In April and May 2001, for example, the intelligence community headlined some of those reports "Bin Laden planning multiple operations," "Bin Laden network's plans advancing" and "Bin Laden threats are real."
That's from Dana Priest's story in the Washington Post. Now, the August 6th PDF has been repeatedly classified as a "historical" document (which makes little sense, especially if you read the PDB), but it seems that a string of warnings such as the memos Priest refers to, should be a clear sign to anyone that this was not simply a fact-finding summary as the President contends.
There was a concerted effort to bring this danger to the attention of the administration. The author of the August 6th PDB wrote that memo because she wanted to bring attention to the issue (The Washington Post article is here) as well.
The more and more this issue gets looked at, and the more the White House tries to spin, the worse the administration looks. It is one thing to acknowledge an intelligence failure, it is another spin and shift blame in a thousand directions. Certainly Ashcroft, Tenet, Rice, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the President can not be held responsible for particular individual mistakes or mis-communications. Yet someone should take responsibility for the failure of the system.
Of course, taking responsibility for actions is not in great supply in Washington or the administration in particular.
Their absolute refusal to take this issue by the horns will hurt them in the long run. By tearing into former administration officials, or trying to take shots at commission members (like Ashcroft did today), they give the appearance of being unhelpful and possibly trying to conceal something. As the President put it last night, "A country that hides something is a country that is afraid of getting caught." In a politically charged country like the United States, even the appearance of guilt can sink a politician.
The maniacal devotion to secrecy, the speed with which they close ranks, and their instant and harsh attacks against anyone who criticizes them has put them in a position in which they may be incapable of functioning in the public view. They release statements and make carefully scripted public appearances, and woe to the reporter who tries to get off the talking points. If their public face reflects the reality of the inner workings of the administration, then it is doubtful that they would be able to shift with the changing realities. Their continued push to deploy a missile defense may be most symbolic of this lock-step mindset.
The administration came in with a fixed view of the world. They saw the greatest threat as coming from states, rogue nations. They believed that diplomacy was the way of the weak and that existing treaties bound the hands of the U.S. Despite making the correct move in invading Afghanistan following 9/11, they quickly reverted to their previous mindset and decided to invade Iraq. Now the Afghans are disappointed, there are still upper echelon members running around along the Afghan/Pakistan border and we have yet to find anything to verify the Administrations pre-war claims except that Saddam was as cruel as we said he was.
These difficulties have driven the majority of the criticism directed at the administration; the administration does not communicate with those who disagree with their beliefs (CIA, Military planners, experiences officers, the U.N. inspectors they sent in), they refuse to cooperate with congress unless absolutely necessary, their focus on Iraq has distracted them from the war on terror as well as drained valuable resources.
The criticism will continue as long as they continue to refuse to deal with the issues at hand. They simply close the door, take the phone off the hook and continue as before.
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