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
Actor Burt Reynolds last year
peopleBurt Reynolds, once among the most bankable actors in Hollywood, is set to auction his memorabilia
News
Gordon and Tana Ramsay arrive at the High Court, London
newsTV chef gives evidence against his father-in-law in court case
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Arts and Entertainment
One of the installations in the Reiner Ruthenbeck exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery
artCritics defend Reiner Ruthenbeck's 'Overturned Furniture'
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

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Sales Manager

£60k - 80k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game