the neo-conservatives at the Pentagon, as the CIA was coming in saying, 'al-Qaeda's going to attack,' said, 'Oh, this is just a false flag operation. Bin laden is trying to take our attention off of the real threat, Iraq.' And so there are presidential daily briefs that are literally saying, 'No they're wrong, this isn't fake, it's real.'"
"CBS This Morning" co-host Norah O'Donnell said, "Then when a lot of people hear this, aren't they going to say, 'This is another example of where, not just the Bush administration, but our intelligence community dropped the ball. They failed to heed the warnings that were in a number of these (documents) that went all the way up to the president of the United States.'"
Eichenwald replied, "Actually, the counterterrorist center of the CIA did a spectacular job, and that's what really comes down. You know, in the aftermath, the White House and others said, 'Well they didn't tell us enough.' No, they told them everything they needed to know to go on a full alert and the White House didn't do it."
(Eichenwald also discussed his book, "500 Days," which chronicles the Bush administration's national security decisions in the 500 days after 9/11. Watch that portion of the interview in the video below.)
Eichenwald has stumbled onto a well-worn path, according to CBS News senior correspondent John Miller, former FBI deputy director and assistant director of National Intelligence, said on "CBS This Morning."
"We knew some of that," Miller said. "What he has added is the granularity of the actual memos and some of the actual words that were there in front of the White House and the National Security team. But, you know, Richard Clark, who is the national security advisor for terrorism, in his book, he said all the lights were blinking red and we were pushing this in front of Condi Rice every day and it was hard to get any priority on this. In George Tenet's book, he details the briefings they were given, so some of this we knew, and there's some of it in terms of the level of detail we didn't know."
But is al-Qaeda still a threat? Miller said the central command of al-Qaeda is "all but dead," but you "have to keep an eye on it." He explained, "It's still capable of being lethal on a small scale. What we have to worry about is not al-Qaeda central command. It's al-Qaeda-ism, which is the way they have marshaled the internet to find followers they have never met who can also do things that are lethal through this kind of inspiration."