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September 2001: White House Blocks EPA from Warning Citizens of Dire Toxin Threat; Block Benefits Halliburton Edit

The Bush administration blocks the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from making any announcement about vermiculite and related problems in towns where it was mined. Vermiculite is dangerous because one of the substances it contains, tremolite, itself contains lethal levels of asbestos fiber and has killed or seriously sickened thousands of inhabitants of Libby, Montana, one of the towns where it was mined. EPA chief Christine Todd Whitman visits Libby at this time, although the vermiculite mine there was shut down in 1990. However, the problem is not confined to Libby; according to EPA records, over 16 billion tons of vermiculite have been shipped to 750 fertilizer and insulation manufacturers throughout the US, and the EPA estimates that between 15 million and 35 million US homes have been insulated with this toxic material. The EPA is thus confronted with an enormously grave problem. After the St. Louis Post-Dispatch breaks the story in late 2002 based on a leak from an unnamed whistleblower, former EPA chief William Ruckelshaus calls the actions of the White House “wrong, unconscionable.” The story becomes even more important when the reason for the White House block becomes known. Vice President Dick Cheney, the former CEO of Halliburton, is pressuring Congress to pass legislation that would absolve companies of any legal liability for claims arising from asbestos exposure. Halliburton itself is facing a tremendous number of asbestos liability claims. [DEAN, 2004, PP. 162-163] Entity Tags: William Ruckelshaus, Bush administration, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Christine Todd Whitman, Halliburton, Inc., Environmental Protection Agency Timeline Tags: Bush's Environmental Record

Early September, 2001: Congressional Document Request Causes Dilemma for White House Dan Burton (R-IN), the chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, asks for more than twelve sets of internal Justice Department documents that detail purported fund-raising abuses by the 1996 presidential campaign of Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Burton also wants documents relating to the FBI’s use of mob informants by its Boston office, where evidence indicates that the office literally let the informants get away with murder and suppressed evidence that allowed an innocent man to go to prison. Burton’s request causes a dilemma for the White House. On the one hand, President Bush and Vice President Cheney have given explicit instructions for staffers to resist such calls for information. On the other hand, when Burton had delved into the questions surrounding Clinton’s last-minute pardons, Bush had already given him unprecedented access to Clinton’s private conversations (see August 21, 2001). Burton immediately released edited transcripts of the tapes (see August 21, 2001). The administration ponders whether or not to release the documents, and in the process perhaps further impugn Clinton, or to refuse, preserving their standard of executive privilege. It will eventually come down on the side of secrecy (see December 13, 2001). [DEAN, 2004, PP. 85-86] Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Al Gore, Bush administration, Ehud Barak, George W. Bush, US Department of Justice, Dan Burton, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, House Committee on Government Reform, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

September 2, 2001: Time Magazine: Powell Increasingly Marginalized in Bush Administration Time magazine writes an article calling Secretary of State Colin Powell the “odd man out” in the administration, adding that his centrist politics make Powell “chum in the water for the sharks in Dubya’s sea,” particularly Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. One top diplomat, asked to provide an adjective for the phrase, “Colin Powell is a ‘blank’ secretary of state,” replies, “Yes, he is.” A senior administration official says, “I’ve been struck by how not struck I am by him.” Time itself writes, “Powell’s megastar wattage looks curiously dimmed, as if someone has turned his light way down.” When Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is asked why he took the number two spot in the Pentagon, he replies with one word: “Powell” (see January 11, 2001). (Wolfowitz will later deny making the remark.) Author Craig Unger will later write that Wolfowitz’s terse reply “gave the game away. He was there to neutralize Powell, to implement the hard-line neocon[servative] vision.” The Time article concludes, “Enthusiasm is building inside the administration to take down [Iraq’s] Saddam [Hussein] once and for all,” a policy to which Powell is opposed. [TIME, 9/2/2001; UNGER, 2007, PP. 213] Entity Tags: Paul Wolfowitz, Bush administration, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Saddam Hussein, US Department of State, Time magazine, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney Timeline Tags: US International Relations

September 4, 2001: Cabinet-Rank Advisers Discuss Terrorism, Approve Revised Version of Clarke’s Eight Month-Old-Plan President Bush’s cabinet-rank advisers discuss terrorism for the second of only two times before 9/11. [WASHINGTON POST, 5/17/2002] National Security Adviser Rice chairs the meeting; neither President Bush nor Vice President Cheney attends. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke later says that in this meeting, he and CIA Director Tenet speak passionately about the al-Qaeda threat. No one disagrees that the threat is serious. Secretary of State Powell outlines a plan to put pressure on Pakistan to stop supporting al-Qaeda. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld appears to be more interested in Iraq. The only debate is over whether to fly the armed Predator drone over Afghanistan to attack al-Qaeda (see September 4, 2001). [CLARKE, 2004, PP. 237-38] Clarke’s earlier plans to “roll back” al-Qaeda first submitted on January 25, 2001 (see January 25, 2001) have been discussed and honed in many meetings and are now presented as a formal National Security Presidential Directive. The directive is “apparently” approved, though the process of turning it into official policy is still not done. [9/11 COMMISSION, 3/24/2004] There is later disagreement over just how different the directive presented is from Clarke’s earlier plans. For instance, some claim the directive aims not just to “roll back” al-Qaeda, but also to “eliminate” it altogether. [TIME, 8/4/2002] However, Clarke notes that even though he wanted to use the word “eliminate,” the approved directive merely aims to “significantly erode” al-Qaeda. The word “eliminate” is only added after 9/11. [WASHINGTON POST, 3/25/2004] Clarke will later say that the plan adopted “on Sept. 4 is basically… what I proposed on Jan. 25. And so the time in between was wasted.” [ABC NEWS, 4/8/2004] The Washington Post will similarly note that the directive approved on this day “did not differ substantially from Clinton’s policy.” [WASHINGTON POST, 3/27/2004] Time magazine later comments, “The fight against terrorism was one of the casualties of the transition, as Washington spent eight months going over and over a document whose outline had long been clear.” [TIME, 8/4/2002] The primary change from Clarke’s original draft is that the approved plan calls for more direct financial and logistical support to the Northern Alliance and other anti-Taliban groups. The plan also calls for drafting plans for possible US military involvement, “but those differences were largely theoretical; administration officials told the [9/11 Commission’s] investigators that the plan’s overall timeline was at least three years, and it did not include firm deadlines, military plans, or significant funding at the time of the September 11, 2001, attacks.” [WASHINGTON POST, 3/27/2004; REUTERS, 4/2/2004] Entity Tags: Taliban, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Al-Qaeda, Northern Alliance, Donald Rumsfeld, George J. Tenet, Central Intelligence Agency, George W. Bush, Colin Powell, Richard A. Clarke, Condoleezza Rice Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

September 6, 2001: Cheney’s Office Sends GAO List of ‘Support Staff’ Vice President Cheney’s office responds to repeated requests by the General Accounting Office (GAO) for information about Cheney’s secret energy task force (see August 17, 2001) by sending it a list of the task force’s office support staff, and nothing more. The GAO now considers itself empowered by law to file a lawsuit seeking the requested information, and the next day will issue a statement to that effect. [GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE, 8/25/2003 ] Entity Tags: General Accounting Office, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, National Energy Policy Development Group Timeline Tags: Bush's Environmental Record, Civil Liberties

