Did the White House hide a 9/11 warning from the 9/11 Commission?

Woodward says that Tenet and an aide tried but failed to "shake Rice" into action.

Published October 2, 2006 1:48PM (EDT)

We're not saying that Karl Rove orchestrated the revelations about Rep. Mark Foley, but we suspect that he's not all that unhappy about them: If the media remains focused on the sordid details of Foley's IM exchanges with underage pages, maybe the public won't take much notice of the closer-to-home news contained in Bob Woodward's "State of Denial."

Among many other things, Woodward says that former CIA Director George Tenet and his counterterrorism chief, J. Cofer Black, arranged a meeting with then National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice on July 10, 2001, to "shake Rice" into pushing the president to take action on warnings of an impending terrorist attack. Black tells Woodward that he and Tenet made the seriousness of the situation as plain as they possibly could: "The only thing we didn't do was pull the trigger to the gun we were holding to her head." Woodward says Black and Tenet left the meeting with the strong feeling that Rice wasn't taking them seriously and had brushed off their concerns.

The problem -- for Rice or for Woodward -- is that the 9/11 Commission never heard a word about any such meeting. "None of this was shared with us in hours of private interviews, including interviews under oath, nor do we have any paper on this," 9/11 commissioner and former Indiana Rep. Tim Roemer tells the New York Times.

The 9/11 Commission spent hours interviewing Rice, Tenet and Black but never heard a meeting described in the dramatic terms Woodward uses, former staff members say. "This is certainly something we would have wanted to know about," 9/11 commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste tells the Times. "We asked broad questions which should have elicited this information."

According to the Washington Post, Rice says that she doesn't remember having any such meeting -- and that she would remember if it had occurred the way that Woodward reports it. "What I am quite certain of, however, is that I would remember if I was told -- as this account apparently says -- that there was about to be an attack in the United States," Rice told reporters over the weekend en route to the Middle East. "The idea that I would somehow have ignored that I find incomprehensible."

Rice said that her staff is checking to see if there is any record of the July 10, 2001, meeting.

By Tim Grieve

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

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