After President Bush’s National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice testified before the 9/11 Commission on April 8, the administration’s critics said much about a memo written on August 6, 2001. This memo known as a Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) was titled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States."
Commissioner and partisan Democrat Richard Ben-Veniste attempted to use this memo to prove the Bush administration did nothing to prevent terrorism. However, Rice replied, “The fact is that this August 6th PDB was in response to the president's questions about whether or not something might happen or something might be planned by al-Qaeda inside the United States…He asked because all of the threat reporting or the threat reporting that was actionable was about the threats abroad, not about the United States.”
The memo contained a “discussion” on whether al-Qaeda might use hijacking to try to free a prisoner in the United States. The PDB concluded that “the FBI had full field investigations under way,” Rice said. “Commissioner, this was not a warning.”
Yet that has not prevented the liberal media, partisan Commissioners, or the “ 9/11 Families” (actually the politically motivated families of twelve of the victims) from carping that Bush knew of the hijackings in advance and did nothing, or that Dr. Rice was “lying” under oath. Now that the memo has been declassified, Democrats are still attempting to make a mountain from this molehill – despite reports published in Human Events that Democratic senator Bob Graham of the Senate Intelligence Committee confirmed what Condoleeza Rice said. This was not a warning.
However, there was another memo written that same day, August 6, 2001, that neither Ben-Veniste nor the other commissioner nor the so-called “9/11 Families” ever bothered to examine – although they should. This memo, written by Larry Thompson, Deputy Attorney General, addressed the issue of the rules that prevented the sharing and collection of intelligence data. This memo is every bit as pertinent as the Presidential Daily Briefing memo of August 6, 2001, (if not more so), the one Democrats are attempting to exploit for political purposes.
This memo concerned collection of intelligence and the lack of integration of resources with the departments responsible for counterterrorism. Speaking to the “National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States” on December 8, 2003, Thompson said, “before the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, I witnessed firsthand as Deputy Attorney General of the United States grave deficiencies in the ability of intelligence officials and law enforcement officials to share information with each other, which hampered the Department of Justice's ability to take action to defend the nation against terrorist attacks.” He continued:
Before the attacks of September 11th, many provisions of federal law had been interpreted to limit sharply the ability of intelligence investigators to communicate with federal law enforcement officials as well as the ability of federal law-enforcement officers to share terrorism-related information with members of the intelligence community. This metaphorical "wall" between intelligence officials and law enforcement officials often inhibited vital information sharing and coordination and was a personal source of frustration for me…On August 6, 2001, in fact, this frustration led me to write a memorandum to officials in the FBI as well as the Department of Justice's Criminal Division and Office of Intelligence Policy and Review. In this memorandum, I noted that the Attorney General's Procedures for Contacts Between the FBI and the Criminal Division Concerning Foreign Intelligence and Foreign Counterintelligence Investigations required the FBI to notify the criminal division when ‘facts or circumstances are developed’ in a foreign intelligence or counterintelligence investigation ‘that reasonably indicate that a significant federal crime has been, is being, or may be committed’…the ‘9/11 Congressional Joint Inquiry Report’ (then) observed that our ability to ‘connect the dots’ about the plans and activities of al-Qaeda before the attacks of September 11th was substantially inhibited by the lack of communication and collaboration between intelligence agencies and law-enforcement agencies.(Emphasis added.)
The metaphorical “wall” Thompson referred to was the set of procedures developed in 1995 by Clinton’s Attorney General Janet Reno. She had devised and implemented criteria to be used as to when the Department of Justice’s Criminal and Counterintelligence divisions could share information to ensure that intelligence investigations could be conducted lawfully. Commissioner Jamie Gorelick, in her capacity as Deputy Attorney General, helped implement this intelligence-destroying “wall.” Now she grills Bush administration officials about why they didn’t do more to overcome her errors.
The problems with these procedures were also noted by a July 16, 2001, GAO report to Tennessee Republican Senator Fred Thompson, the ranking minority member of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs. The report said, “According to the Attorney General’s Review Team’s report, almost immediately following the implementation of the Attorney General’s 1995 procedures, coordination problems arose... According to Criminal Division officials, coordination of foreign counterintelligence investigations dropped off significantly following the implementation of the 1995 procedures...An FBI official acknowledged that soon after the implementation of the Attorney General’s 1995 procedures, coordination concerns surfaced.” (Emphasis added.)
It would seem that the 9/11 Commission should devote more of their resources investigating the August 6, 2001, memo written by Deputy Attorney General Thompson. This memo illustrates the bureaucratic and political policies and procedures that had a deleterious effect regarding counterintelligence. This memo is more relevant to the issue of solving the problems that caused 9/11. Unfortunately it seems they are more concerned about making short-term political hay than about keeping their fellow citizens safe.