September 10, 2001: Cheney’s Domestic Terrorism Task Force Finally Beginning to Hire Staff The domestic terrorism task force announced by President Bush and Vice President Cheney in May 2001 is just gearing up. Cheney appointed Admiral Steve Abbot to lead the task force in June, but he does not receive his White House security pass until now. Abbot has only hired two staffers and been working full time for a few days prior to 9/11. The task force was to have reported to Congress by October 1, 2001, a date they could not have met. [NEW YORK TIMES, 12/27/2001; CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY, 4/15/2004] Entity Tags: Steve Abbot, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

September 10, 2001: Review of Counterterrorism Legislation May Take Six Months, Says Cheney Aide Edit

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D), who, with Senator Jon Kyl (R), has sent a copy of draft legislation on counterterrorism and national defense to Vice President Cheney’s office on July 20, is told by Cheney’s top aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby on this day “that it might be another six months before he would be able to review the material.” [DIANNE FEINSTEIN, 5/17/2002; NEWSWEEK, 5/27/2002] Entity Tags: Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Jon Kyl, Dianne Feinstein Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

September 11Edit

Main article: Dick Cheney:Sept 11

Sep 12Edit

September 12, 2001: Threat to Air Force One? Stories Conflict Edit

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer explains that President Bush went to Nebraska because “[t]here was real and credible information that the White House and Air Force One were targets.” The next day, William Safire of the New York Times writes, and Bush’s political strategist, Karl Rove, confirms, that the Secret Service believed “‘Air Force One may be next,’ and there was an ‘inside’ threat which ‘may have broken the secret codes [i.e., showing a knowledge of presidential procedures].’” [NEW YORK TIMES, 9/13/2001 ] By September 27, Fleischer begins to backpedal on the claim that there were specific threats against Air Force One and/or the president, and news stories flatly contradict it. [WASHINGTON POST, 9/27/2001] A well-informed, anonymous Washington official says, “It did two things for [Cheney]. It reinforced his argument that the president should stay out of town, and it gave George W. an excellent reason for doing so.” [DAILY TELEGRAPH, 12/16/2001] By 2004, a Bush spokesperson says there was no threat, but Cheney continues to maintain that there may have been. Cheney also claims the Secret Service passed him word of the threat, but two Secret Service agents working that day deny their agency played any role in receiving or passing on such a threat. The threat was allegedly based on the use of the word “Angel,” the code word for Air Force One, but Secret Service agents later note that the code word was not an official secret, but a radio shorthand designation that had been made public well before 2001. [WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/22/2004 ] Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush, Secret Service, Karl Rove Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

September 12, 2001: Top Bush Officials Privately Decide to Focus on Al-Qaeda First, then Alleged State Sponsors of Terrorism like Iraq After concluding a National Security Council meeting (see September 12, 2001), President Bush continues meeting with about six top principal cabinet members. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld poses the question, “Do we focus on bin Laden and al-Qaeda or terrorism more broadly?” Secretary of State Colin Powell suggests the US should focus on terrorism generally, but focus first on al-Qaeda. Vice President Cheney brings up the issue of state sponsorship. “To the extent we define our task broadly, including those who support terrorism, then we get at states. And it’s easier to find them than it is to find bin Laden.” President Bush concludes, “Start with bin Laden, which Americans expect. And then if we succeed, we’ve struck a huge blow and can move forward.” He called the terrorism threat “a cancer” and adds, “We don’t want to define [it] too broadly for the average man to understand.” This is according to journalist Bob Woodward, who later interviews some participants in the meeting. [WOODWARD, 2002, PP. 43] The main alleged state sponsor that interests many top Bush officials is Iraq. For instance, five days later Bush will state he believes Iraq was involved in the 9/11 attacks, but that an attack on Iraq will have to wait (see September 17, 2001). Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Bob Woodward, Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

September 12, 2001: CIA Briefing to President Bush Lays Out Evidence of Bin Laden Responsibility for Attacks CIA Director George Tenet arrives at the White House to give the president his daily intelligence briefing. With him is Mike Morell, the president’s regular CIA briefer. They meet with Bush at 8 a.m. in the Oval Office, joined by Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. The Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) on this day is about ten to twelve pages long, and a further twelve pages includes full reports from case officers, the Directorate of Intelligence, and the National Security Agency. The PDB includes a review of the available intelligence tracing the previous day’s attacks back to Osama bin Laden and his top al-Qaeda associates. Among the evidence presented:

Several reports identify Capitol Hill and the White House as intended targets of the attacks. 
One report says a bin Laden associate incorrectly “gave thanks for the explosion in the Congress building.” 
A key figure in the al-Qaeda charity front the Wafa Humanitarian Organization had initially claimed that “The White House has been destroyed,” but then had to correct himself. 
A report shows that al-Qaeda members in Afghanistan had said at 9:53 a.m. the previous day that the attackers were following through with “the doctor’s program” (see 9:53 a.m. September 11, 2001). This is thought to be a reference to the second-ranking member of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian physician often referred to as “the Doctor.” 
The CIA and the FBI have evidence connecting at least three of the alleged hijackers to Osama bin Laden and his training camps in Afghanistan. Hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, and Salem Alhazmi were quickly linked to al-Qaeda on the day of 9/11, as two of them were on a US watch list even before 9/11 (see 9:53 p.m. September 11, 2001). The attacks were also consistent with intelligence reports throughout the summer that indicated bin Laden was planning “spectacular attacks” against US targets. 
A report out of Kandahar, Afghanistan shows the attacks were “the results of two years’ planning.” 
Another report says the attacks were “the beginning of the wrath.” 
A key piece of evidence involves Abu Zubaida, who has been identified as the chief field commander for the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen. A supposedly reliable report received after the 9/11 attacks stated that Zubaida had referred to September 11 as “zero hour.” It is not known is an intercepted message from before 9/11 saying “tomorrow is zero hour,” or some other message (see September 10, 2001). 

According to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, “For Tenet, the evidence on bin Laden was conclusive—game, set, match.” Though Tenet, along with Rice and other officials, has already spent several months working on a plan to vastly expand covert action in Afghanistan and worldwide, he tells Bush that an even more extensive plan will soon be presented for approval, and this will be very expensive. The president tells him, “Whatever it takes.” [WOODWARD, 2002, PP. 39-41; WASHINGTON POST, 1/28/2002; KESSLER, 2003, PP. 231-233; TENET, 2007, PP. 165] Bush will approve Tenet’s plan by the following Monday (see September 17, 2001). Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Osama bin Laden, Wafa Humanitarian Organization, Khalid Almihdhar, Michael J. Morell, George J. Tenet, Salem Alhazmi, Abu Zubaida, George W. Bush, Al-Qaeda, Condoleezza Rice, Central Intelligence Agency, Nawaf Alhazmi Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

