Americans Review Bush Knowledge of 9/11

May 8, 2007

(Angus Reid Global Monitor) - Most people in the United States are certain that their president was not aware the country would be attacked by a terrorist organization in 2001, according to a poll by Rasmussen Reports. 55 per cent of respondents think George W. Bush did not know about the 9/11 attacks in advance, while 22 per cent believe he did.

Al-Qaeda operatives hijacked and crashed four airplanes on Sept. 11, 2001, killing nearly 3,000 people. The 9/11 Commission and a joint congressional inquiry into the attacks described in their report—released on Jul. 22, 2004—how the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had received vague warnings of potential attacks throughout 2001. The document states that, as the year began, the CIA started getting "frequent but fragmentary" threat reports. Among other warnings, the intelligence community sent out a March 2001 terror threat advisory about a heightened threat of Sunni extremist attacks against U.S. facilities, personnel and other interests.

On Aug. 6, 2001, a Presidential Daily Briefing titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." mentioned "patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York."

On May 17, 2002, Bush discussed the situation, saying, "The American people know this about me, and my national security team, and my administration: Had I known that the enemy was going to use airplanes to kill on that fateful morning, I would have done everything in my power to protect the American people."

Last month, French authorities revealed that nine months before the 9/11 attacks, their intelligence department suspected al-Qaeda was planning to hijack airplanes, probably American, and warned the CIA about this. However, the French said that such suspicions were about a possible attack in Europe, not the U.S., and included no information on a multiple hijacking operation. 41 per cent of respondents think the CIA was not aware of the attacks in advance, while 29 per cent think the agency did know they would happen.

CIA spokesman George Little said after the classified information was published in a French newspaper that it "merely repeats what the U.S. government knew and reported before Sept. 11—that al-Qaeda was interested in airliner plots, especially hijackings," and added: "The article does not suggest that U.S. or foreign officials had advance knowledge of the details surrounding the Sept. 11 plot. Had the details been known, the U.S. government would have acted on them."

Polling Data

Did U.S. president George W. Bush know about the 9/11 attacks in advance?

Yes 22%

No 55%

Not sure 22%

Did the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) know about the 9/11 attacks in advance?

Yes 29%

No 41%

Not sure 30%

Source: Rasmussen Reports

Methodology: Telephone interviews with 800 likely American voters, conducted on Apr. 30 and May 1, 2007. Margin of error is 4.5 per cent.