Ari Fleischer Uses 'Truther' Slur to Blunt Criticism That the Bush White House Received More Bin Laden Warnings Than Were Previously Known

In The New York Times today, journalist Kurt Eichenwald writes a 9/11 anniversary op-ed asserting that there are many more pre-Sept. 11 documents aside from the infamous Aug. 6, 2001 presidential daily brief warning the Bush administration that Osama bin Laden was planning to attack the United States. The nut of Eichenwald's argument:

While those documents are still not public, I have read excerpts from many of them, along with other recently declassified records, and come to an inescapable conclusion: 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. In other words, the Aug. 6 document, for all of the controversy it provoked, is not nearly as shocking as the briefs that came before it.

The direct warnings to Mr. Bush about the possibility of a Qaeda attack began in the spring of 2001. By May 1, the Central Intelligence Agency told the White House of a report that "a group presently in the United States" was planning a terrorist operation. Weeks later, on June 22, the daily brief reported that Qaeda strikes could be "imminent," although intelligence suggested the time frame was flexible.

But some in the administration considered the warning to be just bluster. An intelligence official and a member of the Bush administration both told me in interviews that the neoconservative leaders who had recently assumed power at the Pentagon were warning the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled; according to this theory, Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat. Intelligence officials, these sources said, protested that the idea of Bin Laden, an Islamic fundamentalist, conspiring with Mr. Hussein, an Iraqi secularist, was ridiculous, but the neoconservatives' suspicions were nevertheless carrying the day.

In response, the C.I.A. prepared an analysis that all but pleaded with the White House to accept that the danger from Bin Laden was real. 

I can't vouch for Eichenwald's reporting, and I'm generally wary of working backwards from a once-in-a-lifetime event, since it's always possible to pluck (and then overrate) a few relevant floaters from the ocean of data. Regardless, these two reaction-tweets to the op-ed by former Bush administration spokesman Ari Fleischer are just crazy-wrong:

Disgusting op-ed in NYT by a truther implying Bush knew of 9-11/let it happen. NYT decries lack of civility, then adds to it.
— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) September 11, 2012

How can the NYT ridicule birthers then make their op-ed page home to a truther??
— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) September 11, 2012

To state what should be the obvious, asserting that there was more relevant pre-attack intelligence than previously known, and criticizing the administration for undervaluing it, is an entirely different category of commentary than claiming that "Bush knew." If Eichenwald is a "truther," there is no evidence of it in this op-ed. Fleischer's blurt is the kind of mistake that immediately calls to mind the phrase "reading incomprehension," but I think it's something a bit more insidious than that.

Of the countless things I lament about our Sept. 12 world, the fever of irrational, emotion-fueled, shaddappayerface discourse, especially over those first three years after, ranks high on the list. Ari Fleischer was, and continues to be, part of that foul process. It's one thing to be a drunk in a bar, shouting epithets at anyone who dare criticize the political team you support. But this same impulse that Fleischer is reviving today was used in real time, by Fleischer and a variety of administration officials, to prevent anyone outside the White House from investigating the run-up to Sept. 11 or reading any of the relevant documents.

If anything, the disproportionate response to Eichenwald's classified-documents-based argument could be read as a pre-emptive attack against the possibility of ever releasing such briefings to the public. Which would be bad for the very national security such moves claim to protect. Recall that Thomas Kean, chairman of the Sept. 11 Commission, said in 2005 that the failure to prevent the attacks were more attributable to overclassification and lack of information-sharing than anything else. 

As I wrote in 2004, 

In the history of high-profile American catastrophes, has there been a disaster inquiry so painfully slow in getting off the ground? FDR's Roberts Commission presented its Pearl Harbor finger-pointing by Jan. 23, 1942. The Warren Commission held its first hearing just two weeks after John Kennedy was murdered, and issued its report (however, um, flawed) within 10 months. Richard Feynman delivered his famous critique in the same calendar year as the Challenger crash; the Columbia commission wrappedin eight months. [...]

The Bush Administration tried to keep the investigation behind closed doors (in congressional intelligence committees), lashed out at Democrats who suggested otherwise ("Such commentary is thoroughly irresponsible and totally unworthy of national leaders in a time of war," Vice President Dick Cheney said when the subject gained initial public traction in May 2002, just after word of the famous "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." memo was firstleaked), fought Congress for four months after the House passed a Commission-creating bill, and then hand-picked as chairman none other than Henry Kissinger, an act roughly as serious as hiring Bill Clinton to prosecute a sexual harassment case.

Above all, Bush's attitude toward sensitive information has remained consistent from his pre-9/11 behavior: Transparency is overrated, secrecy is a virtue, and post-Watergate reforms curtailing the government's ability to snoop, prosecute and act freely are a serious obstacle to protecting the country.

Pay particular attention to that bolded Dick Cheney quote above. In the fog of war and raw emotion of murdered innocents it can be hard to see that on the other side of a jingoistic appeal lies an old-fashioned bureaucratic ass-covering. But that's what this stuff so often is. Fleischer's crude slur should be laughed out of the room, all relevant files should be declassified without fear, and Americans should always be wary of government-proposed restrictions made in the name of "war."

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    the squirrels appear to have eaten your title and the last part of the article

  • db||

    Title doesn't work for me.

  • Matt Welch||

    I had posted prematurely, thanks, and sorry.

  • Lord Humungus||

    Premature Posting leads to blindness.

  • ||

    just think of ugly footballers or something

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    That won't fix the hairy palms

  • Killazontherun||

    If the follicles are soft that might be an advantage.

  • avsteele||

    A fundamental problem with any assessment of negligence in this matter is that we have no idea how regularly warnings of this type occurred.

    Given our lack of context for these memos, and the fact that any information that gets out has obvious political implications, even ten years after the fact, I find it very difficult to draw a meaningful conclusion.

    The point made in this Reason.com article is well-taken however.

  • Matt Welch||

    Yes, as mentioned, I'm wary of jumping to post-facto conclusions about what should have been prevented.

  • John||

    ^^This^^ We get warnings and chatter all of the time. They are terrorist. It is what they talk about. The problem is that you never know for sure what is serious and what isn't.

