Morning Joe | September 11, 2012
>>> ha ha !
>>> my nation will work with the u.n. security council to meet our common challenge. if iraq 's regime defies us again again, the world must move deliberately, decisively to hold iraq to account. we will work with the u.n. security council for the necessary resolutions. but the purposes of the united states should not be doubted. the security council resolutions will be enforced. the just demands of peace and security will be met. our action will be unvoidable.
>> 28 past the hour, that was former president bush in 2002 in a speech that was reportedly not meant to be given at all to the u.n. that's according to contributing editor of " vanity fair " who writes about that moment and other details of the first 500 days after the september 11th attacks in his number book "500
days: secrets and lies in the terror wars." and you have a piece in the "new york times" that reads in part this, kurt , welcome to the show . the direct warnings to mr. bush about the possibility of al qaeda and al qaeda attack began in the spring of 2001 , by may 1st , the cia told the white house of a report that a group presently in the united states was planning a terrorist operation. weeks later on june 22nd , the daily brief reported that al qaeda strikes could be imminent, although suggested the time frame was flexible. but some in the administration considered the warning to be just bluster. an intelligence official and a member of the bush administration both told me in interviews that the neo conservative leaders who had recently assumed power at the pentagon were warning the white house that the cia had been fooled. according to the theory, bin laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from saddam hussein whom the neo conservatives saw as a greater threat. and you mentioned the article that you saw some brief proceedings, the notorious ones that get all the press. that you read excerpts of and that they lead you to an inescapable conclusion the administration's reaction to what mr. bush was told in the weeks before the briefing reflected significantly more negligence than has been disclosed. what did you see in those briefings that would state that?
>> well, it was the constant reiteration of, you know, there are people in the united states , they're going to attack, it is they're going to be large casualties. those were the words that were used. and that is coming before late june. and by late june, the cia 's coming back basically stomping their feet saying we're not making this up.
>> if i may, was there something specific in the briefings that would lead them to be able to act in order to prevent? or are you just saying there were warnings?
>> absolutely there was stuff that could be done. it's one of the conceits of this that people have come back and said --
>> well --
>> unless you say when, where, and how, you can't do anything. in 1999 , december of 1999 , the clinton administration got or the cia , the same people in the cia got the warnings that something big was coming. and the entire government went on alert and the counterterrorist center burned through their budget for 2000 by january 15th because they were throwing so much into it.
>> but you're characterizing attitudes saying negligence or dismissive which, you know what? that's -- you can believe one thing and another person can believe another. what specifically did you see in the briefings that would lead you to believe the bush administration dismissed the opportunity to keep america safe? i want specifics.
>> you're overstating -- what you're saying is where in here does it say it? it's not in here. what you've got is here's the warning. we're not doing anything, and the fact, you've got to go back and look at what's going on. john ashcroft was asked, pump up our budget for counterterrorism. no. you had what are the priorities for the justice department ? you had 13 of them. terrorism was not one of them. and he was briefed on july 5th as to what was coming. and so you have to not just say does the -- does it say the world trade center will be attacked on 9/11? of course it doesn't say that. there's never intelligence like that. but what it does have is the -- what the people in the intelligence communities tell me is the sharpest warnings that have ever been delivered. there's one thing i want to make clear, though, and this is something i don't think people get. the bush administration came in after the republicans were out for eight years. al qaeda developed over that time. when the republicans went out nation states were the threat. when they came back in, it's a very odd jump to say a bunch of people sitting in a mountain top in afghanistan are the threat. and they were looking at nation states and that was not an unreasonable thing to do. they had a quick period of time they had to change their mind. they didn't buy into it.
>> kurt , we should be very clear about what you're saying in the "new york times" piece this morning. a lot of people would read this and say the bush administration willingly looked the other way when they had these reports. if you look -- go back to the may 1st briefing, you list about five or six before the notorious one. what are you saying about what the bush administration did exactly?
