also questioned why the White
House waited so long to
acknowledge Bush's knowledge
of the hijacking threat.
Thursday, May 16, 2002
House: Bush Was Warned of Hijack Threat
Seek Hijack Report Probe
By RON FOURNIER
WASHINGTON (May 16) -
Top lawmakers on Thursday
pushed for tough inquiries after the White
House revealed President Bush was
told a month before Sept. 11 that Osama
bin Laden's terrorist network might
hijack American airplanes.
''Was there a failure of
intelligence?'' asked House Minority
Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo. ''Did
the right officials not act on the
intelligence in the proper way? These are
things we need to find out.''
Some law enforcement agencies were
quietly put on alert last summer based on
the information given to Bush during a
regular intelligence briefing while he was
on vacation at his Texas ranch the first
week of August, said White House spokesman
But the president and U.S. intelligence
did not know that suicide hijackers were
plotting to use planes as missiles, as
they did against the World Trade Center
and the Pentagon, Fleischer said.
Transportation Secretary Norman Y.
Mineta was told of ''long-standing
concerns about possible hijackings''
during his regular intelligence briefings
before Sept. 11, but ''there was never a
scenario put forward that was anything
like the events of 9/11,'' said department
spokesman Chet Lunner. ''There was
no specific, credible warning to
disseminate,'' Lunner said.
Fleischer said general information about
the threats, which mentioned hijacking,
was passed on to air carriers. He said it
did not include specific and detailed
David Irving comments:
THIS comes as no great
surprise to those of us who have
been following the developing
story of the World Trade Center
attacks with a properly sceptical
mind. Watching George
Bush's face, as he was given
the news of the attack (before
the impartial eye of a live
television camera), in a
schoolroom in Florida, I was
struck by the way his eyes
swiveled round to see if the red
light was glowing on the camera
(it was). [See too: Bush
watched it on TV]
The look of guilt that fleeted
across his face recalled to my
mind the oral history report by
Franklin D Roosevelt's
Labor Secretary, who was by
chance a witness of the moment
when he received the phone call
reporting the Japanese attack on
Harbor!?" he exclaimed, as
though he had been expecting it
she had only ever seen that look
of profound guilt on FDR's face
Diary on Sept.11, 2001
A spokesman for the trade group that
represents the country's major airlines,
Michael Wascom of the Air Transport
Association, said: ''I am not aware of any
warnings or notifications in advance of
Sept. 11 concerning specific security
threats to any of our airlines.''
Senate Majority Leader Tom
Daschle, D-S.D., called on Bush to
release to congressional investigators
''the entire briefing that he was given''
by intelligence officials, and to release
a recently revealed FBI memo from its
Arizona office that warned of suspicious
activity by Arabs at U.S. flight
''We need to get the facts,'' Daschle
Gephardt said Congress needs to find
out - in hearings open to the public -
what Bush and other officials knew, when
they knew it and what they did with the
information. He hinted he might push for
additional inquiries, and said they
''cannot be top secret.''
''Right now we have an inquiry that's
going on in the intelligence committees,''
Gephardt said. ''It may or may not be
sufficient to get all this done.''
Peppered with questions about the
presidential heads-up, Fleischer sought to
play down the development. He said there
were long-standing concerns that Muslim
extremists might carry out traditional
hijackings, and that bin Laden had been a
major worry for years.
''I don't think this should come as any
surprise to anybody,'' he said of the
warning given to Bush. ''But the president
did not - not - receive information about
the use of airplanes as missiles by
suicide bombers. This was a new type of
attack that was not foreseen.''
The development, the first direct link
between Bush and intelligence gathered
before Sept. 11 about the attacks, drew
criticism from congressional investigators
already looking into whether the
government failed to adequately respond to
evidence of potential attacks.
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala.,
vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence
Committee, said on NBC's ''Today'':
''There was a lot of information, I
believe and others believe, if it had been
acted on properly we may have had a
different situation on Sept. 11.''
On CNN, Shelby also questioned why the
White House waited so long to acknowledge
Bush's knowledge of the hijacking threat.
He said of the warning: ''I think it
should have been acted on, but it
Shelby also suggested he may demand
that the White House release the
top-secret CIA briefing received by Bush,
and the FBI memo.
A former FAA security chief, Billie
Vincent, asked why, if law-enforcement
agencies had been notified of a possible
hijacking threat, they didn't do more to
''With that threat escalating, why was
it permissible to continue to take cutting
tools on airplanes?'' Vincent asked,
referring to the box-cutters the Sept. 11
instantly created a politically charged
atmosphere in which every White House
statement about pre-Sept. 11 threats
was subjected to new scrutiny.
Fleischer, for example, was asked by
reporters hours after the attacks
whether ''there had been any warnings
that the president knew of.''
He replied, ''No warnings.''
Fleischer stood by the comment
Thursday, saying there indeed was no
warning of suicide hijackings against
Bush himself said in January, ''Never
did we realize that the enemy was so well
White House officials said Bush was
steadfast in private that CIA Director
George Tenet and FBI Director
Robert Mueller have done a good job
overhauling their agencies to close the
gaps exposed by the Sept. 11 attacks.
Their jobs are not in jeopardy, officials
One Bush associate quoted the president
as saying ''no one knew'' that bin Laden
was plotting to make the leap from
traditional hijackings to the highly
sophisticated suicide attacks on U.S.
landmarks. ''No one passed (that type of
information) to me,'' Bush was quoted as
Fleischer said that starting in May
2001, there had been increased threats of
terrorism strikes against U.S. targets -
primarily abroad - and that security was
tightened at U.S. embassies and military
With the threat of hijackings, there
was ''a pulling together of domestic
agencies to make certain that they were
aware of this information.''
At least some agency officials,
including Treasury Secretary Paul
O'Neill, said Thursday that they had
received no specific information about
possible terrorist hijackings of airplanes
before Sept. 11.
The Associated Press reported earlier
this month that FBI headquarters did not
act on a memo last July from its Arizona
office warning there were a large number
of Arabs seeking pilot, security and
airport operations training at at least
one U.S. flight school and which urged a
check of all flight schools to identify
more possible Middle Eastern students.
A section of that classified memo also
makes a passing reference to bin Laden,
speculating that al-Qaida and other such
groups could organize such flight
training, officials said.
2002 The Associated Press.
items on this website:
2001 story shows FBI warned Ashcroft
not to fly commercial airlines
did President Bush see at 9 a.m. on