Campaign 2010

Apr 11, 2004

A Question to the Group

Kevin Drum over at Washington Monthly saw the same brief statement from the President that I did, and had a similar reaction.  I won’t go through everything he said, but he concludes with this remark:

By the way, my guess is that the entire reason the White House has been so reluctant to release the PDB can be summed up in two words: “New York.” The fact that the document specifically talks about al-Qaeda interest in “buildings in New York” probably hit a little too close to home for comfort.

Now here’s the full excerpt from the PDB he is referring to:

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.

Now Drum seems to be making the point that just the mention of New York has the potential to raise a lot of eyebrows the administration would not want raised.  But there is something stranger than that, which I want to put forth as a genuine, non-rhetorical question to whoever might know the answer.  The consistent thing I’ve heard this Sunday morning is that the PDB might have discussed hijackings, but it was first of all in a historical context, and secondly that it was regular hijackings, not “airplanes as missiles.”  Now the historical thing seems instantly dashed by the word “recent,” but my question regards the “regular” part. 

Do plans for “regular” hijackings include surveillance of “buildings”?

If- and I stress if - the answer is “no,” then it would seem that the CIA was, in fact, referring to “airplanes as missiles.”  Now if this was the case, I would even argue that the point was severely under-emphasized by the authors, as that deduction seems to have escaped everybody who has seen the PDB so far, and one could hardly blame the administration for missing the same deduction.

Unless the term “hijacking” had previously been assigned an operational definition that included “airplanes as missiles,” presumably in a long and substantial previous conversation.

U.S. and Italian officials were warned in July that Islamic terrorists might attempt to kill President Bush and other leaders by crashing an airliner into the Genoa summit of industrialized nations, officials said Wednesday.

These are just questions, but it does not seem they are being asked.  Anybody know the answers?

Update:  Ok, so I’m not crazy, and the Washington Post cuts straight to the chase in its front page, above the fold story:

President Bush was warned a month before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that the FBI had information that terrorists might be preparing for a hijacking in the United States and might be targeting a building in Lower Manhattan.

The other above the fold story is this:

Bush Gave No Sign of Worry In August 2001

Judging by the other coverage, I must not be the only one late to reading the Post.


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