  • T o n y||

    Just imagine Obama's face on Bush's body and then see how you react to negligence of this sort.

  • John||

    Shut up sock puppet. This is pretty much the only area I will defend Obama on. And you know it. Stop projecting your partisan idiocy onto everyone else.

  • BarryD||

    Uh, Clinton missed an opportunity to take out Bin Laden. I don't think that John or anyone else here called that "negligence", since nobody knew that 9/11 would happen...

  • T o n y||

    Of course it is the nature of intelligence successes that we never know what was prevented. But this was one major fuckup. If the Bushies get a pass on that failure, then no administration can ever be criticized for any intelligence failure that leads to a terrorist attack.

    I'm spending my tax dollars to keep 9/11s from happening so I'm not prepared to make that bargain.

  • John||

    So not killing Bin Ladin wasn't a fuck up? Got it dipshit.

  • T o n y||

    Sure, both Clinton and Bush failed to kill bin Laden.

    Of course Bush failed to kill him for seven years after 9/11 while he was busy invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11.

    It's just one of those things! Nothing to see here!

    Now isn't Obama a total failure? I mean sure he actually did kill bin Laden, but...

  • Virginian||

    Yep, he rappelled from that chopper, knife between his teeth, M4 tracking like a death robot as he dropped tango after tango.

    If you're going to hero worship, at least hero worship the guys who actually did it. Fucking hell I am so sick of whiny liberal cunts getting their war boners hard because their guy gave the go order for a mission that any American President would have authorized.

  • T o n y||

    Mitt Romney said explicitly he wouldn't have made the same call. OBL wasn't found on Bush's watch. There's credit and blame to go around but let's be a little judicious. Bush is far from blame-free and Obama deserves a little credit.

  • WTF||

    Fuckin' Bush! I can't believe he negligently failed to overhaul the entire intelligence apparatus and divine the exact nature and timing and logistics of the 9/11 attack in the first 8 months of his presidency! DERP!

  • Azathoth!!||

    You are aware that Bush went into Afghanistan first, yes? That he went after Bin Laden first? Long before he went into Iraq?

  • R C Dean||

    Consider, also, the bureaucratic imperative to overstate risks to cover your ass if anything does happen, and inflate your importance regardless.

    I would imagine the President is just absolutely swamped with carefully couched "intelligence" reports. The signal to noise ratio in the Oval Office must just be atrocious.

  • John||

    It is not so much that. It is more that they have no idea what the actual risk is. And they need to justify their jobs. So they go looking for risks. The President gets weekly intel briefs from DHS and I presume the CIA. Something has to be in those reports.

    The problem is the nature of terrorism. If you know the full extent of the threat, the threat is over because you just go arrest or kill the guy. So any intel is always going to be vague. It has to be. The moment it is not vague, it ceases to be intel and becomes an active criminal case. So mostly those briefs are full of a lot of generalities that don't really mean a whole lot on the ground.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Did they believe al Qaeda was a credible threat? Probably a little, but probably not to the extent that they were going to do anything drastic on the domestic front.

    There's a little observer-affecting reality problem here, too, as by taking preemptive action, which would likely delay any attacks, the public would be all "WTF?" because nothing happened. Besides, as a quasi-free society, it's really hard to lock down the borders or do anything that would really prevent an attack.

    There's no real blame to be cast on 9/11, beyond the larger geopolitical issue with us being involved in the Middle East at all. Not just Bush, but Clinton as well. Yes, different tactics could've been used, but the need to do so wasn't appreciated until that Tuesday morning.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    I'm generally wary of working backwards from a once-in-a-lifetime event

    You can kiss your Pulitzer aspirations goodbye, Matt.

  • BarryD||

    Bullshit on both sides.

    Unless a reporter digs up some shred of evidence that there was specific intelligence that contained enough information to stop the 9/11 attack, it's just bullshit innuendo.

    It's virtually identical to the "our listening posts had picked up radio traffic from the Japanese Navy on December 6, 1941, therefore FDR knew all about the Pearl Harbor attack days before, and he ordered the ammunition to be locked up and let the Japanese attack, in order to get the US into WWII!."

    It's great to show bureaucratic inefficiency for what it is, but when did the NYT ever actually do that?

  • John||

    The intel only makes sense because you know what happened.

  • BarryD||

    Yeah. You have a few pieces of the puzzle, all of which make sense as soon as the planes hit the towers in NY, or the bombs hit the ships in Pearl Harbor.

    Intel is a bitch. I mean, we can't even predict how the SP 500 will do this afternoon, and supposedly the information that goes into that is public.

  • BarryD||

    Incidentally, as much as I think Clinton is an assclown, it never occurred to me to blame him for not giving the "kill" order when we supposedly knew where Osama was in the late '90s.

    Of course, Obama doesn't require as much justification to blow up some people overseas. His media is more compliant.

  • BarryD||

    And BTW whatever one thinks of old Ari, I'm not sure that I think that the innuendo is distinguishable from "truther" innuendo.

  • Zeb||

    I don't know. The Truthers are saying that there was a deliberate move to allow or ignore the threat, aren't they? There is a difference between negligence and deliberate action.

  • Restoras||

    The Deafness Before The Storm

    Nope, that title isn't meant to sway, tilt, focus, or lay blame on anyone else but BOOOSH. Not at all.

  • BarryD||

    9/11 would never have happened, had Al Gore been sworn in!

    Yeah...

  • KDN||

    This was one of the first remarks out of my buddy's gf's mouth after we saw the towers fall. I was dumbfounded.

  • AlmightyJB||

    So we have a bunch of Islamic extremist holding 9/11 rallies around the world. They're all potential terrorist threats. What specific actions could Obama take to prevent a specific unknown attack by one of them. Outside of turning their countries into sheets of glass. I mean if one of these guys carries out a terrorist attack inside the U.S. in the coming weeks, Obama should be blamed because he knew they wanted to do us harm but did not have specifics regarding their plan?

  • John||

    I agree. If you want to hold him to that standard, then you can't very well bitch when he just whacks them can you?

  • BarryD||

    I wouldn't bitch. But I'm an asshole.

