Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University

9.11: Imaginary Intelligence  5.19.02

"When Washington officials send in the tropes, you know more than a linguistic crisis is at hand..." Read | Discuss
Clippings  5.27.02
The Rowley Memo
William Safire @ New York Times
"Washington - Why did F.B.I. Director Robert Mueller desperately stamp 'classified' on last week's memo to him from the Minneapolis agent and counsel Coleen Rowley? . . . Answer: Because he is protecting the bureau's crats who ignored warnings from the field before Sept. 11, and because he is trying to cover his own posterior for misleading the public and failing to inform the president in the eight months since..." 5.27.02 Read | Discuss
Fact-Finding and Its Limits
Michael Beschloss @ New York Times
"Washington - It's not surprising that many officials in Washington are talking about convening an independent panel to investigate the federal government's actions before the Sept. 11 attacks. We now know that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was warned by an agent in its Phoenix office in July 2001 that operatives of Osama bin Laden could be studying at American flight schools and yet President Bush was not told until recently about the warning..." 5.26.02 Read | Discuss
FBI Inaction Blurred Picture Before Sept. 11
Neil A. Lewis @ NY Times
"The day of Aug. 6, 2001, broke in the capital with the steamy torpor of deep summer. Congress was in recess, and President Bush, away on a working vacation at his Texas ranch..." 5.26.02 Read | Discuss
How the FBI Blew the Case
Romesh Ratnesar and Michael Weisskopf @ TIME
"Few Americans love anything about their government as much as Coleen Rowley loved the FBI. When she was in the fifth grade, Rowley wrote a letter to the bureau's headquarters in Washington and got back a booklet called 100 Facts About the FBI. From that point on, she dreamed of becoming an agent..." 5.26.02 Read | Discuss
Distractions and Diversions

