Former US President George W. Bush was given a series of direct warnings throughout 2001 about the possibility of a terrorist attack by Al Qaeda – but failed to take them seriously, it was claimed today.
On the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, it has been reported that the White House received multiple briefs between May and August 2001 about an attack with explosives and numerous casualties.
But George W. Bush continually failed to take any significant action and questioned the thoroughness of the briefings – leading to huge frustrations within the CIA.
These repeated warnings came before the famous top secret briefing – which has previously been reported – given to George Bush on August 6 with the heading “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the U.S.”.
Just a few weeks later on September 11, terrorists smashed planes into the World Trade Center in New York City – killing nearly 3,000 people and horrifying the world.
Details of the other briefings given to George W. Bush and his administration – which have never been made public – have now been revealed by The New York Times.
And they paint a startling picture of negligence at the heart of the U.S. government before 9/11.
The White House was made aware of potential attacks in the spring and, by May 1, was told by the CIA that “a group presently in the United States” was planning a terrorist attack, the Times reported.
In another daily brief on June 22, the administration was told that Al Qaeda strikes could be “imminent”.
President George W. Bush was given a series of direct warnings throughout 2001 about the possibility of a terrorist attack by Al Qaeda
However, the new neoconservative leaders at the Pentagon told the White House that the CIA had been fooled.
They believed that Osama Bin Laden was pretending to plan an attack to distract the U.S. from Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
Following this, the CIA prepared another daily brief for June 29 in which they listed over a page the evidence which they had built up.
This included an interview with a journalist from the Middle East in which aides of Bin Laden warned of an upcoming attack.
The briefing also included: “The U.S. is not the target of a disinformation campaign by Usama Bin Laden.”
It also included details from people close to Osama Bin Laden which claimed the expected attacks would have dramatic consequences with many casualties.
Another warning on July 1 said despite the attack being delayed it would soon take place.
But despite these warnings the White House did not appear to take them as seriously as the CIA was demanding.
The Times reports that officials within the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center became increasingly angry and in one meeting an official suggested the staff request a transfer so they could not be blamed when the attack occurred.
The White House was also told that the extremist Ibn Al-Khattab – known for his links to Al Qaeda – told his followers in Chechnya that there would “be big news soon”, the Times reported.
George W. Bush was told on July 24 that the attack was still being prepared but added that it had been postponed by a few months. However, he did not think the briefings were adequate and requested a much more detailed analysis of Al Qaeda.
This was to be the famous briefing of August 6 which was eventually declassified by the White House in April 2004 and made public.
“The administration’s reaction to what Mr. Bush was told in the weeks before that infamous briefing reflected significantly more negligence than has been disclosed,” Kurt Eichenwald wrote in the piece for the New York Times.
“In other words, the August 6 document, for all of the controversy it provoked, is not nearly as shocking as the briefs that came before it.”
Following the devastating attacks on 9/11, the White House – which was receiving criticism it had ignored CIA warnings – said it had never been told when or where the attacks would take place.
Yet many have claimed that if the government had been on high security alert over that summer they may have found out about the planned attack – and saved the lives of thousands.
Yet George Pataki, New York state governor on 9/11, laid into Eichenwald during a joint appearance on MSNBC for writing the New York Times article about the briefings.
“I just think this is incredibly unfortunate, to be perfectly honest. Because first of all, having been there, on September 11th and for weeks, months thereafter President Bush provided inspired, effective leadership,” George Pataki, a Republican, said.
“On September 11th everything changed and to look 11 years later and say, <<Aha, this was happening before September 11th in the summer>> and go though and selectively say, <<You should’ve done that, you should’ve done that>> I think is incredibly unfair and a disservice to history.
“And by the way if you look back there are those who could have said that President Roosevelt was at fault for Pearl Harbor. But the government didn’t look back and say, <<let’s blame the President>>; we came together to fight an important war.”
IGNORED WARNINGS: THE CIA BRIEFS ABOUT AL QAEDA ATTACK
May 1, 2001 CIA told White House that “a group presently in the United States” was planning a terrorist operation “with explosives”
June 22, 2001 CIA brief reported that Al Qaeda attacks could be “imminent”
June 29, 2001 Warning that the government needed to take briefs seriously. Added evidence included Osama Bin Laden aides warning of an attack and operatives claiming it would have “dramatic consequences”
July 1, 2001 Brief said the operation had been delayed but “will occur soon”
July 9, 2001 Extremist in Chechnya linked to Al Qaeda told followers there would soon be big news – and within 48 hours the information was passed to the White House
July 24, 2001 George W. Bush told the attack was still under preparation but that it had been postponed
August 6, 2001 George W. Bush received review of threats posed by Al Qaeda with headline: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”
President Barack Obama has marked the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, saying the US emerged “even stronger” from that day’s death and horror.