September 12, 2001-2002: Vice President Cheney Moves between Secure Locations to Preserve ‘Continuity of Government’ In the months following 9/11, Vice President Dick Cheney spends large portions of his time in what are referred to as “secure and undisclosed” locations. [CNN, 3/1/2002] He is accompanied to these locations by those considered his “essential staff.” This includes his chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, and Libby’s assistant, Jennifer Mayfield; Cheney’s personal secretary, Debbie Heiden; his personal aide, Brian McCormack; one of his military aides; and either his counsel, David Addington, or his staff secretary, Neil Patel. Staff Ordered to Maintain Secrecy - Cheney’s personnel are ordered not to mention the vice president’s name or title on the phone; his schedule is to go out only over secure fax or classified e-mail; and all members of his staff must always keep a packed bag ready at the office. According to journalist and author Stephen Hayes, the “secure undisclosed location” the vice president goes to is usually Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, although there are other locations. [HAYES, 2007, PP. 349] Maintaining the 'Continuity of Government' - Cheney explains to PBS the reasoning behind his going to these locations: “[W]ith the possibility that the White House or the Capitol or other facilities here [in Washington] could be targeted in a terrorist attack… it’s not a good practice for the president and I to spend a lot of time together.… [I]t’s important from the standpoint of our responsibility to maintain the continuity of government to always see to it that nobody—no adversary or enemy would have the capacity of, in effect, decapitating the federal government by taking out the president and the vice president and other senior management, senior leadership.” [PBS, 10/12/2001] Yet, despite the supposed danger, he still goes ahead with a pre-planned pheasant-hunting trip in early November (see (November 4-5, 2001)). Cheney’s time at the “secure and undisclosed” locations is part of “shadow government” procedures that are implemented following the 9/11 attacks (see (2:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 3/1/2002] In interviews, he never mentions that he had similarly gone away to undisclosed locations on a regular basis throughout the 1980s, during a series of Continuity of Government exercises (see 1981-1992). [MANN, 2004, PP. 138-139 AND 296; ATLANTIC MONTHLY, 3/2004] Entity Tags: Neil Patel, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Jennifer Mayfield, Debbie Heiden, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Brian McCormack, David S. Addington Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, Civil Liberties

After September 11, 2001: Cheney Lawyers and Justice Department Subordinates Drive White House Expansion of Presidential Power Edit

After the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration seizes the new opportunities to expand the power of the presidency that present themselves as part of the government’s response to the attacks (see (After 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The Bush-Cheney legal team, largely driven by Vice President Cheney and his staff (see January 21, 2001), aggressively pushes for new opportunities to expand executive branch authorities. 'Bravado,' 'Close-Minded Group of Like-Minded People' - A senior White House official later tells author and reporter Charlie Savage of the “pervasive post-9/11 sense of masculine bravado and one-upmanship when it came to executive power.” In Savage’s words, and quoting the official, “a ‘closed group of like-minded people’ were almost in competition with one another, he said, to see who could offer the farthest-reaching claims of what a president could do. In contrast, those government lawyers who were perceived as less passionate about presidential power were derided as ‘soft’ and were often simply cut out of the process” (see September 25, 2001). Suspicion of Oversight - “The lawyers for the administration felt a tremendous amount of time pressure, and there was a lot of secrecy,” the official will say. “These things were being done in small groups. There was a great deal of suspicion of the people who normally act as a check inside the executive branch, such as the State Department, which had the reputation of being less aggressive on executive power. This process of faster, smaller groups fed on itself and built a dynamic of trying to show who was tougher on executive power.” Addington and Yoo: Outsized Influence - While nominally the leaders of the White House legal team are Attorney General John Ashcroft and White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, neither has as much influence as lawyers and staffers ostensibly of lower rank than themselves. Ashcroft is a vociferous supporter of the administration’s anti-terrorism policies, but is not a member of Bush’s inner circle and sometimes disagrees with the White House’s legal moves. Neither Ashcroft nor Gonzales have prior experience dealing with the legal issues surrounding executive power and national security. Two of the driving forces behind the White House’s push for more presidential power are Cheney’s chief counsel, David Addington, and an obscure deputy in the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), John Yoo. Because of a dispute between Ashcroft and the Bush inner circle over who should lead the OLC, there is no official chief of the OLC until November 2002, leaving Yoo and his fellows free to be as aggressive as they like on expanding presidential power and handling the war on terrorism. When the OLC chief, law professor Jay Bybee, finally arrives, he, like Ashcroft and Gonzales, finds himself hampered by his lack of knowledge of the law as it pertains to national security. Savage will later write, “When he finally started work, Bybee let deputies continue to spearhead the review of matters related to the war on terrorism.” Yoo is only a deputy assistant attorney general, but he has “signing power”—the ability to make his opinion legally binding—and is rarely reviewed by his peers because much of his work is classified. [SAVAGE, 2007, PP. 76-78] As for Addington, Lawrence Wilkerson, the chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell, will later say that he was the leader of the small but highly influential group of lawyers “who had these incredible theories and would stand behind their principles [Cheney, Bush, and others], whispering in their ears about these theories, telling them they have these powers, that the Constitution backs these powers, that these powers are ‘inherent’ and blessed by God and if they are not exercised, the nation will fall. He’d never crack a smile. His intensity and emotions and passion for these theories are extraordinary.” [SAVAGE, 2007, PP. 84] Entity Tags: Lawrence Wilkerson, John C. Yoo, US Department of State, David S. Addington, Charlie Savage, Bush administration, John Ashcroft, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Alberto R. Gonzales, Jay S. Bybee Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

September 12-18, 2001: Congress Refuses to Give Bush Wiretapping Authority Congress explicitly refuses to grant the Bush administration the authority to conduct warrantless wiretaps and surveillance operations against US citizens in its resolution authorizing the use of military force (AUMF) against terrorists (see September 14-18, 2001). Tom Daschle (D-SD), the Senate Majority Leader, will write in December 2005 (after his ouster from Congress in November 2004) that the White House and the Justice Department will claim, falsely, that the AUMF grants the right for the NSA to conduct such a program (see Early 2002 and December 15, 2005). Instead, Daschle will write, the NSA merely usurps the authority, with the president’s approval, to conduct such an extralegal surveillance program (see December 21-22, 2005). [WASHINGTON POST, 12/22/2005] Administration Efforts to Rewrite AUMF - In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Daschle will observe that the AUMF authorizes Bush “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons” who “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the 9/11 attacks. But, Daschle will write, “Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote, the administration sought to add the words ‘in the United States and’ after ‘appropriate force’ in the agreed-upon text. This last-minute change would have given the president broad authority to exercise expansive powers not just overseas—where we all understood he wanted authority to act—but right here in the United States, potentially against American citizens. I could see no justification for Congress to accede to this extraordinary request for additional authority. I refused.” No Vote for Domestic Surveillance - Daschle will also write that the White House attempted to add draft language to the AUMF resolution that would give the administration new and sweeping authority to use force to “deter and pre-empt any future acts of terrorism or aggression against the United States,” even against nations and organizations not responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Bush officials such as Vice President Dick Cheney will claim that the AUMF “granted authority by the Congress to use all means necessary to take on the terrorists, and that’s what we’ve done.” But Daschle will write that Cheney is mistaken. “As Senate majority leader at the time, I helped negotiate that law with the White House counsel’s office over two harried days. I can state categorically that the subject of warrantless wiretaps of American citizens never came up. I did not and never would have supported giving authority to the president for such wiretaps. I am also confident that the 98 senators who voted in favor of authorization of force against al-Qaeda did not believe that they were also voting for warrantless domestic surveillance.” On September 12, six days before the September 18 AUMF vote, Bush officials demand that Congress authorize the use of military force to, in their words, “deter and pre-empt any future acts of terrorism or aggression against the United States.” But Congress refuses, feeling that the request is “too broad and ill defined.” Instead, on September 14, Congress choses to use language that authorizes Bush to use “all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons [the president] determines planned, authorized, committed or aided” the 9/11 attacks. Daschle later writes, “With this language, Congress denied the president the more expansive authority he sought and insisted that his authority be used specifically against Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda.… The shock and rage we all felt in the hours after the attack were still fresh. America was reeling from the first attack on our soil since Pearl Harbor. We suspected thousands had been killed, and many who worked in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were not yet accounted for. Even so, a strong bipartisan majority could not agree to the administration’s request for an unprecedented grant of authority.” Instead, Daschle will write, the administration simply takes the authority anyway, and will argue in hindsight that the AUMF actually gives the administration the right to wiretap US citizens. However, Daschle will write, “at the time, the administration clearly felt they [didn’t have the authority] or it wouldn’t have tried to insert the additional language.” Breeding 'Fear and Suspicion' - He concludes, “[T]here are right and wrong ways to defeat terrorists, and that is a distinction this administration has never seemed to accept. Instead of employing tactics that preserve Americans’ freedoms and inspire the faith and confidence of the American people, the White House seems to have chosen methods that can only breed fear and suspicion. If the stories in the media over the past week are accurate [detailing the breadth and apparent illegality of the NSA program], the president has exercised authority that I do not believe is granted to him in the Constitution, and that I know is not granted to him in the law that I helped negotiate with his counsel and that Congress approved in the days after Sept. 11. For that reason, the president should explain the specific legal justification for his authorization of these actions, Congress should fully investigate these actions and the president’s justification for them, and the administration should cooperate fully with that investigation. In the meantime, if the president believes the current legal architecture of our country is insufficient for the fight against terrorism, he should propose changes to our laws in the light of day. That is how a great democracy operates. And that is how this great democracy will defeat terrorism.” [WASHINGTON POST, 12/23/2005] Entity Tags: National Security Agency, Al-Qaeda, Bush administration, Washington Post, Tom Daschle, US Department of Justice, Osama bin Laden, Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF), Richard (“Dick”) Cheney Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

