Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Condi Flashback

I'm just going to be covering ground that many others before me have. But, I think it's worth putting it out there again.

One of Rice's more interesting - and much mocked - statements following 9/11 was this one:

"I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center . . . that they would try to use . . . a hijacked airplane as a missile.

Now, this was ridiculous because of course plenty of people within the intelligence community and elsewhere predicted just such a thing. But, it's a completely bizarre statement because it's hard to comprehend why anyone would think to say it even if it were true. What distinction is there between a "normal hijacking" and hijacking planes and flying them into buildings. From the perspective of the intelligence community, how on Earth would this difference matter at all? From the perspective of domestic security, how would this influence the appropriate preventative measures at all? Aside from scrambling Air Force jets to shoot them down, it would make no difference that I can imagine.

Rice has now "retracted" that statement to the Commission. But, frankly, I'm still more than a little puzzled.

"She corrected (herself) in our private interview by saying, `I could not anticipate that they would try to use an airplane as a missile,' but acknowledging that the intelligence community could anticipate it," Ben-Veniste said.

"No reports of the use of airplanes as weapons were briefed or presented to Dr. Rice prior to May 2002," said her spokesman Sean McCormack.

If that's true, it's absolutely phenomenal. I would expect that the National Security Advisor would have some knowledge and input on the security measures being taken when the president travels abroad. From 7/11/2001:

Italy has installed a missile defence system at Genoa's airport to deter airborne attacks during next week's G8 summit, fuelling hysteria about looming violence.
A land-based battery of rockets with a range of nine miles and an altitude of 5,000 feet has been positioned in the latest security measure against perceived threats from terrorists and protesters.

Unidentified planes, helicopters and balloons risk being shot down should they drift too close to the heads of state from the group of seven leading industrialised nations and Russia.

Colonel Alberto Battaglini, of the ministry of defence, said the precaution was not exces sive. "The measure, which was planned by the previous government, may seem open to criticism, but in reality it is merely to act as a deterrent against any aerial incursion during the summit.

"They are little missiles ... which only have a deterrent function to discourage any aerial-led attack and they do not present any danger to the residents of the city," he said.

And, then again from 9/27/01:

Two months before the attacks on New York and Washington, Osama bin Laden may have been contemplating an aerial attack against world leaders assembled in Genoa for a G8 summit.
Rumours that the terrorist suspect planned to pack an aircraft with explosives and launch it at the Ducal palace containing George Bush have been given weight by the president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak.

He said Islamist suicide pilots were originally intended to launch an attack on the Italian riviera.

"On June 13 of this year, we learned of a communique from Bin Laden saying he wanted to assassinate Mr Bush and other G8 heads of state during their summit in Italy. It was a well-known piece of in formation," said President Mubarak.

On a state visit to Paris, the president told French media that Egypt's intelligence services had intercepted plans for "an aeroplane stuffed with explosives" to plunge into Genoa. A warning was passed to the US, he said.