Luckily for President Bush, he had five former top officials from his administration on the Sunday shows yesterday defending his torture program and giving him credit for the current President killing Osama bin Laden. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice started the game earlier this week by claiming the Canadians supported Bush’s decision to invade Iraq (they didn’t) and yesterday on CNN, she said there was a “unit” dedicated to getting bin Laden “every single day” during Bush’s administration:
ZAKARIA: President Obama did say that he felt that the capture or killing of Bin Laden was not a top priority when he took office and he moved it to a top priority. What’s your reaction?
RICE: Oh, it was a top priority. We wanted to get Osama Bin Laden every single day. And there was a unit at the — the agency that worked on nothing else.
While it’s impossible to know what level of priority President Bush gave to nabbing bin Laden, he routinely said, even as early as March 2002, that he didn’t “spend that much time on him.” But if by “every single day” Rice meant, “every single day until late 2005″ then she would be correct because, as the New York Times reported in 2006, that’s when Bush closed the bin Laden unit in order to shift resources to Iraq:
The Central Intelligence Agency has closed a unit that for a decade had the mission of hunting Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants, intelligence officials confirmed. [...]
The unit, known as Alec Station, was disbanded late last year and its analysts reassigned within the C.I.A. Counterterrorist Center, the officials said. [...]
In recent years, the war in Iraq has stretched the resources of the intelligence agencies and the Pentagon, generating new priorities for American officials. For instance, much of the military’s counterterrorism units, like the Army’s Delta Force, had been redirected from the hunt for Mr. bin Laden to the search for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed last month in Iraq.
And of course, President Obama ended to the war in Iraq and put resources back into getting bin Laden. “Shortly after I got into office,” Obama said in an interview on 60 Minutes last night, “I brought [CIA director] Leon Panetta privately into the Oval Office and I said to him, ‘We need to redouble our efforts in hunting bin Laden down. And I want us to start putting more resources, more focus, and more urgency into that mission.’” So actually making bin Laden a top priority seems to have worked out pretty well.