Natl. Security Adviser Confirms Receipt of Terrorist Threats Before 9/11
July 7, 2008 - 8:28 PM
(CNSNews.com) - National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice confirmed Thursday that the Bush administration was aware of terrorist threats before last September's attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, but said intelligence indicated the attacks would take place overseas.
"There was a clear concern that something was up and that something was coming. But it was principally focused overseas. The areas of most concern were the Middle East, the Arabian Peninsula and Europe. There was very high concern about potential attacks in Paris, Turkey and Rome," said Rice at a White House news briefing.
Last August 6, according to Rice, President Bush received what she called an "analytic report" and not a "warning briefing" about terrorist activity.
"The most likely thing that it said was that they (al Qaeda) would take over an airliner and demand the release of one of their operatives. It was not a warning. No specific time, place or method was mentioned," she said.
The State Department issued a worldwide caution about threats to U.S. citizens on June 26, 2001. The FBI issued a domestic warning in July. Other agencies were on alert as well.
"During this time, the overwhelming bulk of the evidence was that this was an attack that was likely to take place overseas. The State Department, Defense Department -- were on very high states of alert. The (American) embassies had very clear protocols on how to button up," Rice said.
But "while there was much less reporting or chatter about something at home people were thinking about, the U.S. and the FBI was involved in a number of investigations of potential al Qaeda personnel operating in the United States," she added.
Rice said the intelligence agencies started reporting increases in terrorist activities during the early part of 2001.
Earlier Thursday, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush did not receive any information about terrorists possibly using commercial aircraft the way they eventually did use them on Sept. 11.
"The president did not receive information about the use of airplanes as missiles by suicide bombers. This was a new type of attack that had not been foreseen. As a result, a series of changes and improvements have been made to the way the United States deals with a terrorist threat," Fleischer said.
"Traditional hijackings prior to Sept 11 -- it might as well be a different word in a different language from what we have all unfortunately come to know about the post 9-11 world," he said.
The president himself has been silent about the story, but Fleischer and other top aides said the intelligence Bush received in early August of last year while on vacation at his Texas ranch was of a generic nature about hijackings.
"The White House is working with the congressional committees that are investigating the matter, and we will continue to do so," said Fleischer.
House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) on Thursday said he hopes Americans "will get all the facts" about warnings the Bush administration may have had about possible terrorist attacks before Sept. 11, and he raised the possibility of additional congressional hearings on the matter.
"We've got to understand what happened ... so we can do better in the future," Gephardt said at a press conference on Thursday. The goal is to prevent a terrorist attack from happening again, he said.
"Obviously the Congress has got to be involved in this, " Gephardt said. "We need the facts on the table. We need everybody to know what happened, again, so we can do better. People count on their government first for their safety and security ... There are still terrorists out there, unfortunately ... and we've got to do everything in our power to prevent, break off, defeat terrorists in doing what they want to do."
Gephardt said, "I don't know what information was there in front of the White House, the president, the intelligence committees or anyone else." Therefore, he said it is very important to pursue "knowledge for the purpose of preventing further attacks."
E-mail a news tip to Jim Burns.
Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.