August 6th PDB: Smoking Gun or A Dud ?

During the 9/11 Commissions dog and pony show hearings, especially in the questioning of Dr. Rice, much was made of the now infamous August 6th 2001 Presidents Daily Briefing memo. 9/11 Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste pressed Dr. Rice about the PDB memo, which was still classified, as to the title of the memo and whether it advised of any threats of attacks.

Dr. Rice responded that she believed the title was "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States." Dr. Rice then attempted to answer the second part of Mr. Ben-Veniste's question when he rudely interrupted her, however Dr. Rice insisted on completing the answer to the question and went on to say that it "did not warn of any attacks inside the United States . It was historical information based on old reporting. Mr. Ben-Veniste response was to call for the memo's declassification for the public to see.



Well, Mr. Ben-Veniste got his wish and the memo was declassified on April 10th, with some minor redactions. I read the memo, which I had expected to be voluminous, in wake of the way the 9/11 commission was touting it. I agree completely with Dr. Rice's description of the memo and what it said.



The memo spoke of clandestine, foreign government, and media reports that since 1997, Bin Laden had wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the U.S., and that in television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that he would follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef ( 1993 WTC bombing) and "bring the fighting to America." Okay, so far I'm falling asleep here, this is old news, or as Dr. Rice put it, "historical information based on old reporting."



The memo goes on to say that after the U.S. missile strikes on his base in Afghanistan in 1998, Bin Laden wanted to retaliate in Washington. So far still old news.



Further on in the memo an Egyptian Islamic Jihad operative stated that at about the same time, Bin Laden was planning to exploit the operative's access to the U.S. to mount a terror strike. Still old news.



The memo stated that Bin Laden may have been part of the 1999 millennium bomb plot against the Los Angeles International Airport by Ahmed Ressam which was foiled and that in 1998 Abu Zubaydah , Bin Ladens lieutenant, was planning his own attack. It spoke of the 1998 attacks against the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and how Bin Laden associates surveilled our Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1993, and that members of the Nairobi cell planning the bombings were arrested and deported in 1997.



According to the memo, Al-Qaeda members, some who were U.S. citizens, have resided in or traveled to the U.S. for years and that the group apparently maintained a support structure that could aid attacks. Two Al-Qaeda members found guilty in the conspiracy to bomb our embassies in East Africa were U.S. citizens, and a senior EIJ member lived in California in the mid-1990's.



The memo also said that a clandestine source stated in 1998 that a Bin Laden cell in New York was recruiting Muslim-American youth for attacks. It went on to say: We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as Bin Laden saying in 1998 that he wanted to hijack a U.S. aircraft to gain the release of the "Blind Shaykh" 'Umar'Abd al-Rahman and other U.S. held extremists. Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.



The memo ended stating that the FBI was conducting 70 Bin Laden related field investigations in the U.S. and that the CIA and the FBI were investigating a report of a call to the embassy in the UAE in May stating that a group of Bin Laden supporters were in the U.S. planning attacks with explosives.



It certainly seems to me that Dr. Rice hit the nail right on the head when she stated in her opening statement, that all the intelligence before the 9/11 attacks was "not specific as to time, nor place, nor manner of attack." Anyone who really wants to find out the truth can see that this memo was full of old information, that the last paragraph of the memo, the only part of the memo that dealt with the current information at the time was ambiguous at best.



The fact that the FBI and the CIA were conducting investigations into possible Al-Qaeda in the United States planning attacks shows that steps were being taken on those suspicions and that any logical person reading the memo would conclude that the proper action would be taken by these agencies if it were warranted.



What it does not show is that we knew that aircraft were going to be used in attacks against United States citizens, or that the President was briefed on such information, because the simple truth and fact of the matter is ladies and gentlemen, the memo did not state that and he wasn't briefed as such.



This so called smoking gun has turned out to be nothing more than a leaky water pistol, it hasn't done any damage, it's running out of ammo, and it's all wet.


Posted by J.R. at April 13, 2004 2:27 AM