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What Did They Know Page

What Did George Bush himself know in advance of the attacks?

Most of the links below no longer work, but there is enough
information in each excerpt to find the article
at the Internet archive's WayBack Machine or in LexisNexis.


What Did Bush Know?

What Bush Knew Before Sept. 11, CBS News, May 16, 2002:

“President Bush was told in the months before the Sept. 11 attacks that Osama bin Laden's terrorist network might hijack U.S. passenger planes - information which prompted the administration to issue an alert to federal agencies - but not the American public.”

See no evil, David Talbot,, May 16, 2002:

“Just one day after the GOP tried to shake the money tree with a photo of President Bush evincing ‘gritty determination’ as he was shuttled around the country on Air Force One after the terror attacks, the administration was forced to admit that while Bush was relaxing at his Crawford ranch in early August, he was briefed about a potential Osama bin Laden hijacking plot. And yet the Bush team, which believed that President Clinton had fruitlessly overpersonalized the struggle with bin Laden, did not go into high alert.”

Aug. Memo Focused On Attacks in U.S. , Bob Woodward and Dan Eggen, Washington Post,  May 18, 2002:

“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.”  

Ashcroft Learned of Agent's Alert Just After 9/11 but Bush Was Not Told, David Johnston and Don Van Natta Jr., The New York Times, May 21, 2002:

“But senior Bush administration officials said neither Mr. Ashcroft nor Mr. Mueller briefed President Bush and his national security staff until recently about the Phoenix memorandum. Nor did they tell Congressional leaders.”

Bush: 9/11 questions persist, Nicholas M. Horrock, Washington Times, May 19, 2002 (no longer available on the internet):

“Despite new terrorism warnings and the president's impending trip to Russia, the Bush administration Sunday still found itself assailed by questions about whether it ignored or mishandled warnings that could have prevented the devastating attacks on Sept. 11…  Ask [sic] by Fox's Snow whether those comments were a ‘preemptive strike’ to silence Democrats, Cheney said it struck him as ‘beyond the pale’ that ‘somehow, my president had information and failed to act upon it to prevent the attack on Sept. 11.’”

QUESTION:  Did Bush actually READ the August 6 briefing?

A bad call?, Ed Vulliamy, Guardian Unlimited, May 19, 2002:

“The memo came as it did every day: the 'President's Daily Briefing'. Whether or not the President read the note that particular day, nobody knows. Hindsight reveals just how explosive were its contents: an assessment of the current activities and menace of the al-Qaeda terrorist organisation of Osama bin Laden.”

Thanks for the Heads-Up, Frank Rich, The New York Times, May 25, 2002:

“[T]here's no need to learn what was in that top-secret briefing that the president received as he settled down for his monthlong vacation at his Texas ranch on Aug. 6. Reports at the time show that Mr. Bush broke off from work early and spent most of that day fishing. If he had received foreknowledge of an attack that morning, he would have acted upon it, and no Democratic leader has said otherwise (despite Dick Cheney's smears to the contrary).”

CIA-FBI Feuding Runs Deep, Richard T. Cooper and Josh Meyer, Los Angeles Times, May 26, 2002:

“How did congressional investigators learn about the Aug. 6 briefing?  The answer, congressional sources said, is that they were tipped off by officials in the CIA's office of congressional affairs.  Congressional aides described it as an atypically cooperative gesture from a CIA office that had previously been accused by lawmakers of hindering the probe…

“The information was leaked to the media two days later and was first mentioned on the CBS Evening News on May 15.”

Court-appointed commander, Editorial, Arkansas Times, May 24, 2002:

“We know now that the Bush administration received numerous warnings of impending terrorist attacks, some arriving almost on the eve of the Sept. 11 disaster, and did next to nothing. Well, it did slip word to John Ashcroft, our faith-based attorney general, and Ashcroft stopped flying on commercial aircraft. Faith has its limitations.”

Just imagine Bush's words coming from mouth of President Gore, David Sarasohn, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, May 28, 2002:

“[I]t may be hard to imagine a Gore administration, but it's impossible to imagine a Gore administration getting away with the claim that its officials never knew anything significant, and what they did know, they couldn't tell you.”