September 13, 2001: Bush and Saudi Ambassador Discuss Evacuating Saudis and Terrorist Renditions

From left to right: Dick Cheney, Prince Bandar, Condoleezza Rice, and George W. Bush, on the Truman Balcony of the White House on September 13, 2001. [Source: White House] President Bush and Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the US, hold a private meeting at the White House. Vice President Cheney, National Security Adviser Rice, and Bandar’s aide Rihab Massoud also attend. [WOODWARD, 2006, PP. 80] Bandar is so close to the Bush family that he is nicknamed “Bandar Bush.” Sen. Bob Graham (D) later will note that while little is known about what is discussed in the meeting, mere hours later, the first flights transporting Saudi royals and members of the bin Laden family are in the air (see September 13, 2001). Over the next week, they will be taken to several gathering points, and then flown back to Saudi Arabia, apparently without first being properly interviewed by the FBI (see September 14-19, 2001). Graham will say, “Richard Clarke, then the White House’s counterterrorism tsar, told me that he was approached by someone in the White House seeking approval for the departures. He did not remember who made the request… The remaining question is where in the White House the request originated, and how.” Graham will imply that, ultimately, the request originated from this meeting between Bush and Bandar. [GRAHAM AND NUSSBAUM, 2004, PP. 105-107] Others also will later suggest that it was Bandar who pushed for and helped arrange the flights. [VANITY FAIR, 10/2003; FIFTH ESTATE, 10/29/2003 ] Bob Woodward will mention in a 2006 book that during the meeting, Bush tells Bandar, “If we [capture] somebody and we can’t get them to cooperate, we’ll hand them over to you.” Woodward will later comment, “With these words, the president casually expressed what became the US government’s rendition policy-the shifting of terrorist suspects from country to country for interrogation.… Though the Saudis denied it, the CIA believe the Saudis tortured terrorist suspects to make them talk.” [WOODWARD, 2006, PP. 80] Entity Tags: Rihab Massoud, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush, Richard A. Clarke, Bob Woodward, Bandar bin Sultan, Condoleezza Rice, Bin Laden Family, Bob Graham Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

September 14, 2001: Conflicting Accounts about Planes Near Flight 93’s Crash Officials admit that two planes were near Flight 93 when it crashed, which matches numerous eyewitness accounts. For example, local man Dennis Decker says that immediately after hearing an explosion, “We looked up, we saw a midsized jet flying low and fast. It appeared to make a loop or part of a circle, and then it turned fast and headed out. If you were here to see it, you’d have no doubt. It was a jet plane, and it had to be flying real close when that 757 went down… If I was the FBI, I’d find out who was driving that plane.” [BERGEN RECORD, 9/14/2001] Later the same day, the military says it can “neither confirm nor deny” the nearby planes. [PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 9/14/2001] Two days later, they claim there were two planes near, but that they were a military cargo plane and business jet, and neither had anything to do with the crash. [PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 9/16/2001] Supposedly, the business jet was requested to fly low over the crash site to help rescuers find the crash site, 25 minutes after all aircraft in the US had been ordered to land. However, the story appears physically impossible since the FBI says this jet was at 37,000 feet and asked to descend to 5,000 feet. [PITTSBURGH CHANNEL, 9/15/2001] That would have taken many minutes for that kind of plane, and witnesses report seeing the plane flying very low even before the crash. [BERGEN RECORD, 9/14/2001] Another explanation of a farmer’s plane 45 minutes later is put forth, but that also does not fit the time at all. [PITTSBURGH CHANNEL, 9/15/2001] Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz states: “We responded awfully quickly, I might say, on Tuesday [9/11], and, in fact, we were already tracking in on that plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. I think it was the heroism of the passengers on board that brought it down. But the Air Force was in a position to do so if we had had to.” [NEWSHOUR WITH JIM LEHRER, 9/14/2001] The next day, Maj. Gen. Paul Weaver, the director of the Air National Guard denies that any plane was scrambled after Flight 93. [SEATTLE TIMES, 9/16/2001] That in turn contradicts what Vice President Cheney will say later. [WASHINGTON POST, 1/27/2002] Entity Tags: Dennis Decker, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Paul Weaver Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

September 14-18, 2001: Congress to Bush: Use All Necessary Military Force The US Congress adopts a joint resolution, the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF), that determines that “the president is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.” Congress also states that the “grave acts of violence” committed on the US “continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to [its] national security and foreign policy.” [US CONGRESS, 9/14/2001] President Bush signs the resolution into law on September 18. [WHITE HOUSE, 9/18/2001] The passage of the AUMF served another purpose: to extend presidential power. While the Defense Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff intended the AUMF to define the conflict in narrow terms, and authorize the US to move militarily against al-Qaeda and its confederates, and the Taliban, Vice President Dick Cheney and his chief of staff, David Addington, had a larger goal. Attorney Scott Horton, who has written two major studies on interrogation of terrorism suspects for the New York City Bar Association, says in 2005 that Cheney and Addington “really wanted [the AUMF defined more broadly], because it provided the trigger for this radical redefinition of presidential power.” Addington helped draft a Justice Department opinion in late 2001, written by lawyer John Yoo (see Late September 2001), that asserted Congress cannot “place any limits on the president’s determinations as to any terrorist threat, the amount of military force to be used in response, or the method, timing, and nature of the response.” [US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT, 5/21/2006] Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, Taliban, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Scott Horton, John C. Yoo, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Al-Qaeda, George W. Bush, Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF), David S. Addington Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline, Civil Liberties

September 15, 2001: CIA Director Presents Bush and his Cabinet with Extensive Plan for Combating Terrorism Worldwide

