Via the NYT:
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, Oct. 2 — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said it was “incomprehensible” that she could have ignored dire terrorist threats two months before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Her remarks were meant to rebut an account in a new book by Bob Woodward saying that she failed to act on warnings from George J. Tenet, who was then the director of central intelligence.
In her first direct comments about the book, Secretary Rice told reporters traveling with her to the Middle East on Sunday night that she did not believe there had ever been such an exchange with Mr. Tenet.
Nor, she said, did she remember if she even met with Mr. Tenet in the White House on July 10, 2001, the date identified in Mr. Woodward’s book, “State of Denial” which went on sale last weekend. Ms. Rice was President Bush’s national security adviser at that time.
Mr. Woodward’s book reports that Mr. Tenet hurriedly arranged a White House meeting on to try to “shake Rice” into taking action on ominous intelligence reports warning of a potentially catastrophic attack by Al Qaeda, possibly within American borders.
The book says that Mr. Tenet and J. Cofer Black, who was then his counterterrorism chief, left the meeting in frustration, believing they had been given a “brush-off.”
Secretary Rice said Sunday night that there would have been no need for a “a kind of emergency meeting in which there was a need to shock me, given that every day we were meeting in the Oval Office going over the threat reporting” during the summer of 2001, when spy agencies were flooded with warnings of an imminent Al Qaeda attack.
“I don’t recall a so-called emergency meeting” she continued, adding that “it was not unusual that George and I would meet, in a sense, unscheduled” in the White House, especially during such a tense period.
Ms. Rice said she had no specific recollection of meeting with Mr. Tenet and Mr. Black on July 10, 2001. Members of the commission that investigated the attacks of Sept. 11 and the events leading up to them have said they were never told of a special White House meeting held on that date, and have questioned in recent days whether information about such a meeting may have been intentionally withheld from the panel.
Greg Tinti has a clip from WH Press Sec. Tony Snow that hints at the possibility of Tenet and/or Black coming forth soon to refute the claim made in Woodward’s book. He’s got more background on the story here and here.
If it’s true that Tenet and/or Black will step forth and refute Woodward’s claims about that alleged meeting, I wonder what else in Woodward’s book is questionable?
It goes without saying but I’d like to throw this out there just to play it safe: we’re one month before election time and all sorts of sensationalistic claims about the President and/or his cabinet and/or Republicans in general are going to be thrown on the wall in an effort to see which ones stick (remember this one from 2004 that the NYT ran with?). Keep that in mind the next month as the media will hype anything it can as the ‘next big scandal’ in an effort to help along their Democratic pals who look to regain control of the House and Senate. Things as they are reported in the media are almost never as crystal clear as the MSM makes them out to be.
Update I: Brian at Iowa Voice points to a NYT story that confirms that there was an emergency meeting with Rice, Black, and Tenet on July 10, 2001 regarding the threat from AQ. The exact particulars of that meeting weren’t mentioned in the piece, other than to note it was an urgent meeting to express to Condi Rice their fears of an impending attack – on foreign soil or domestic? Not noted in the article.
Also, I found this bit curious:
Mr. McCormack also said records show that the Sept. 11 commission was informed about the meeting, a fact that former intelligence officials and members of the commission confirmed on Monday.
What the hell is going on here? Several members of the 9-11 Commission were quoted in the NYT yesterday as saying they weren’t informed about the meeting:
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.
SIGH. The NYT devoted an entire article to insinuating that Condi and Tenet might have deliberately left out testimony about the July 10 meeting when it looks like Tenet, at the very least, did testify about the meeting before the 9-11 Commission.
Is there any wonder why people get so damn confused as to what’s what? Sheesh!
What the hell Part II: Note the link in Brian’s post, and the first link I posted – same link, two different stories. Unreal! (Thanks to Brian for pointing this out). Here was the original headline, but if you click on the story, it’s different now.
Update II: Rice did recall a 7/5/01 meeting:
[...] Rebuffing descriptions in the book that she was inattentive, Rice said she was concerned enough about a potential attack in the United States — even without specific intelligence warnings — that she had a meeting on July 5, 2001, with White House chief of staff Andrew H. Card Jr. to urge him to hold a terrorism intelligence briefing for the Federal Aviation Administration and other domestic agencies.
National Security Council counterterrorism chief Richard A. Clarke also attended the July 5 meeting, she said. In addition, she asked that then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft be shown the terrorism threat reporting, since the Justice Department oversees the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI then held several briefings with their special agents, she said.