Heads-Up To Ashcroft Proves Threat Was Known Before 9/11, Harley Sorensen, SF Gate, June 3, 2002:

“Bush knew something was going to happen involving airplanes. He just didn't know what or exactly when. His attorney general, John Ashcroft, knew. His national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, knew. They all knew…  On July 26, 2001, reported that John Ashcroft had stopped flying on commercial airlines…  The FBI did advise Ashcroft to stay off commercial aircraft. The rest of us just had to take our chances…

“On July 5, 2001, according to a recent Washington Post article, the White House called together officials from a dozen federal agencies to give them a warning.

“‘Something really spectacular is going to happen here, and it's going to happen soon,’ the officials were told by the government's top counterterrorism official, Richard Clarke.

“Clarke considered the threat sufficiently important to direct every counterintelligence office to cancel vacations and get ready for immediate action, the Post reported.”

Bush seeks new agency on homeland security,, June 6, 2002:

“The White House has stepped up efforts in recent days to shield Bush from criticism that his administration did not do enough to prevent the attacks. Bush’s announcement is designed in part to steal some attention from the congressional hearings, White House officials said.”

He waved away warnings, John R. MacArthur, Toronto Globe and Mail, June 4, 2002 (no longer available on the internet):

“[I]t's hard to see how new ‘investigative powers’ will increase the FBI's effectiveness when it's clear that agents Coleen Rowley and Kenneth Williams already had all the necessary information to make arrests (as was done with Zacarias Moussaoui), or at least haul the student pilots in for questioning. It's very likely that specialists in the bureau's counterterrorism section were fully aware of the possibility that the planes might be aimed at the twin towers…

“So while the bureaucrats were actually looking for bad guys, what were the politicians up to?”

Signs of attacks well-known, Ray McGovern, Miami Herald, June 3, 2002:

“No one wants to believe that the attacks of Sept. 11 could have been prevented, but we do a disservice to our country if we stay in denial. No one wants to believe that President Bush had more forewarning than he acknowledges, but there is strong circumstantial evidence that he did

“As warnings of a major terrorist operation against the United States poured in last summer, we know that George Tenet kept warning everyone who would listen. It seems to me certain that he would have kept the vacationing president up to date, including the fresh information on Moussaoui.

“And that's probably why Tenet didn't get fired after Sept. 11.”

White House Strategy: From Attack to Admit, Elisabeth Bumiller, The New York Times, June 6, 2002:

“As the capital wakes up almost daily to disclosures about intelligence warnings before Sept. 11, the White House has abruptly switched its strategy of mounting ferocious partisan assaults on Democrats to one of self-inoculation — admitting past mistakes and preparing for more bad news to come…

“Both strategies … have the same two basic goals, heading off criticism of President Bush and containing moves for a full-scale independent inquiry that could careen out of White House control.”

Proposal diverts attention from intelligence failings , Michael Tackett, Chicago Tribune, June 7, 2002:

“Cynical, calculating or utterly sincere, President Bush's address to the nation Thursday night had the same effect: He changed the national conversation.

“Exploiting the grandeur of the White House in prime time, Bush moved decisively to shift the subject from recrimination about the administration's failings over the Sept. 11 attacks to his broader plan for the prevention of future terrorist attacks.”

Bush tries to blunt anger over intelligence failures, Andrew Gumbel, The Independent, June 7, 2002:

“Yesterday's sudden announcement of a wholesale reorganisation of America's national security agencies and the institution of a dedicated cabinet post to co-ordinate them was a clear attempt by a beleaguered administration to take back control of the news agenda, after a volley of leaks and counter-leaks from the CIA and FBI threatened to reduce the country's counter-terrorism efforts to ridicule”

Why is the Bush administration lying about what it knew and when?

THE LIE WON’T STAND, Michael C. Ruppert, From the Wilderness, May 16, 2002:

“Every major position taken by an administration in full retreat and on the defensive can be easily deconstructed and shown to be false.” [and Ruppert proceeds to do so.]

Airlines Say They Weren't Warned, Fox News, May 16, 2002:

“‘No warnings indicated that a Sept. 11 scenario was credible or possible,’ United Airlines spokeswoman Chris Nardella told

“‘We’re not aware of any warnings or notifications of any specific threats,’ Delta spokeswoman Peggy Estes said from Atlanta.”

