tv [untitled] October 29, 2012 7:30pm-8:00pm EDT
let. and welcome back to the big picture i'm tom hartman in washington d.c. in this half hour we revisit a recent conversation with great minds that i had with investigative reporter kurt eichenwald on september eleventh this year i can well publish an explosive excerpt from his new book five hundred days secrets and lies in the terror wars the excerpt was published in the new york times and he revealed just how often the bush administration was warned about the coming nine eleven attacks and yet did nothing to stop in this conversation i can walt explains exactly what the bush administration was thinking in the months leading up to nine eleven and i asked the question that his new book attempts to answer could nine eleven have been prevented
so here it is conversations with great minds with kurt eichenwald. but i did a special edition of conversations of great minds and joined by kurt eichenwald production wall is a contributing editor of vanity fair a new york times best selling author of three books he previously worked for twenty years the times in england as an investigative reporter columnist and senior writer two time winner of the george polk award for excellence in journalism and a pulitzer prize finalist in two thousand and two thousand and two his second book the informant was called one of the best nonfiction books of the decade by the new york times book review and made into a major motion picture starring matt damon for its most recent book is the critically acclaimed five hundred days secrets and lies in the terror wars joins me now in the studio so honored to have you with us thanks for having me thanks for joining us. first of five hundred a question so let's start with nine eleven it seems to have been
a pivotal point in fact i want to get into some of the before it but first of all the nine eleven commission i'm just curious your thoughts on what they did how well they did that sort of i think it's. terms of you know outside commissions that are investigating government action i think actually the nine eleven commission is up there in terms of quality i mean the report they put out was much more detailed than i ever imagined it would be but also i mean when you're dealing in a political environment which it seems like everything always is these days you had democrats on the commission you had republicans on the commission you had people on the staff who had relationships with people in the national security apparatus so you had bits and pieces that were left off the table in sort of negotiated outcomes and you know i came to this with the perspective of gee i wonder what happened so well that you know that and that's one of the big questions the one i i can't say i
read every word of it but i read a large chunk of the nine eleven commission report and i didn't find much explanation of how this came about in terms of who dropped the ball what did we know what did we miss i mean you know there was there were some but most of that even seemed kind of in the realm speculation you're much more of an expert on this than i am let's start with the august sixth memo in two thousand and one that most americans i think think that that was the moment at which george bush was warned that something like nine eleven might happen it wasn't well actually the august sixth memo has to be look in context of what was really going on i mean truthfully i think the release of the august sixth was called a presidential daily brief or a p.d.p. the august sixth brief was almost something of a red herring because they released it and it does have the headline you know bin laden determined to strike us and the members of the bush administration said well
no this is just a historical document the headline doesn't mean he's about to it means this is a goal and when you read the september sixth document that is their right it is a historical document. and they. they did say i think i was congolese there i said if we had if we'd had been told there was an attack coming we did in fact she said who could have imagined that somebody would hijack airplanes but this was just months or maybe a year after they connally's rice and george w. bush slept on an aircraft carrier in the mediterranean because there was a credible threat that somebody is going to hijack airplanes off the coast of italy was not it was as they were holding some kind of a nato meeting there was that you know there was a there was a g r g a maybe maybe it was him but well it but you know when you get down when you get down to it what matters in terms of that august sixth brief is what was bush told beforehand right and that's the story line that was not told so that in
the history that they were referring to in that you dug into right and the presidential daily briefs before the august six one that was supposedly so shocking far far worse in terms of what was bush told i mean you had a may first presidential daily brief where bush was told there was an al qaeda cell in the united states that was preparing a major operation in the weeks that followed you had an attack is imminent you had the statement they're going to be matched mass casualties and these were going you know week after week day after day until late july when bush said well i want you know i want to bigger briefing on this group in total what's their history what's and that's the august sixth briefing but that comes after many many many other briefs that are talking specifically about an attack coming in july it's in a matter of weeks or months you know it's going to happen and so they have lots of
warning i spoke with sandy berger about this number of years ago and he said he explicitly told connelly's arise that the number. one thing she had a keeper eye on was osama bin laden and his plans to strike inside the united states that he had personal first hand knowledge that joe biden had said or not joe biden that al gore had said the same thing to dick cheney and the. and that president clinton said the same thing to george of you bush. that being the case dick cheney was put in charge of the counterterrorism task force right after the inauguration and to the best my knowledge that task force never met until september do i have that right there was a principals meeting on september sixth of two thousand and one right so basically back was so dating is is that i'm trying to come up with a metaphor that i could say on television. throughout this this entire year of two
