Terror experts 'almost quit' in frustration with Bush

The Bush administration's failure to prevent the 11 September attacks came under even fiercer scrutiny yesterday, when it emerged that two veteran CIA counter-terrorism experts were so frustrated in summer 2001 that they considered resigning and making public their fears about an imminent terrorist strike against US targets.

The Bush administration's failure to prevent the 11 September attacks came under even fiercer scrutiny yesterday, when it emerged that two veteran CIA counter-terrorism experts were so frustrated in summer 2001 that they considered resigning and making public their fears about an imminent terrorist strike against US targets.

The shock revelation comes in new findings released by the federal commission investigating the attacks in 2001. These also show that John McLaughlin, deputy to the CIA director George Tenet, had told the panel he too was worried that not enough was being done.

According to this latest report, Mr McLaughlin had felt "a great tension, especially in June and July 2001", between the incoming Bush team's need to get a grip on the terrorism issue, and his own sense of urgency about the danger.

But Mr Tenet, who served under both the Bush and Clinton administrations, told the commission yesterday that the Bush White House was fully aware of the threat posed by al-Qa'ida. The real problem, he insisted, was that the CIA and other agencies simply did not have any specific information about where, when and how an attack would be carried out.

Intelligence suggested that an overseas target was more likely, "but it didn't exclude that an attack could come in the US". The data wasn't specific - "That was what was maddening about this, the reporting didn't show attacks would be in the US."

Then, with family members of victims of the attacks listening intently in the Capitol Hill hearing room, he added softly: "But for the men and women who lost relatives, we know we have to do better."

The commission's new preliminary report, based on private interviews with officials involved in the efforts to destroy al-Qa'ida, says the anti-terrorism effort was not helped by the longstanding rivalry between the CIA and the FBI. But it also argues that the agency was hamstrung by confusion over whether it could legally assassinate Osama bin Laden. Partly for that reason, the agency relied too much on the local anti-Taliban resistance in Afghanistan to do the job, even when they knew this tactic had, at best, a 20 per cent chance of success.

But Mr Tenet doubted that even if Bin Laden had been captured or killed before 11 September, it would have made any difference. "They [the al-Qa'ida cells already installed in the US] had operational flexibility, and the plot was well on its way. I do not believe 'decapitating' al-Qa'ida would have stopped it."

Testifying after Mr Tenet, Sandy Berger, national security adviser in the second Clinton term, also maintained that, between 1997 and January 2001, the past Democratic president had done all he could.

"I believe we were at war with al-Qa'ida," Mr Berger declared. The Cruise missile strike of August 1998, in response to the bombings of two US embassies in East Africa, had narrowly missed Bin Laden, and killed 20 to 30 al-Qa'ida fighters. But merely to have continued bombing terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and killing a few recruits, might actually have strengthened Bin Laden, he argued.

The hearings have been overshadowed by the memoirs of Richard Clarke, a top counter-terrorism official under Presidents Clinton and Bush, who claims the Bush team, in its fixation with Iraq, paid too little attention to the al-Qa'ida threat.

Not so, the White House counters. The Bush administration was focused on the terrorism problem but wanted to come up with a new strategic plan for the full destruction of al-Qa'ida, rather than "swatting flies", as Mr Bush is said to have described the existing policy.

But that explanation does not deal with another point of contention yesterday, the President's daily, top-secret, intelligence briefing from the CIA on 6 August 2001, which the White House has refused to release. It is known however that this "PDB" warned of the possibility of terrorists using airliners for an attack - leading to accusations of a cover-up.

Suggested Topics
News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
Arts and Entertainment
film

Marvel has released the first teaser trailer a week early after it leaked online

Extras
indybest
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
News
i100
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Life and Style
health
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Front end web developer - URGENT CONTRACT

£250 - £300 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT** Our...

Health & Social CareTeacher - Full time and Part time

£90 - £140 per day + Mileage and Expenses: Randstad Education Leeds: Sixth for...

History Teacher

£95 - £105 per day: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Plymouth i...

SQL Developer - Cardiff - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits and bonus: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer -...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?