In the months before 9/11, said Kurt Eichenwald, George W. Bush was warned not once, but multiple times that al Qaida was preparing a major attack on U.S. soil. Everyone knows of the Aug. 6, 2001, intelligence briefing that Bush received at his Texas ranch, headed, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike U.S.” Administration officials later dismissed that warning’s significance, insisting—implausibly—that it was too vague to warrant a response. But in researching a new book, I’ve read several still-classified documents that show a panicky CIA repeatedly trying to alert Bush to the al Qaida threat.
On May 1, the CIA told the president that “a group presently in the U.S.” was plotting a major terrorist attack. On June 22, Bush was told the attack could be “imminent.” Administration neocons viewed Saddam Hussein as a much greater threat than Osama bin Laden, so Bush shrugged it all off. But on June 29, the CIA stated in Bush’s “Daily Brief” that the al Qaida plot was real, and would have “dramatic consequences.” We’ll never know if Bush could have stopped 9/11, but there can be no doubt that he was guilty of a “shocking” level of negligence.