NEWS YOU WON'T FIND ON CNN

9/11 Panel Members Weren’t Told of Meeting

By PHILIP SHENON

10/02/06 "
New York Times" -- -- WASHINGTON, Oct. 2 — Members of the Sept. 11 commission said today that they were alarmed that they were told nothing about a White House meeting in July 2001 at which George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, is reported to have warned Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser, about an imminent Al Qaeda attack and failed to persuade her to take action.

Details of the previously undisclosed meeting on July 10, 2001, two months before the Sept. 11 terror attacks, were first reported last week in a new book by the journalist Bob Woodward.

The final report from the Sept. 11 commission made no mention of the meeting nor did it suggest there had been such an encounter between Mr. Tenet and Ms. Rice, now secretary of state.

Since release of the book, “State of Denial,” the White House and Ms. Rice have disputed major elements of Mr. Woodward’s account, with Ms. Rice insisting through spokesmen that there had been no such exchange in a private meeting with Mr. Tenet and that he had expressed none of the frustration attributed to him in Mr. Woodward’s book.

“It really didn’t match Secretary Rice’s recollection of the meeting at all,” said Dan Bartlett, counselor to President Bush, in an interview on the CBS News program “Face the Nation.”

“It kind of left us scratching our heads because we don’t believe that’s an accurate account,” he said.

Although passages of the book suggest that Mr. Tenet was a major source for Mr. Woodward, the former intelligence director has refused to comment on the book.

Nor has there been any comment from J. Cofer Black, Mr. Tenet’s counterterrorism chief, who is reported in the book to have attended the July 10 meeting and left it frustrated by Ms. Rice’s “brush-off” of the warnings.

He is quoted as saying, “The only thing we didn’t do was pull the trigger to the gun we were holding to her head.” Mr. Black did not return calls left at the security firm Blackwater, which he joined last year.

The book says that Mr. Tenet hurriedly organized the meeting — calling ahead from his car as it traveled to the White House — because he wanted to “shake Rice” into persuading the president to respond to dire intelligence warnings that summer about a terrorist strike. Mr. Woodward writes that Mr. Tenet left the meeting frustrated because “they were not getting through to Rice.”

The disclosures took members of the bipartisan Sept. 11 commission by surprise last week. Some questioned whether information about the July 10 meeting was intentionally withheld from the panel.

In interviews Saturday and today, commission members said they were never told about the meeting despite hours of public and private questioning with Ms. Rice, Mr. Tenet and Mr. Black, much of it focused specifically on how the White House had dealt with terrorist threats in the summer of 2001.

“None of this was shared with us in hours of private interviews, including interviews under oath, nor do we have any paper on this,” said Timothy J. Roemer, a Democratic member of the commission and a former House member from Indiana. “I’m deeply disturbed by this. I’m furious.”

Another Democratic commissioner, former Watergate prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste, said that the staff of the Sept. 11 commission was polled in recent days on the disclosures in Mr. Woodward’s book and agreed that the meeting “was never mentioned to us.”

“This is certainly something we would have wanted to know about,” he said, referring to the July 10, 2001, meeting.

He said he had attended the commission’s private interviews with both Mr. Tenet and Ms. Rice and had pressed “very hard for them to provide us with everything they had regarding conversations with the executive branch” about terrorist threats before the Sept. 11 attacks.

Philip D. Zelikow, the executive director of the Sept. 11 commission and now a top aide to Ms. Rice at the State Department, agreed that no witness before the commission had drawn attention to a July 10 meeting at the White House, nor described the sort of encounter portrayed in Mr. Woodward’s book.

Mr. Zelikow said that it was “entirely plausible” that a meeting occurred on July 10, during a period that summer in which intelligence agencies were being flooded with warnings of a terrorist attack against the United States or its allies.

But he said the commissioners and their staff had heard nothing in their private interviews with Mr. Tenet and Mr. Black to suggest that they had made such a dire presentation to Ms. Rice or that she had rebuffed them.

“If we had heard something that drew our attention to this meeting, it would have been a huge thing,” he said. “Repeatedly Tenet and Black said they could not remember what had transpired in some of those meetings.”

Democratic lawmakers have seized on Mr. Woodward’s book in arguing that the Bush administration bungled the war in Iraq and paid too little attention to terrorist threats in the months before Sept. 11.

Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on “Face the Nation” on CBS that there had been “rumors” of such an encounter between Mr. Tenet and Ms. Rice in the summer of 2001.

Mr. Woodward’s book, he said, raised the question of “why didn’t Condi Rice and George Tenet tell the 9/11 commission about that? They were obliged to do that and they didn’t.”

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Click on "comments" below to read or post comments

 

Comment Guidelines
Be succinct, constructive and relevant to the story. We encourage engaging, diverse and meaningful commentary. Do not include personal information such as names, addresses, phone numbers and emails. Comments falling outside our guidelines – those including personal attacks and profanity – are not permitted.
See our complete
Comment Policy and use this link to notify us if you have concerns about a comment. We’ll promptly review and remove any inappropriate postings.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Information Clearing House has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is Information ClearingHouse endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

Join our Daily News Headlines Email Digest

Fill out your emailaddress
to receive our newsletter!
SubscribeUnsubscribe
Powered by YourMailinglistProvider.com

  Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More

HOME

COPYRIGHT NOTICE