MONDAY, AUGUST 4, 2003
BALT-WASH ALERT: For those in the Balt-Wash area, well be appearing on todays Marc Steiner Show, WYPR, 88.1 FM. Topic: Bush Admin credibility. Time: noon to 1 PM.
PROMOTING ICON CONDI: Condi Rice is a press corps icon. According to the White House, Rice failed to read the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, and therefore didnt know about States objections to uranium-from-Africa. She also didnt know the CIAs thoughts on this matter, we are told. But when she appeared on last Wednesdays NewsHour, Gwen Ifill didnt mention these awkward matters (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/1/03). This morning we learn that Rice is next in line to replace Colin Powell at State.
Because Rice is a press corps icon, there is no attemptrepeat that, noneto hold her work to normal standards. Rice doesnt read 90-page reports? The press corps completely ignored that matter (for a fuller chronology, see below). But its hardly the first time the slumbering press corps looked away from Rices odd performance. To help flesh out the amazing way the corps behaves toward Icon Condi, lets review a previous howler which the press almost wholly ignored.
On May 15, 2002, CBS News reported that President Bush had been warned about possible al Qaeda hijackings on August 6, 2001. The Washington Post reported the story on May 16. President Bush and his top advisers were informed by the CIA early last August that terrorists associated with Osama bin Laden had discussed the possibility of hijacking airplanes, the paper reported. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer confirmed that Bush had been told about the possibility of hijackings but he declined to say what had been revealed during his intelligence briefings. On May 16, Rice held a press briefing; she insisted that no one could have envisioned the events of September 11. I dont think anybody could have predicted that these people would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile, Rice said.
Rices remark was surpassingly odd. No one could have predicted use of a hijacked plane as a missile? In fact, ever since September 11, news reports had mentioned earlier warnings about that very sort of activity. On May 18, 2002, the Posts Bob Woodward and Dan Eggen challenged Rices statement. After quoting Rices remark, they outlined some previous warnings:
WOODWARD AND EGGEN: But a 1999 report prepared for the National Intelligence Council, an affiliate of the CIA, warned that terrorists associated with bin Laden might hijack an airplane and crash it into the Pentagon, White House or CIA headquarters.Woodward and Eggen recounted case studies which they said were well-known. But if these cases were well-known to some, they apparently werent well-known to Rice. On May 19, the Posts Steve Fainaru examined the matter further:
FAINARU: A broad array of signalsfrom foiled plots to FBI field interviewssuggested for years that al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups had considered employing airplanes as missiles and U.S. flight schools as pilot training grounds.Fainaru provided more detail about that 1995 plot:
FAINARU: The plot was uncovered when a Pakistani national, Abdul Hakim Murad, was discovered mixing a bomb in his Manila apartment. He later confessed to Philippine authorities that he was part of a conspiracy to deploy five-man teams to plant bombs on 11 planes operated by United, Delta and Northwest airlinesAccording to Fainaru, the Eiffel Tower had also been a target. For the record, earlier reports had described the plan differently, saying the Algerians had planned to explode the hijacked plane over the Paris landmark.
At any rate, Rices comment was hard to square with these earlier, well-known episodes. Was Rice really ignorant of these matters? Or had she been bending itbending it good? Youd think a real press corps would want to know, but we have never seen Rice questioned about her odd May 16 statement. Nor was she asked last Wednesday night about the startling report from the White House, in which we were told that the presidents National Security Adviser hadnt read last Octobers NIE.
Rice couldnt imagine planes used as missiles? Rice hadnt read last Octobers NIE? Wouldnt you think that actual journalists would want to ask about such matters? Our question: Is PBS Gwen Ifill a real journalist? Or does she just play one on TV?
WAXING RICE: According to Rice, she didnt know that State and CIA had concerns about uranium-from-Africa. How absurd is Rices account? Congressman Henry Waxman has sent Rice a detailed letter on the subject. We suggest that you read it in full. You know what to do. Just click here.