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What Did They Know Page

Why is the administration continuing to warn 
about possible attacks that never seem to materialize?

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. 


Report: U.S. Warns of Chance of Attack This Week, Reuters (archived at Internet Archive), September 23, 2001

F.B.I. Issues Alert on Signs of New Terror, David Johnston and Philip Shenon, The New York Times, October 12, 2001

Eavesdropping, U.S. Allies See New Terror Attack, Raymond Bonner and John Tagliabue, The New York Times, October 21, 2001

Pushing our buttons, David Neiwert,, November 2, 2001 (no longer available on the Internet):

Vague warnings about ‘credible threats’ foster fears, raise questions of government’s competence to fight terror at home

Officials Warn of Renewed Attacks , Eric Piani, Washington Post, November 16, 2001:

Senior administration officials and lawmakers warned yesterday that terrorists might strike in retaliation for the collapse of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Be Alert, America!, CBS News, December 4, 2001

“President Bush's homeland security chief asked Americans again to go on a high state of alert Monday, citing threats of more terrorist attacks, probably around ‘important religious observations’ this month.”  

U.S. to remain on high alert till March 11, USA Today, January 3, 2002:

“The government has called on law enforcement personnel across the nation to remain vigilant against domestic terrorism until March 11, extending a standing alert through the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.”  

Rumsfeld: US Could [Face] More Deadly Attacks, Robert Burns, Associated Press, Jan 31, 2002 (archived at

The United States could face terrorist surprises vastly more deadly than the Sept. 11 attacks that killed more than 3,000 people, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Thursday."

[Oddly enough, this warning came just as the Enron scandal investigations were warming up.--Caro]

Pentagon: Strikes Could Be Coming, Matt Kelley, Associated Press; February 19, 2002 (archived at

Pre-emptive strikes by the United States could be on the horizon as the United States fights terrorism, the Pentagon's No. 2 official said Tuesday…

“Wolfowitz did not offer any details of where or when such a strike could happen, and he did not answer questions during an appearance at a conference of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.”

Bush's Little Shop of Horrors, Geoffrey Gray, Village Voice, March 5 – 11, 2002 Issue:

“The FBI, so far, has issued a lot of shocks…  For those on the woolly left, however, and a few academics and Washington insiders, there's another force driving homeland security: politics. ‘It's second nature for any system of power to try and inspire fear,’ Noam Chomsky, the noted linguist and author of 9-11, tells the Voice. ‘Bush's managers realize they only have one card to play.’”

Northeast Banks Get Terror Warning, Ted Bridis, Associated Press, April 19,2002:

 “The FBI publicly warned more than 1,200 banks in the Northeast on Friday of possible terrorist attacks, and government officials said the unconfirmed information that led to the dramatic alert came in part from a high-ranking al-Qaida leader in U.S. custody.”

[This warning just happens to come when George Bush's post-9/11 ratings are starting to slip.--Caro]

TERROR ALERT FOR MALLS AND SUPERMARKETS, Brian Blomquist, New York Post, April 25, 2002:

“The FBI has told all field agents to be on the alert for terrorist strikes at stores, shopping centers and supermarkets, an FBI official said yesterday…  No time or date for the attacks was specified.”

I'm not buying Zubaydah, Stephanie Salter, San Francisco Chronicle, April 28, 2002:

[W]hy, given who Zubaydah is -- al Qaeda's chief of operations and a sworn enemy of the United States -- is the Bush administration so eager to leak his every utterance?…  It couldn't possibly be to stir up confusion and insecurity, could it? To keep much of America where it's been since the horrors of Sept. 11: scared and buying anything the White House sells?”

Fear As A Weapon (Rollback To The Right) , Heather Wokusch , Common Dreams News Center, May 4, 2002

“[T]he masses must be mobilized ‘in a wide scale of activities and at the highest emotional level’ to support the government and its wars - according to ‘Psychological Operations In Guerrilla Warfare,’ the … (declassified) CIA manual. Presumably intended to have been used against foreign populations, the psyop brainwashing techniques capitalizing on fear seem disturbingly familiar today.”

U.S. Intercepting Messages Hinting at a New Attack, James Risen and David Johnston, The New York Times, May 19, 2002:

“American intelligence agencies have intercepted a vague yet troubling series of communications among Al Qaeda operatives over the last few months indicating that the terrorist organization is trying to carry out an operation as big as the Sept. 11 attacks or bigger, according to intelligence and law enforcement officials.”