Some attendees of the Camp David meeting on September 15, 2001. From left to right: I. Lewis Libby, John Ashcroft, Dick Cheney, George Bush, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz. [Source: PBS] President Bush meets with his advisers at Camp David for a day of intensive discussions about how to respond to the 9/11 attacks. CIA Director George Tenet has arrived there “with a briefcase stuffed with top-secret documents and plans, in many respects the culmination of more than four years of work on bin Laden, the al-Qaeda network and worldwide terrorism.” With him is his deputy, John McLaughlin, and counterterrorism chief Cofer Black. Also in the conference room with them, among others, are Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, and Colin Powell. For his 30-minute presentation, Tenet gives out a briefing packet titled “Going to War.” His presentation covers several key components for the fight against terrorism:

Tenet advocates substantially stepping up “direct support of the Northern Alliance,” the main Afghan opposition group, as part of a strategy to create “a northern front, closing the safe haven” of Afghanistan. His idea is that “Afghan opposition forces, aided by the United States, would move first against the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, try to break the Taliban’s grip on that city and open up the border with Uzbekistan. From there the campaign could move to other cities in the north.” Tenet also explains that the CIA had begun working with a number of tribal leaders in the south of Afghanistan the previous year, and these could be enticed to joint a US-led campaign. 
The plan includes “a full-scale covert attack on the financial underpinnings of the terrorist network, including clandestine computer surveillance and electronic eavesdropping to locate the assets of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.” 
The CIA and FBI would work together to track down bin Laden supporters in the US. 
A key proposal is a recommendation that the president give the CIA “exceptional authorities” to destroy al-Qaeda. Tenet wants a broad intelligence order allowing the agency to conduct covert operations without requiring formal approval for each specific operation, thus authorizing it to operate without restraint. Tenet and his senior deputies would be permitted to approve “snatch” operations abroad. Journalist Bob Woodward calls this “truly exceptional power.” 
Tenet has with him a draft of a presidential intelligence order—a “finding”—that would give the CIA power “to use the full range of covert instruments, including deadly force.” 
Another proposal is that, with additional hundreds of millions of dollars for new covert action, the CIA could “buy” intelligence services of key Arab nations including Egypt, Jordan, and Algeria. These could act as surrogates for the US. As Bob Woodward points out, this “would put the United States in league with questionable intelligence services, some of them with dreadful human rights records. Some had reputations for ruthlessness and using torture to obtain confessions.” 
Tenet calls for the initiation of intelligence contact with certain rogue states, such as Libya and Syria, so as to obtain helpful information about the terrorists. (Subsequently, by early 2002, Syria will have emerged as one of the CIA’s most effective allies in the fight against al-Qaeda (see Early 2002-January 2003).) 
He has with him a top-secret document called the “Worldwide Attack Matrix.” This details covert operations in 80 countries that he is recommending or are already underway. “Actions ranged from routine propaganda to lethal covert action in preparation for military attacks.” As Woodward describes, this proposal represents “a striking departure for US policy. It would give the CIA the broadest and most lethal authority in its history.” 

The president reportedly is much pleased with Tenet’s proposals, “virtually shouting ‘Great job!’” [WOODWARD, 2002, PP. 74-78; WASHINGTON POST, 1/31/2002; KESSLER, 2003, PP. 234] He will grant all Tenet’s requests by the following Monday (see September 17, 2001). Tenet had presented a cruder version of the CIA plan at the White House two days earlier (see September 13, 2001). Entity Tags: Paul Wolfowitz, Northern Alliance, Osama bin Laden, John E. McLaughlin, George J. Tenet, Donald Rumsfeld, Al-Qaeda, George W. Bush, Central Intelligence Agency, Colin Powell, Cofer Black, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

September 15, 2001: Wolfowitz Suggests Striking Iraq Immediately; Bush Decides to Focus on Afghanistan First

George Tenet pointing at a map and describing CIA operations in Afghanistan on September 30, 2001. Also at the table are George Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and Andrew Card. [Source: White House] President Bush and his top advisers meet at Camp David to discuss how to respond to the 9/11 attacks. Attendees include: CIA Director George Tenet, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. [WASHINGTON POST, 1/31/2002; VANITY FAIR, 5/2004, PP. 232] There is discussion on a paper submitted by the Defense Department submitted the day before depicting Iraq, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda as priority targets (see September 14, 2001). Push to Attack Iraq - Rumsfeld has already suggested that the US should use 9/11 as an excuse to attack Iraq (see 10:00 p.m. September 11, 2001 and September 12, 2001). Now Wolfowitz pushes for regime change in Iraq, claiming that there is a 10 to 50 percent chance that Iraq was involved in the attacks. [WOODWARD, 2002, PP. 83; VANITY FAIR, 5/2004; WASHINGTON POST, 7/23/2004] Attacking Afghanistan is uncertain at best, Wolfowitz argues, with the likelihood that US troops will get mired in mountain fighting. In contrast, Iraq is, in author Bob Woodward’s words, “a brittle, oppressive regime that might break easily. It was doable.” According to Woodward, chief of staff Andrew Card believes that Wolfowitz is doing nothing more than “banging a drum” and is “not providing additional information or new arguments.” [WOODWARD, 2002, PP. 83; AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE, 3/24/2003] Powell will later recall that Wolfowitz argues that Iraq should be attacked because it is ultimately the source of the terrorist problem. Wolfowitz “was always of the view that Iraq was a problem that had to be dealt with. And he saw this as one way of using this event as a way to deal with the Iraq problem.” [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 335] Deputy CIA Director John McLaughlin will later recall that the discussion about possible Iraqi involvement in 9/11 “went back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. The [CIA] argued that that was not appropriate, not the right conclusion to draw at this point.” Secretary of State Colin Powell supports the CIA on this. Then, according to McLaughlin: “At the end of all this deliberation, the president says, ‘Thank you all very much. This has been a very good discussion. I’m going to think about all of this on Sunday, and I’ll call you together Monday [September 17] and tell you what I’ve concluded.” [PBS FRONTLINE, 6/20/2006] Focus on Afghanistan First - Bush will later tell reporter Bob Woodward that, in his own mind, he made the decision not to immediately attack Iraq in the morning on this day. He wants to focus on Afghanistan first. [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 335] Wolfowitz will later recall in an interview with Vanity Fair: “On the surface of the debate it at least appeared to be about not whether but when. There seemed to be a kind of agreement that yes it should be, but the disagreement was whether it should be in the immediate response or whether you should concentrate simply on Afghanistan first. To the extent it was a debate about tactics and timing, the president clearly came down on the side of Afghanistan first. To the extent it was a debate about strategy and what the larger goal was, it is at least clear with 20/20 hindsight that the president came down on the side of the larger goal.” [VANITY FAIR, 5/9/2003] In his 2002 book Bush at War, Woodward will write, “Bush’s advisers wondered if they would ever find a way to end the talking and pull the trigger.” [ROBERTS, 2008, PP. 106] Entity Tags: Robert S. Mueller III, Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, George J. Tenet, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, John E. McLaughlin, Colin Powell, Paul O’Neill, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Shortly After September 11, 2001: ’War Council’ Sets Legal Course for White House’s Response to Terrorism A self-styled White House “war council” begins meeting shortly after the 9/11 attacks, to discuss the administration’s response to the attacks and the methods it will use (see (After 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The ad hoc group is composed of White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, Justice Department lawyer John Yoo, Pentagon chief counsel William J. Haynes, and the chief aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, David Addington. According to Jack Goldsmith, who will become head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in 2003 (see October 6, 2003), the four believe that the administration’s biggest obstacle to responding properly to the 9/11 attacks is the body of domestic and international law that arose in the 1970s to constrain the president’s powers after the criminal excesses of Richard Nixon’s White House. Chief among these restraints is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978 (see 1978). Though Addington tends to dominate the meetings with his imposing physical presence and aggressive personality, Yoo is particularly useful to the group; the head of the OLC, Jay Bybee (whom Goldsmith will replace) has little experience with national security issues, and delegates much of the responsibility for that subject to Yoo, even giving him the authority to draft opinions that are binding on the entire executive branch. Yoo agrees wholeheartedly with Addington, Gonzales, and Cheney about the need for vastly broadened presidential powers. According to Goldsmith, Yoo is seen as a “godsend” for the White House because he is eager to draft legal opinions that would protect Bush and his senior officials from any possible war crimes charges. However, Yoo’s direct access to Gonzales angers Attorney General John Ashcroft, who feels that the “war council” is usurping legal and policy decision-making powers that are legally his own. [NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE, 9/9/2007] In 2009, Goldsmith will say, “[I]it was almost as if they [Cheney and Addington] were interested in expanding executive power for its own sake.” [VANITY FAIR, 2/2009] Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, William J. Haynes, Richard M. Nixon, Office of Legal Counsel, Jay S. Bybee, Jack Goldsmith, John C. Yoo, Bush administration, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Alberto R. Gonzales, David S. Addington Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Mid-September, 2001: Cheney and Rumsfeld Create ‘Cabal’ to Influence Foreign Policy Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz create a secretive, ad hoc intelligence bureau within the Pentagon that they mockingly dub “The Cabal.” This small but influential group of neoconservatives is tasked with driving US foreign policy and intelligence reporting towards the goal of promoting the invasion of Iraq. To this end, the group—which later is folded into the slightly more official Office of Special Plans (OSP) (see 2002-2003)—gathers and interprets raw intelligence data for itself, refusing the participation of the experts in the CIA and DIA, and reporting, massaging, manipulating, and sometimes falsifying that information to suit their ends. [NEW YORKER, 5/12/2003] In October 2005, Larry Wilkerson, Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff, will say of the Cabal and the OSP (see October 2005), “What I saw was a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made. Now it is paying the consequences of making those decisions in secret, but far more telling to me is America is paying the consequences.” [FINANCIAL TIMES, 10/20/2005] Entity Tags: Thomas Franks, Paul Wolfowitz, Office of Special Plans, “The Cabal”, Central Intelligence Agency, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Colin Powell, Douglas Feith, Lawrence Wilkerson, Defense Intelligence Agency, Donald Rumsfeld Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Domestic Propaganda