>> pretty much what i'm just saying now is that they got this information and they weren't looking at it in the context of here's this huge threat that's developed. look at what the pentagon said. what's the nation state that's backing them? oh, we think it's iraq . and so, it was a frame of mind that was not unreasonable for them to have because they hadn't been getting the intelligence until very recently about the evolution and change of al qaeda . and or of the nature of the threat . it's -- you can't understate what a huge transition --
>> all right. governor --
>> iic i think this is incredibly unfortunate. because, first of all, having been there on september 11th and for weeks, months, thereafter, president bush provided inspired effective leadership. and september 11th , everything changed. and to look 11 years later and say, this was happening before september 11th in the summer, and to go through and selectively take out quotes and say you should have done that, you should have done that, i think is incredibly unfair and a disservice to history. and by the way, you know, if you look back, there are those who could've said president roosevelt was at fault for pearl harbor . look at --
>> there are people that do say that.
>> but the government didn't look back and say let's blame the president. it came together to fight an important war. we came together to fight an important war. you could also look back, kurt , and say that you got intelligence we were going to be attacked. of course, we'd already been attacked. the towers were blown up in '93. and i don't think it serves us any point to say that then the clinton administration treated it as a criminal act as opposed to a terrorist act . they blew up the coal, destroyed our embassy with hundreds of losses of life. and the prior administration never said we are in a war with al qaeda . we are engaged in a post nation state antiterrorist climate. they didn't say that. so now --
>> they did.
>> no, they didn't.
>> 1998 .
>> no, they didn't.
>> we are declaring war on al qaeda , it was an intelligence war working with the northern alliance . we weren't committing troops. but there absolutely within 1998 , dissemination of we're at war.
>> well, hideously ineffective because the planning, training all came out of afghanistan. and if they were back then, maybe you could have said it would never happened if in '99 and 2000 they were more aggressive and had a more aggressive policy. but it doesn't serve a point to try to say, oh, this party or this president is awful.
>> he was a leader at a hideous time.
>> that's not what i'm saying.
>> what i am saying is, we cannot say i'm not going to pay attention to history. that part of history is my -- your part of the story is saying clinton did this, clinton did that, clinton did the other. you know what? you're right. now let's go to talking about the summer of 2001 . and saying we can't talk about it, we can't learn from it because it's upsetting.
>> of course.
>> it's completely wrong. it's 11 years later.
>> of course we can talk about it and learn from it, but it should be done in a fair way. not in a way where i haven't read your book, thank god, and i don't intend to, but just looking at the jacket of the quotes in the back, these are selectively taken for a specific purpose of making the bush administration look bad. this is not about history. i don't mind history.
>> here's the first page or the second page. i'm not going to find it here, but what you've got is -- hold on. bush's down home veneer disguised a keen mind. he expected to be dealing with an intellectual lightweight reliant on his age for guidance and the subtleties of state craft , instead it was bush who peppered the briefers with questions while his subordinates stayed quiet. so the problem is, if you look at the jacket of a book, don't judge a book by its cover. if you look at the jacket of a book and say here's what it says, you can't do that. and when you read this book --
>> well --
>> hold on. when you read this book, what you end up with is, in fact, a very nuanced telling of the story. one of the things you want to know who has reacted to this book best? members of the bush administration . i've gotten calls from people saying that's what happened. and so, you know, the realities here are we cannot stand back and say bush did everything right. he did.
>> he made some very horrific.
>> i know of no one who has --
>> we can't say clinton did everything right.
>> this is an incredible debate. jon meacham , i'll let you put the period at the end of the sentence as our " morning joe " theologian.
>> which might offer some resolution. would you contend that if al gore had become president because he was in a continuation of bill clinton 's administration the results would have been different?
>> that's an interesting question.
>> well, if things were different they'd be the same. i have no idea.
>> oh, no.
>> then you can't say, well, they should have been doing something. what does that mean?
>> well, i'm not saying they should be doing something. what i'm saying is here is the information they got, here's what they didn't do compared to what was done in the past. now, i don't say anything. what i'm telling you is -- here's what the -- one of the things in the article this morning is also in the book is that members of the counterterrorist center had a meeting on july 5th and said let's put in for a mass transfer . because they're not listening to us. and this is going to go down and it's going to be ugly and we're going to be held accountable for it. i want out.
>> all right.
>> and the book is "500 days: secrets and lies in the terror wars." thank you very much for being on the show. governor pataki , thank you for standing your ground in this segment.
>>> coming up, 9/11 surfer, we'll talk to the man whose extraordinary survival story during the 9/11 attacks has inspired a new documentary. we'll be right