Claim vs. fact

By Geraldine Sealey
Published March 25, 2004 9:58PM (EST)

The Center for American Progress has been digging into the archives to help clarify claims made by the Bush White House as it tries to repair the damage from revelations made in the 9/11 commission public hearings and the newly released book by former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke.

Today in a speech in New Hampshire, President Bush defended his administration's actions before 9/11, <a target= "new" href="saying: "Had I known that the enemy was going to use airplanes to strike America, to attack us, I would have used every resource, every asset, every power of this government to protect the American people."

But CAP quickly found previous reports that the president was told of the possibility that al-Qaida was exploring the use of airliners as terror weapons, including against U.S. targets:

FACT: On August 6, 2001, President Bush personally "received a one-and-a-half page briefing advising him that Osama bin Laden was capable of a major strike against the US, and that the plot could include the hijacking of an American airplane."
-- Dateline NBC, 9/10/02 (Transcript in Nexis)

FACT: U.S. and Italian officials were warned in July 2001 that Islamic terrorists had considered "crashing an airliner into the Genoa summit of industrialized nations."
-- LA Times, 9/27/01.

FACT: A 1999 report prepared by the Library of Congress for the National Intelligence Council "warned that Osama bin Laden's terrorists could hijack an airliner and fly it into government buildings like the Pentagon." The report specifically said, "Suicide bomber(s) belonging to al-Qaida's Martyrdom Battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives  into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the CIA, or the White House."
-- CBS News, 5/17/02.

CAP also found this nugget, showing that the State Department under Bush downplayed the importance of the threat of Osama bin Laden in its annual terrorism report in early 2001.

"The State Department officially released its annual terrorism report just a little more than an hour ago, but unlike last year, there's no extensive mention of alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden. A senior State Department official tells CNN the U.S. government made a mistake in focusing so much energy on bin Laden and 'personalizing terrorism.'"
-- CNN, 4/30/2001.

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at

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