September 16, 2001: Cheney Says Iraq Is ‘Bottled Up,’ Not Tied to 9/11 Vice President Dick Cheney is asked on NBC’s Meet the Press if the US has evidence that Saddam Hussein is harboring terrorists. Cheney responds: “There is—in the past, there have been some activities related to terrorism by Saddam Hussein. But at this stage, you know, the focus is over here on al-Qaeda and the most recent events in New York. Saddam Hussein’s bottled up, at this point, but clearly, we continue to have a fairly tough policy where the Iraqis are concerned.” [MEET THE PRESS, 9/16/2001] When asked if the US has any evidence linking Hussein or any Iraqis to the attacks, Cheney replies, “No.” [NBC, 9/16/2001] Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Saddam Hussein Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

September 16, 2001: Vice President Cheney Says There Was No Warning of ‘Domestic Operation or Involving What Happened’ Vice President Cheney acknowledges that US intelligence officials received threat information during the summer of 2001 “that a big operation was planned” by terrorists, possibly striking the US. But he also says, “No specific threat involving really a domestic operation or involving what happened, obviously—the cities, airliner and so forth.” [WASHINGTON FILE, 9/12/2001] Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

September 16, 2001: Bin Laden, in Statement Read on Al Jazeera, Denies Involvement in 9/11 Attacks Osama bin Laden, the exiled Saudi multimillionaire considered by the United States to be the prime suspect for the 9/11 attacks, issues a statement through the Arabic satellite television channel Al Jazeera, in which he denies responsibility for those attacks. [CNN, 9/17/2001; WASHINGTON POST, 9/17/2001] In the statement, which is read out by an Al Jazeera announcer, bin Laden says: “The US government has consistently blamed me for being behind every occasion its enemies attack it. I would like to assure the world that I did not plan the recent attacks, which seems to have been planned by people for personal reasons. I have been living in the Islamic emirate of Afghanistan and following its leaders’ rules. The current leader does not allow me to exercise such operations.” The statement is signed “Sheik Osama bin Laden.” [ASSOCIATED PRESS, 9/16/2001; CNN, 9/17/2001] President Bush dismisses bin Laden’s denial. Asked whether he believes it, Bush responds: “No question he is the prime suspect. No question about that.” [WHITE HOUSE, 9/16/2001; BALTIMORE SUN, 9/17/2001] Vice President Dick Cheney says he has “no doubt that [bin Laden] and his organization played a significant role” in the 9/11 attacks. [NBC, 9/16/2001; WASHINGTON POST, 9/17/2001] On this day, bin Laden also faxes a statement to the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) agency, in which he denies responsibility for the 9/11 attacks (see September 16, 2001). [GUARDIAN, 9/17/2001] Previously, on September 12, he denied any involvement, according to a close aide of his (see September 12, 2001). [ASSOCIATED PRESS, 9/13/2001] On September 13, Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban said bin Laden told them he had played no role in the attacks (see September 13, 2001). [REUTERS, 9/13/2001] But in mid-December 2001, the Pentagon will release a video which apparently shows bin Laden indicating his complicity (see Mid-November 2001). [BBC, 12/14/2001; FOX NEWS, 12/14/2001] However, there will be questions about the authenticity of this film (see December 13, 2001). [GUARDIAN, 12/15/2001] Entity Tags: Al Jazeera, George W. Bush, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Osama bin Laden Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

September 16, 2001: Cheney Vows US Will Respond to 9/11 with ‘Dark Side’ of Intelligence Methods In a television interview, Vice President Cheney is asked how the US will respond to the 9/11 attacks. He first replies that there will be a military response. But he adds an oblique comment indicating the secrecy in which he and the administration intend to operate after the 9/11 attacks: “We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We’ve got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we’re going to be successful. That’s the world these folks operate in, and so it’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective.” [MEET THE PRESS, 9/16/2001; UNGER, 2007, PP. 221] In 2006, former CIA official Gary Schroen will be asked about Cheney’s comment, and he replies: “My impression at the time was that the administration was trying to send a message, and certainly CIA leadership was trying to send a message, that the gloves were off. I think what [Cheney] was probably saying was, we’re going to do things like assassination operations; we were going to go into places and not try to capture these guys, but just kill them, and that… there would be a lot of people who would object to those kind of tactics.” [PBS FRONTLINE, 1/20/2006] In 2007, author and reporter Charlie Savage will write, “Many interpreted Cheney’s vague remarks to have been a reference to brutal interrogation techniques.” [SAVAGE, 2007, PP. 154] Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Charlie Savage, Gary C. Schroen Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline, Civil Liberties

September 18, 2001-April 2007: Claims of an Atta-Iraqi Spy Meeting Are Repeatedly Asserted and Denied in Media