    Anyone at the rally has declared himself to be a soldier fighting against the US. Some are lousy soldiers, but there are lousy soldiers in every army and they're fair game just like the good ones.

  • John||

    I am the same way. But I think we are a little more hard nosed about it than Reason.

  • BarryD||

    You know, I cringed when Bush said, "Whoever is not with us is against us."

    And I think it's silly to have a war on "terror."

    But I do think there's an asymmetrical war going on.

    Whatever we think of the target selection process, Obama's secret drone war is happening for a reason. The Mother Jones nutjobs may think it's because he's a sociopathic killer, but I don't buy that explanation.

    When you're fighting a difficult asymmetrical war against violent Islamists who have declared war on us, openly and loudly, and who have followed through with real attacks around the world, you have to take what opportunities you have, to strike at the enemy. If he's going to parade around in the open, then OPEN FIRE.

    My family history leads me to think that pacifists are naive little children, whether they call themselves "libertarian" or not.

  • Fluffy||

    This means that Iran is entitled to murder Americans who publicly call for an attack on Iran or who applaud any future attack on Iran.

  • John||

    Fluffy,

    If those people are actively plotting terrorist attacks on Iran, sure. As far as a military attack on Iran, Iran has no more right to indiscriminately attack our civilian population any more than we have theirs. The question is who is a civilian. And if you are actively planning to attack another country, you are no longer a civilian.

    I know Iran is such a wonderful and peaceful country that the normal rules of conflict probably shouldn't apply to it. But sadly most of the world doesn't understand how wonderful it is the way you do, so they do apply.

  • Randian||

    And if you are actively planning to attack another country, you are no longer a civilian.

    A determination which is made in a Star Chamber by Top Men.

    What an awesome vision of society you have, John.

    Do these rules apply to US Citizens on US Soil, or not?

  • BarryD||

    Rules of war, Randian. If you disagree with them, that's fine, but it's a much bigger argument than the point here.

  • Randian||

    The government does not get carte blanche when you invoke "rules of war". You either want the government to adequately explain itself before it drones a citizen of this nation or you don't.

    You don't. I do.

  • John||

    Randian it is called a war. The nature of war is killing people. And you have to at least try to only kill those who are engaged in combat.

    We have an enemy who refuses to identify itself or engage in conventional warfare. What would you propose we do? Nothing? Set the precident that we will never defend ourselves as long as you don't wear a uniform?

    It sucks. That is why partisan warfare sucks and why nations have spent hundreds of years trying to deter it. Around 1945 we had something called wars against colonial aggression and stopped discouraging partisan warfare and instead started to reward it and encourage it. And this is what we have gotten.

  • Randian||

    What would you propose we do? Nothing?

    Did I say that?

    No.

    What I want is my government to justify itself at least somewhat before it kills people, especially American citizens without due process.

    A Star Chamber with Top Men is NOT due process. It's tyranny. If King George had some secret kill list wherein the British could fire cannons into people's houses off of the coast of Boston, that would have been first on the list in the DoI.

  • John||

    Randian,

    In King George's time it was understood by both sides that anyone running around a battlefield making mischief without a uniform was liable to be hanged by either side. In fact, several Americans were hanged by the British as spies because they were caught behind lines without a uniform. Both sides understood the rules and played by them.

    Try again.

  • Randian||

    That's a non sequitur, John.

    Right now, your only standard to answer the question of "who is the Enemy?" is "when government says they are".

  • John||

    That is not a non sequiter at all. If you refuse to wear a uniform and hide amongst the civilian population and make war on a country, that country has a right to shoot you on sight. And that was the way things were in King George's time.

  • R C Dean||

    Randian it is called a war.

    Is it? In our post-Westphalian world order, war is armed conflict between sovereign nations.

    Technically, I believe we are still at war with North Korea, but I can't think of any other nation that we are at war with.

    Now, I'm not sure that the Westphalian sovereignity notions are still valid, but I suspect adhering to them is better than the alternative (which was endless meddling in the affairs of foreigners).

    If you are going to take the post-Westphalian notion that anyone plotting to attack you is eligible for extermination via military force, then you can't complain if others apply the same standards to you.

  • John||

    If you are going to take the post-Westphalian notion that anyone plotting to attack you is eligible for extermination via military force, then you can't complain if others apply the same standards to you.

    No you can't complain. But you can sure as hell kill them before they do. Again, so what?

  • Fluffy||

    BarryD's statement was that if there are people around the world at demonstrations today either applauding the 9/11 attacks or cheering for more attacks on the United States, we can know that all of those people are "potential" terrorists and we should kill them all.

    That means that if any American attends a demonstration that calls for an attack on Iran, or (following an attack in the future) publicly applauds that attack, the government of Iran can just as reasonably declare that American to be a potentially anti-Iranian terrorist and murder them.

    They are entitled to take BarryD's statement and treat it as a maxim.

  • BarryD||

    "Asymmetrical war." Look it up.

    Iran has every right to try to repel an attack. They can shoot at anyone who attacks Iran, or who, if we are at war with Iran, has an American military uniform on, or is working with the American military.

    Non-uniformed fighters, like guerrillas and spies, can be executed even when they have been captured.

    This is all very standard stuff.

  • Randian||

    The problem is, Barry, is that the Government consistently fails to demonstrate any evidence that a person who is droned is in any way actively participating in any sort of anti-American asymmetrical warfare.

    The criteria, tradtionally and legally, has been imminence, not simply planning or involvement.

    So, on two fronts, the US Government fails its own legal criteria. First, it provides no evidence for participation in asymmetrical warfare. Second, it provides no evidence of immanency.

  • John||

    Barry, is that the Government consistently fails to demonstrate any evidence that a person who is droned is in any way actively participating in any sort of anti-American asymmetrical warfare.

    Oh bullshit. Here is the latest drone strike

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/.....story.html

    If you don't like drone strikes fine. But stop insulting people's intelligence and claiming that they just randomly drone strike people. They don't. That guy was an active enemy of this country and I would expect any President to kill him if the opportunity arose.

  • Randian||

    Oh they got AQ's #2 for the 15th time! Wow!

