Six Years Ago Today

Ken AshfordWar on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

BinladendeermiendLarry Johnson, a former CIA officer and the State Department’s counterterrorism chief, had written dozens of PDBs during Bush 41’s presidency.  PDBs, he said, are usually brief and dispassionate documents.

But the PDB dated of Aug. 6, 2001 was a page and a half, and had a title meant to capture the president’s attention.

It was "the intelligence-community equivalent of writing War and Peace,” Johnson said.

Johnson added that when he read the declassified document, “I said, ‘Holy smoke!’ This is such a dead-on ‘Mr. President, you’ve got to do something!’ ”

But Bush didn’t.

[A]n unnamed CIA briefer who flew to Bush’s Texas ranch during the scary summer of 2001, amid a flurry of reports of a pending al-Qaeda attack, to call the president’s attention personally to the now-famous Aug. 6, 2001, memo titled “Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US.” Bush reportedly heard the briefer out and replied: “All right. You’ve covered your ass, now.”

During the entire summer of 2001, top intelligence officials — George Tenet, Richard Clarke, and others — were running around with their “hair on fire,” warning that al Qaeda was about to unleash a major attack. Bush, tragically, treated his intelligence briefings about Osama bin Laden as perfunctory chores that he had to endure. Based on the “covered your ass” comment, it was almost as if the president was humoring the CIA briefer.

And we all know what happened shortly after….