Where "PDB" Means "Pin Damage on Bush" -- April 12, 2004 -- TimesWatch.org
By: Clay Waters

Times Watch for April 12, 2004

Where "PDB" Means "Pin Damage on Bush"

Several Times stories over the Easter weekend and Monday hit Bush for allegedly missing clues to 9-11 in the famous August 6, 2001 "President's Daily Briefing" (PDB), the two-page classified briefing document given to Bush 36 days before 9-11. That's despite the now-declassified memo's distinct lack of detail.

On Sunday, Philip Shenon pens "Panel Plans to Document the Breadth of Lost Opportunities." Taking talking points from anti-Bush official Richard Clarke, Shenon writes that the former counterterrorism director thinks the Bushies "cared little about terrorist threats before Sept. 11."

Shenon writes: "Richard A. Clarke, President Bush's former counterterrorism director"said in a new book and in testimony to the panel that President Bush and his top aides cared little about terrorist threats before Sept. 11. Had they cared, he asserts, the government might have had a chance to tie together what now seem to have been obvious clues available to the government in late 2000 and early 2001 that Al Qaeda was about to attack in America. At least some of the clues were presented directly to President Bush on Aug. 6, 2001, when he received an intelligence briefing on Qaeda threats in the United States."

Also on Sunday, intelligence reporter Douglas Jehl pens "A Warning, but Clear?" It too opens with a hard sell of the PDB briefing Bush received on August 6, 2001: "In a single 17-sentence document, the intelligence briefing delivered to President Bush in August 2001 spells out the who, hints at the what and points toward the where of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington that followed 36 days later. Whether its disclosure does lasting damage to Mr. Bush's presidency and re-election prospects may depend on whether the White House succeeds in persuading Americans that, as a whole, its significance adds up to less than a sum of those parts."

You can read the full PDB here. Meanwhile, here are those "parts" referenced by reporter Jehl--from the last three paragraphs of the document:

"We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a"service in 1998 saying that bin Laden wanted to hijack a U.S. aircraft to gain the release of 'Blind Sheik' Omar Abdel Rahman and other U.S.-held extremists.

"Nevertheless, F.B.I. information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.

"The F.B.I. is conducting approximately 70 full field investigations throughout the U.S. that it considers bin Laden-related. C.I.A. and the F.B.I. are investigating a call to our embassy in the U.A.E. in May saying that a group of bin Laden supporters was in the U.S. planning attacks with explosives."
Note how uncorroborated and vague the actual evidence is, and how little it provides in the way of the "clues" described by reporter Shenon in his Sunday piece. Jehl's article continues: "In deciding to release the portion of the daily briefing document, something no previous White House has ever done, Mr. Bush and his advisers were clearly attuned to the potential political damage that had been caused as its contents began to leak out following Ms. Rice's testimony on Thursday. In taking the step, White House officials seemed determined to head off the protests before accounts in the Sunday morning newspapers and on talk shows inflicted another round of damage".With the disclosure of the Aug. 6 document, however, the specific, contemporary nature of what it contained will almost certainly confront the White House with more questions asking 'what if?' Of the specific, contemporary information, the most tantalizing may be the May 15 warning to the American Embassy in the United Arab Emirates, 'saying that a group of Bin Laden supporters was in the U.S. planning attacks with explosives.'" The UAE call, while intriguing, is by no means "specific," particularly in post 9-11 hindsight. After all, no explosives were involved in the 9/11 attacks, and the PDB makes no mention of suicide bombing, giving credence to the White House notion that there was no "actionable intelligence" in the briefing that pointed to 9/11. Eric Lichtblau and David Sanger contribute the paper's lead story on Saturday, headlined: "August '01 Brief Is Said To Warn Of Attack Plans---Contradicts White House." But as the actual memo shows, there were no specific "attack plans," only hints. Still, Lichtblau and Sanger pump the vague details of the PDB and claim the White House to be caught in a "contradiction": "President Bush was told more than a month before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that supporters of Osama bin Laden planned an attack within the United States with explosives and wanted to hijack airplanes, a government official said Friday".The disclosure appears to contradict the White House's repeated assertions that the briefing the president received about the Qaeda threat was 'historical' in nature and that the White House had little reason to suspect a Qaeda attack within American borders." Finally, Adam Nagourney and Philip Shenon's lead story for Monday is headlined: "Bush Says Brief On Qaeda Threat Was Not Specific." Yet they portray Bush on the defensive, claiming the PDF was "threatening the central pillar" of his reelection campaign: "Mr. Bush's remarks came after a week in which the president had remained largely out of view, even as violence was escalating in Iraq and as his terrorism policies were being challenged. His comments were part of a White House effort to quell the storm about the briefing he received on Aug. 6, 2001. Democrats and Republicans said on Sunday that the release of the document--combined with images of American bloodshed and the disorder in Iraq--was threatening the central pillar of the president's re-election campaign, his record on managing national security."

