The Bush White House is in full-throttle spin mode, attempting to repair the President’s badly tarnished legacy. This afternoon, Fox News lent a hand in the effort to revise history. In an interview with White House press spokesman Tony Fratto, Fox anchor Jon Scott claimed that, prior to 9/11, “nobody was thinking” that terrorists could fly planes into buildings as an act of terrorism. Fratto agreed:
SCOTT: Back to the 9/11 attacks, which happened after all pretty early in this president’s first term, I mean nobody was thinking that there’d be terrorists flying 767s into buildings at that point. …
FRATTO: That’s true. I mean, no one could have anticipated that kind of attack — or very few people.
In fact, intelligence analysts had been warning for some time that terrorists could hijack planes. On December 4, 1998, for example, the Clinton administration received a President’s Daily Brief entitled “Bin Ladin Preparing to Hijack US Aircraft and Other Attacks.” The Clinton administration responded by convening its top counterterrorism experts and heightening security at airports around the nation.
On August 6, 2001, the Bush administration received a President’s Daily Brief entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike U.S.” The memo warned:
We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a —- service in 1998 saying that Bin Laden wanted to hijack a U.S. aircraft to gain the release of “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman and other U.S.-held extremists.
Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.
Moreover, the Federal Aviation Administration “had indeed considered the possibility that terrorists would hijack a plane and use it as a weapon,” and in 2001 it distributed a CD-ROM presentation to airlines and airports that cited the possibility of a suicide hijacking.
In response to that threat warning, the Bush administration did nothing. The 9/11 Commission reports, “We have found no indication of any further discussion before September 11 among the President and his top advisers of the possibility of a threat of an al Qaeda attack in the United States.”