August 6, 2001, President's Daily Briefing Memo

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The on-going debate regarding the events of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent investigation by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, shifted to the August 6, 2001, President's Daily Briefing Memo during Condoleezza Rice's testimony before the Commission on April 8, 2004. [1]

August 7, 2001, Senior Executive Intelligence Brief
Another twist in the saga emerged on April 13, 2004, when Associated Press reporter John Solomon announced that there was a second, similar version of the memo August 6, 2001, to President Bush—the August 7, 2001, Senior Executive Intelligence Brief—which was presented a day later to senior government policy-makers: [2]

Officials, who "would only discuss the senior executives' memo on condition of anonymity because it remain[ed] classified," reported that the August 7, 2001, brief did not mention:
  • "70 FBI investigations into possible al-Qaida activity that the president had been told of a day earlier in a top-secret memo titled Bin Laden Determined To Strike in U.S.,..."
  • "a threat received in May 2001 of possible attacks with explosives in the United States or that the FBI had concerns about recent activities like the casing of buildings in New York"

Solomon reported that "Some members of Congress on Monday said they were concerned that senior executive memos and other similar documents may have given policy-makers below Bush an incomplete picture of the terror threat at the time. ... But [Bush] administration officials said there was nothing sinister about the deletions because such memos are prepared for two different audiences. The CIA historically uses different standards for the president's daily intelligence update and the one for senior policy-makers, the officials said."


The August 6, 2001, President's Daily Briefing Memo

White House Fact Sheet: "The August 6, 2001 PDB Entitled "bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US", April 10, 2004.

White House Briefing on Release of the August 6, 2001 President's Daily Brief Excerpt "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in U.S.", April 10, 2004.

Download April 6, 2001, President's Daily Briefing Memo as a PDF document.

The White House released a redacted copy of the August 6, 2001, President's Daily Briefing Memo at approximately 6:15 PM (EST) on April 10, 2004.

CNN reports that the "White House declassified and released Saturday the daily intelligence briefing delivered to President Bush a month before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001." [3]

"Portions of the intelligence report dealing with Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network and dated August 6, 2001, have been redacted for national security reasons, the White House said.
"The memo, titled 'Bin Laden determined to attack inside the United States,' had been described by the White House as a largely historical document with scant information about domestic al Qaeda threats.
"The memo includes intelligence on al Qaeda threats as recent as three months before the attacks.
"Much of the intelligence was uncorroborated, and nothing in the memo points directly to the September 11 attacks.
"Highlights of the report include:
  • An intelligence report received in May 2001 indicating that al Qaeda was trying to send operatives to the United States through Canada to carry out an attack using explosives. That information had been passed on to intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
  • An allegation that al Qaeda had been considering ways to hijack American planes to win the release of operatives who had been arrested in 1998 and 1999.
  • An allegation that bin Laden was set on striking the United States as early as 1997 and through early 2001.
  • Intelligence suggesting that suspected al Qaeda operatives were traveling to and from the United States, were U.S. citizens, and may have had a support network in the country.
  • A report that at least 70 FBI investigations were under way in 2001 regarding possible al Qaeda cells/terrorist-related operations in the United States.

Pre-Release Commentary

"Although the process of declassifying the document had been reported as being on-going earlier on April 10, 2004, Washington Post staff writers Walter Pincus and Dan Eggen wrote that "The classified briefing delivered to President Bush five weeks before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks featured information about ongoing al Qaeda activities within the United States, including signs of a terror support network, indications of hijacking preparations and plans for domestic attacks using explosives, according to sources who have seen the document and a review of official accounts and media reports over the past two years."

"This information on current threats in the briefing, titled Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.," Pincus and Eggen state, [obviously] "stands in contrast to repeated assertions by national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and other Bush administration officials as recently as this week that the document is primarily historical and includes no warning or threat information." [4]

The April 10, 2004, Associated Press report goes even further by saying that the "Bush Memo Included Possible Plot Warning" for terrorist activity on U.S. soil. "And, it said, al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden's desire to strike inside America surfaced as long as four years before Bush took office, according to several people who have seen the memo."

