Gore Criticizes Bush’s Handling of 9-11


WASHINGTON, D.C.—In his New York Move-On speech this afternoon, Al Gore came close to saying flat-out that the Bush White House knew about the September 11 attacks before they happened.

Here’s what he said:

“Two years ago yesterday, for example, according to The Wall Street Journal, the president was apparently advised in specific language that Al Qaeda was going to hijack some airplanes to conduct a terrorist strike inside the U.S.

“I understand his concern about people knowing exactly what he read in the privacy of the Oval Office, and there is a legitimate reason for treating such memos to the president with care. But that concern has to be balanced against the national interest in improving the way America deals with such information. And the apparently chaotic procedures that were used to handle the forged nuclear documents from Niger certainly show evidence that there is room for improvement in the way the White House is dealing with intelligence memos. Along with other members of the previous administration, I certainly want the commission to have access to any and all documents sent to the White House while we were there that have any bearing on this issue. And President Bush should let the commission see the ones that he read too.”

This is all well and good, but it was to the Clinton-Gore White House that the warnings of Al Qaeda attacks using airliners either came and were ignored or didn’t come at all at various intervals, according to the recently released Intelligence Committee report. The report points to a specific warning in 1998, when Clinton and Gore were running the country.

Here is what the 9-11 report said, “In September 1998, the [Intelligence Community] obtained information that Bin Laden’s next operation might involve flying an explosive-laden aircraft into a U.S. airport and detonating it.

“In the fall of 1998, the [Intelligence Community] obtained information concerning a Bin Laden plot involving aircraft in the New York and Washington, D.C., areas.”

“In March 2000, the [Intelligence Community] obtained information regarding the types of targets that operatives of Bin Laden’s network might strike. The Statue of Liberty was specifically mentioned, as were skyscrapers, ports, airports, and nuclear power plans.”

And while it is certainly necessary to get Bush to drop his claim to executive privilege and turn over the documents he is withholding to the national commission, it would also make sense for the commission to interview Clinton and Gore about what they knew and when they knew it.

Gore goes on to rake the Patriot Act over the coals, calling it “a broad and extreme invasion of our privacy rights in the name of terrorism prevention.” He went on: “And speaking of the Patriot Act, the president ought to reign in John Ashcroft and stop the gross abuses of civil rights that twice have been documented by his own Inspector General. And while he’s at it, he needs to reign in Donald Rumsfeld and get rid of that DoD ‘Total Information Awareness’ program that’s right out of George Orwell’s 1984.”

That’s nice. But it was under Clinton and Gore that the greatest single intrusion on civil liberties took place with the passage of the Antiterrorism Act in 1996. At the time, Clinton was trying to make political hay off the Oklahoma City bombing, which itself had nothing to do with foreign terrorism. So Clinton-Gore joined with Congress in passing the anti-terrorism act that formed an important foundation of the Patriot Act.