William Safire’s New York Times editorial published November 12, 2001, in which he calls the alleged meeting between Atta and an Iraqi agent an “undisputed fact.” [Source: PBS] Media coverage relating to an alleged meeting between hijacker Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi spy named Ahmed al-Ani took place in Prague, Czech Republic, has changed repeatedly over time:

September 18, 2001: It is first reported that 9/11 plotter Mohamed Atta met in Prague, Czech Republic, with an Iraqi diplomat in April 2001. The name of the diplomat, Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, is mentioned in follow up articles. [ASSOCIATED PRESS, 9/18/2001; LOS ANGELES TIMES, 9/19/2001; CNN, 10/11/2001; NEW YORK TIMES, 11/19/2003] 
October 20, 2001: The story is denied by some Czech officials (see October 16, 2001). [NEW YORK TIMES, 10/20/2001] 
October 26, 2001: The story is confirmed by the Czech interior minister (see October 26, 2001). [NEW YORK TIMES, 10/27/2001] 
October 27, 2001: It is claimed Atta met with Iraqi agents four times in Prague, and was given a vial of antrax. Atta is alleged to have had further meetings with Iraqi agents in Germany, Spain, and Italy (see October 27, 2001). [LONDON TIMES, 10/27/2001] 
November 12, 2001: Conservative columnist William Safire calls the meeting an “undisputed fact” in a New York Times editorial (see November 12, 2001). [NEW YORK TIMES, 11/12/2001] 
December 9, 2001: Vice President Cheney asserts that the existence of the meeting is “pretty well confirmed” (see December 9, 2001). [WASHINGTON POST, 12/9/2001] 
December 16, 2001: The identities of both al-Ani and Atta, alleged to have been at the meetings, are disputed by a Czech police chief (see December 16, 2001). [NEW YORK TIMES, 12/16/2001; ASSOCIATED PRESS, 12/16/2001] 
January 12, 2002: It is claimed at least two meetings took place, including one a year earlier. [DAILY TELEGRAPH, 1/12/2002] 
February 6, 2002: It is reported that senior US intelligence officials believe the meeting took place, but they believe it is not enough evidence to tie Iraq to the 9/11 attacks (see February 6, 2002). [NEW YORK TIMES, 2/6/2002] 
March 15, 2002: Evidence that the meeting took place is considered between “slim” and “none.” [WASHINGTON POST, 3/15/2002] 
March 18, 2002: William Safire again strongly asserts that the meeting took place. [NEW YORK TIMES, 3/18/2002] 
April 28-May 2, 2002: The meeting is largely discredited. For example, the Washington Post quotes FBI Director Mueller stating that, “We ran down literally hundreds of thousands of leads and checked every record we could get our hands on, from flight reservations to car rentals to bank accounts,” yet no evidence that Atta left the country was found. According to the Post, “[a]fter months of investigation, the Czechs [say] they [are] no longer certain that Atta was the person who met al-Ani, saying ‘he may be different from Atta.’” [WASHINGTON POST, 5/1/2002] Newsweek cites a US official who contends that, “Neither we nor the Czechs nor anybody else has any information [Atta] was coming or going [to Prague] at that time” (see April 28, 2002). [NEWSWEEK, 4/28/2002; WASHINGTON POST, 5/1/2002; NEW YORK TIMES, 5/2/2002] 
May 8, 2002: Some Czech officials continue to affirm the meeting took place. [PRAGUE POST, 5/8/2002] 
May 9, 2002: William Safire refuses to give up the story, claiming a “protect-Saddam cabal” in the high levels of the US government is burying the evidence. [NEW YORK TIMES, 5/9/2002] 
July 15, 2002: The head of Czech foreign intelligence states that reports of the meeting are unproved and implausible. [PRAGUE POST, 7/15/2002] 
August 2, 2002: With a war against Iraq growing more likely, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer suggests the meeting did happen, “despite deep doubts by the CIA and FBI.” [LOS ANGELES TIMES, 8/2/2002] 
August 19, 2002: Newsweek states: “The sole evidence for the alleged meeting is the uncorroborated claim of a Czech informant.” According to Newsweek, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is nonetheless pushing the FBI to have the meeting accepted as fact. [NEWSWEEK, 8/19/2002] 
September 10, 2002: The Bush administration is no longer actively asserting that the meeting took place. [WASHINGTON POST, 9/10/2002] 
September 17, 2002: Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld “accept reports from Czech diplomats” that the meeting took place. [USA TODAY, 9/17/2002] 
September 23, 2002: Newsweek reports that the CIA is resisting Pentagon demands to obtain pictures of the alleged meeting from Iraqi exiles. One official says, “We do not shy away from evidence. But we also don’t make it up.” [NEWSWEEK, 9/23/2002] 
October 10, 2002: British officials deny the meeting ever took place (see October 4-10, 2002). [FINANCIAL TIMES, 10/4/2002; GUARDIAN, 10/10/2002] 
October 20, 2002: Czech officials, including President Vaclav Havel, emphatically deny that the meeting ever took place. It now appears Atta was not even in the Czech Republic during the month the meeting was supposed to have taken place. President Havel told Bush “quietly some time earlier this year” that the meeting did not happen (see Early 2002, probably May or later). [UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL, 10/20/2002; NEW YORK TIMES, 10/21/2002] 
December 8, 2002: Bush adviser Richard Perle continues to push the story, stating, “To the best of my knowledge that meeting took place.” [CBS NEWS, 9/5/2002] He says this despite the fact that in October 2002, Czech officials told Perle in person that the meeting did not take place (see October 20, 2002). 
July 9, 2003: Iraqi intelligence officer Ahmed al-Ani is captured by US forces in Iraq. [WASHINGTON POST, 7/9/2003] 
July 10, 2003: In a story confirming al-Ani’s capture, ABC News cites US and British intelligence officials who have seen surveillance photos of al-Ani’s meetings in Prague, and who say that there is a man who looks somewhat like Atta, but is not Atta. [ABC NEWS, 7/10/2003] 
September 14, 2003: Vice President Cheney repeats the claims that Atta met with al-Ani in Prague on NBC’s Meet the Press. He says “we’ve never been able to develop anymore of that yet, either in terms of confirming it or discrediting” the meeting, but he also cites the when making the claim that Iraq officially supported al-Qaeda (see September 14, 2003 and September 14, 2003). [WASHINGTON POST, 9/15/2003] 
July 25, 2003: The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry makes public its conclusion that the meeting never took place (see January-July 2003). 
December 13, 2003: It is reported that al-Ani told interrogators he did not meet Atta in Prague. [WASHINGTON POST, 9/29/2003; REUTERS, 12/13/2003] 
February 24, 2004: CIA Director George Tenet says of the meeting: “We can’t prove that one way or another.” [NEW YORK TIMES, 7/9/2004] 
June 16, 2004: The 9/11 Commission concludes that the meeting never happened. They claim cell phone records and other records show Atta never left Florida during the time in question (see June 16, 2004). [9/11 COMMISSION, 6/16/2004] 
June 17, 2004: Vice President Cheney says no one has “been able to confirm” the Atta meeting in Prague or to “to knock it down” He calls reports suggesting that the 9/11 Commission has reached a contradictory conclusion “irresponsible,” even though the 9/11 Commission did conclude just that the day before (see June 17, 2004). [CNN, 6/18/2004] 
July 1, 2004: CIA Director Tenet says that the CIA is “increasingly skeptical” the meeting ever took place (see July 1, 2004). [NEW YORK TIMES, 7/9/2004] 
July 12, 2004: The 9/11 Commission publicly concludes the meeting never took place (see July 12, 2004). 
March 29, 2006: Cheney says of the meeting: “And that reporting waxed and waned where the degree of confidence in it, and so forth, has been pretty well knocked down now at this stage, that that meeting ever took place” (see March 29, 2006). 
September 8, 2006: A bipartisan Senate report confirms that the meeting never took place (see September 8-10, 2006). [US SENATE AND INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE, 9/8/2006 ] 
September 10, 2006: Cheney still breathes life into reports of the meeting, reversing position and refusing to deny that the meeting took place (see September 10, 2006). [MEET THE PRESS, 9/10/2006] 
April 2007: In a new book, former CIA Director Tenet claims, “It is my understanding that in 2006, new intelligence was obtained that proved beyond any doubt that the man seen meeting with [a] member of the Iraqi intelligence service in Prague in 2001 was not Mohamed Atta” (see 2006). [TENET, 2007, PP. 355]

Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, 9/11 Commission, Mohamed Atta, Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Vaclav Havel, William Safire, Robert S. Mueller III Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

September 19, 2001: Bush Directs CIA to Investigate Al-Qaeda-Hussein Link; Cheney Pushes Atta in Prague Story In a briefing with CIA Director George Tenet, President Bush tells Tenet, “I want to know about links between Saddam [Hussein] and al-Qaeda. The Vice President knows some things that might be helpful.” He then turns to Cheney, who is participating in the meeting through a secure video link. Unusual for a vice president, Cheney’s office has nearly a dozen national security staffers. Cheney tells Tenet that one of them has picked up a report that hijacker Mohamed Atta met with an Iraqi agent in Prague. This had already been reported in the press the day before (see September 18, 2001), but apparently Cheney has information about it that the CIA does not. Tenet promises to get to the bottom of it right away. [SUSKIND, 2006, PP. 22-23] Two days later, Tenet will tell Bush that the report “just doesn’t add up” (see September 21, 2001). Entity Tags: George W. Bush, George J. Tenet, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Mohamed Atta Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

September 25, 2001: OLC Lawyer Yoo Authorizes Warrantless Surveillance of Communications Entering and Departing US John Yoo of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) writes a legal memo authorizing the warrantless surveillance of electronic communications entering and departing the US. (In the same memo, Yoo asserts that the president has no legal restrictions on his ability to wage war—see September 25, 2001). Since 1978, such warrantless wiretapping as Yoo authorizes has been prohibited by federal law. But Yoo’s legal brief authorizes such surveillance, in secret, “incident to” the authority Congress has just granted the president to pursue terrorists (see October 10, 2002). Author Craig Unger will write, “The memo dramatically enhanced the power of the executive branch by leaving the courts and Congress out of the loop.” Vice President Cheney, through his legal counsel David Addington, even keeps the senior national security lawyer, John Bellinger, out of the loop on the surveillance authorization. Bellinger should have been apprised of the eavesdropping program, but because Addington holds him in what White House officials call “open contempt,” and has accused Bellinger of selling out presidential authority for good “public relations” or bureaucratic consensus, does not inform him of the program. Bellinger’s deputy Bryan Cunningham will later say: “Bellinger didn’t know. That was a mistake.” Had Bellinger, who reports directly to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, been apprised of the program, Cunningham says, he would have recommended vetting the program with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that governs such surveillance. Bruce Fein, an associate deputy attorney general under Ronald Reagan, will say that the domestic surveillance program stemming from Yoo’s memo flouts the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) by directing the NSA to spy on US citizens “on [the president’s] say-so alone.” Fein will write that the surveillance program is based on “an imperial theory of inherent constitutional power that would empower [the president] to open mail, break in and enter homes, or torture detainees, even in violation of federal criminal statutes” (see July 14, 1970). [UNGER, 2007, PP. 221-222] Entity Tags: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, Condoleezza Rice, Bryan Cunningham, Bruce Fein, Craig Unger, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, John Bellinger, National Security Agency, US Department of Justice, Office of Legal Counsel, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, John C. Yoo, David S. Addington Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

September 28, 2001: Bush Tells His Advisers Iraq ‘Probably Was Behind’ 9/11; Wants to Use Afghanistan War as Warning to Other Countries During a National Security Council meeting attended by CIA Director Tenet, National Security Adviser Rice, Secretary of State Powell, Vice President Cheney and others, President Bush says of the 9/11 attacks, “Many believe Saddam [Hussein] is involved. That’s not an issue for now. If we catch him being involved, we’ll act. He probably was behind this in the end.” He also says, “What we do in Afghanistan is an important part of our effort. It’s important to be serious and that’ll be a signal to other countries about how serious we are on terror.” He mentions Syria and Iran as countries he wants to warn. This is according to journalist Bob Woodward, who interviews many top officials at the meeting. [WOODWARD, 2002, PP. 167] One week earlier, the CIA advised Bush that there was no link between al-Qaeda and the Iraqi government. CIA Director Tenet also told Bush that the one alleged connection between Iraq and the 9/11 attack “just doesn’t add up” (see September 21, 2001). Entity Tags: National Security Council, Bob Woodward, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Saddam Hussein, George J. Tenet, George W. Bush Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

September 30, 2001: Four Prominent Republicans Make Alarming Comments about Terrorists and WMDs Four prominent Republican officials make alarming comments about terrorism and especially the use of WMDs against the US:

Attorney General John Ashcroft says on CNN: “We believe there are substantial risks of terrorism still in the United States of America. As we as a nation respond to what has happened to us, those risks may in fact go up.” 
White House chief of staff Andrew Card says on Fox News, “I’m not trying to be an alarmist, but we know that these terrorist organizations, like al-Qaeda, run by Osama bin Laden and others, have probably found the means to use biological or chemical warfare.” 
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says on NBC’s Meet the Press, “There’s always been terrorism, but there’s never really been worldwide terrorism at a time when the weapons have been as powerful as they are today, with chemical and biological and nuclear weapons spreading to countries that harbor terrorists.” He suggests several countries supporting terrorists either have WMDs or are trying to get them. “It doesn’t take a leap of imagination to expect that at some point those nations will work with those terrorist networks and assist them in achieving and obtaining those kinds of capabilities.” He does not name these countries, but the New York Times notes the next day that the US military had recently identified the WMD programs in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Sudan as cause for concern. 
Representative Henry Hyde (R-IL), the chairman of the House International Relations Committee, also says on Meet the Press that biological weapons “scare” him more than nuclear weapons because they can be brought into the country “rather easily.” 

The New York Times reports that there is no new intelligence behind these alarming comments. By contrast, Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says it is unlikely terrorists are capable of making extremely deadly biological weapons. He says that terrorists might have access to weapons that use anthrax or smallpox, but while “There are those serious things… we can deal with them.” [NEW YORK TIMES, 10/1/2001] Deputy press secretary Scott McClellan will later observe: “Even the Cheney-driven White House effort to provide all Americans with the smallpox vaccine that was being pushed publicly in the latter weeks of 2002 played into the environment of fear about the Iraq WMD threat. It seems to me a little cynical to suggest that its timing was calculated, but it did not hurt the broader campaign to sell the war.” [MCCLELLAN, 2008, PP. 138] Entity Tags: Scott McClellan, Joseph Biden, Henry Hyde, Donald Rumsfeld, Andrew Card, John Ashcroft, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, 2001 Anthrax Attacks

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