The AP states that "Some of the most current information in the so-called presidential daily briefing ... came from reports U.S. intelligence had received in May 2001 about a possible plot for an explosives attack inside the United States, ... Also in August 2001, U.S. intelligence officials received two uncorroborated reports suggesting that terrorists might use airplanes, including one that suggested al-Qaida operatives were considering flying a plane into a U.S. embassy, current and former government officials said."

However, the AP reports, "Those reports -- among thousands of varied and uncorroborated threats received by the government each month -- weren't deemed credible enough to tell Bush or his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, the officials said." And, "None of the information in the president's briefing or the August reports involved the eventual Sept. 11 plot."

Although it was first stated that the document could be declassified within one day, "White House officials ... announced [April 9] that they were delaying any release until at least next week." [5]

According to National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack, the agency is "'actively working on declassification and are not quite ready to put it out,' ... [attributing] the delay to 'unprecedented activity' needed to prepare for public release the article." [6]

Pincus and Eggen caution that, "Because the Aug. 6, 2001, PDB in dispute has not been released publicly, it is impossible to be precise about its contents or the context in which it was delivered. Yet much of the information in the document has become public over the last two years through testimony, official accounts and news reports," several of which are identified below.

Post-Release Analysis

In the view of Larry C. Johnson, a member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity who served with the CIA from 1985 through 1989: [7]

I wrote about 40 PDB's during my four year tenure at the CIA. This particular PDB article was written in response to a presidential request. I am told that Bush's request was a reaction to the intelligence warnings he was hearing during the daily CIA morning briefings. Something caught his attention and awakened his curiosity. He reportedly asked the CIA to come back with its assessment of Bin Laden's intentions. The CIA answered the question--Bin Laden was targeting the United States.
The PDB article released Saturday is a classic CIA response to such a request. It lays out the historical and evidentiary antecedents that undergird the analyst's belief about the nature of the threat and provides current intelligence indicators that reinforce the basic conclusion of the piece--i.e., Bin Laden was determined to attack the United States.
The PDB revealed another very fascinating item--the analyst who wrote the piece had access to details about FBI investigations.

David Corn, in his April 12, 2004, "Condi's Cover-up Caves In," writes:

"The disclosure of the PDB came at an especially awkward time for the White House. Two weeks earlier, news reports revealed that an FBI agent in Phoenix in July 2001 had written a classified memo suggesting that a group of Middle Eastern aviation students might be linked to terrorists (including bin Laden) and that the FBI had not taken any action in response to this agent's investigation. The "Phoenix memo" received a flood of media coverage, and the Bush administration--which heretofore had not had to field any tough questions about the government's pre-9/11 performance-- was confronted with queries about the negligent handling of the agent's prescient report. At the same time, the case of Zacarias Moussaoui was in the news. On May 15, the Times reported that before 9/11 an FBI agent had speculated that Moussaoui, the suspicious aviation student arrested by the FBI on immigration charges in the summer of 2001, might have been planning to fly a plane into the World Trade Center. News reports had previously indicated that the FBI had not pursued the Moussaoui case vigorously prior to September 11.
"The Phoenix memo, the Moussaoui case--all of this placed the administration on the defensive for the first time since 9/11, as the White House fended off suggestions (and accusations) that the federal government, on Bush's watch, had missed crucial tips and opportunities to thwart the horrific attacks. Then came news of the August 6 PDB.
"The White House reaction was predictable: stonewall. The Bush crew clearly did not want American citizens to discover that he had been told that bin Laden was aiming to conduct attacks in the United States, and they did not want to have to answer the inevitable questions (such as, what did the president do in response to this briefing?). So Team Bush started spinning, and its lead twirler was Rice."

Background

During her April 8, 2004, testimony before the Commission, Condoleezza Rice, as well as Commission members, made numerous references to the August 6, 2001, President's Daily Briefing Memo. On August 9, 2004, the "White House now says [the classified memo] will be released soon." [8]

"'We're working on that right now,' White House spokesman Dan Bartlett told NBC's Today show Friday, adding that the memo would be released after it is reviewed for any sensitive material. [9]
"The White House had earlier refused to release it to the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, citing national security concerns. The commission on Thursday again asked for it after Rice, testifying before the panel, acknowledged that President Bush received the briefing warning of Osama bin Laden's determination to launch terrorist strikes inside the United States. [10]
"Rice, who testified that 'no silver bullet' could have prevented the attacks, dismissed the document -- the sensitive presidential daily brief -- as unimportant, heatedly insisting that it was 'a historical memo' that lacked specifics. [11]
"'It did not warn of attacks inside the United States,' Rice said in response to aggressive questioning from Richard Ben-Veniste, a Democratic member of the commission. '... And it did not raise the possibility that terrorists might use airplanes as missiles.'" [12]

