'I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center,' National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice told reporters in May 2002, '...and that they would try to use an airplane as a missile.' While only Rice knows her intention in making this statement, the rest of us now know it to be utterly false.
Let's forget about Tom Clancy for now. Even without using a novelist's imagination, the United States had plenty of information that could have led to the conclusion that terrorists 'would try to use an airplane as a missile' -- precisely what Rice denied -- and it should have been preparing for the possibility. Government leaders had known of terrorists' intentions to use airplanes as missiles for at least seven years before Sept. 11. In 1994, French commandos stormed a hijacked aircraft while it sat on an airport tarmac awaiting refueling, preventing the Algerian hijackers onboard from flying the plane into the Eiffel Tower. Dubbed 'the Marseilles plot' because of the location of the commandos' successful action, the details of this terrorist operation were well known to international intelligence agencies. The 1995 'Bojinka plot,' in which terrorists planned to hijack 12 planes as they flew over the Pacific Ocean and crash them into high-profile American targets, was also known in the American intelligence community long before Sept. 11.
This June, citing a report in the Christian Science Monitor, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern wrote in the Miami Herald: 'In the weeks before Sept. 11, Jordanian intelligence had warned U.S. counterparts that bin Laden terrorists were planning a major attack using aircraft inside the continental United States. The Jordanians had intercepted a crucial al Qaeda message that dubbed the operation 'the big wedding.''
Even more damning for Bush administration's claims of ignorance about the chance that terrorists would use planes as weapons is the following exchange, which seems to expose the administration's pre-Sept. 11 knowledge about reputed '20th hijacker' Zacarias Moussaoui. The Monitor and the Washington Post both reported that upon learning of the attacks during breakfast that awful day, CIA director George Tenet told former Sen. David Boren, 'This has bin Laden all over it ... I wonder if it has anything to do with this guy taking pilot training.'"
The author lost his wife in the attack on the Two Towers. His account is important in itself. It also documents just how bad the Bush administration's performance was on that day and how unconvincing their excuses for that performance have been.