    Tell me John, what evidence was presented that he was an 'active enemy' AND an 'imminent threat', both of which must be met to legally justify this?

    Do you have any?

  • John||

    Tell me John, what evidence was presented that he was an 'active enemy' AND an 'imminent threat', both of which must be met to legally justify this?

    First, he doesn't have to be an "imminent threat" to be a lawful target. So please put that term back in your ass where you found it. Second, he was clearly a member of Al Quada, an organization that the UN has declared to be hostile. It doesn't matter where he was or what he was doing. He was a member of Al Quada, so we have a right to kill him just like we have a right to kill a member of an enemy army.

  • Randian||

    First, he doesn't have to be an "imminent threat" to be a lawful target.

    Yes, he does. Unless all of those treaties signed by the United States don't count, which would contradict the Constitution's very words on the subject.

    Why do you hate the Constitution, John?

    Second, he was clearly a member of Al Quada, an organization that the UN has declared to be hostile.

    The Communist Party is hostile to America too. So are domestic militias.

    You need a higher standard than "member in an organization that says bad things".

  • John||

    Yes, he does. Unless all of those treaties signed by the United States don't count, which would contradict the Constitution's very words on the subject.

    What treaties? And the Constitution never says the US can't kill its enemies. Was every German soldier we killed in World War II an "imminent threat" whatever that is? No. Some of them were asleep or hundred of miles away from the nearest Americans. But they were still lawful targets. You are just wrong on this.

    The Communist Party is hostile to America too. So are domestic militias.

    If the Communist Party declared itself an international terrorist organization, started attacking America, and the UNSC passed a resolution authorizing the use of force against it, sure. But none of those things are true.

    Can you at least try to understand the international framework of war?

  • Randian||

    Sorry, John, but the dominant interpretation of Article 51 of the UN, promulgated by the Security Council (on which the US sits), signed by the United States, is that self-defense requires imminence.

    The only other position on this is that there is no such thing as pre-emption.

    Please be assured that no one in the world (other than the United States) thinks you can self-identify your enemy using a secret process and kill him when he is not an imminent threat.

    No. Some of them were asleep or hundred of miles away from the nearest Americans. But they were still lawful targets. You are just wrong on this.

    They were still identifiable through organizational hierarchy and the burden and standard of proof was low and obvious.

    The United States hasn't even deigned to inform We Proles what the criteria are before someone gets droned.

  • John||

    They were still identifiable through organizational hierarchy and the burden and standard of proof was low and obvious

    And this guy wasn't? Again you are advocating we reward this behavior. Join and army and fight by the rules of war and you can be killed on sight. Be a terrorist and hide amongst civilians and in Randian world you are untouchable.

    And you wonder why we get more terrorism?

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    I think continuing to send the #2s for dirt naps is a good thing, not a bad thing.

    I'm not a fan of killing people just for the fuck of it, but I don't think the guy is AQ's #2 because he liked the pot luck dinners so much.

    As far as I'm concerned, if he plotted to kill Americans and took steps to put that plot into action, I'd rather he be dead now and not wait until the plan was close enough to fruition to be imminent.

  • Randian||

    I'm not a fan of killing people just for the fuck of it, but I don't think the guy is AQ's #2 because he liked the pot luck dinners so much.

    Every guy will kill AQ's #2. It is practically a running joke at this point.

    I'd rather he be dead now and not wait until the plan was close enough to fruition to be imminent.

    Imminency is required by treaties and laws to which the United States is a signatory. It's something greater than "sent an e-mail" and something less than "10 seconds before the plane hits the building".

    However, given that we have absolutely zero information on the subject, We the People cannot control our own government. That's wrong.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Imminency is required by treaties and laws to which the United States is a signatory.

    And pot is illegal, yet people argue here every day that that is suboptimal. It's odd how sometimes the law is the law and sometimes the law is just wrong.

  • Randian||

    If immanency is not a moral requirement, then you frankly don't believe in freedom of speech. You are saying by your own terms that any step taken in furtherance of a 'plot' to kill Americans is terrorist activity and therefore deserves instant death.

    That includes sending an e-mail, writing a blog, mimeographing a newsletter...whatever.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    If immanency is not a moral requirement, then you frankly don't believe in freedom of speech. You are saying by your own terms that any step taken in furtherance of a 'plot' to kill Americans is terrorist activity and therefore deserves instant death.

    C'mon, man, you're better than that.

    I believe in the freedom to say "Death to Americans." I don't believe in the freedom to take steps to carry out death to Americans. It's standard conspiracy law.

  • Randian||

    I believe in the freedom to say "Death to Americans." I don't believe in the freedom to take steps to carry out death to Americans. It's standard conspiracy law.

    So what is the overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy of any of the droned targets?

    We don't know.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    "They were still identifiable through organizational hierarchy and the burden and standard of proof was low and obvious."

  • Randian||

    But we have not been deigned to be read into that.

    Please be aware that there was an obvious end to WWII: the defeat and capitulation of Germany and Japan.

    What is the end of the War on Terror? When goatherders stop planning crimes? Are we going to forever give the government carte blanche to both declare and terminate "enemies", even US Citizens, as it has done?

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    I get that you think equating goat herders with an organization that was able to train people to fly and exploit security weaknesses to murder 3,000 people somehow strengthens your position, but I'm just not seeing it. Or that being in favor of offing members of a group that has declared its intention to murder us is somehow being in favor of carte blanche killing.

    At this point, whatever it is called, I don't think the effort to prevent terrorism is going away. Ever. That doesn't mean I think everything done in the name of terrorism is good, but I'm going to go ahead and submit that killing AQ members is good... just as good as killing members of Germany's and Japan's armed forces.

  • Azathoth!!||

    What is the end of the War on Terror?

    The War on Terror will muddle along as it has done these past eleven years, never quite erupting into a conflict that has a noticeable impact until there is an escalation that makes the West realise that they are in, and have been in, an existential war.

    Depending on the length of the muddling the WoT will end some time after that. If the muddling continues for some years, the hot side of the war will take longer. In the end, it is likely that Islam will lose.

  • BarryD||

    The problem is that the evidence isn't provided. That's a different problem or question from whether it's legitimate to strike at someone who is engaged in anti-American asymmetrical warfare.

