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Im quite surprised that

I'm quite surprised that no one has yet mentioned what I am about to discuss. Or if someone has (which is entirely possible) I haven't seen it.

The sort of intelligence failure which now seems to have occurred prior to September 11th is seldom the fault of a single individual or even a group of individuals. The problem is most often structural and organizational, a failure to devise a framework that gets the right information into the right hands in a timely fashion.

Having said that, consider this.

The key window of time for all the warnings and hints was last summer, roughly June, July and August of 2001, the period right before the attacks. No one has considered that this was also the period of time when the post of FBI Director was vacant.

Certainly something worth considering, no?

Let's review the history. On May 1st of last year then-Director Louis Freeh announced his resignation and that he would leave sometime in early June (Freeh's questionable tenure at the Bureau is another major point of concern, but that's for another post.) I'm not sure when Freeh's official last day was, but on June 22nd Attorney General John Ashcroft made Deputy Director Tom Pickard Acting Director, effective the following day.

Through May and June the White House searched for a replacement for Freeh, first focusing on Robert S. Mueller, then deciding the President wanted other choices, then finally settling on Mueller.

President Bush announced Mueller's appointment on July 5th. But he wasn't confirmed until August 2nd. And then he didn't take the oath of office until September 5th.

None of this was dilatory or out of the ordinary. But during this key period the FBI's leadership was at best in deep flux and at worst the Bureau was leaderless.

Following up on this

Following up on this earlier post, the last thing the White House should be doing right now is sending that despicable rat Ari Fleischer out to swipe at Senator Hillary Clinton for posing a question many of her constituents are no doubt asking. Fleischer's *#$%-eating grin and nervously gnashing remarks aren't called for. Messrs. Daschle's and Gephardt's comments were far more biting than Hillary's. Hers were comparatively generous. Trying to get the Hillary-haters to bail them out of this one will not work.

Remember Douglas H. Paal

Remember Douglas H. Paal? TPM chronicled his long, restless struggle to secure an ambassador-type appointment in Asia -- any ambassador-type appointment in Asia, really -- from the Bush administration in a March article in The New Republic.

When last we left Mr. Paal ... well, when last we left Mr. Paal, Mr. Paal was leaving us. His long awaited appointment to serve as AIT Director in Taipei -- America's de facto ambassador to Taiwan -- was finally announced on April 5th and off he was supposed to go. This was in spite of the fact that there were still various questions floating out there. But the battle royale between the China hawks and the China engagers was over and Paal was packing his bags.

Over the last couple days though I've been getting signals that something might be amiss. That maybe there was some further hold up. And now that seems confirmed.

Today's Nelson Report -- Washington's bible for the hottest scoops and gossip on Asian diplomacy and trade negotiation politics (yes, believe it or not) -- reveals that "Doug Paal [has] still not [been] fully cleared by State for Taipei."

What's this newest hitch? What is it now?

Let me offer some

Let me offer some friendly advice to the Bush White House. And, no, I'm not being facetious. I'm really not. The best thing -- really the only thing -- for the White House or the President to do now is to come out and say ...

Look, in hindsight, there are connections maybe we should have made. Communications should have been better between various intelligence and law enforcement agencies. But hindsight is 20/20 and these things were not as clear then as they are now. Our people did the best they knew how. But I'm the Commander-in-Chief. And I'm responsible. The buck stops here. Let's move ahead now and make whatever improvements we can.

In other words, make your stand on the basis of the obvious, and these drip-drip-drip revelations won't be nearly so painful or costly.

Will this open the president up to political damage and fallout? Messy, uncomfortable investigations?

Absolutely.

But as us Clinton folk learned, this is the uncomfortable thing about having the presidency. When the American military -- the strongest in the world, but an institution you had nothing to do with creating -- goes out and wins a war, you rock.

When something terrible happens and in retrospect you maybe should have or could have done more to prevent it -- even if the other guys probably wouldn't have done any better -- you take a hit. Maybe a big one.

Those are the rules. Deal with it.

