Condoleezza Rice said she never met with George Tenet and Cofer Black on July 10, when they voiced their concerns to her about the looming threat of an al Qaeda attack in "weeks or months"--a meeting reported in Bob Wodward's new book, State of Denial. Members of the 9/11 commission said they were never told of such a meeting, as I mentioned in Sunday morning's blog. They've changed their tune now, saying, yes, the meeting occurred. Tenet told us about it, said he said the system was blinking red but didn't say Rice blew him off. Stories are everywhere, including the Washington Post and New York Times.
Reporting from the McClatchy Washington Bureau, Jonathan S. Landay, Warren P. Strobel, and John Walcott day that Rumsfeld and Ashcroft received the same briefing on July 17. They continue to report that Rice didn't brush aside Tenet and Black's warning, which, nonetheless didn't specify where or precisely when the expected attack would occur and thus no one knew what specific action to take. That bit of fine parsing can't disguise what can only be called a failure of leadership.
There is no guarantee that ordering increased security at major airports--since there were abundant indications that planes would be involved--redoubling efforts to find and kill bin Laden, and refocusing intelligence gathering and investigative agencies would have thwarted or disrupted the attacks of September 11, 2001. But we know the result of inaction.
The 9/11 commission missed the importance of the July 10 meeting because it chose to, is my guess, in order to produce a consensus report. It published a corking good narrative that nonetheless obscured the full depth of the Bushies' failure and thus helped to keep the man in power, doing great harm.