In New York, relatives are reading out the names of those killed when hijacked jets were crashed at the World Trade Center, Washington and Pennsylvania.
Barack Obama laid a wreath at the Pentagon and Vice-President Joe Biden is expected to speak at Shanksville.
For the first time, politicians will not address the ceremony in New York.
At the Pentagon, Barack Obama addressed survivors of the attacks and relatives of those killed. He told them their loved ones would never be forgotten, and that the dead had “helped us make the America we are today”.
“The true legacy of 9/11 will not be one of fear or hate or division,” Barack Obama said.
“It will be a safer world, a stronger nation, and a people more united than ever before.”
The National September 11 Memorial and Museum announced in July that this year’s ceremony at Ground Zero would include only relatives reading victims’ names.
The National September 11 Memorial and Museum announced in July that this year's ceremony at Ground Zero would include only relatives reading victims' names
Memorial President Joe Daniels said that, in an election year, it was “honoring the victims and their families in a way free of politics”.
Charles Wolf, whose wife Katherine was killed at the World Trade Center, said the absence of elected officials would make the event more intimate for the families.
“We’ve gone past that deep, collective public grief,” he said.
Tuesday dawned with a clear blue sky over Washington and New York, jogging memories of a similar September morning 11 years ago.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed that day in attacks by al-Qaeda members who had hijacked four airliners.
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama observed a moment of silence at the White House at 08:45.
They then headed to the Pentagon to attend a memorial ceremony there, where one of the jets crashed, and then visit wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
With a US election looming in November, President Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney have set aside campaigning for the day and will not run negative advertisements.
Mitt Romney was due to visit Reno, Nevada, to address a National Guard unit whose members were deployed as part of the US response to the attacks.
“On this most sombre day, those who would attack us should know that we are united, one nation under God, in our determination to stop them and to stand tall for peace and freedom at home and across the world,” Mitt Romney said in a written statement.
Vice-President Joe Biden and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar were due to speak at the Flight 93 National Memorial, near Shanksville, where one of the jets crashed as passengers attempted to overpower the hijackers.
A 9/11 museum in New York was due to have been completed for the 11th anniversary but has been plagued by setbacks.
Officials say it will take at least another year to finish.
A new building – the $3.9 billion One World Trade Center – is due to open in 2014 on the north-west corner of Ground Zero.
Last year an outdoor memorial was opened at the site and has since been visited by almost 4.5 million people.
In the aftermath of the 2001 attacks, the US launched a campaign to destroy the al-Qaeda network headed by Osama Bin Laden.
A team of elite US troops killed the al-Qaeda chief in a raid on his Pakistani compound last year.
Ahead of the eleventh commemoration of the 9/11 attacks, the New York Skyline has been lit up with twin lights, filling the hole left by the World Trade Center.
The bright beams shooting up into the sky are turned on every September 11, and today’s 11th anniversary is no different.
Memorial services are set to take place at Ground Zero and hundreds of other venues around the globe.
One tribute to the victims comes at Highland Memorial Park in Ocala, Florida, where 2,741 American flags – one for each of the attacks’ victims – have been planted in a moving act of remembrance.
The New York skyline has been lit up with twin lights, filling the hole left by the World Trade Center
On Monday, Leon Panetta attended a ceremony at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
The Secretary of Defense called the site “the final resting place of American patriots”, and said he was there “to extend our nation’s deepest gratitude to the heroes of Flight 93”.
For the first time, the memorial ceremony at the 9/11 National Memorial in Manhattan will not feature any politicians this year, in an attempt to focus it on the private grief of survivors and victims’ relatives.
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are expected to limit their campaigning, and to cancel negative advertising for the day.
The President has been briefed by top national security aides on what steps the government was taking to reduce the possibility of reprisal attacks on the 9/11 anniversary.
The White House said on Monday that Barack Obama and his advisers discussed specific measures the administration was taking to prevent related attacks.
They also discussed steps that were being taken to protect Americans abroad and U.S. forces serving in combat zones.
Barack Obama has instructed government agencies to do everything possible to protect the American people both at home and abroad.
The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 killed nearly 3,000 people and led to long-running U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.