by user John Good
I was unable to grab video for this so far - I'm sure it will be out there soon, at least it had better be! Visit Meet The Press on MSNBC.com if you wish to view it - "Warnings on 9/11". This video should be playing on every TV in America right now. . .here is the transcript
MR. RUSSERT: And we are back.
I want to go back, leading up to September 11.
MR. TENET: All right.
MR. RUSSERT: In March, you went in to see Stephen Hadley, who was then Condoleezza Rice's deputy of the National Security Council, and said, "I want to expand my authorities."
MR. TENET: Well, we were asked to send them those authorities.
MR. RUSSERT: And you brought them in?
MR. TENET: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: The next day, you got a call saying, "Can you take these back because we want--or roll back the clock, we don't want to have to be set to this timetable."
MR. TENET: Tim, in fairness, I also said, "You've got to get your policies in order. You've got to consider covert action thoughtfully in a policy context." They weren't quite ready to get those policy deliberations done. we're not ready to receive those authorities yet.
MR. RUSSERT: So you took them back?
MR. TENET: Yes, sir.
MR. RUSSERT: You regret taking them back?
MR. TENET: No. It's, you know, authorities is--the policy process determines when covert action is going to be used. They did send them back, and, and they deliberated.
MR. RUSSERT: Then in June, a briefer of the CIA named Rich B gave a conclusion saying, based on all the reporting we've seen, that "bin Laden is going to launch a significant terrorist attack against U.S." Israeli "interest in the coming weeks." July 10 you got another briefing so alarming that you picked up the phone, said to Condoleezza Rice, "I want to come see you now," jumped in the car with some of your key advisers, went to see her. Rich B, he gave her a briefing package. Opening line, "There will be a significant terrorist attack in the coming weeks or months!" And then you--and later July, Rich B sitting at the CIA, said, "They're coming here." When he told you that, what did you think?
MR. TENET: It was a moment I'll never forget. We, we were sitting there trying to rack our brains, trying to figure out what we were up against at that moment. And you know, Rich, Rich said that, it hung over the room. We had no texture. We took it seriously, you know, but we had no texture at that moment. Of course, this is a, this is a human being who's been following this for many years, and he's giving us an instinctual call.
MR. RUSSERT: This is late July. The evidence coming in the intelligence: big event, spectacular, King, King Abdullah of Jordan calling, saying, "We have to go to Afghanistan. We have to do something." A presidential daily brief was prepared for the president on August 6 entitled "Bin Laden Determined To Strike in the U.S."
Late August, you went to Crawford, Texas, first time ever, met with the president, rode with him in his pickup truck. Did you say to him at that time, "Mr. President, Rich B told me at the CIA they are coming. You got to do something now"?
MR. TENET: Tim, by, by August, remember, this threat reporting starts way back in the spring--May, June, July, August. I held nothing back from the president. He understood our concerns about threats. He understood what we were doing around the world at the time. The interesting thing is is by the end of July, everything goes silent on us.
MR. RUSSERT: But did you say to him, "I brought in recommendations in March that they sent back. I need those now."
MR. TENET: At that, at that time, the policymakers were deliberating on those things, Tim. I believe that you've got to let them come to their conclusions. You know, I, I have every confidence that everybody in our government understood what I believed to be a very, very serious time period. At the end of the day, the authorities we were seeking were to get on the ground and work covertly with, with Ahmed Shah Massoud and the northern alliance. We wanted to get more proactive on the ground. The hijackers were already here.
So what, what did you learn from all this? You know, you warn, you provide strategic warning. You work around the world. We stopped many, many attacks in that summer overseas, saved thousands of lives. You go back and look at this, people always will focus either on the intelligence community, on the law enforcement. Everybody looks at individual vignettes, this mistake, that--here's the truth: An entire government, over two administrations, we, we all have to say everybody could've done more. And this was a period of time that there's a, there's a strategic and important point. We had no system of domestic protection in place in this country. We didn't think about the United States as a target. People focus on watch listing. Yes, we didn't watch list people in a timely way. Even when we watch listed them, they weren't put on a no-fly list.
You know, in, in, in, in the millennium period, we told the president of the United States five to 50 attacks against the United States. None occurred. We caught a guy trying to cross the border from Canada. And the message was, "You know, they're starting to think about us here." So lots of things could've been done better. We think we provided strategic warning. We think we were acting aggressively overseas. But you have to have offense and defense playing together, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you think the president should've come off vacation back to Washington and pulled all the principals together and said, "This intelligence is alarming. We got to do something"?
MR. TENET: I think, Tim, that in, in the August time period, I didn't, we didn't, we weren't giving the president more. I think principal--I think, you know, Condi Rice was running the NSC, Dick Clarke was taking actions. We--you can go back and think about this. The hindsight may be perfect. But that's what happened.