Monday, January 16, 2006

What did the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Brief actually say?

Much continues to be made of the August 6, 2001 PDB, but what was really actionable in that briefing?

There is the ominous sounding title.

Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US

I'm pretty sure everyone knew that already, but if they didn't they would probably expect this to be a much more informative document.

After six paragraphs of historical recaps we get to the heart of what our friends on the left claim is the smoking gun that President Bush was ignoring the threat.

A clandestine source said in 1998 that a Bin Ladin cell in New York was recruiting Muslim-American youth for attacks.

We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a [deleted text] service in 1998 saying that Bin Ladin wanted to hijack a US aircraft to gain the release of "Blind Shaykh" 'Umar' Abd aI-Rahman and other US-held extremists.

Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.

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 the UAE in May saying that a group of Bin Ladin supporters was in the US planning attackswith explosives.

OK all the right buzzwords are there, but what do you do?

The first excerpt above (paragraph 7 in the briefing) gives a very generic description "Muslim/American Youths", so do we set up internment camps for Muslim/American youths? Wiretap and search them all, civil liberties be damned?

No, there isn't anything there to work with.

The next paragraph seems to suggest a hijacking for the purpose of a hostage for prisoner swap and while it says a US aircraft it doesn't suggest, nor would common sense dictate, that a hijacking for this purpose would be done in the US.

Paragraph nine (third excerpt) has all the proof the left needs to hang President Bush for 9/11. After all it has the words hijacking, buildings, and New York in it, so why wasn't this attack prevented?

The possibility of hijacking does now sound like it might be a domestic plan, but it still leaves the goal as a hostage/prisoner swap. Federal buildings in New York doesn't exactly pin down the plot or the targets and in this briefing New York refers to the State. A fair reading of this paragraph couldn't possible be, "see it says right there planes are being hijacked to fly into the World Trade Center buildings".

The next argument is usually along the lines of "well even if it wasn't specific why didn't President Bush do something?" OK, let's look at the last paragraph. Does 70 full field, Bin Ladin-related, FBI investigations really sound like nothing?

I can imagine the conversation at the briefing:

President Bush: What are we doing about these threats?

Briefer: Sir, we have 70 full field investigations into these issues.

President Bush: Do they have the tools and manpower to do their job?

Briefer: Yes Sir.

A few weeks later we tragically found out that our focus had been wrong, nothing in that August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing could have changed that.

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