I think it's fair to say there's nothing thermonuclear, shall we say, in the August 6th Presidential Daily Brief released this afternoon by the White House. But Condi Rice's claim that the information contained in it was primarily of an historical nature seems at least to leave out some key points.
(You can read the thing yourself here in a .pdf file
The first portion of the document covers past plots and efforts by al Qaida against US interests and within the US itself. Then towards the end of the memo it moves into the present with a few tidbits which do raise some questions.
The second to last item says that in the previous three years or so the FBI had observed "patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent wtih preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York
The last item says that there were currently 70 FBI field investigations the Bureau considered "Bin Ladin-related" and that the FBI and CIA were following up on "a call to our Embassy in the UAE in May saying that a group of Bin Ladin supporters was in the US planning attacks with explosives
There's certainly far, far less here than you'd need to do anything specific to counter what was coming. But you can't say there aren't some hints: preparations for hijackings, casing of federal buildings in New York (presumably New York City), a three month old tip saying bin Laden operatives were in the US planning some sort of bombing attacks.
Elsewhere in the memo it reports that bin Laden was intent on retaliating in Washington
for the 1998 missile attacks on his camps in Afghanistan.
I agree with Robert Wright who wrote
, on the Times
OpEd page yesterday that the real scandal is not so much what the administration missed pre-9/11 but that they kept to a clearly outmoded vision of national security as solely a matter of conflicts between states even after 9/11 had shown that viewpoint to be seriously inadequate.
Still, the one issue doesn't invalidate the other.
The next question is what the White House, or the CIA or the FBI or whomever, did to follow up on these very fragmentary leads.