Although it was alleged that, prior to August 8, 2004, the exact name of the memo had remained unknown, as Political Animal Kevin Drum and Billmon of the Whiskey Bar point out, it does -- and did -- have a name: "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." [13]

On May 18, 2002, journalists Bob Woodward and Dan Eggen reported in the Washington Post on the August 6, 2001, President's Daily Briefing Memo, prepared for President George W. Bush, which "Focused On Attacks in U.S.". Jason Burke and Ed Vulliamy, writing for the Guardian/UK, related the same title information on May 19, 2002. [14]

Woodward and Eggen wrote: "The top-secret briefing memo presented to President Bush on Aug. 6 carried the headline, Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S., and was primarily focused on recounting al Qaeda's past efforts to attack and infiltrate the United States, senior administration officials said.

"The document, known as the President's Daily Briefing," they state, "underscored that Osama bin Laden and his followers hoped to 'bring the fight to America,' in part as retaliation for U.S. missile strikes on al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan in 1998, according to knowledgeable sources."

Media Reports on the Memo

"On August 6, 2001, President Bush received a briefing by the CIA titled Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S. (National Post, May 20, 2002, p.1) The report was prepared at Mr. Bush's request after he became alarmed at warnings of 'an impending attack in the summer of 2001.' (ibid., p. A9) At the time, Bush was concerned about 'domestic targets.' Yet According to Jonathan Freeland (writing in the National Guardian, May 30-June 5, 2002 p. 11) "Vice President Dick Cheney sat on a Counter-Terrorism Bill passed to him in July, 2001. The Attorney General John Ashcroft refused a demand for more FBI anti-terrorism agents. The Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld did not deploy a predator drone aircraft which the Clinton Administration had used to track Bin Laden. National Security Advisor Condi Rice was warned by her Clintonite predecessor that she should spend more time on Al Qaeda than any other issue.' She didn't," Steve Moore reported in Global Research, August 18, 2002.

On April 8, 2004, Billmon directed attention to the March 23, 2004, remarks made by President Bush After Meeting with the Cabinet: "In any case, it does help explain the extremely careful wording of Bush's most recent public statement regarding what he was or was not told during that long, lazy summer on the ranch down in Crawford:

"Had my administration had any information that terrorists were going to attack New York City on September the 11th, we would have acted."

Billmon writes: "I'm waiting for excuse 2.0, which will probably be rolled out after the 9-11 Commission report is released this summer. I'm guessing it's going to sound something like this:

"Had my administration had positive confirmation that on the morning of September 11, nineteen Al Qaeda operatives were going to hijack American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston's Logan Airport, and American Airlines Flight 77 from Washington's Reagan National Airport, and United Airlines Flight 93 from Newark airport, and then fly them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon -- and either the White House or the U.S. Capitol in the case of Flight 93 -- we would have acted."

Kevin Drum commented: "And that [the August 6, 2001, President's Daily Briefing Memo] wasn't a warning? What would it take?" [15]


Item 10 of the "Statement of the Case" in the lawsuit filed November 26, 2003, on behalf of September 11, 2001 widow Ellen Mariani states: [16]

"As widely reported and confirmed by many American independent researchers of the facts and circumstances of '911,' Defendant GWB knew the attacks of '911' were probable and failed to act. Specifically, Special Agent Robert Wright wrote a memo on June 9, 2001, warning his superiors, Defendant DOJ/FBI of the potential of terrorists hijacking aircraft to attack the United States and two (2) months later, Defendant GWB's National Security Advisor, Defendant Condoleezza Rice, acknowledged that on August 6, 2001, (one month prior to the '911' attacks), she provided a written brief to Defendant GWB at his Texas ranch which warned 'OBL' might try to hijack U.S. aircraft."