Report: US faces new terrorist warnings, United Press International, May 19, 2002:

“‘I think the prospects of a future attack on the U.S. are almost a certainty,’ [Vice President Dick] Cheney said. ‘It could happen tomorrow, it could happen next week, it could happen next year, but they will keep trying. And we have to be prepared.’”

Stocks Slip as Economic, Terror Fears Hit, Chelsea Emery, Reuters, May 20, 2002:

“‘Clearly, Cheney's comments are scaring investors, especially coming off of an 8 percent up week for Nasdaq,’ said Seth Tobias, a trader and fund manager for hedge fund Circle T Partners. ‘Americans are not yet comfortable with the prospect of homeland terrorism -- it creates uncertainty and compresses multiples in the stock market. But in the long run, we'll adjust.’”

The Word in Washington: Cover Your Behind, Michael Kramer, New York Daily News, May 21, 2002:

“For all their sober-sounding warnings and seemingly serious planning, people like Cheney and Mueller and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and CIA Director George Tenet get fancy titles, bodyguards with those things in their ears, private planes, armored limos and immediate access to the nation's airwaves. That way, they can clue us in to how we're vulnerable at some time in some place and by some instrument of terror that might or might not resemble the suicide bombings plaguing innocent Israelis, that might or might not involve poisoning our water supplies or bombing our nuclear or chemical facilities or maybe just some crazed cabbies of Middle Eastern origin who, upon having received a common, secret signal plow their filthy yellow jihad-mobiles into unsuspecting pedestrians.”

U.S. issues new warnings on terror, Doug Saunder, Toronto Globe and Mail, May 21, 2002:

“As U.S. officials continued to issue warnings yesterday about the possibility of attacks by suicide bombers and terrorists, the White House quietly acknowledged that the threats are not urgent and that they are partly motivated by political objectives…  White House officials told reporters that the blunt warnings issued yesterday and Sunday do not reflect a dramatic increase in threatening information but rather a desire to fend off criticism from the Democrats.”

Alerts tied to memo flap, Joseph Curl, Washington Times, May 22, 2002:

“The Bush administration issued a spate of terror alerts in recent days to mute criticism that its national security team sat on intelligence warnings in the weeks before the September 11 attacks.”

Cool It!, Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times, May 22, 2002:

“Uh, excuse me, but could we all just calm down here?  What started as a story about how the Bush team handled unspecific warnings about possible terrorist attacks in the U.S. before 9/11 has now prompted the Bushies not only to defend themselves from charges of irresponsibility — which they are entitled to do — but to go on a Chicken Little warnings binge that another attack is imminent, inevitable and around the corner, but we can't tell you when, where or how.”

Dan Rather: Bush Issued Bogus Terror Alert to Cover Up 9-11 Bungle,, May 22, 2002:

"I can believe … that, as with every president, somebody's in the White House scratching their heads saying, ‘How can we change the subject.’ Now, the subject has been changed, suddenly and very effectively, from ‘How is it that the FBI and the CIA didn't move on the information they had? Where was the president briefed about what, when?’”

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.”

Evildoers In The Hood, Mark Morford, SF Gate, May 24, 2002:

“The evildoers are coming. Again.

“No really, they are. This time we really mean it. Those last 17 times we only partially meant it but this time we really really mean it and look even pallid and barely animate VP Cheney is muttering through the scary side of his disquieting mouth that fresh terrorist attacks on the US are ‘almost a certainty.’”

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

“You don't have to be a cynic to believe that the point of the warnings is not to save lives so much as political hides.”

FBI Warns About Small Planes, Associated Press, May 26, 2002

“The FBI has issued a fresh warning that terrorists may be interested in using small planes to carry out suicide attacks.”

They weave a tangled web, Stephen Winn, Kansas City Star, May. 29, 2002:

“[T]he administration's high-profile worriers have not explained why their warnings suddenly became so shrill. In most cases they are merely speculating; someone, somewhere, someday might blow up an apartment building, for example.

“Meanwhile, the government's official alert level on terrorism remained unchanged.

“That oversight gave the game away. The recent Chicken Little routine was actually designed to distract the public from the developing scandal over the administration's failure to better protect the country against terrorism.”

What Did They Know Page

Last changed: December 13, 2009