Tenet's 9/11 morning


Tim Grieve
June 4, 2004 12:50AM (UTC)

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, CIA Director George Tenet had breakfast with former Sen. David Boren (D.-Oklahoma) at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington. According to Bob Woodward's account in "Bush at War," Boren asked Tenet, "What are you worried about these days?"

Tenet had a two-word answer: Bin Laden.

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Tenet told Boren that he feared Bin Laden was about to try something big, and that people underestimated "the capabilities and the reach" of what al-Qaida was "putting together." What Tenet didn't tell Boren, Woodward said, is that the CIA had intercepted a flurry of communications over the summer of 2001 suggesting that something "spectacular" was imminent.

As the two men talked, Tenet's security guards approached their table and told Tenet that there was a "serious problem" -- the World Trade Center had been attacked. Tenet called CIA headquarters. According to Woodward, he then turned to Boren and said: "This has bin Laden all over it."

But before Tenet left the table, Woodward said he made one more comment -- a reference to Zacarias Moussaoui -- that suggested that the CIA Director's prescience may have fallen short when it came to preventing the attacks. "I wonder," Tenet said, "if it has anything to do with this guy taking pilot training."


Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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