    WRT imminence, that just means that it can't be speculation that some guy might, 20 years down the road, attack the US. But it's perfectly legitimate in a war to bomb an enemy base, even if the enemy isn't going to attack that morning.

  • Randian||

    Well, Barry, we are generally in agreement.

    I will state that imminent threat has to be more than "angry guy in backwoods talking to his fellow goatherders about how nice it would be to strike at America"

    If a three year old told me he was going to punch me in the face, it would be unreasonable for me to strike first, because the threat is not actionable nor serious.

  • BarryD||

    As of 9/10/2001, we had no real reason to believe that a such bunch of goatherders posed any threat. That has changed.

    Context matters. Threat assessments change depending on surrounding facts.

    If some Mexican soldiers accidentally cross an unmarked border somewhere in a truck, we'll probably have a chat and send them home.

    If Felipe Calderón says, "We will attack the United States" or Mexico declares war on the US, we will open fire on any Mexican soldiers crossing the border instead. We could also open fire on anyone else stupid enough to indicate that they're threatening the US in the name of Mexico. We don't have to determine if they're "serious" about it first. That includes US citizens. Treason isn't a common charge, but it's still on the books for a reason.

    If Mexico then says, "We're sorry, our bad," then we would revert to the status quo ante.

  • Randian||

    Except Mexico is an identifiable entity with a leader.

    The fact is that you are claiming that anyone with a 'Death to America' placard is subject to instant death. That is a terrible standard.

  • BarryD||

    It is a terrible standard.

    But unless we don't plan to fight against any entity that isn't a nation-state, I am hard pressed to come up with a good one.

    Note that Al Qaeda and related organizations have declared their intentions. It's not speculation on our part.

    So what standard can we use, exactly?

  • Calidissident||

    So now anyone who says "bad things" about America or the American government is an enemy soldier and it's ok to drone strike them with no due process?

    The War on Terror is a crock of shit. Terrorism is a tactic. You can't declare a war on it any more than you can do with drugs or poverty. It's not a conventional fight, and you can't fight it like it is one

  • BarryD||

    If you're going to respond to my post, at least read it first.

  • Killazontherun||

    Whatever we think of the target selection process, Obama's secret drone war is happening for a reason. The Mother Jones nutjobs may think it's because he's a sociopathic killer, but I don't buy that explanation.

    Well, how about this then; our intelligence services have agreed to an exchange with the government of Yemen. For some valuable intel, we'll clear out some existing local threats and fulfill some long standing vendettas going back to their civil war. Pretty much the same deal made in Somalia. We catch and kill a few targets related to the WoT, but mostly we're there as a result of a more long term strategy than the immediate threat.

  • Killazontherun||

    For some valuable intel and long term cooperation

    Last part got whacked.

  • ant1sthenes||

    Given the reports circulating (a very special Patriots Day two minutes hate!) that he often fails to attend intelligence briefings, he had better fucking hope nothing like that happens.

  • Romulus Augustus||

    I wouldn't be surprised to see some pro-Iraqi war type spin this as
    "See we under-rated the intelligence and got hit on 9/11. So when intelligence suggested Iraq had WMD, we couldn't take the chance and ignore it."

  • Azathoth!!||

    ^^^
    See this? This is exactly the problem.

    On 9/10 had Bush taken an action that stopped 9/11 an idiot like this would start squawking. Because nothing happened. Since nothing happened there was no 'threat'. Let the squawking commence.

    He provides the exact, precise, logical reasoning for the Iraq war and thinks it's spin.

    Had the US not gone in anything that happened afterwards would be laid at Bush's feet--along with the fact that he'd 'ignored' 9/11 chatter too.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Everyone's a Monday morning intelligence analyst.

    I suppose Fleischer's knee jerk reaction could stem from years of fighting off varying levels of conspiracy theories. Or more likely he saw an avenue of attack on the Grey Lady and took it.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    Hmm. No specifics, but "they're determined" to attack".

    So Bush should have enacted "No Child is a Patriot Act Part D" BEFORE 9/11/01, and it would have prevented two planes crashing into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon, and one into the grassy knoll. Plus, Iraq War, Part Deux.

    I blame Bush. Oh, wait....

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    Oops this was meant to be unnested, not response to Fist.

    Stupid nesting comments skwerlz.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Since you've DIRECTLY challenged my comment, let me respond.

    Eichenwald is seemingly claiming that he's read reports or memos or whatnot that are more specific than Richard Clarke's no-shit memo. I'll have to see some of these declassified documents myself since I don't know anything about Eichenwald or his agenda (everyone has an agenda).

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    PWNED

  • ||

    Congratulations on finding a picture of Ari Fleischer that doesn't make him look like a punchable douchetard. Oh wait...

  • Hyperion||

    Has anyone posted a link to this yet?

    FBI questions teen over Ron Paul video

  • T o n y||

    Oh look at everyone stumbling over themselves to excuse Bush for what is objectively one of the greatest intelligence failures of all time.

    Note the heart of the problem: the neocons, who were obsessed with Saddam Hussein, who didn't listen to actual intelligence experts, and who pretty much completely fucked whatever was good about this country for 8 long, painful years.

    It's just one of those things! We definitely shouldn't worry about Mitt Romney surrounding himself with all the same characters who were so disastrously wrong about everything back then.

  • John||

    Shut up Tony. Bush had been in office less than 8 months. The intelligence failures go back well into the Clinton Administration. Take your retarded partisan shit to another thread where you can lick Obama's balls. Here the adults are trying to have a conversation.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I don't blame anyone here. I blame the whackjobs that thought attacking the U.S. domestically would advance their cause.

    We're pretty vulnerable to attack. Period. Today and eleven years ago. That's because we're a big nation with free movement internally and lots of ways in.

  • John||

    The only way to stop someone who does care if they die from attacking you is to kill them before they can attack. That is pretty hard to do. And yeah, we are vulnerable to the odd attack. We always will be. The big thing is to make sure we never allow a really big nuke or chem attack. The odd car bomb or hijacking is the cost of living in the modern world sadly.

  • BarryD||

    There's another dimension.