thousand and one he's been charged with keeping the nation safe they've all been warned that this guy is coming the cia is virtually screaming at them the august sixth memo actually had a human being that a company to did it not who came out they all did all of it ok and bush like you know personal briefings yeah ok and and. and yet george bush took the longest vacation in the history of the presidency that august and then after that he still didn't want to go back to washington d.c. you want to florida where his brother locked down the state or state of emergency it's almost like he was afraid to go back to d.c. do you give any credit to that or credibility to that that conspiracy notion that bush thought something awful was going to happen probably didn't know what it was but just didn't want to be around now now i do this i mean you you had bush acting on this education theme and that's why he was down in sarasota there you know people put a lot of conspiracy on it they put a lot of. attacking on bush and one of the things that sort of when you have three
thousand dead bodies in the street one of the things that's very hard to say but it's the truth. they messed up i'm that's it's we can put all sorts of big things on it they messed up and the reason they messed up. is just almost a level of of explanation that hasn't been put on it because you can't start off by saying they messed up you have to bear in mind that one thousand nine hundred ninety two was the last time the republicans were in the white house when bush took over and one thousand nine hundred two national security issues were about other countries china russia iran iraq. that was it there was no concept of an al qaeda or a tram's machinable threat that's the word of a terrorist group the intervening years i mean you didn't shake your head you know the cold i mean even even reagan had levanon right but what you had was.
that emergence of the transnational threats threats that are not attached to a particular government happening under clinton clinton you know about the regardless of what some wants to be said now clinton taking that as the major issue of national security. when bush comes back comes into office the republicans are coming in the immediately revert to. other countries with a major national security issue they were faced with a situation where clinton and sandy berger and al gore are telling them the biggest threat to american national security are you know these ragtag guys on a mountaintop in afghanistan who have managed to kill fifty americans in the past eight years they were right but you can stay if you as you put it that way which is how they were hearing it the bush administration was hearing it but those with those of the ragtag guys who took down the soviet union know they work see that's
the thing they're worth that's also one of the myth ologies so it was not a sort of in-law. it was part of what was called. the arab contingent you know you had in terms of dealing with the in you had this group of mujahideen who were the the indigenous population and they were really the fighting force then you had the arab militia could be and that group the bin ladin was on the rast were really almost the comic relief i mean this is this was the charlie wilson's war thing right and you had which of those groups was charlie wilson where we supported. the indigenous population which it had to get and the i mean there's a there's a fantastic book by steve cole which goes into this in a you know
a great degree about what was bin laden's actual role and al qaeda the al qaeda subsequent you know called al qaeda group actual role in the fight against the soviet union and big one was a terrible military commander i mean just awful he was more of a post here you know and he like to make himself out to be this fellow who you know beat back the soviets but really what he did was get a bunch of his people killed for very little reason i interrupted you in that sense my apologies you were you were saying that the bush administration didn't take seriously this ragtag band of right and there was this sense i mean there's a there's a washington post article that's been overlooked by many many people that came out around january of two thousand and one what was talking about the bush national security team and it didn't talk about this about starting to focus again on nation states and there was a quote i forget who it was there was a quote from
a republican political foot person who said clinton has been focusing too much on the block and it was an on the record quote but at that. point that was the belief and it was not a horribly a reasonable belief given the republican experience with the intelligence over the eight years when al qaeda emerged now i do think then you get into all right what is their responsibility and there's a level of arrogance in the bush administration in terms of listening to the intelligence and accepting that you know you had the cia coming in and saying bin laden's about to attack and the neo conservatives particularly in the pentagon come back with this theory that no bin ladin is working hand in glove with saddam hussein of iraq and it's all this big game and it's a false flag operation where bin ladin is pretending there's going to be an attack
so we will stop paying attention. apparently not only didn't know that bin laden had in fact declared war on iraq in one thousand nine hundred i mean that's what got him expelled from saudi arabia what you had this he wasn't a sport it was some absurd theory and it was a theory that was brought to president bush with no support but they advanced it as you know this is the truth and so the cia is sitting there. is if i said you know your car is being towed away well actually what that has to do with is the fact that i haven't had you know i'm not being paid enough today you know it's two things that have nothing to do with the other not and i'm the guy who has to come in and stomp its feet with actual presidential daily brief saying no we are not being fooled no bin laden isn't pretending this is not a decision from ation campaign and when you have the top intelligence operatives in the united states telling that to the president of the united states two months before a major attack you've got
a problem yeah and he clearly did more of our special edition of conversations of great minds where there was. magine assets that the demo own watches show every single moment. and waiting for you to stumble. i saw a man with a video camera so i moved over and he followed me as i was up and you know we realized there were following everyone from early in the morning most of us will. follow. the only chance to get rid of him. is to reveal him. me devil operation on r.g.p. .