"With old and new warnings of terror attacks whizzing around Washington, it's becoming hard to follow what really matters, which is preventing another assault by Osama bin Laden and his followers. There's a place for debate about issues like whether Congressional committees or a special commission should investigate the government's response to terrorism before Sept. 11. But there is a danger that talk will become a substitute for action on the problems that desperately need fixing..." 5.21.02 Read | Discuss
Senators question 'Phoenix memo' author
"The author of an FBI memo raising questions about Arab students in U.S. flight schools met with Senate Judiciary Committee members Tuesday in a closed session senators said included hard questions for his boss..." 5.21.02 Read | Discuss
The Bombshell Memo
Excerpt from 'Rowley Memo' @ TIME
"Dear Director Mueller: I feel at this point that I have to put my concerns in writing concerning the important topic of the FBI's response to evidence of terrorist activity in the United States prior to September 11th. The issues are fundamentally ones of INTEGRITY and go to the heart of the..." 5.21.02 Read | Discuss
Author of FBI Flight School Memo to Meet with Lawmakers
"Washington - An FBI agent who wrote a memo last summer warning that members of Osama bin Laden's terror network were training at U.S. flight schools will meet Wednesday with lawmakers on Capitol Hill..." 5.21.02 Read | Discuss
Bush’s Little Secret
by David Corn
"By the way, we, uh, forgot to mention, that in August of 2001, while the President was taking a long vacation at his ranch in Crawford, the CIA told him that, uh, Osama bin Laden might be planning to hijack an airliner as part of some, who-knows-what terrorist action against the United States..." 5.20.02 Read | Discuss
The Williams Memo
by Willian Safire
"Washington - 'Suicide bomber belonging to Al Qaeda's Martyrdom Battalion,' went the report to the National Intelligence Council, 'could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the C.I.A. or the White House.' . . . Did the president know about this eerily accurate warning? If so, did he do anything to ward off an expected attack? He did nothing. It's a scandal." 5.20.02 Read | Discuss
Failure of the Top Brass
by Scott Shuger
"The Bush administrations explanations for why it didnt react more vigorously to information it received last summer about al-Qaida hijack threats show political ineptitude and a colossal intelligence failure..." 5.20.02 Read | Discuss
The Benefit of Hindsight
by William Saletan
"Should the Bush administration have been able to connect the dots and anticipated al-Qaidas use of hijacked planes to hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon? Only in retrospect..." 5.20.02 Read | Discuss
I’m Warning you, George!
by Michael Kinsley
"Did you read the warning letter President Bush received from Osama mailed from the luxury terrorist headquarters of the caves at Tora Bora?" 5.20.02 Read | Discuss
Ashcroft Learned of Agent's Alert Just After 9/11 but Bush Was Not Told
David Johnston and Don Van Natta Jr. @ NY Times
"Washington, May 20 - Attorney General John Ashcroft and the F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, were told a few days after the Sept. 11 attacks that the F.B.I. had received a memorandum from its Phoenix office the previous July warning that Osama bin Laden's followers could be training at American flight schools, government officials said today..." 5.20.02 Read | Discuss
Inquiry Finds 'Widespread Failure' at I.N.S. in Handling of Hijackers' Student Visas
David Stout @ NY Times
"Washington, May 20 - The Immigration and Naturalization Service mishandled paperwork pertaining to some of the Sept. 11 hijackers partly because of "a widespread failure by many individuals" in the agency, a Justice Department inquiry concluded today..." 5.20.02 Read | Discuss
Our Man in Arizona
by Maureen Dowd
"If he hadn't been blocked by lazy superiors, the Phoenix F.B.I. agent predicted enough to perhaps pre-empt the Sept. 11 attacks..." 5.19.02 Read | Discuss
Failure to Imagine
Thomas L. Freedman @ NY Times
"We need an 'Office of Evil,' whose job would be to constantly sift all intelligence data and imagine what the most twisted mind might be up to..." 5.19.02 Read | Discuss
Cheney Rejects Broader Access to Terror Brief
Alison Mitchell @ NY Times
"Washington, May 19 - 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..." 5.19.02 Read | Discuss
How the U.S. Missed the Clues
Michael Elliott @ TIME
"Last summer the White House suspected that a terrorist attack was coming. But four key mistakes kept the U.S. from knowing what to do. An inside look at what went wrong and what must be fixed..." 5.19.02 Read | Discuss
Bush is still running from 9/11
Joan Walsh @ Salon
"The president's recent evasiveness calls to mind his dodgy behavior in the hours after the terror attacks. It's time for the White House to come clean on how much it knew before 9/11..." 5.18.02 Read | Discuss
The New Politics of September 11
by John Nichols
"Since September 11, George W. Bush's political team and their Republican allies have used every trick to exploit the tragedy for political advantage. Just this week, they were trying to raise campaign money by hawking photos of Bush taking instructions from Vice President Dick Cheney on that fateful day..." 5.17.02 Read | Discuss
The Blame Game

"The story line of the Sept. 11 terror attacks would unquestionably be a lot tidier if we knew that President Bush had been warned about possible strikes and done nothing to prevent them. That's why Washington is buzzing about the disclosure that the Central Intelligence Agency told Mr. Bush early last August that Osama bin Laden might try to hijack airplanes. But tragedies of the magnitude of Sept. 11 are rarely so neatly explained..." 5.17.02 Read | Discuss
PBS Online NewsHour - Sheilds and Brooks

