Bill Clinton’s transition team warned the Bush administration about al Qaeda in 2000: Senior Clinton administration officials called to testify next week before the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks say they are prepared to detail how they repeatedly warned their Bush administration counterparts in late 2000 that Al Qaeda posed the worst security threat facing the nation -- and how the new administration was slow to act.
They said the warnings were delivered in urgent post-election intelligence briefings in December 2000 and January 2001 for Condoleezza Rice, who became Mr. Bush's national security adviser; Stephen Hadley, now Ms. Rice's deputy; and Philip D. Zelikow, a member of the Bush transition team, among others.
Hmmmm….recognizing the threat of al Qaeda and trying to deal with it before something catastrophic happened. What happened as a result of this?
We've known for years now that George W. Bush received a presidential daily briefing on Aug. 6, 2001, in which he was warned: "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." We've known for almost as long that Bush went fishing afterward.
What we didn't know is what happened in between the briefing and the fishing, and now Suskind is here to tell us. Bush listened to the briefing, Suskind says, then told the CIA briefer: "All right. You've covered your ass, now."
Oh yeah…..that’s right.
What else was part of that “Democratic pre-9/11 mindset”? Well, we can look back to Democratic President Bill Clinton and his actions (which didn’t include shredding of the Bill of Rights or extraordinary rendition or indefinite detainment of people with no charges or torture). This “September 10 mindset” included dramatic increases in federal spending on counterterrorism between 1996 and 2000:
Between 1996 and 2001, federal spending on counterterrorism increased dramatically to more than $12 billion annually. The FBI's counterterrorism budget rose even more sharply, from $78 million in 1996 to $609 million in 2000, tripling the number of agents assigned to such activities and creating a new counterterrorism center at the bureau's Washington headquarters.
Besides strengthening law enforcement, the Clinton administration sponsored a series of wide-ranging simulations that brought together local, state and federal officials to determine how government would respond if terrorists attacked with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. Clinton himself was reportedly obsessed with the potential threat of anthrax and other bio-weapons.
That is why, by the time he left office, scores of those planning exercises were taking place annually across the country. Spending on "domestic preparedness" programs rose from $42.6 million in 1997 to more than $1.2 billion in 2000. The foresight represented by those appropriations has given his administration's successors an important head start.
Wow….disaster preparedness for biological or nuclear attacks, including funding for 40 million smallpox vaccines. What else is indicative of a “September 10 mindset”?
And what happened at President Bush's very first National Security Council meeting is one of O'Neill's most startling revelations.
“From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go,” says O’Neill, who adds that going after Saddam was topic "A" 10 days after the inauguration - eight months before Sept. 11.
“From the very first instance, it was about Iraq. It was about what we can do to change this regime,” says Suskind. “Day one, these things were laid and sealed.”
Right. “Pre-emptive war”. That was also a September 10 mindset, and since we know that McCain totally supported Bush on the transcendent issues, we can assume that his September 10 mindset will involve invading other countries “just because”.
But let’s keep looking at what this “September 10 mindset” relates to. There is this April 2000 memo from Janet Reno indicating that counterterrorism is one of the highest priorities, and there is also a 1998 FBI Strategic Plan document which calls counterterrorism the Tier One priority.
And if we want to look at specifically what the “September 10 mindset” is all about, let’s take a look at September 10, 2001. We have a document from John Ashcroft, which is the official FY 2003 budget request of the Department of Justice that ignores the FBI’s prior requests for more translators, counterintelligence agents and researchers (see the FBI request from August 2001 here). Not to be overlooked is the finishing touches that then-National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice was putting on her “major national security speech”:
National Security Adviser Rice is scheduled to deliver a speech claiming to address “the threats and problems of today and the day after, not the world of yesterday.” The speech is never given due to the 9/11 attacks earlier in the day, but the text is later leaked to the media. The Washington Post calls the speech “telling Insight into the administration’s thinking” because it promotes missile defense and contains no mention of al-Qaeda, bin Laden, or Islamic extremist groups. The only mention of terrorism is in the context of the danger of rogue nations such as Iraq. In fact, there are almost no public mentions of bin Laden or al-Qaeda by Bush or other top Bush administration officials before 9/11, and the focus instead is on missile defense.
So now, after looking things over, maybe it is a compliment for republicans - especially ones that are so tied to the Bush administration policies - to be telling Democrats that they have a “September 10” or a “pre-9/11” mindset. It is clear who was focusing on terrorism and counterterrorism activities in this critical period and who was ignoring them.