Bush and His Aides Accuse Democrats of Second-Guessing, Elisabeth Bumiller and Alison Mitchell, The New York Times, May 18, 2002:

“[T]he White House still found itself on the defensive once again today, this time over a 1999 report commissioned by a federal intelligence agency that eerily foreshadowed the Sept. 11 attacks.

“‘Suicide bomber(s) belonging to Al Qaeda's Martyrdom Battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency or the White House,’ the report said.”

Aug. Memo Focused On Attacks in U.S. , Bob Woodward and Dan Eggen, Washington Post,  May 18, 2002:

“In earlier comments this week, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and other administration officials stressed that intelligence officials were focused primarily on threats to U.S. interests overseas. But sources made clear yesterday that the briefing presented to Bush focused on attacks within the United States, indicating that he and his aides were concerned about the risks.”

Cover-up and conspiracy: The Bush administration and September 11, World Socialist Web Site, May 18, 2002:

“The extraordinary revelations about the FBI’s handling of the reports from Minnesota and Arizona do not permit an innocent explanation. The top level of the FBI vetoed appeals for action that even then would have seemed routine. Far more plausible than the strained attempts to explain this as a “failure to connect the dots,” is the likelihood that a decision had been made, at high levels within the American state, to allow an Al Qaeda hijacking to take place, in order to provide the occasion for unleashing the military onslaught that was already in advanced stages of planning.”

The Bush People Know How to Run and Hide, Marie Cocco , New York Newsday, May 21, 2002 (archived at the Common Dreams News Center):

“In all the verbiage that has rained down since word leaked that President George W. Bush was warned that Osama bin Laden's crew might hijack a plane and strike at the United States, two words count: "No warnings."

“That is what White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters aboard Air Force One on Sept. 11. He said it as the flames from the World Trade Center and the Pentagon lit the sky and the office workers and firefighters and deli-counter men were buried beneath the molten steel.

“It was a lie.”

Operating from Behind a Blur of Spin, Howard Gleckman, Business Week, May 21, 2002:

[F]ollowing the attacks of September 11, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said on Sept. 12, ‘We had no specific information...’ On the same day, Secretary of State Colin Powell said, ‘I have not seen any evidence that there was a specific signal that we missed.’ On Sept. 16, Vice-President Dick Cheney said there was ‘no specific threat.’ It was all carefully choreographed around that word ‘specific.’

“The White House argument: No one gave George Bush advance warning that terrorists would fly a plane into the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11. Thus, there's no need for further inquiry.”

Why does the administration and its lackeys threaten those who ask questions?

Terrorist Warnings, Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney,, May 16, 2002

Several weeks ago, I called for a congressional investigation into what warnings the Bush Administration received before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. I was derided by the White House, right wing talk radio, and spokespersons for the military-industrial complex as a conspiracy theorist. Even my patriotism was questioned because I dared to suggest that Congress should conduct a full and complete investigation into the most disastrous intelligence failure in American history. Georgia Senator Zell Miller even went so far as to characterize my call for hearings as ‘dangerous, loony and irresponsible.’”

Cheney Warns Democrats on Attacks, Associated Press, May 17, 2002:

Vice President Dick Cheney “warned Democrats ‘to not seek political advantage by making incendiary suggestions ... that the White House had advance information that would have prevented the tragic attacks of 9-11.’

“‘Such commentary is thoroughly irresponsible and totally unworthy of national leaders in a time of war,’ he said.”  

Business as usual in New York, Oliver Burkeman, Guardian Unlimited, May 23, 2002  

“[S]preading random fear does seem a curious way to prosecute a war on terror. And if this ever had been a place willing to agree with Cheney and Attorney-General John Ashcroft's unremitting insinuations that criticism of the White House is somehow unpatriotic in a time of war, it certainly was not this week.”

What we're in is not a war, Matthew Miller, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, May 26, 2002:

“The reality is that this is not a war. And if we're not in a war, everything about public discussion can be different. Indeed, the truest war we're in today may be the war to frame the debate, because the way debate gets framed goes far in determining its outcome…

“[I]f it's not war, but something different, then Bush and his surrogates can't hide behind the flag to shield scrutiny of their business giveaways and near-perfect fealty to the wishes of the wealthy.”

What could Bush have done that he didn’t do?

Knowing Much, Bush Did Little to Protect America, James Ridgeway, Village Voice, May 16th, 2002:

“If Bush knew so much, how come he did so little on September 11? Instead of letting his handlers move him from place to place in an utter fog, he could have returned to Washington immediately and, as commander in chief, taken charge. He could have alerted the military, which ought to have had planes in the air moments after the FAA control learned of the takeover.”

