The following is adapted from Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars That Tell Them, chapter 16, "Operation Ignore," significantly distilled and place into a chronology. Great book, read it if you haven't.
The Clinton administration finishes creating a plan to eliminate Al Qaeda. Believing that immediate implementation would mean “handing the Bush administration a war when they took office” (Sandy Berger) they decide to hand the WHOLE plan over to the Bush administration, trusting the Bush administration to protect America. This may be the biggest mistake Clinton made.
Sandy Berger arranges 10 briefings for his successor, Condoleeza Rice and her deputy, Stephen Hadley. He tells Dr. Rice, “I believe that the Bush administration will spend more time on terrorism in general and on Al Qaeda specifically, than any other subject.” Richard Clarke goes over the whole plan with Dr, Rice She asks him to remain as head of counter-terrorism.
Clarke repeats the briefing for Dick Cheney. But, according to Time magazine, there is some question as to how seriously the Bush team takes Clarke’s warnings. Outgoing Clinton officials felt that “the Bush team thought the Clintonites had become obsessed with terrorism.”
February 15 2001
The Hart-Rudman Commission issues its final report on terrorism. The report warns that “mass-casualty terrorism directed against the U.S. homeland was of serious and growing concern” and that America was woefully unprepared for a “catastrophic” attack and urged the creation of a Homeland Security Agency: “A National Homeland Security Agency with responsibility for planning, coordinating and integrating various U.S. government activities involved in homeland security.” There appears to be NO White House followup to this report.
April 30, 2001
Richard Clarke presents an updated version of the anti-terrorism plan to the deputies: Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis Libby, Richard Armitage, Paul Wolfowitz, and the CIA’s John McLaughlin. They decide to have three more meetings, one on Al Qaeda, one on Pakistan, one on Indo-Pakistani and relations, and then a fourth meeting to tie all the other meetings together. This will take months.
July 10, 2001
Phoenix FBI agent Kenneth Williams sends a memo to headquarters expressing concern over Middle Eastern students at an Arizona flight school. Williams suggests that Al Qaeda operatives might be trying to infiltrate the civil aviation system. He urges FBI headquarters to see if they have any information relevant to his suspicions. The memo is not acted upon.
June and July, 2001
According to one source quoted in the Washington Post, George Tenet worked himself “nearly frantic” with concern over the possibility of future terrorist attacks. In mid-July, an official tells Time, “George briefed Condi that there was going to be a major attack.”
July 16, 2001
The deputies finally approve Clarke’s plan. It now must move to the Principals Committee (Cheney, Rice, Tenet, Powell and Rumsfeld) before it finally reaches the President. They try to schedule a meeting for August, but too many of the principals will be out of town. The meeting will have to wait till September 4.
August 3, 2001
Bush leaves Washington and heads to Crawford for the longest Presidential vacation in thirty-two years. “Washington, D.C., is a great place to work, but Texas is a great place to relax” he tells reporters.
August 6, 2001
CIA Director George Tenet delivers a report to President Bush entitled, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” The report warns that al Qaeda might be planning to hijack airplanes. President Bush does nothing to follow up on the memo.
August 7, 2001
Bush tells reporters, “I’m working on a lot of issues, national security matters,” and then rides off to play golf and later clears some brush on his property.
August 16, 2001
The INS arrests Zacharias Moussaoui, a flight school student who says he does not have any interest in learning to take off or land a plane, only flying one. The arresting agent writes that Moussaoui seems like “the type of person who could fly something into the World Trade Center.”
A Minneapolis FBI agent tries to get his superiors interested by writing that a 747 loaded with fuel can be used as a weapon.
Acting FBI Director Thomas Pickard is privy to a comprehensive review of the FBI’s counterterrorism programs. Alarmed by the report and the mounting terrorist threat, he meets with Attorney General John Ashcroft and requests $58 million from the justice department to hire new field agents, translators and intelligence analysts to improve the bureaus’ capacity to fight terrorist threats. Ashcroft will turn him down flat in an official letter dated September 10, 2001.
September 4, 2001
Clarke’s plan finally reaches the Principals Committee eight months after he had first briefed Condoleeza Rice about it and nearly 11 months after Clinton told him to create it. Cheney, Rice, Powell and Rumsfeld decide to advise Bush to adopt it with a phased-in approach. Phase One, to demand cooperation from the Taliban and make fresh overtures to Al Qaeda’s opponents the Northern Alliance, will begin the moment the President signs off on it. But it is several days before it makes its way to his desk.
September 9, 2001
Congress proposes a boost of 600 million dollars for antiterror programs. The money would have to come from Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s missile defense program. Rumsfeld is furious and threatens a Presidential veto.
September 10, 2001
John Ashcroft submits the Justice Department’s budget request to Bush. It includes NO spending increases to combat terrorism. It lists the department’s seven top priorities. Terrorism is not on the list. Ashcroft also sends an official letter to acting FBI Director Thomas Pickard refusing additional funds to improve the bureau’s capacity to fight terrorist threats.
September 11, 2001
The greatest attack on America in History occurs.
September 12, 2001
They start trying to blame Clinton.