welcome back to a special edition of conversations with great minds of cricket i can well i can always a contributing editor of vanity fair new york times best selling author of three books two time winner of the george polk award for excellence in journalism and a pulitzer prize finalist in two thousand and two thousand and two his most recent book is the critically acclaimed five hundred days secrets and lies in the terror wars let's get back to it you just before the break you mentioned that. even in the face of all this evidence of these repeated warnings that al qaeda and osama bin laden were up to something that something was coming the bush administration kept throwing this back into the frame of this is dissin from ation coming to us from saddam hussein he's really the bad guy we need to keep our eye on him and that
there was no basis for that. does this tie back to p. now in one thousand nine hundred eighty eight i mean there were there were a number of members of the administration that signed that document they hauled on president clinton to invade iraq and take out saddam hussein. they were there were so many people in the bush administration who went in with the absolute goal of we're going to take out saddam hussein. and. the problem with that is you wind up with bad application of intelligence if you've decided upfront here's our threat this is what we're going to do with the intelligence comes in it doesn't say that ok we'll forget it we're going to look at it from that perspective we were going to have a proposal to invade iraq with whether there was a nine eleven or not and when you actually start looking at what was happening between january twentieth of two thousand and one and nine eleven of two thousand and one the conclusion is inescapable they wanted to have
a war against iraq they wanted to have saddam taken out after nine eleven. you know one of the one of the things i found amusing is richard clarke who was the. white house terrorism czar for many years wrote a book in two thousand and four came out and said the day after nine eleven bush came up to me and said you know can you check one more time can you link this attack to iraq and the bush white house you know attacked him called him a liar this that and the other well in fact the first time they brought up iraq and nine eleven was on nine eleven you know. dick clarke was absolutely correct and if there's if we look at the historical record there's no denying that's what they would have wanted to do. was a i mean i've seen two kind of conflicting strands of history around that one is the. notion that. iraq is the center of the arab
world the arab world an unstable place we've got to protect our ally israel cetera et cetera and if we can just put a giant footprint in the middle of iraq we've got it and you know arguably that was the the more reasonable rationalization for peace in that argument the other is mickey herskowitz the guy who was hired by george and barbara bush sr to write george bush's autobiography a charge to keep in one thousand nine hundred nine when he was making the decision to run for president and he wrote the first draft hundred hours of tapes of george w. bush and he's on the record as saying that in ninety nine george w. bush told him that when his father invaded iraq he failed because he didn't extend the war long enough if he'd extended it into the next election cycle he would have won and that if george w. bush became president he wasn't going to have a failed presidency like his father he was going to have a war in iraq against saddam hussein it was going to get enough political capital that not only would he get reelected but that he could privatized social security
and that's actually the sequence of events that he followed for years after mickey herskowitz came out with this minus the great support over the. iraq war well he thought i don't know if you recall in two thousand and five right after he was an r. rated he came out he said i got political capital i want to spend it let's privatized so security and that kind of but you know so is it possible that both stories are right the that one was personal one was institutional the both are wrong i mean i think that there is something much bigger i think the idea of the united states getting a footprint in the middle east through iraq and therefore promoting the spread of democracy all over the place i think that that was a real belief i think it was as silly a theory as has ever come out and you know it is. people whose children aren't fighting the wars are more likely to use theory as opposed to actual threat actual plans and that that i think is the real is the real.
