March 26, 2004
White House, 4/01: Focus on Bin Laden "A Mistake"
A previously forgotten report from April 2001 (four months before 9/11) shows that the Bush Administration officially declared it "a mistake" to focus "so much energy on Osama bin Laden." The report directly contradicts the White House's continued assertion that fighting terrorism was its "top priority" before the 9/11 attacks1.
Specifically, on April 30, 2001, CNN reported that the Bush Administration's release of the government's annual terrorism report contained a serious change: "there was no extensive mention of alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden" as there had been in previous years. When asked why the Administration had reduced the focus, "a senior Bush State Department official told CNN the U.S. government made a mistake in focusing so much energy on bin Laden."2.
The move to downgrade the fight against Al Qaeda before 9/11 was not the only instance where the Administration ignored repeated warnings that an Al Qaeda attack was imminent3. Specifically, the Associated Press reported in 2002 that "President Bush's national security leadership met formally nearly 100 times in the months prior to the Sept. 11 attacks yet terrorism was the topic during only two of those sessions 4. Meanwhile, Newsweek has reported that internal government documents show that the Bush Administration moved to "de-emphasize" counterterrorism prior to 9/115. When "FBI officials sought to add hundreds more counterintelligence agents" to deal with the problem, "they got shot down" by the White House.
- Press Briefing by Scott McClellan, 03/22/2004.
- CNN, 04/30/2001.
- Bush Was Warned of Hijackings Before 9/11; Lawmakers Want Public Inquiry, ABC News, 05/16/2002.
- "Top security advisers met just twice on terrorism before Sept. 11 attacks", Detroit News, 07/01/2002.
- Freedom of Information Center, 05/27/2002.