John W. Dean, in the July 29, 2003, article "The 9/11 Report Raises More Serious Questions About The White House Statements On Intelligence" wrote:

"One of the most important sets of documents that the Congressional Inquiry sought was a set of copies of the President's Daily Brief (PDB), which is prepared each night by the CIA. In the Appendix of the 9/11 Report we learn that on August 12, 2002, after getting nowhere with informal discussions, Congress formally requested that the Bush White House provide this information.
"More specifically, the Joint Inquiry asked about the process by which the Daily Brief is prepared, and sought several specific Daily Brief items. In particular, it asked for information about the August 6, 2001 Daily Brief relating to Osama Bin Laden's terrorist threats against the United States, and other Daily Brief items regarding Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, and pre-September 11 terrorism threats.
"The Joint Inquiry explained the basis for its request: 'the public has a compelling interest ... in understanding how well the Intelligence Community was performing its principal function of advising the President and NSC of threats to U.S. national security."
"In short, the Joint Inquiry wanted to see the records. Bush's public assertion that his intelligence was 'darn good' was not sufficient.
"The Inquiry had substantial background material, for the Clinton Administration's national security team had been very forthcoming. As a result, it warned President Bush of the inevitable consequences of refusal to provide access to the requested Daily Briefs.
"The Inquiry told Bush: 'In the absence of such access, we will have no choice but to extrapolate the number and content of [Daily Brief] items on these subjects from the items that appeared on these subjects in the Senior Executive Intelligence Brief and other lower level intelligence products during the same period.'
"Bush nevertheless denied access, claiming Executive Privilege. While the Inquiry did not chose to draw obvious conclusions, they are right there in the report for everyone else to draw."

Dean continued:

"The president's briefing of August 6, 2001 was the subject of public discussion even before the Inquiry started its work. As the 9/11 Report notes in a footnote (at page 206), 'National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice stated in a May 16, 2002 press briefing that, on August 6, 2001, the President Daily Brief (PDB) included information about Bin Laden's methods of operation from a historical perspective dating back to 1997.' (Emphasis added.)
"At that May 16, 2002 briefing, Rice went on to say that the Brief made clear that one method Bin Laden might choose was to hijack an airline, taking hostages to gain release of one of their operatives. She said it was 'a generalized warring' [sic] with nothing about time, place or method. And she added, 'I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon.'
"Unfortunately, Rice's statements don't fit comfortably with the Inquiry's information. It appears from the 9/11 Report that either Rice was dissembling, or the CIA was withholding information from the President (and hence also from Rice).
"But as we have been learning with the missing Weapons of Mass Destruction, the CIA has consistently been forthcoming. So it seems that it is Rice who should explain herself."

Bill Vann of wsws.org wrote on December 12, 2003, that "According to press reports, one of these briefs, issued on August 6, 2001--a month before some 3,000 people were killed at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon--warned the White House of plans by Al Qaeda to mount terrorist attacks using hijacked airplanes.

"Rather than issuing subpoenas demanding the full panel's unrestricted access to these crucial documents, the leadership of the panel agreed to a rigged procedure in which only one commissioner and one staff member will be allowed to review selected portions of the briefs and write summaries of them, with the White House then vetting the final material, removing whatever it sees fit.

"'If this decision stands, I, as a member of the commission, cannot look any American in the eye, especially family members of victims, and say the commission had full access,' Max Cleland said following the announcement of the deal. 'This investigation is now compromised.... This is The Gong Show; this isn't protection of national security.'"

In his April 8, 2004, Salon article "Weeks before 9/11, the president was "consumed" by a pressing policy matter -- but it wasn't al-Qaida", Eric Boehlert wrote:

"On the night of Aug. 9, 2001, speaking from his vacation ranch in Crawford, Texas, President Bush delivered his first prime-time address to the nation. It was just three days after he had read the startling President's Daily Brief titled, 'Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.,' which warned of airline hijackings planned by al-Qaida. It was one month after the administration's counterterrorism chief, Richard Clarke, informed senior law enforcement officials he had gathered inside the White House's Situation Room, 'Something really spectacular is going to happen here, and it's going to happen soon.' And it was three months after intelligence analysts had begun tracking unprecedented 'chatter' about a possible terrorist attack. So now, Bush looked into the camera and spoke solemnly: 'Good evening. I appreciate you giving me a few minutes of your time tonight so I can discuss with you a complex and difficult issue, an issue that is one of the most profound of our time.'
"That issue was stem cell research."

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