shame of the bush administration when you go back and you look at the list of all the people who signed that document i don't think any of them or at least senior military officials i'm not sure that nobody even served in the military now. and i don't want to put too much attention on that i'm not sure that that's really what this is all about we mentioned earlier is it is it true that george bush pitched religion and joshua to invade iraq and take out the sheer rock. you know the french and the russians were really doubtful about the intelligence. on iraq and weapons of mass destruction and let me now take a moment to make sure we point out they were right yes you know it's sort of one of the people while the french are wimps is like no the french were right. and so because of that and because they had the power in the u.n. to veto a resolution both tony blair the prime minister of england and bush were hitting
russia and france. trying to get them on board and bush had a phone call with sheer rock where he was trying every angle it was you know we have to stop saddam that wasn't working if we don't work together the un will lose credibility that wasn't working and he tried one after another after another thought you know it's like it's like listening to somebody dance you know from room one side of the other reasons picking the next step and suddenly the next step veered out of the room and bush said you know jacques. you're you're a catholic i'm a methodist but we both worship the same lord and god and magog is coming to fruition and biblical biblical prophecies are being fulfilled and this confrontation is willed by god and chirac is listening to this and gets off the
phone and says to his people do any of you know what he was talking about because god magog i don't know if anybody listening to this knows what that is and bush was characterizing this christianity ours as long as well he didn't say it that way but yeah it was christianity versus evil yeah you know and and the french the staff for sure rock hired a biblical scholar and i always stop here the french are considering whether to join the iraq coalition and they feel the need to hire a biblical scholar to analyze the bible for them to explain what bush was talking about there's something really wrong there and so comes out ends up that this god and magog they are out of the book of his e kill and the book of revelation and they relate to armageddon and so when chirac gets this. that's it i mean the decision the intelligence was bad he thought but at
this point you know he's not going to commit french troops to a war base the way. put it based on the american presidents interpretation of the bible and so that was the end of it and we soon afterwards had freedom fries. so what tony blair has come under a lot of. righteous indignation is probably way too weak a term to describe it but in the u.k. i mean tony blair is has been trashed up one side and on the other calls for for even the him to be in the dock in the hague i mean from some fairly real politicians as opposed to just you know people on the left or whatever how do you get him into this. tony blair was in a very difficult position. for many reasons one is. he believed just as bill clinton did and we have to make it very clear he believed that saddam had weapons of mass destruction and there is the real issue in that
piece to take a moment aside is ok if he has them what do you do right and you know the idea well let's launch a war against a guy with weapons of mass destruction you know maybe that's not the smartest approach but blair believed that the weapons were there and saddam would use them and so when you start from that it's well what's your next step blair was very troubled by the bush administration he thought that they were planning for the war was terrible he thought that their international approach was terrible that they didn't you know reach out to the international community and nuff to create the kind of. global response that would actually be more fruitful than simply a war that they weren't planning for after the war and it really came down to a question he asked his advisors which is if we stay in this you know i will have
influence on the direction of american policy if we break. it will be a fundamental break of a long standing relationship between the united states and britain and i will lose all influence over policy was there it should i do it well at the end of that and the time a story came out there was a subtext of that that was in the press let me reality check it with you and that was if we break i lose any influence over this crazy guy george bush. that's not the way the words were put but i think that was a very strong it's actually more than this it was i lose i lose influence over those crazy guys cheney and rumsfeld who are being heard by president bush and in the end i can influence bush i cannot influence these crazy guys who are influencing him in in net net summary would it be reasonable to say that nine eleven was
a massive intelligence failure of the bush administration which had been amply warned by both the clinton ministration the cia that they shouldn't commit that failure i would say it was not an intelligence failure that the intelligence was more than strong enough to have a reaction i think it was a policy failure it was because you know you throw one fact out there was a a precedent in december of one nine hundred ninety nine we had massive warning that there was an attack coming the entire government went on alert and because of that little bits and pieces of information were made you know were explored and made incredibly significant and at least three separate terrorist attacks were stopped in the summer of two thousand and one we didn't do that and i was want to throw out this reminder in august of two thousand and one we knew that there were two guys who were on the terror watch list who were in the united states and had been in new
york. the f.b.i. assigned one fellow relatively new agent who had to wrap up some other work. he was doing first to try and find those guys had we been on high alert there would have been a squad of f.b.i. agents on that and they would found them because it was not incredibly hard to find and those two guys were two of the nine eleven hijackers kurt eichenwald thank you so much for being with us and more importantly thank you for the brilliant reporting in this book five hundred thank you and that's the way it is tonight friday october twelfth two thousand and twelve for more information check out our website so tom hartman dot com free speech or r t and who would accomplish the big picture and don't forget democracy begins when you get out there and get active tag you're it see an exploit.
download the official publication. choose your language stream quality and enjoy your favorite. t.v. is not required to watch on t.v. all you need is your mobile device watch on t.v. any time. you know sometimes you see a story and it seems so you think you understand it and then you glimpse something else you hear or see some other part of it and realized everything you thought you knew you don't know i'm tom harpur welcome to the big picture.