Before 9/11, CIA knew ‘we were gonna be struck hard and lots of Americans were going to die’

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George Tenet was CIA director at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks. Cofer Black was head of the agency’s counter-terrorism unit. In a startling piece published this morning in Politico, they are much more candid than in the past about the warning signs that our intelligence community was picking up about impending major attacks on our soil, and the lack of action that was taken in response:

“By May of 2001, (Black told the interviewer), ‘it was very evident that we were going to be struck, we were gonna be struck hard and lots of Americans were going to die.’ ‘There were real plots being manifested,” Tenet told me in his first interview in eight years. ‘The world felt like it was on the edge of eruption. In this time period of June and July, the threat continues to rise. Terrorists were disappearing [as if in hiding, in preparation for an attack]. Camps were closing. Threat reportings on the rise.’

Two months later, on the morning of July 10, 2001, the signals of an impending attack had become so strong and insistent that Tenet and Black demanded an immediate meeting, that day, with the White House. It could not wait. President Bush was out of town, so the CIA met instead with national security adviser Condi Rice.

Tenet recalls what happened:

“Rich [Blee] started by saying, ‘There will be significant terrorist attacks against the United States in the coming weeks or months. The attacks will be spectacular. They may be multiple. Al Qaeda’s intention is the destruction of the United States.’” [Condi said:] ‘What do you think we need to do?’ Black responded by slamming his fist on the table, and saying, ‘We need to go on a wartime footing now!’”

“What happened (afterward)?” I ask Cofer Black.

“Yeah. What did happen?” he replies. “To me it remains incomprehensible still. I mean, how is it that you could warn senior people so many times and nothing actually happened? It’s kind of like The Twilight Zone.”

… there was one more chilling warning to come. At the end of July, Tenet and his deputies gathered in the director’s conference room at CIA headquarters. “We were just thinking about all of this and trying to figure out how this attack might occur,” he recalls. “And I’ll never forget this until the day I die. Rich Blee looked at everybody and said, ‘They’re coming here.’ And the silence that followed was deafening. You could feel the oxygen come out of the room. ‘They’re coming here.’”

Six weeks later, they did come here

That’s a damning, troubling and even infuriating account from actual participants in those events, indicating that our leaders had far more evidence of an impending major attack than we had previously understood, yet did nothing to prepare or investigate. But because it shifts historic culpability for the deaths of thousands of Americans away from Tenet, Black and others to those in the White House, we also have to acknowledge that their account is self-serving. Good historians will know to treat their words with caution.

But again, I cannot help contrasting the scale of the September 11 attack, the lack of effective response to apparently strong warnings, its history-altering consequences and the extremely nonpartisan way in which we handled its aftermath with the way the Republican Party has grotesquely politicized the much more minor attack on our consulate in Benghazi, where four Americans died. It has frankly been disgusting.

Even now, with this new information, I don’t believe that we as a nation would have been well-served by turning the attacks of Sept. 11 into a witchhunt against our own people or into a political bludgeon. It’s a matter for history, not politics. But imagine the circus we could have had, with high-profile congressional investigations not just into who was to blame for the attacks but also into the fact that the Bush administration misled the American people and withheld information about how much warning they actually had. Imagine the televised interrogation of Rice, with congressmen hectoring her about how the failure to respond had left the blood of thousands on her hands.

We wisely chose a different course.

Instead, we as a nation turned our attention to finding out what happened, preventing a recurrence and locating and destroying the enemies who had attacked us. We recognized that our mutual enemies abroad were much more dangerous than our political enemies here at home. That was the right response, the patriotic response, the moral response.

The response to the Benghazi attacks — justified by sanctimonious garbage about “honoring the victims” — has been none of those things.

