This evening, 60 Minutes will air its discussion with former CIA Director George Tenet. In one exchange, Tenet elaborates on a briefing that he and his former aide Cofer Black delivered to then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in July 2001 warning of an “urgent threat” from al Qaeda. In the 60 Minutes interview, Tenet says this is the message he delivered to Rice two months prior to 9/11:
We need to consider immediate action inside Afghanistan now. We need to move to the offensive.
On CBS’s Face the Nation, a perplexed and stunned Rice said, “The idea of launching preemptive strikes into Afghanistan in July of 2001, this is a new fact.” Rice then said, “I don’t know what we were supposed to preemptively strike in Afghanistan. Perhaps somebody can ask that.” Watch it:
Note to Rice: The intelligence community was trying to tell you to take the action President Clinton took — that is, make an effort to kill this guy:
SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS (voice-over): By the summer of 2001, Tenet was alarmed by repeated, specific intelligence warning that an attack was coming. He asked for an immediate meeting to brief then national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice.
GEORGE TENET, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Essentially the briefing says there are going to be multiple, spectacular attacks against the United States. We believe these attacks are imminent. Mass casualties are likely.
PELLEY (on camera): You are telling Condoleezza Rice in that meeting, in the White House, in July, that we should take offensive action in Afghanistan now.
TENET: We need…
PELLEY: Before 9/11?
TENET: We need to consider immediate action inside Afghanistan now. We need to move to the offensive.
PELLEY (voice-over): In his book, Tenet says that even though he told Rice an attack on Americans was imminent, she took his request to launch preemptive action in Afghanistan and delegated it to third tier officials.
SCHIEFFER: So, what he is saying is that you just sort of brushed him off.
RICE: Well, it’s very interesting, because that’s not what George told the 9/11 Commission at the time. He said that he felt that we had gotten it. And, in fact, the very next day or the day after, Steve Hadley, hardly a third tier official, sat with the intelligence agencies to try and determine what more we could do.
We were concerned for instance, could we go after Abu Zubaydah, who might have some information. But the idea of launching preemptive strikes into Afghanistan in July of 2001, this is a new fact, and I will have to…
SCHIEFFER: Well, why would he say something like that?
RICE: Well, I don’t know. I don’t know what we were supposed to preemptively strike in Afghanistan. Perhaps somebody can ask that.