    Someone who doesn't care if he dies, and DOES NOT REALLY CARE WHAT TARGET HE HITS, or exactly who dies in the attack. It's not an attack on any specific strategic target, or persons.

    Sure, the 9/11 attacks were aimed at targets that were perceived as high-visibility. But they also chose targets simply because they were vulnerable to attack.

    There are thousands of such targets, and probably hundreds of ways to attack. Guard some of them, and make certain avenues of attack more difficult, and there are plenty of alternative.

  • BarryD||

    s

  • T o n y||

    Oh it's Clinton's fault. Is this how it works: Anything bad that happened under Bush until 2004 was Clinton's fault, and anything after 2004 was Obama's fault?

    This narrative is pretty simple: the neocons wrongly ignored specific threats.

    I didn't even mention the time they were still obsessed with Sadaam after 9/11 and invaded a whole country based on more faulty approaches to intelligence. Just how many massive blunders does Bush get a pass on, exactly?

  • John||

    Shut up sock puppet. You have ceased to be worthy of reading much less responding to. We get it Tony, all evils in the world are the result of the evil Republicans and all good in the world is the result of the Democrats. And the only flaw the Democrats ever have is that they sometimes are just do not fight hard enough against the evil Republicans.

    We know your fairy tale. You give it on every thread. Once again, take it elsewhere. The adults are talking.

  • T o n y||

    I'm perfectly happy to discuss Democrats' faults, it's just they pale so much in comparison to negligently allowing the worst terrorist attack in history and then invading the wrong country and getting thousands more killed as a response. What's your excuse for that one, again?

    I do not think you apply the same generous standards of forgiveness to Obama, who I'm certain you blame for much of the economic problems that, too, began under Bush. What's your excuse for that one?

  • Fluffy||

    Obama claims that the President can overpower the business cycle.

    That's a core claim.

    It doesn't matter what mess Bush left behind. The core claim of leftists is that they know better than the market and can fix everything and bring the utopia. Any time they fail to do that, no matter what the inputs are and no matter what the start position is, they are failures.

  • T o n y||

    So Obama can be blamed for things that happened under Bush because... a bunch of strawmen?

  • Fluffy||

    No, Tony.

    If Obama and I were the only candidates in 2008, and the question was, "What can be done to end the recession?" Obama's answer was "Elect me, because I can end the recession and bring back growth," and my answer was "Nothing can stop the recession now. We just have to ride it out, and the best thing we can do is stop trying to stop it."

    That means that if Obama wins the election and the economy stays bad, we get to conclude that his statements about his magical economy healing powers were false.

  • T o n y||

    I can't find that quote. Do you have a source? Or are you just making things up you thought you heard? I was pretty sure I heard "change will be hard and won't happen overnight."

    There is no serious analysis that suggests that doing nothing would have produced a better outcome: that's just magical libertarian thinking. I wish I could just make shit up and declare it true.

    My underlying point remains: the standard of blame being applied to Bush and Obama seem to be completely out of whack on this message board.

  • Fluffy||

    There is no serious analysis that suggests that doing nothing would have produced a better outcome: that's just magical libertarian thinking.

    I wouldn't have made the recession better. That's the whole point. I would have stood by and let it fall all the way to the bottom. Because I think that in the long term that's the best way to proceed.

    Holding any other opinion whatsoever constitutes believing that the government can control the business cycle. And as soon as you assert that, if you fail to produce a perfect business cycle devoid of recessions or periods of sluggish growth and general unpleasantness, you have failed.

  • T o n y||

    Pretty much by definition there is no scenario to which the preferred outcome is a Great Depression. Your business cycle theory leaves out the possibility (of which there is plenty of evidence) of the vicious cycle. And there is no way in hell you wouldn't be blaming Obama for 25% unemployment if you'd had your way.

  • Randian||

    If Obama had done nothing and we experienced 25% unemployment (which, at 16-17%, we're not too far off as it is), I absolutely would not have blamed him in the slightest.

    As it is, I only blame the President because he failed on his own terms, not because I thought he could actually do something productive about it. In other words, I am holding the President accountable to his own standards.

  • WTF||

    I'm perfectly happy to discuss Democrats' faults, it's just they pale so much in comparison to negligently allowing the worst terrorist attack in history

    You do realize all the planning and training for the 9/11 attacks took place while Slick Willy was in office? Seriously, you're not even trying anymore.

  • T o n y||

    And the execution of the attacks happened on Bush's watch. If Bush had a (D) after his name this board would look a lot different and that's the problem I have. Even when most of you guys are positing a fallacious equivalence of the parties you are being disingenuous.

  • WTF||

    You really are a dishonest assnugget.

  • Azathoth!!||

    Absolutely--if Bush had a D after his name and did everything exactly the same as he did it, you would be singing his praises. We all know this.

    The rest of the board would be kicking or praising Bush as his policies and positions warrant, just like they do now.

  • T o n y||

    I needed a good laugh, thanks.

    The Bushies made it impermissible to question Republicanism after 9/11. It's easy for even the hardest of objective observers to forget just what a monumental fuckup that entire presidency was.

    Libertarians typically go somewhat into conspiracy theory mode and at least assume the worst of politicians. But all I see here is a bunch of trashing of the premise of the article and knee-jerking to defend Bush. Sell your objectivity to someone who hasn't been here so long.

  • Knutsack||

    Oh it's Clinton's fault. Is this how it works: Anything bad that happened under Bush until 2004 was Clinton's fault, and anything after 2004 was Obama's fault?

    This seems to have a ring of familiarity to it. It's almost like someone might use this strategy to defend their "work" to "save" the economy. Then, when that doesn't work, well, it's obviously the previous President's fault. I'm sure this will all work itself out in the next four years. He just needs more time.

  • Knutsack||

    Ooops. Maybe I need to read farther down the page next time. Or maybe I should just not give a damn about what Tony posts.

  • Fluffy||

    Dude, I hate Bush more than anybody. But this is just dumb.

    Some days the bear gets you. That's just how it is. It's psychotic to declare that any time the enemy is successful we have to go around and find people to force-choke over it.

