NOW that we have seen the President's Daily Brief (PDB) for August 6, 2001, is it possible to judge whether Mr Bush could have done more to prevent the terrorists' attacks on New York and Washington five weeks later? In her evidence to the 9/11 Commission last week Condoleezza Rice said that the PDB was historic in character; true, it summarises activities supported by Bin Ladin (sic) from the mid-1990s but its final two paragraphs refer to subsequent patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for highjacking or other types of attacks and to a May 2001 report from the Middle East that a group of Bin Ladin supporters was in the US planning attacks with explosives. The PDB's heading is Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US.
The question being asked is not whether, on the basis of this briefing, Mr Bush could have done anything to stop the 9/11 attacks but rather whether its warnings registered sufficiently with him to give counter-terrorism the necessary priority. On Sunday the Washington Post analysed Mr Bush's speeches and other statements, and briefings given by his staff, between August 7 and September 10, 2001 to discover whether the threat to the United States from terrorism was reflected in them. The topics covered included Israel, Northern Ireland, Russia, Medicaid, missile defence, education, the disabled, agriculture and the economy - but not terrorism. Not once.
Mr Bush and Ms Rice say that the briefing contained no threat warning, no specifics on who, when, where and with what, and that therefore what they could do was limited. Many people, howeever, will feel that the President of the United States is elected to anticipate events, not merely to react to them.
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