The al-Qaida plan for Los Angeles: Was it just talk?

As Bush trumpets success in foiling a plot, the intelligence community debates whether an attack was actually in the works.

Published February 10, 2006 4:29PM (EST)

As we noted Thursday, the president's scary story about a foiled al-Qaida attack on Los Angeles isn't exactly new. As the Washington Post reports today, it may not even be true.

Seeking to bolster support for his warrantless spying program, Bush dusted off the story of the L.A. attack that wasn't in a speech in Washington Thursday. It probably had the desired effect. Newspapers around the country this morning are fronting headlines like "Terror Plot Threatened L.A." and "Bush Details Failed '02 Plot." A couple of papers even made the connection the White House apparently can't make itself: "Bush: Spy Work Foiled Terror Plot," the Alabama's Mobile Register screamed.

But is there -- or was there -- any there there in the first place? The Post says there's "deep disagreement" among intelligence officials over the alleged plot to slam a jetliner into the U.S. Bank Tower and that some believe the "plan" was never more than talk.

As Rand Corp. terrorism specialist Bruce Hoffman tells the Post, Bush's new account of the alleged plot "doesn't really give us any more indication of whether this was a plot that was derailed or preempted, or a plot that was more in the realm of an idle daydream."

By Tim Grieve

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

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Al-qaida Espionage George W. Bush War Room