Reader Comments 0

2607 comments
WoodstockMike
WoodstockMike

10 yrs later Bookman still blaming George Bush for 9/11.  The hatred inside Bookman to still think about this over 10 years later is astounding.  And his blog says nothing specific besides "we think there is about to be an attack".  Nobody knew specifics and if you think George Bush ran the intelligence community in his first year of office your'e an idiot.  Meanwhile the same day Bookman posts this piece ISIS murders hundreds of innocent people in France.  Today we know France also had some intelligence of the attackers.  So in Bookman's mind France should blame their leaders for the attacks.  Bookman you're a fool.

dreema
dreema

@WoodstockMike So Bush gets a pass for 9/11 despite clear evidence of his negligence, but conservatives are frothing at the mouth over Hillary Clinton? After millions of dollars of investigating, no smoking gun on Behghazi, but the smoking gun for 9/11 is laid at your feet, and you turn away as if it were somehow sacrilegious to question how 9/11 happened or Bush's actions afterward. 

Yes_Jesus_Can
Yes_Jesus_Can

When asked which enemies Hillary Clinton was proudest of she said "probably Republicans."  She's sleazy, untrustworthy and power hungry while corrupted "thinker."

Yes_Jesus_Can
Yes_Jesus_Can

Sorry to see that the saturday night PC 3 didn't and won't ever heed Jay's next to last paragraph above.  Jay is simply an idealist, a head-in-the-sand liar.  Democrats are incapable of naming the country's enemies--unlesss it's Republicans or Wall Streeters. 

Yes_Jesus_Can
Yes_Jesus_Can

There is of course, no way, the bookster could have known about the French attacks when he wrote such an insipidly pointless and stupid piece hours earlier on Friday, but fate has revealed him as the horse's end he is. 

St Simons he-ne-ha
St Simons he-ne-ha

From the 'wow, duh, who saw that coming' file:

the Syrian refugee passport 'found at the scene' was probably 'a plant.'

Now we know what they DON'T want. They don't want you to take the refugees, to give them an escape.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

@St Simons he-ne-ha

Fingerprints on the passport matched one of the suicide bombers.

Inconvenient truth...or clutter, if'n you will.

St Simons he-ne-ha
St Simons he-ne-ha

duh, planted by the perps. Come to the casino, we like your kind heheh

fedup52
fedup52

Looks like the European countries went to sleep on the terror threat like Bush did before 911

Yes_Jesus_Can
Yes_Jesus_Can

@fedup52 

Looks like the PC three on the saturday night short bus are well-equpped to fight American enemies in Wall Street.  Probably the islamic terrorists have little to worry about except Bammy's drone strikes--well, he is the murder by drone president, ya know.

fedup52
fedup52

Fox is in full tilt.  Lie, lie, lie, lie, and lie some more.

fedup52
fedup52

Manhunt For Paris Attackers Nets Dozens Of Suspects, Arms. Police arrested 23 people and seized arms including rocket launchers in 168 raids overnight............ Put those people on trial and found guilty life prison sentence and no parole.

fedup52
fedup52

NRA's ideal country "Caliphate ruled by Daesh ISIS".  Guns and more guns galore.

fedup52
fedup52

@FIGMO2 As long as cons and nutz running around free nobody is safe.  You people really hate liberals.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

@fedup52 @FIGMO2 

If liberals can be offended by words, alone, I feel sorry for 'em.

Hate is a wasted emotion. Liberals seem to have an abundance of it. 

Peachs
Peachs

You got to think France could have handled this a little better. Going from one country to the next in Europe is like going from Georgia to South Carolina.  

St Simons he-ne-ha
St Simons he-ne-ha

Let's see, how many anti-Murican Murica-hatin surrender monkeys we got out there today for not supportin our our godly war preznit?

Not many, good.

Peachs
Peachs

France says we have 5000 people we are watching many who have returned from the war in Syria.  They claim not to have the man power to watch all these people 24/7.  Instead of volunteering to go put boots on the ground why don't we send them some of our surveillance people, that are busy here watching us. 

St Simons he-ne-ha
St Simons he-ne-ha

yeah, and they are good, too.

They warned the Chimpy Mcabumblepants admin about our attacks, and already knew there were no WMDs

DownInAlbany
DownInAlbany

"The Islamic state has been contained."  Clueless or lying?  Take your pick.  Neither is good for our country.

Peachs
Peachs

@DownInAlbany in this country, the only one I really care about they have been contained, the bigger danger here are the nuts we have produced the last few decades that just shoot you for the hell of it. You even have em down in Albany...