"Regular guests Mark Shields and David Brooks talk about President Bush's defense of the pre-9/11 warnings." 5.17.02 Read | Discuss
See No Evil
by David Talbot
"The revelation that the White House was warned in August about a bin Laden hijacking plot -- and that Bush failed to disclose the warning -- shows an administration both incompetent and dishonest." 5.16.02 Read | Discuss
Rice Calls Pre-September 11 Reports "Generalized" Infromation
Washington File @ USDS
"National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice says intelligence reports about possible airliner hijackings before September 11 were too general to have justified public disclosure..." 5.16.02 Read | Discuss
Bush, GOP Blast Calls for 9/11 Inquiry
"Congressional Republicans circled the wagons around President Bush on Thursday after the White House admitted it had reports of a possible al Qaeda plan hijacking a month before September 11 for political gain..." 5.16.02 Read | Discuss
Lawmakers Push for Hearings on Warning Given to Bush
David E. Sanger with Sherri Day @ NY Times
"Washington, May 16 - A day after the White House revealed that the Bush administration knew prior to Sept. 11 that Osama bin Laden was seeking to hijack aircraft, lawmakers called for a deeper investigation into why American intelligence agencies had failed to put together individual pieces of evidence that, in retrospect, now seem to suggest what was coming..." 5.16.02 Read | Discuss
Reactions to Terror Warning Reports
"Current and former government officials reacted to disclosures that the federal government might have missed several pre-September 11 clues that suggested the United States would be the target of a terrorist attack. Here's a sampling of some those reactions..." 5.16.02 Read | Discuss
The Disturbing Sound of Silence
Steven Day @
"Is there ever a time when silence is the music of democracy? Not that I can imagine. In fact, I can't even think of a situation where a gentle lullaby or the sweet harmony of a string quartet could do it justice. Democracy is the stuff of rock 'n' roll -- loud and sometimes obnoxious -- screeching electric guitars, pounding drums and lyrics amplified to ear-splitting decibels. Freedom is about noise -- irreverent and raucous debate. Silence is the trademark of other forms of government, those that work in darkness and struggle to keep the will of the people hidden..." 4.8.02 Read | Discuss
Intelligence Failure Proliferation Brief, Volume 5, Number 3
@ Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
"A major reason why the United States was so unprepared for the terrorist attacks of September 11 is that national threat assessments produced over the past few years have consistently pointed policy-makers in the wrong direction. Partisan political agendas distorted these assessments, and fundamentally misled and misdirected national security resources..." 3.4.02 Read | Discuss
Catastrophic Intelligence Failure
@ AIM (Accuracy In Media)
"In 1995, the CIA and the FBI learned that Osama bin Laden was planning to hijack U.S. airliners and use them as bombs to attack important targets in the U.S. This scheme was called Project Bojinka. It was discovered in the Philippines, where authorities arrested two of bin Laden's agents, Ramzi Yousef and Abdul Hakim Murad. They were involved in planting a bomb on a Philippine airliner. Project Bojinka, which Philip-pine authorities found outlined on Abdul Murad's laptop, called for planting bombs on eleven U.S. airliners and hijacking others and crashing them into targets like the CIA building..." 9.24.01 Read | Discuss
The Phoenix Memo
@ The Smoking Gun
"The FBI has refused to release an entire copy of the July 2001 memo sent from the bureau's Arizona office warning headquarters brass that scores of Arabs were training at U.S. flight schools. What you'll find below is the only portion of the document the FBI is currently willing to release..." Read | Discuss
Why Did US Intelligence Fail on September 11?
@ PBS Frontline
"American intelligence experts assess the specific reasons for the Sept. 11 intelligence catastrophe, as well as the larger flaws in the system -- from bureaucratic obstacles and regulatory constraints to agencies' rivalries, lack of resources..." Read | Discuss
Inside the Terror Network
@ PBS Frontline
"This report tracks how the hijackers achieved surprise not only by their cunning exploitation of America's open society but also by the failure of intelligence and law enforcement agencies to spot warning signs. Having interviewed top intelligence authorities, Smith reports, "Our side suffered from a failure of imagination. The experts at the CIA, FBI, and INS thought our homeland was safe. They simply did not imagine that foreign terrorists could mount such an attack at long distance and over a long period of time..." Read | Discuss
TIME - While America Slept, Special Report

A good overview of Sept. 11 intelligence failure, plus some more in depth angles. Read | Discuss