Why is the administration trying to blame Bill Clinton for the 9/11 attacks?

President wants Senate to hurry with new anti-terrorism laws,, July 30, 1996:

President Clinton urged Congress Tuesday to act swiftly in developing anti-terrorism legislation before its August recess.  ‘We need to keep this country together right now. We need to focus on this terrorism issue,’ Clinton said during a White House news conference.  But while the president pushed for quick legislation, Republican lawmakers hardened their stance against some of the proposed anti-terrorism measures.”

WHO KNEW WHAT, WHEN, BEFORE SEPT. 11?, Randolph T. Holhut, American Reporter, February 25, 2002:

“Think of the run-up to the millennium celebrations on Jan. 1, 2000. Security was tightened around the country. Some - including myself - thought it was an overreaction, but several terrorist plots were foiled due to the stepped-up security and advance knowledge based on intelligence gathering that something could happen. New Year's Eve celebrations around the nation went off without a hitch.”

The Covert Hunt for bin Laden: Broad Effort Launched After '98 Attacks, Washington Post, December 19, 2001:

Clinton directed two retaliatory strikes on Aug. 20. One, near the Afghan town of Khost, was timed to kill bin Laden and his associates in their beds at 10 p.m. local time. It missed, the CIA said afterward, by a few hours. The other demolished a pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum, Sudan, that the CIA had linked to attempted production of chemical weapons for bin Laden.”

Clinton's War on Terror : The Covert Hunt for bin Laden, Barton Gellman, Washington Post, December 19, 2001:

“"If bin Laden or any of the organizations affiliated with him attacks the United States or United States interests," [Assistant Secretary of State Michael A. Sheehan] told [Afghan Foreign Minister Ahmed] Waqil, "we will hold you, the leadership of the Taliban, personally accountable. Do you understand what I am saying? This is from the highest level of my government.”  

Pre-9.11 And The BushAdmin. It's All Clinton's Fault, Right?, by Kent Southard,

On Jan. 26th, the CIA confirmed to the new Bush administration that bin Laden and Al Qaeda were responsible for the attack on the U.S.S. Cole which killed 17 American sailors.

The response of the Bush administration was to cease Predator drone surveillance flights to track bin Laden, reassign the cruise-missile equipped submarine stationed in the Indian Ocean with the specific mission of targeting bin Laden, reassign the AC-130 gunships on scramble alert that could be on top of bin Laden after a six hour flight, suspend the special forces operations targeting bin Laden already based in Uzbekistan for the purpose thanks to a treaty signed by Bill Clinton.”

What are they hiding?

Cheney Rejects Broader Access to Terror Brief, Alison Mitchell, The New York Times, May 20, 2002:

“Vice President Dick Cheney said today that he would advise President Bush not to turn over to Congress the August intelligence briefing that warned that terrorists were interested in hijacking airplanes, and he insisted that the investigation into Sept. 11 should be handled by the Congressional intelligence committees, not an independent commission.”

They've Got a Secret -- Lots, Actually, Dana Milbank, Washington Post, May 21, 2002:

“By declining to share information in public or with Congress, [the Bush administration] gives the impression it is covering something up when the information inevitably dribbles out -- thus provoking congressional hostility and disproportionate media attention.”

Lawmaker to Probe Moussaoui Warrant, Sharon Theimer, Associated Press, May 26, 2002:

“Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle continued to press for an independent commission to investigate intelligence failures leading up to the September attacks.

“Daschle, D-S.D., said Bush asked him on Jan. 28 not to seek an outside commission. He said previously that Vice President Dick Cheney made a similar request Jan. 24.”

Why do the Democrats continually cave, refusing to face Bush down?

Democrats Shift Focus on Probe of Terror Warnings, Dan Balz and Mike Allen, Washington Post, May 22, 2002:

“After last week's harsh exchanges with the White House, Democrats have shifted their rhetoric from ‘what did the president know and when did he know it’ to the safer terrain of whether the FBI, CIA and other agencies did everything possible to share and evaluate intelligence before Sept. 11, as well as who should conduct the investigation to answer those questions.”

What Did They Know Page

Last changed: December 13, 2009