Sunday, July 18, 2004

Energetic Response to Cautionary PDB

The September 11 Commission describes the president's response to a Presidential Daily Brief warning of an impending al Qaeda attack as "energetic".
The president who took the threat seriously and responded energetically:  Bill Clinton.

A secret intelligence report prepared for President Clinton in December 1998 reported on a suspected plot by Osama bin Laden to hijack a U.S. airliner in an effort to force the United States to release imprisoned conspirators in the 1993 World Trade Center attacks.

The one-page declassified version of the President's Daily Brief (PDB) dated Dec. 4, 1998, contains chilling information the CIA had gleaned from several sources indicating that al-Qaida was working with U.S.-based operatives of its deadly ally, the Eqyptian group Gama at al-Islamiyya, in the hijack plot.

[The commission's report] will contain details of what the commission's executive director, Philip Zelikow, described Saturday as an "energetic response" to the hijack threat information by the Clinton administration, including its efforts to determine if the reports were true. 

Richard Clarke, who was White House counterterrorism chief under Clinton and for a few months under Bush, testified before the commission that the Bush national security team was not sufficiently concerned about the threat information prior to the Sept. 11 attacks. He has cited the 2001 PDB as proof the Bush team had reason to be concerned about hijack threats, but Condoleezza Rice, Bush's national security adviser, in her testimony, played down the importance of the hijack reference in that memo, saying it was based on "old reporting."

I'm glad Bill Clinton did not like to clear brush with a chain saw.