For the rest of Philip Shenon's Sunday story, click here.

For Nagourney and Shenon from Monday, click here.

For Lichtblau and Shenon from Saturday, click here.

For Douglas Jehl from Sunday, click here.

" George W. Bush | Campaign 2004 | Douglas Jehl | Eric Lichtblau | Adam Nagourney | PDB | David Sanger | Philip Shenon | Terrorism

The American-Killing Iraqi "Resistance"

Sunday's Week in Review includes a piece from Jeffrey Gettleman, "War's Full Fury Is Suddenly Everywhere" where he paints Iraq as "collapsing into chaos." (Gettleman, by the way, was detained and held for three hours by Iraqi militiamen on the road to Falluja.)

Gettleman writes: "The atmosphere in Iraq has completely changed. In just a week, a fading guerrilla war has exploded into a popular uprising".Cities like Falluja and Ramadi are under siege or, more accurately, re-siege. But there is a difference. Back then, last April, when I was a reporter embedded with the United States Army, Iraq seemed as if it was slowly coming under control. Now, after three months on my current stint here, that nascent sense of order is collapsing into chaos."

In another Sunday story from Jeffrey Gettleman, "Anti-U.S. Outrage Unites a Growing Iraqi Resistance," he profiles an anti-American Iraqi and portrays that ilk, who are ready and willing to kill Americans, as part of the "Iraqi resistance" and even uses the term "freedom fighters."

Gettleman opens: "Moneer Munthir is ready to kill Americans. For months, he has been struggling to control an explosion of miserable feelings: humiliation, fear, anger, depression."

Here's Gettleman on the "resistance" movement: "A new surge of Iraqi resistance is sweeping up thousands of people, Shiite and Sunni, in a loose coalition united by overwhelming anti-Americanism".In Baghdad, Kufa, Najaf, Baquba and Falluja, interviews with Sunnis and Shiites alike show a new corps of men, and a few women, who have resolved to join the resistance".Many people said they did not consider themselves full-time freedom fighters or mujahedeen; they have jobs in vegetable shops, offices, garages and schools. But when the time comes, they say, they line up behind their leaders--with guns."

It'd be nice if the Times would use the term "freedom fighters" just once for the real freedom fighters--U.S. troops risking their lives in Iraq.

For Gettleman's Week in Review Story, click here.

For Gettleman on Iraqi "freedom fighters," click here.

" Jeffrey Gettleman | Iraq War | Labeling Bias

"Bold" Nuttiness from Cynthia McKinney

Sunday's "Page Two" news summary includes this squib: "Plan to Return to Congress--Cynthia A. McKinney, Georgia's fist black congresswoman, is trying to regain the seat she held for 10 years but lost in 2002 largely because of fallout from remarks about the Mideast and terrorism."

Inside, the Times teaser to the Associated Press story ("A Fiery Ex-Congresswoman Hopes to Make a Comeback") soft-pedals McKinney's actual conspiracy theories: "Well known for bold comments and back on the campaign trail."

Some may indeed call it "bold" for a member of Congress to accuse Bush of knowing about 9-11 in advance. Most would probably call it "nutty." As the actual AP story notes: "[McKinney] claimed the Bush administration had done nothing to stop the attacks because the president's friends stood to profit."

" Headlines | Cynthia McKinney | Terrorism

Military Families for Kerry?

Will Bush lose the military vote this time around? Elisabeth Rosenthal's Sunday story makes the case for Kerry in "Among Military Families, Questions About Bush--War Makes Some Consider Voting for Kerry."

First, Rosenthal talks to Mrs. Samie Drown, whose husband is in the Army's 101st Airborne Division and says she won't vote for Bush again. After a mixed bag of interviews, Rosenthal writes: "As the conflict in Iraq deepens beyond some prior predictions, the military voting block could become a serious domestic casualty for the Bush administration".Still, it was clear at Fort Campbell, based on more than three dozen interviews here this week, that the Republican Party will have to work harder this year to keep the votes of military families, a group who at other times could be counted as Republican stalwarts."

(Rosenthal made news of her own recently when she was caught recycling three-week old anti-Bush quotes.)

For more of Rosenthal's interviews with military families, click here.

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