9/11 widows blast Bush Administration over Rice, Tenet meeting


Larisa Alexandrovna
Published: Friday October 6, 2006

In an October 5th response to recent news of yet another pre-September 11th warning that was ignored by senior Bush administration officials, three widows who lost their husbands during the terrorist attcks have issued a statement about what they see as the failure of White House officials to act upon warnings that Al Qaeda was planning a strike on the United States.

Lorie Van Auken, Mindy Kleinberg, and Patty Cazaza – who are among the four widows from New Jersey known as the Jersey Girls (the fourth being Monica Gabrielle) – have issued a compilation of pre-9/11 terrorism warnings that they believe paints a disturbing picture of a negligent Presidency.

They also address the latest revelation from Watergate reporter Bob Woodward that then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice was warned of a possible attack on July 10, 2001 by then-CIA Director George Tenet.

The allegation in Woodward's book, State of Denial, is that Tenet was so concerned about the intelligence showing a possible attack that he phoned Rice and asked for an immediate meeting, which he got that same day, along with the CIA's top counterterrorism expert, Cofer Black. During the meeting, Tenet says, they expressed "in the starkest of terms" to Rice that an attack was imminent.

Rice has denied that such a meeting took place, citing the 911 Commission Report, which never mentioned any such meeting.

"It kind of doesn't ring true that you have to shock me into something I was very involved in," she stated when asked about the allegation.

In addition to Rice, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft was also warned by Tenet, as was Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, according to Woodward.

Ashcroft began to charter private jets shortly afterwards, avoiding all travel by commercial airliners in July and continuing to do so up until the attacks. According to a July 26, 2001 CBS news report, Ashcroft began flying by private plane after an FBI "threat assessment."

"In response to inquiries from CBS News over why Ashcroft was traveling exclusively by leased jet aircraft instead of commercial airlines, the Justice Department cited what it called a 'threat assessment' by the FBI, and said Ashcroft has been advised to travel only by private jet for the remainder of his term."

It remains unclear whether or not this concern for personal safety was in any way brought on by the Tenet warnings.

Initially backing Rice's denial were the 911 Commissioners themselves, who also denied having knowledge or having been briefed on such a meeting.

In a remarkable turn of events, however, records of the meeting between Commission members and Tenet counter that claim – as does a State Department log book – and support Woodward's assertions about the warnings that Rice and Ashcroft had received from the CIA. As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle:

Members of the commission – an independent, bipartisan panel created by Congress to investigate the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks – have said for days that they were not told about the July 10 meeting. But it turns out that the panel was, in fact, told about the meeting, according to the interview transcript and Democratic commission member Richard Ben-Veniste, who sat in on the interview with Tenet. The meeting was not identified by the July 10 date in the commission's best-selling report.

Rice added to the confusion by strongly suggesting that the meeting may never have occurred at all – even though administration officials had conceded for several days that it had. A State Department spokesman said later that while the meeting definitely happened, Rice and Tenet disputed Woodward's characterization of her response.

Why the meeting and Tenet's interview never made it into the official 911 Commission Report remains a mystery and adds to the concern of many 911 family members and activists that a second investigation is needed.

The four women, Van Auken, Kleinberg, Cazaza, and Gabrielle – who initially made news by forcing the Bush administration to acquiesce to forming the first 911 Commission and holding hearings – have issued a scathing response to this latest turn of events, citing many additional warnings that the Bush administration was given but that the 911 Commission failed, in their view, to adequately address.

Their statement, in its entirety, follows:


Statement Regarding al Qaeda Threats
October 5, 2006

Astonishingly, five years post 9/11 the public is made aware about an urgent July 10, 2001 meeting that took place between former CIA Director George Tenet and then, National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice. This information comes from Bob Woodward's newly released book, "State of Denial".

Despite this Administration's rhetoric that they had "no warnings" leading up to 9/11, it has become abundantly clear, that key Administration officials were made aware of the vast array of Al Qaeda threats and warnings that existed in years prior, and more importantly, in the weeks leading up to September 11, 2001.

When we add the July 10, 2001 meeting to the plethora of other clear warnings that our government had, a very concise view of the al Qaeda threat emerges. Those other warnings include, but are not limited to:
  • Warnings from leaders of other nations and foreign intelligence apparatus' of terrorist threats
  • June 30, 2001 Senior Executive Intelligence Briefing (SEIB) entitled "bin Laden Threats Are Real"
  • The threat of President Bush's assassination at the G-8 Summit by al Qaeda in July of 2001 – using aircraft to dive bomb the summit building
  • July 2001 Phoenix memo, which told of potential terrorists taking flight lessons
  • 52 FAA warnings – five of which mentioned al Qaeda's training for hijacking
  • August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Brief entitled "bin Laden Determined to Strike in US"
  • National Intelligence Estimate (NIE)entitled "Islamist Extremists Learn to Fly"
  • Intelligence agency heads describing themselves with their "hair on fire" to characterize the imminent nature of the threats they were intercepting from Al Qaeda and their sense of urgency in relating them to the Bush Administration
  • The arrest of Zacharias Moussaoui in August of 2001
  • FBI Agent Harry Samit's 70 unsuccessful attempts to get a FISA Warrant to examine Moussaoui's belongings

Aside from scheduling a National Security Council meeting on September 4, 2001, two months after the July 10 "connect the dots" briefing from CIA director, George Tenet, the abundance of post 9/11 reports and commissions found no evidence of any action taken by appropriate officials. The 9/11 Commission itself concluded that in spite of an unprecedented attack threat in the months before 9/11, US "domestic agencies never mobilized in response to the threat. They did not have direction, and did not have a plan to institute. The borders were not hardened. Transportation systems were not fortified. Electronic surveillance was not targeted against a domestic threat. State and local law enforcement were not marshaled to augment the FBI's efforts. The public was not warned."

While certain members of the 9/11 Commission recalled a January 28, 2004 closed session meeting with former CIA Director, George Tenet, where this urgent July 10, 2001 meeting was discussed, this meeting was not referenced in the Commission's final report.

In the transcript testimony, the former CIA Director described the non-routine meeting that he and Cofer Black called for with then National Security Advisor, Condoleeza Rice as one of the "starkest warnings" ever given by the CIA to the White House on Al Qaeda.

To our continued dismay, both the Bush Administration and the 9/11 Commission have consistently failed to give a complete and honest accounting to the American public with regard to their actions and inactions leading up to the devastation of September 11, 2001.

The inexcusable result of this less than truthful accounting has resulted in America making important national security decisions and passing legislation using the 9/11 Commission's conclusions and recommendations. Chillingly, these decisions appear to be based upon an unclear combination of partial truths mixed with distortions and omissions of important facts.

Incredibly, five years post 9/11 we have come full circle. In spite of all the clear warnings that our government received, why did those in power fail to invoke any defensive measures to protect our nation from the attacks of September 11, 2001?

We demand the immediate declassification and release of these latest documents and transcripts. The American public has the right to know what their government did or did not do to protect us from terrorist actions.

Finally, instead of reorganizing an entire intelligence community because they "weren't sharing information", and rather than telling us that "9/11 was a failure of imagination", what we needed was for the 9/11 Commission to state the truth and hold those responsible to account. The most effective change for America would be to have a National Security Council that understands that it is their job to translate vital information into action.