Former Attorney General John Ashcroft this week became the first Cabinet-level Bush official to attack the 9/11 Commission, writing in his newly-released memoirs that it “seemed obsessed with trying to lay the blame for the terrorist attacks at the feet of the Bush administration, while virtually absolving the previous administration of responsibility.” Given his record on 9/11, Ashcroft is the last one who should be lobbing attacks on others.
In State of Denial, Bob Woodward writes that Condoleezza Rice received a briefing on July 10, 2001 “showing the increasing likelihood that al Qaeda would soon attack the U.S.” According to the State Department, on July 17, 2001, Ashcroft “received the same CIA briefing about an imminent al-Qaida strike on an American target.”
Despite the accumulating evidence that he failed to act on these pre-9/11 warnings, Ashcroft told NBC’s Today Show earlier this week that he had never received any evidence of a domestic threat:
ASHCROFT: If there had been such a meeting that had taken place, with Ms. Rice, and she had been told there was a domestic threat — that that was the feature of the meeting — I’m surprised they wouldn’t have such a briefing for the Attorney General as well.
NBC: You never heard of any domestic threat impending at all?
ASHCROFT: There was a lot of talk about threats. The kind we had endured before. But when asked about is there any evidence that the threat would be domestic, the answer simply was no.
Ashcroft’s credibility surrounding the events of 9/11 has been repeatedly called into question. Previously, the former Acting Director of the FBI, Thomas Pickard, testified to the 9/11 Commission that Ashcroft explicitly told him prior to 9/11 that he “didn’t want to hear about” domestic terrorism threats anymore. Ashcroft denied ever having said that.
Now, criticism is being leveled against Ashcroft from a former Republican member of the 9/11 Commission, Slade Gorton. Gorton said that Ashcroft “may very well have been the worst witness we interviewed” because he was “very unresponsive and unhelpful.”