    I bet the Pentagon has a threat assessment out there for Britain suddenly sneak-attacking us out of nowhere. But if that ever happens, we can't look at the assessment and say, "You should have known this would happen!"

    "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US" is about as helpful a guide to action as "Mugger to Strike Somewhere in US Tomorrow!" It's a big country.

  • T o n y||

    We can't know for sure how much negligence was involved without reading the memos referred to, but given the desire and follow-through of attacking Iraq even post-9/11, the idea that the neocons were obsessed with Iraq and negligent to the real threats is certainly plausible, if not downright undeniable.

    I'm not willing to go down the road of forgiving every administration that ever will be for every inability to stop a massive terrorist attack. Are you?

  • Fluffy||

    I certainly blame Bush for stupidly invading Iraq.

    But that's a separate issue.

    The issue is whether the 9/11 attacks could have been prevented by action originating the Oval Office. And I just don't see it.

    The only way the 9/11 attacks could have been prevented is by sheer luck by some street-level cop or FBI agent bumping into Atta one day and deciding to pursue a hunch. Or we could have gotten REALLY lucky and Ziad Jarrah could have chickened out because he missed his wife (which apparently almost happened) and he could have blown the whole thing. What was NOT going to happen was that Bush was going to hear the assessment and magically declare the exact right policy to stop 19 guys randomly roaming around the US 5 weeks before the attacks.

  • T o n y||

    It all depends on what's in the memos. And Iraq is direct evidence of the neocons' inability to properly assess intelligence, which is a generous criticism.

  • Randian||

    You assume that Iraq was borne out of bad intelligence, which is not true.

    It was borne from deliberate misrepresentation of intelligence in order to justify a larger strategic vision for the region. Condi Rice admitted as much.

  • T o n y||

    Hence "generous criticism." Similarly I think it's more accurate to say the neocons were negligent on 9/11 intelligence rather than simply blindsided.

  • Randian||

    Similarly I think it's more accurate to say the neocons were negligent on 9/11 intelligence rather than simply blindsided.

    Which you're just making up without evidence.

  • T o n y||

    The evidence is allegedly contained in the memos referred to in this article, if the original memo doesn't count enough by itself.

  • WTF||

    The evidence is allegedly contained in the memos referred to in this article,

    So, made-up 'evidence'.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Let's say that the Bush administration pieced together the general idea behind 9/11, but not the specific actors. The Bush administration puts in place oppressive security at airports. 9/11 is averted. Does Eichenwald thank Bush or call him a fascist?

  • T o n y||

    For the amount of money we spend on counterterrorism you'd think it's at least conceivable that we could have figured out the actual actors and the actual plot, without having to do what is still considered mostly pointless security bullshit at airports.

    By this account the threat was ignored as bluster by administration neocons who were not experts on terrorism but who overruled those who were. They were disastrously wrong. They shouldn't get a pass on that.

  • Esteban||

    The point is that we didn't spend a lot of money on counter-terrorism (and could stand to spend less than we do now).

  • Esteban||

    Before 9/11*

  • Fluffy||

    Personally, I would have called them fascists.

    If they didn't know the details of the plot, their only real conceivable action would have been rounding up all the names that ended up on the terrorist watch list and throwing them into camps. If you don't know which 19 "terror affiliated suspects" to get, you have to get them all.

    And if on the basis of "threat assessments" and "chatter" the Bush administration had thrown thousands or tens of thousands of people into camps, you wouldn't have had to be a very persuasive guy to talk me into going out into the street to throw Molotov cocktails.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Agreed. And so would the author, IMO. And so would I.

    And it strikes me as a bit disingenuous to argue that they should have done something knowing full well he'd excoriate them for doing what was almost certainly the only something with a realistic chance of preventing what happened.

  • BarryD||

    Given that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by a few people, it's most likely that rounding up people and putting them into camps would have stopped 9/11 just about as well as FDR's doing that stopped the War in the Pacific.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    I think a list of names mentioned in intercepted chatter provides are more useful starting point than national heritage does.

    And, really, the claim wasn't that it was going to stop the War in the Pacific, it was going to stop sabotage. Which, for all we know, it did, just like camps might have stopped 9/11. The point is that that is too high a price to pay.

  • Randian||

    Yes, the problem with Tony's criticism is that the actions necessary to have prevented 9/11 would result in a state he wouldn't like very much.

    Much in the same way I don't advocate pre-screenings and preventative detainment for budding psychopaths, recognizing that yes, they may someday go nuts and 'active shooter' me in the middle of the streets, I recognize that a free society requires we live with a slightly-more-than-minute risk of terrorist activity.

  • BarryD||

    "a state he wouldn't like very much"

    Perhaps you assume too much about Tony.

    You and I wouldn't like it much, though.

  • T o n y||

    I don't think so. We've had very rigorous antiterrorism ops since long before 9/11. It's just that the Bushies were so godawful at executing government at every conceivable level.

  • Restoras||

    Totally. I mean, there are reams of evidence that pointed to the exact time and place where the attacks originated, what the targets were, and who the actual terrorists were to mkae it 100% preventable. And those Portland security guys were clearly political appointees - how else can you explain the incompetence that let them through security?

  • Restoras||

    For once, I agree with Shit-For-Brains. I mean, come on, this is clearly a case where enough specific intelligence existed to directly prevent the murder of 3,000 innocents by Muslim Islamofacists, whom Shit-For-Brains clearly hates as much as any Teabagger and Democrat in Congress leading up to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

  • o3||

    the FBI field office in phoenix (i believe) reported folks learning take-off, but no landing procedures.

  • BarryD||

    And I'm sure that, when the agents involved turned on their TV or computer on 9/11, the light went on, and the weird bit of intel suddenly made sense.

    That's the problem with all that stuff.

  • o3||

    u gotta admit that's bizarre

  • BarryD||

    Obviously.

    And that's why the agents reported it.

    What they didn't and couldn't know was that a group of guys would use boxcutters to take over some commercial jets, then fly them into some famous buildings.

  • o3||

    pre-9/11, the FBI could reasonable infer was that there would be hyjackings. and yet they did nothing

  • Lyle||

    This is the truth.