Otherwise you will end up with situations like this. Yesterday Ari Fleischer and Condi Rice said that no one before September 11th imagined that plane hijackings would equate to using the planes as guided missiles. That certainly sounds right. That is, until you read this new AP story which says inter alia ...

"Suicide bomber(s) belonging to al-Qaida's Martyrdom Battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives (C-4 and semtex) into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), or the White House," the September 1999 report said ... The report noted that an al-Qaida-linked terrorist first arrested in the Philippines in 1995 and later convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing had suggested such a suicide jetliner mission.

So you really can't say that it never occurred to anyone. It definitely did.

Also, arrogant trash talk from Dick Cheney accusing the Dems of taking political advantage will likely prove counterproductive.

It's called the responsibility era. Get used to it. And you'll be better off in the long run.

You learn something new

You learn something new every day. For a few weeks now -- seems like a few years, but that's another matter -- I've been working on an article about Iraq and the 'regime change' debate. Basically that means whether we should invade Iraq and otherthrow Saddam Hussein. I ended up coming to some conclusions that surprised me. But the article isn't out yet so I can't go into that.

Anyway, I found something else that surprised me no end.

If you've watched the debate about taking the war on terrorism to Baghdad you've almost certainly seen R. James Woolsey, former Director of the CIA during Bill Clinton's first two years in office. Today Woolsey is a member of the law firm of Shea & Gardner, an outspoken advocate of overthrowing Saddam with military force, and also a strong supporter of something called the Iraqi National Congress (INC).

The INC was formed after the Gulf War under the loose and but fairly open sponsorship of the CIA. In the late 1990s the INC became a big player in DC, making good contacts on the Hill, pushing 'regime change' very successfully and generally playing the Clinton administration like a fiddle.

Anyway, when I was looking into all this I thought I'd check to see who was registered as working as a foreign agent for the INC in Washington. Imagine my surprise when I checked and found that it was the law firm of Shea & Gardner, Jim Woolsey's law firm.

Woolsey's name isn't mentioned on the official filing. But I don't think it needs to be. The connection speaks for itself. Having said that, I don't think Woolsey is 'bought.' He's clearly a true believer. Still you'd think this was a connection the nets would mention when he goes on TV to chat about Iraq and the INC.

The official Justice Department filing is now part of the Talking Points Memo Document Collection.

P.S. It starts to get interesting around page 11.

Current Senate candidate future

Current Senate candidate, future Presidential candidate, and all around tall guy, John Kerry speaks out on the new 9/11 disclosures ...

This disclosure underscores the very real need for the President to work openly and in good faith with Congress to fully investigate any breakdowns in intelligence gathering that may have occurred prior to September 11th. Many of us have been very vocal in calling for a widespread examination of our intelligence gathering processes. We have a right and a responsibility to ask questions. Preventing another September 11th undoubtedly requires understanding our past vulnerabilities. Were we focused on the right kinds of intelligence gathering? Did the United States have the necessary capacity to respond? If not, why? Where were the deficiencies? If we weren't appropriately focused on this threat, where was the focus misdirected? There's no need for further government secrecy -- the Administration should be comfortable sharing their evaluation of these intelligence deficits and helping us determine together how best to protect Americans in the future.

Ahha The source of

Ahha! The source of the Slam TPM on McKinney campaign is revealed. Who says there's no such thing as grassroots organizing anymore?

Im trying to think

I'm trying to think if I can imagine anything more pitiful than Matt Drudge's attempt to pin this all on Clinton by ... well, dredging up some 1998 warning about al Qaida planning attacks on NY and DC. Mmmmmmmmm ... Nope. Couldn't do it.

Potpourri of feedback on

Potpourri of feedback on TPM's refusing to back down on Cynthia McKinney ...

Fess up, fool, you were wrong, not her.

[ed.note: I coughed up most of my morning ice-coffee laughing when I read that one. Classic.]

Not true. She did not accuse, she questioned. A BIG difference.

