Question for Condi
By Allan Wood
Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice will testify before the
9/11 Commission - on national television and under oath -
today, Thursday, April 8. Many of the questions will likely
focus on the apparent contradictions between what she has
said since September 11, 2001 and the public testimony given
recently by former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke.
Rice should also be asked about what she did on the morning
of 9/11. Under its agreement with the White House, in order
to have Rice testify the Commission is forbidden to ask any
administration official to testify in any future public hearings.
So if any of the Commission members want any White House official
to speak to the country about what happened on 9/11, he or
she better ask those questions today.
Here is one of mine:
We do not know if George W. Bush knew of the first crash
upon his arrival at the Emma Booker Elementary School in Sarasota,
Florida, shortly before 9:00 am on September 11. Some reports
say he was informed while in his motorcade. We do know that
when he got to the school, he was told there was a urgent
phone call from Rice. (Bush's actions that day are outlined
in detail in "An
Interesting Day," an article I co-wrote with Paul Thompson,
the man behind the "Complete
From "An Interesting Day":
Booker principal Gwen Tose-Rigell was waiting for
Bush outside the school. "The limousine stops and the president
comes out. He walks toward me. I'm standing there in a lineup;
there are about five people. He walks over and says he has
to make a phone call, and he'll be right back." From a room
with secure communications, Rice updated Bush on the situation.
As National Security Advisor, Rice had to have had as much
information as anyone. By the time she spoke to Bush, she
must have known that three planes had been hijacked and that
the country was under attack.
We know very little about the conversation - only
that Rice later claimed, "(Bush) said, what a terrible, it
sounds like a terrible accident. Keep me informed." One reporter
noted: "Bush did not appear preoccupied (after the phone call)
. There was no sign that Rice had just told (him) about the
first attack (on the World Trade Center)." Tose-Rigell was
then summoned to a room to talk with Bush: "He said a commercial
plane has hit the World Trade Center, and we're going to go
ahead and go on, we're going on to do the reading thing anyway."
One local reporter notes that at this point, "He
could and arguably should have left Emma E. Booker Elementary
School immediately, gotten onto Air Force One and left Sarasota
without a moment's delay ... But he didn't." The only possible
excuse is that Bush was completely clueless as to what was
happening. Sure enough, at a press conference on the evening
of 9/11, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer was asked by a reporter,
"And then this morning, when Andy Card told him about the
first accident, was Andy Card or Condi Rice or any of those
aware of the hijackings? What did they know when they - "
Fleischer cut in and replied, "No, at that point they were
not." So supposedly, 15 minutes after the first crash, none
of Bush's aides, not even Rice back in Washington, DC, knew
a thing about the hijackings that had been reported to NORAD
20 minutes earlier? This simply is not plausible.
Fleischer was lying. By the time of the first crash - 8:46
am - the Federal Aviation Administration, the North American
Aerospace Defense Command, the National Military Command Center,
the Pentagon, the White House, the Secret Service and Canada's
Strategic Command all knew that three commercial airplanes
had been hijacked. They all knew that one had been flown deliberately
into the World Trade Center, a second was wildly off course
and also heading toward Manhattan and a third had abruptly
turned around over Ohio and was flying back toward Washington,
And despite the administration's claims in the weeks after
the attacks that there had been no warnings whatsoever, in
the two months before 9/11, there were actually dozens of
warnings of impending terrorist attacks against the US, including:
- Summer 2001: US intelligence received warnings
of multiple hijackings from Afghanistan, Argentina, Britain,
Cayman Islands, Egypt, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Jordan,
Morocco and Russia. The Russian warning came directly from
President Vladimir Putin.
- July 5, 2001: Richard Clarke, in a meeting with
officials from a dozen federal agencies, specifically mentioned
al-Qaeda and stated: "Something really spectacular is going
to happen here, and it's going to happen soon."
- July 20-22, 2001: Acting on specific warnings
that al-Qaeda might attempt to assassinate Bush and other
leaders at the G-8 summit in Genoa, Italy, the government
surrounds the summit with anti-aircraft guns, keeps fighter
jets in the air and closes off local airspace. The reports
are taken so seriously that Bush stays overnight on an aircraft
carrier; other leaders stay on a luxury ship.
- August 6, 2001: Bush received a classified intelligence
briefing titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US."
It focused on the possibility of multiple hijackings and
terrorist attacks inside the US. Bush broke off work early
that day and spent most of his time fishing. Indeed, Bush
and Dick Cheney were both on vacation for almost the entire
month of August.
- September 6, 2001: Gary Hart, who co-chaired the
US Commission on National Security, met
with Rice "after the president was in Crawford and being
briefed by CIA officials on the possible use of aircraft
against American targets. [I told her], 'Get going on homeland
security, you don't have all the time in the world.'"
- September 10, 2001: A group of top Pentagon officials
may have received "a particularly urgent warning" the night
before the attacks. According to Newsweek, they cancelled
their travel plans for the next morning.
When Condoleezza Rice heard of the first hijacked plane
- Boston air traffic controllers were treating it as a hijacking
as early as 8:13 a.m. - 33 minutes before it crashed - how
could she not have known that this was probably the attack
she had been repeatedly warned about?
So what did Rice tell Bush? From the scraps that have been
reported, it looks like she told him the first crash was merely
an accident and he should go ahead with his photo-op. I want
to know why the Commander-in-Chief was allowed to conduct
a 20-minute reading session with a group of second-graders
while the country was in the midst of a horrific terrorist
The reports we have been told make absolutely no sense.
In fact, there really is no "official story" of what happened
on 9/11, because all of the accounts flatly contradict each
other. And no one in the mainstream media has yet seen fit
to demand a coherent explanation. Perhaps the Commission can
start that search with its questioning of Condoleezza Rice
Allan Wood posts as "redsock" at DU and is a member of 9/11
Citizens Watch. He is the author of "Babe
Ruth and the 1918 Red Sox" and he writes the blog "Joy