Peachs
Peachs

@DownInAlbany @honested you should be giddy about this Downs they went after the liberal crowd in Paris, they hate them as much as you do!  The liberals in the US are safer than the ones in Paris, you need to work on that harder. 

DownInAlbany
DownInAlbany

@Peachs @DownInAlbany When you argue with a fool, you only prove one thing.  That there are two.  I will not engage you for that reason and that reason alone.

Peachs
Peachs

@honested @DownInAlbany any crazy person can get a gun, this is our problem, we aren't fighting uniformed soldiers, these guys spoke fluent French they were one of their own, the same problem we have here, we have produced a generation of nuts. 

Peachs
Peachs

@fedup52 @DownInAlbany @honested this is what the right plays for, they can't win with logic but when you have nuts in the mix they just wait for one to go off and then tell you they could have done that better when they are the ones supplying em with guns. 

Peachs
Peachs

One of the things we have in this country is a spooked population.  I noticed that American band in Paris took about two seconds to get the hell off stage and out the back, in this country it is in the back of our mind all the time.  It is not the terrorist it is the depressed citizens that now days not only commits suicide but takes a dozen innocent bystanders with him.  I would much rather be in Paris worrying about these organized assassins than our random nuts buying a gun, check the record and you will see what I am saying. 

Peachs
Peachs

This should make us more appreciative of no attacks in our country since 9/11, by foreign invasion.  We have these kind of nuts, in our country, that just go off killing people and not even labeling it as a cause, they are just crazy people with guns. You can stop a man with a cause, these people should have been on a radar, it is the nut who has no cause that scares hell out of me. 

fedup52
fedup52

@Peachs An armory in Mass got robbed.  Thieves stole a whole bunch of guns.  You know it will be used for no good.

Peachs
Peachs

@fedup52 @Peachs bet it was state controlled, we need tighter security on something like that. 

honested
honested

Have the 'Angry Christian Volunteers' left to volunteer in Iraq an Syria yet?

fedup52
fedup52

@honested Heck every frigging either deflect or got an excuse for not going over there.

Bill OrvisWhite
Bill OrvisWhite

The twin towers would be still standing if Bill Clinton did not take a vacation from history thus leading to Sept. 11. It was the honorable President GW Bush, VP Cheney, Natl Security Dir Condy Rice, Sec Def Donald Rumsfeld who had to make the tough choices to deal with the Clinton 'administration's' massive intelligence failures. You know what happened after Sept 11 until Jan 2009? Nothing. Do you know why? Because the honorable President Bush kept us safe. How did He keep us safe? He rightfully went after the jihadists, rooted them out and exterminated them. Unfortunately, America made a huge mistake by installing a failed leader who also went on a vacation from history by waving the white flag of surrender to the world. Today, we have jihadists running amok throughout the world quickly building a caliphate stretching from Benghazi to Teheran, back over to the suburbs of Paris, well into North Africa and beyond. Good night. Amen, Bill 

Peachs
Peachs

@Bill OrvisWhite if anyone thinks that Obama leaving office is the answer to this problem, they don't understand the problem...

honested
honested

@Bill OrvisWhite 

Have you been hiding in a box for the last few years?

Or do you prefer to invent a new reality every day to serve the voices?

gotalife
gotalife

isis will be crushed like aq.

I have no doubt.

We stand with France. Period.

Peachs
Peachs

@gotalife whatever happen to the woman terrorist who was seen going into Syria the day after they killed the cartoonist in Paris, 10 months ago?  

td1234
td1234

Looks like it is going to be up to GOP governors to protect us from the potential terrorist from being among us. 

td1234
td1234

@gotalife @td1234 Nope. MI, LA, AL and SC governors have all told Obama to do not bring any Syrians to their states. 

Kamchak
Kamchak

One more time....How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie-Roll center of a Tootsie-Pop?

Kamchak
Kamchak

One more time.....Can you hear me now?

JamVet
JamVet

These monsters will again have to learn the hard way.

From Shanghai to London, from Berlin to New York City, from Auckland to Mexico City, from Tokyo to Rio and from Tel Avi to Nashville this strengthens our resolve, as did 9/11.

Hang tough, Parisians.

Tonight we are all Frenchmen...

Kamchak
Kamchak

One more time.....Got milk?