  • Randian||

    Monday Morning Quarterbacking is permissible when blaming BOOOSH, apparently.

  • Fluffy||

    Right, but the guy who was detected "not learning how to land" was Zacarias Moussaoui, who was arrested before the attacks, and is now serving life in supermax.

    So the FBI had reason to think "Hey, we stopped a hijacking!" (Pats on backs all around.)

  • Restoras||

    Exactly! More direct and specific evidence that an attack would occur on 9/11 and were completely preventable. Bush obviously ignored it all on purpose in order to generate a pretext to go to war.

  • o3||

    no, bush und his neocon playmates, preferred to believe that hussain, not aQ was the target.

    and bush/cheney/rummy all attempted to shoehorn iraq into the 9/11 picture.

  • Restoras||

    Yes, yes! I mean, there is no proof of that whatsoever but who cares if it bolsters the Narrative, AMIRITE?!?!

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    If only Clinton had taken bin Laden when Yemen offered, right?

  • BarryD||

    Yeah...

    Except that the '90s was a time when the US was trying to clean up after decades of fucked-up Cold War "involvements" overseas. Would any libertarian at the time have supported Clinton's taking out Bin Laden? I don't think so.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    It was in response to Tony's "They were disastrously wrong. They shouldn't get a pass on that." If that's the standard, Clinton was disastrously wrong and shouldn't get a pass on that.

    And, actually, I think it was Sudan, not Yemen. Regardless, I think there was already plenty in place to justify taking out bin Laden at the time.

  • T o n y||

    That wasn't exactly a negligent response to intelligence, but a policy choice. In hindsight a disastrous one, perhaps, but you guys do realize that the first thing I wrote is proving itself over and over: you guys are falling all over yourselves to give Bush a pass. He was a fuckup of monumental proportions. Why do Democrats need to enter the conversation at all? Talk about them elsewhere. You guys sure don't hesitate to blame Obama for everything down to your stubbed toe, so I don't see the point of this Bush apologetics.

  • Randian||

    Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you're a thousand miles from the corn field.

  • Randian||

    The point, of course, is to point out your own hackery, Tony.

    You shouldn't be surprised that people enjoy tearing you down. I mean, you are an asshole here on purpose, right?

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    you guys are falling all over yourselves to give Bush a pass.

    No, he made mistakes. The point is that it's a mistake that probably couldn't have been avoided without taking the kinds of actions you'd probably be screaming about had they been taken.

    That wasn't exactly a negligent response to intelligence, but a policy choice.

    So a purposeful decision to let bin Laden go is somehow superior to negligence?

  • WTF||

    We get it 'Tony' - Obama is not responsible for the disastrous economy of the past four years he's been in office, but BOOOSHH is responsible for the previous two years of intelliegnce fuckups under Clinton when the 9/11 plot was being worked out and trained for by al qaeda. DERP!

  • BarryD||

    There probably was plenty in place.

    But I remember the context and temper of the time.

  • Azathoth!!||

    They wouldn't have 'taken him out'--they would have arrested him. Sudan had captured him and they were willing to hand him over to us for...the Cole bombing?

    But Clinton said no.

    Scariest thing is that this was most likely before or at the very beginning of 9/11 planning.

  • Loki||

    Americans should always be wary of government-proposed restrictions made in the name of "war."

    As well as NYT journalists claiming "While those documents are still not public, I have read excerpts from many of them...".

    Riiiight, sure you have. While Eichenwald might not have come right out and said it, it seems like he was pretty much implying that "Bush knew". If I were in Bush's shoes and was told "Osama Bin-Laden/ Al-Qaeda wants to attack the US and is planning some kind of attack in the near future" I'm pretty sure my response would have been "No shit, Sherlock, tell me something I don't already know, like when, where, and how."

    Hell, even the much touted "Pheonix memo" doesn't actually contain anything that could be considered actionable intelligence. All it said was "Al-Qaeda sympathizers are in the US taking flight training, but we're not sure why or how they intend to use that knowledge in a hypothetical terrorist attack". Again my response would be "...and we can do what with this? Ratchet up security at airports to defend against an attack, but we still don't know where, when, or exactly what they're planning?"

    Not that I'm defending Bush mind you. He was an incompetant jack ass who used the attack as an excuse to consolidate even more power in the federal government's hands (PATRIOT Act, TSA, HSA, etc.), but give me a fuckin' break.

  • RPR2||

    did they ever find out what was on the memos Sandy Burger stole in his pants?

  • Sam Grove||

    FDR maneuvered to leave Pearl Harbor inadequately defended.

    The WTC had been attacked previously.

    There had been a number of indications of possible airline hijackings.

    A number of the hijackers were on watch lists, yet were in the country legally.

    The Project for a New American Century published a document citing a need for a "Pearl Harbor incident" to justify expanding US military footprint in the middle East.

    Several administrations had called for regime change in Iraq.

    What should we make of that?

  • Lyle||

    Isn't Bush "knew" the implication though? If he had all this information, why didn't he stop it?

  • T o n y||

    From the book:

    After convincing Blair to support U.S. military action against Iraq, Bush turned to French President Jacques Chirac. “Jacques, you and I share a common faith. You’re Roman Catholic, I’m Methodist, but we are both Christians committed to the teachings of the Bible. We share one common Lord.”

    Chirac said he didn’t know where Bush was going with this. Then Bush said, “Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East. Biblical prophecies are being fulfilled. This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase His people’s enemies before a new age begins.”

    Chirac said he hung up called together his staff. “He said, ‘Gog and Magog.’ Do any of you know what he is talking about?” Nobody knew. “Find out.”

    Just one of those things! In the words of another Texas statesman, "Oops."

  • KRoyall||

    I read the article and didn't see anything new that would indicate there was actionable intelligence. Even if the administration had specific knowledge of a hijacking attempt the only way to thwart it would have been to target and profile Muslim travelers. We can't even get liberals to agree to do that NOW, after 9/11.

    If there were truly some damning new evidence, why wait until the anniversary of the event during the heart of election season? Did this information become available just yesterday? This is the NYT trying to blame Bush for 9/11. Obama's ball spiking on OBL is part of the narrative also.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement