This morning, in the Fox-owned New York Post, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reacts angrily to President Clinton’s criticisms of how the Bush administration approached the terrorist threat during their first eight months in office. (The Post headlines the article “Rice Boils Over Bubba”) An excerpt:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday accused Bill Clinton of making “flatly false” claims that the Bush administration didn’t lift a finger to stop terrorism before the 9/11 attacks.
… “What we did in the eight months was at least as aggressive as what the Clinton administration did in the preceding years,” Rice added.
The 9/11 Commission Report contradicts Rice’s claims. 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.” Here’s how the Clinton administration reacted, according to the 9/11 Commission report:
The same day, [Counterterrorism Czar Richard] Clarke convened a meeting of his CSG [Counterterrorism Security Group] to discuss both the hijacking concern and the antiaircraft missile threat. To address the hijacking warning, the group agreed that New York airports should go to maximum security starting that weekend. They agreed to boost security at other East coast airports. The CIA agreed to distribute versions of the report to the FBI and FAA to pass to the New York Police Department and the airlines. The FAA issued a security directive on December 8, with specific requirements for more intensive air carrier screening of passengers and more oversight of the screening process, at all three New York area airports. [pg. 128–30]
On August 6, 2001, the Bush administration received a President’s Daily Brief entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike U.S.” Here’s how the Bush administration reacted, according to the 9/11 Commission report:
[President Bush] did not recall discussing the August 6 report with the Attorney General or whether Rice had done so.[p. 260]
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. DCI Tenet visited President Bush in Crawford, Texas, on August 17 and participated in the PDB briefings of the President between August 31 (after the President had returned to Washington) and September 10. But Tenet does not recall any discussions with the President of the domestic threat during this period. [p. 262]
Rice acknowledged that the 9/11 Commission report is the authoratative source on this debate: “I think this is not a very fruitful discussion. We’ve been through it. The 9/11 commission has turned over every rock and we know exactly what they said.”