Woodward: Rice didn't get al-Qaida threat, ignored troop crisis in Iraq

But at least Dick Cheney was fixated on finding those WMD.

Published September 29, 2006 1:33PM (EDT)

Say what you will about Bob Woodward -- and we've said a lot -- his books on the Bush administration inevitably contain a series of insider revelations worth noting. Woodward's latest, "State of Denial," isn't due out until Monday, but a New York Times reporter somehow managed to buy a copy in advance. The highlights so far:

Terrorism warnings: On July 10, 2001, Woodward says, CIA Director George Tenet and his counterterrorism chief met with Condoleezza Rice to try to "impress upon her the seriousness of the intelligence the agency was collecting about an impending attack," the Times says. They left the meeting with the feeling that Rice didn't appreciate the gravity of the situation, Woodward says. As 9/11 drew nearer, he says, Tenet came to believe that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was impeding plans to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. Rumsfeld suggested that the intelligence the CIA was collecting about an impending attack might actually be part of some sort of misdirection by al-Qaida.

Iraq warnings: Woodward says that Robert Blackwill, who served as the top Iraq advisor on the National Security Council, told Rice in September 2003 that the U.S. was in desperate need of more troops in Iraq. Woodward says that Blackwill and Paul Bremer subsequently briefed Rice and Stephen Hadley about the need for troops but that the White House took no action in response.

Rumsfeld's detachment: Woodward says that Rumsfeld didn't involve himself much in the reconstruction of Iraq, such as it was, and that he fell into such a spat with Rice that Bush had to order him to start returning her phone calls. Woodward quotes Gen. John Abizaid, the commander of U.S. military forces in the Middle East, as saying in 2005 that Rumsfeld "doesn't have any credibility anymore" with the public. Woodward says that Colin Powell suggested that Rumsfeld be sent packing from the administration with him after the 2004 elections, and that former White House Chief of Staff Andy Card tried to dump Rumsfeld in 2005 but failed when Bush objected.

Cheney's obsession: Woodward says the vice president was so fixated on finding WMD in Iraq that his aides were phoning David Kay -- once at 3 o'clock in the morning -- with the satellite coordinates of suspected weapons sites. When Kay began to believe that Saddam Hussein might have had the capability to build WMD but no WMD yet, Woodward says CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin warned him not to say anything: "Don't tell anyone this. This could be upsetting. Be very careful. We can't let this out until we're sure."

By Tim Grieve

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

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