Look, Bush & co. dropped the ball. It's painfully obvious this administration is only interested in generating revenue for themselves and their benefactors. When faced with a crisis they do nothing, Enron, the Middle East, now the 9/11 revelations. Cynthia Mckinney is right. Don't turn into a Bush apologist now, unless of course you need the money.

The thing you should aplogize for to Rep. McKinney is that you were so naive as to accept a vague and distorted paraphrase of her remarks as the truth without attempting to check. Consider the source, the lack of actual quotations in the Post article, and the now-standard smarmy editorializing in what claims to be a news story. At one time, journalists were skeptical of the official story. Now, they seem ready to fall for any pap, no matter how cookie cutter. Give me a break: "Post runs story that is dismissive of black liberal democrat and gets sloppy with quotes" is not a shocker.

Well, slings and arrows.

Anyway, a couple points. A number of people have written in insisting I'm wrong but also being gracious enough to say how much they like the site and so forth. I'm literally being flooded with emails this morning so I'm not going to be able to respond to each one. But I really appreciate the kind words and respect your disagreement.

Here's where I am on this though. I've gotten enough emails on this that I went back and looked at what is apparently a transcript of the radio interview in question. Reading the interview I think it's actually true: she doesn't make a direct accusation. She implies intentional inaction and a possible financial motive. And I think it's probably fair to say the original Washington Post piece did over-dramatize what she said.

But frankly, not by that much. And as you can see she gave the Post a statement in which she said: "I am not aware of any evidence showing that President Bush or members of his administration have personally profited from the attacks of 9-11. A complete investigation might reveal that to be the case." So I'm really not sure you can say she was running away from the financial motive theory.

As I read McKinney's statements she was implying that the White House may have intentionally let this happen. And possibly with a financial motive. The difference between a collosal screw-up and intentionally letting something like this happen is not a difference of degree. It's a difference in kind.

Do I think these new revelations are a big deal? Absolutely. I think the White House has some real trouble on its hands. Maybe a lot of trouble. Bring on the investigation. Let's find out. I just don't think any of this is the same as what McKinney was talking about.

I guess you could

I guess you could say that these pre-9/11 warning stories are amounting to something of a bad press day for the Bush White House. I have to confess, though, that I have an unhelpful tendency to want to defend the administration rather than go on the attack.

(Don't get me wrong. I'm going to try to overcome it. And I'm sure I'll be able to. I'm just letting you know where I am right now.)

The one thing I'm quite happy about is that this will take a good bit of the bloom off that pro-Bush, anti-Clinton war-on-terrorism swagger. Hell, it might even shame some pundits (ones who have weblogs and are picking fights with Howell Raines) into backing off a bit on the pro-Bush cockiness.

I will say this: these new revelations make the administration's efforts to quash an investigation (Cheney's call to Daschle, etc.) look EXTREMELY cynical ("if we have any investigation, the terrorists will have won!").

One other thing: how long until someone looks super-close at that controversial September 11th picture of Bush now being hawked by the RNC for fund-raising purposes, and sees a little note in his vest pocket that says "Note to self: Ask Dick about the hijacking warnings about the Arab guy. Sam Laden? Ledeen? Does this have something to do with the tax cut too?"

Anyway, having said all that, in these situations I always come back to the Clinton rule: what would I think if Clinton were getting attacked in this situation. Of course, this doesn't occur to most of the Bush boosters. But then they're intellectually dishonest hacks and I'd rather not join them in their hackery. In this case, presidents get lots of information over the transom, lots of it that looks pretty scary. Most of it doesn't happen. If any of it does and it comes out that you got a scrap of paper warning that something like this could happen, you know you will end up looking really, really bad. It's a very tough situation.

Anyway, I've got to get to work. So more on this later. But all I'm saying is this. These jokers deserve lots of criticism for sitting on this info for like eight months or so. But let's look closely at just what they knew, how many other things they were hearing at the same time, how much reason there was for these threats to stand out from the myriad of other ones that routinely get included in the president's intel briefing. I'm totally ready to attack these guys for screwing up if they did. And they may well have. But let's just wait and see.

Back to work. Saddam calls.

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