Recently released CIA documents show that President George W. Bush was warned of an imminent terrorist attack months before 9/11. Although the Senior Executive Intelligence Briefings were very vague at first, they began to increasingly suggest an attack by al-Qaeda in a major U.S. city as September approached.
The warnings began in late June. A June 23 brief, titled "Bin Laden Attacks May Be Imminent [redacted]," reported that multiple sources had suggested that authorities should "expect Bin Laden to lauch attacks over the coming days, possibly against U.S. or Israeli interests."
Two days later another brief corroborated, if not wholly confirmed, the information in the previous brief. It reported that an Arabic news channel interviewed Bin Laden, where he told them to expect a "severe blow" to U.S. and Israeli interests over the next two weeks. According to the brief, there was no footage of the interview, but accounts of the Bin Laden's security measures were consistent with CIA intelligence.
Five days later, the president recieved a brief in which CIA officials guessed at possible locations for the attack or attacks, which were expected to produce "major casualties" and "uproar in the next two weeks." Possible targets mentioned in the brief included the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen, Kuwait, Bahrain, Israel, Jordan and Europe.
With so many scattered possible targets and such vague intentions, the last thing one might predict from these briefs would be an attack on the World Trade Center. Another brief, this one from August 8, would change that.
This brief, titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the U.S. [redacted]," mentioned the World Trade Center by name.
"Bin Laden implied in U.S. television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and 'bring the fight to America.'"
The brief also mentioned that a New York al-Qaeda cell was attempting to recruit Muslim-American Youth for an attack.
While this brief certainly suggests that the World Trade Center was a target for al-Qaeda, hindsight is 20/20, and there were many other possible targets that were not attacked. Still, this brief and others like it prove that American intelligence officials knew that a major plan was in the works. The idea that 9/11 came as a shock to the intelligence community can no longer be given serious credence.
It should also be pointed out that although these briefs were released, they were highly censored with large parts of them, sometimes even the majority of the copy, redacted. No one without a security clearance can even begin to guess what else was in them and whether or not it suggested the likelyhood of the 9/11 attacks.
The American intelligence community thwarts plots like 9/11, and sometimes worse, every day without the average citizen even knowing about it. For that, they deserve thanks. When it comes to protecting the country though, no amount of successes can outweigh one failure and 9/11 should, and as more information comes out likely will, forever be looked upon as a failure of the intelligence community and the president it served.