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April 09, 2004


Clay Ranck

Also, as Dr. Rice mentioned, the customs service was not on any heightened state of alert when they caught Ahmed Ressam trying to bring explosives across the Canadian border. The raid on Ressam's apartment led authorities to the other members of the plot. It was luck, not meetings in the White House, which prevented the Millenium attacks.


People (the ones who aren't on moveon.org's e-mail list) regard Drum highly?


Well, I do, and I am sure I am not alone. I don't agree with him that often, and sometimes he spins even harder than I do (no, really!), but IMHO it is generally worth trying to figure out where he is coming from.


Oh, heck, I couldn't care less if I agree with him or not....it's just that growing list of falsehoods that keep popping up as posts.....oh, well. :)


Clarke's "critique," exiguous and implausible to start with, was effectively retracted in his answer to Gorton: "no". As pointed out above, Ressam was nabbed by alert border patrol work, and Rice said INS reported it wasn't even on alert. Also, I believe the "threat spike" in 2001 was in the spring and was trending down by July -- not sure though. Wasn't aware that "other plots" were foiled for any other than the usual reasons -- intel and police work, mostly abroad. In any case, "urgency" would have likely had no affect on the 9/11 outcome, as Clarke's answer to Gorton neccessarily implied.

Admit that time forces triage in blog consumption, but after checking Drum (and Marshall) for a while I found them typically sophomoric on national security issues and haven't followed them.

Patrick R. Sullivan

The person who was working the chatter was Clarke. He had the #2 FBI guy alongside him on the Deputies committee (and he became de facto #1 when Louis Freeh left). According to Condi's May 2002 press briefing, Clarke told her he was handling things:


[Condi Rice responding to questions:] On July 5, the threat reporting had become sufficiently robust, though not, again, very specific, but sufficiently robust, there was a lot of chatter in the system, that in his morning meeting the president asked me to go back and to see what was being done about all of the chatter that was there. Andy Card and I met that afternoon with Dick Clarke, and Dick Clarke informed us that he had already had a meeting of the CSG core group and that he was holding another meeting that afternoon that would be focused on threats, and that would bring the domestic agencies into the CSG.

On July 6, the CSG core players met again because there was concern about -- very high concern -- about potential attacks in Paris, Turkey, Rome, and they acted to go so far as to suspend nonessential travel of U.S. counterterrorism staff. So this is a period in which, again, attacks -- potential attacks -- overseas were heightened enough that there was almost daily meeting now, sometimes twice a day, of either the CSG or its subgroups. Contingency planning was done on how to deal with multiple, simultaneous attacks around the world.

The period in mid-July was a point of another major threat spike, and it all related to the G-8 summit that was coming up. And in fact, there was specific threat information about the president. There was a lot of work done with liaison services abroad; in fact, the CIA went on what I think you would call a full-court press to try and deal with these potential attacks, and indeed, managed through these intelligence activities and liaison activities to disrupt attacks in Paris, Turkey and Rome.

On July 18, the FAA issued another IC, saying that there were ongoing terrorist threats overseas, and that although there were no specific threats directed at civil aviation, they told the airlines, "we urge you to use the highest level of caution."


Throughout July and August, several times a week, there were meetings of the CSG, reviewing information at hand. [snip]

Now, on August 6, the president received a presidential daily briefing which was not a warning briefing, but an analytic report. This analytic report, which did not have warning information in it of the kind that said 'they are talking about an attack against so forth or so on,' it was an analytic report that talked about UBL's (Usama bin Laden's) methods of operation, talked about what he had done historically, in 1997, in 1998. It mentioned hijacking, but hijacking in the traditional sense, and in a sense said that the most important and most likely thing was that they would take over an airliner, holding passengers and demand the release of one of their operatives. And the blind sheik was mentioned by name as -- even though he's not an operative of Al Qaeda, but as somebody who might be bargained in this way.

I want to reiterate, it was not a warning. There was no specific time, place or method mentioned. What you have seen in the run-up that I've talked about is that the FAA was reacting to the same kind of generalized information about a potential hijacking as a method that Al Qaeda might employ, but no specific information saying that they were planning such an attack at a particular time.


...it's just that growing list of falsehoods that keep popping up as posts

Well, Leslie Stahl had it wrong, too. My (possibly overoptimistic) theory is that, at least on these minor points, the truth is out there. I don't think Kevin is lying, just confused - I think people are more inclined to accept facts that fit their already existing framework, so where you or I would dig behind the Leslie Stahl story, lots of lefties would nod and say "Knew it all along".

Now, I don't expect lefties to stop hating Bush, but I am interested in gauging how much of their antipathy is based on fact and how much on fiction.

And I should note that the link to the Dave Niewert piece was left by one of Kevin's commenters, so even on the left the truth is available. Niewert attempts to salvage the basic theory by arguing that Moussai in custody (2001) equals terrorists with explosives and plans in custody in Jordan and the US border. I'm not convinced, but at least its debatable.

Patrick R. Sullivan

Well, it's declassified now,


and it's exactly as Condi described it. Nothing specific that could be acted on, and even those "threats" mentioned are being covered by the FBI:

" The FBI is conducting approximately 70 full field investigations throughout the US that it considers Bin Ladin-related. CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our Embassy in UAE in May saying that a group of Bin Ladin supporters was in the US planning attacks with explosives. "

Another example of the Kevin Drums and Brad DeLongs being out to lunch.

Patrick R. Sullivan

" I am interested in gauging how much of their antipathy is based on fact and how much on fiction."

The answers being, in order, 0% and 100%. Clearly they are engaging in circular reasoning. They WANT to believe Bush is evil or stupid, so they go looking for bits of evidence that reinforce their prejudices.


None of the bad things that happen under Bush are any of his fault.
None of the good things that happened under Clinton are to his credit.
It's all luck.

Makes perfect sense to me.

Still, the little pinko willie inside of me can't help wishing that we had some more of that Clinton luck these days.
Bad little pinko willie. Your thoughts fill me with shame and self-loathing.


I've forgotten all the good things under Clinton -- you mean Mogadishu, the embassy bombings, the Cole, Khobar Towers, the farcical diversion in the Balkans, the billions poured down the Russian rathole, or the sanguinary charade with the Palestinians? (we'll leave out Rwanda, though that and Mogadishu especially are more than partly on Clarke's personal plate as well, which is not much mentioned as part of his disastrous resume as failed "terror czar").

Terrorism policy -- or foreign policy -- is a discussion that Clarke or Clinton folks in general very very much don't want to have.

But back to the non-issue at hand. Admittedly I haven't bothered to trudge through the Niewert/grassy knoll "theory," but how does Moussaoui (about whom little interesting was known and whose laptop was famously off-limits, though it too had nothing very insightful) equal Ressam-nabbed-at-border (self-contained plot revealing nothing about anything else)?

The principals' meetings didn't nab Ressam. Having principals' meetings to fret over foreign threat spikes and possible explosive attacks in the US, plus vague ideas of hijackings for prisoner release (almost certainly also overseas -- doing it in the US would have been implausible) would not, in Gorton's phrase applied to different yet related matters, have had "the remotest chance" of preventing 9/11.

I don't see what's debatable here.


the farcical diversion in the Balkans, the billions poured down the Russian rathole, or the sanguinary charade with the Palestinians?

Isn't science fiction amazing.


I want to save this link to an old New Republic story about al Qaeda disinformation:


Patrick R. Sullivan

Max Sawicky connects the dots. And gets to an erroneous destination:


"Federal buildings in New York" and "attacks with explosives".

Not what happened. Condi was right, the PDB was useless.

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