New York Times
9/11 Panel Members Weren’t Told of Meeting
October 1, 2006
By PHILIP SHENON
WASHINGTON, Oct. 2 — Members of the Sept. 11 commission said today that they were alarmed that they were told nothing about a White House meeting in July 2001 at which George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, is reported to have warned Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser, about an imminent Al Qaeda attack and failed to persuade her to take action.
Details of the previously undisclosed meeting on July 10, 2001, two months before the Sept. 11 terror attacks, were first reported last week in a new book by the journalist Bob Woodward.
The final report from the Sept. 11 commission made no mention of the meeting nor did it suggest there had been such an encounter between Mr. Tenet and Ms. Rice, now secretary of state.
Since release of the book, “State of Denial,” the White House and Ms. Rice have disputed major elements of Mr. Woodward’s account, with Ms. Rice insisting through spokesmen that there had been no such exchange in a private meeting with Mr. Tenet and that he had expressed none of the frustration attributed to him in Mr. Woodward’s book.
“It really didn’t match Secretary Rice’s recollection of the meeting at all,” said Dan Bartlett, counselor to President Bush, in an interview on the CBS News program “Face the Nation.”
“It kind of left us scratching our heads because we don’t believe that’s an accurate account,” he said.
Although passages of the book suggest that Mr. Tenet was a major source for Mr. Woodward, the former intelligence director has refused to comment on the book.
Nor has there been any comment from J. Cofer Black, Mr. Tenet’s counterterrorism chief, who is reported in the book to have attended the July 10 meeting and left it frustrated by Ms. Rice’s “brush-off” of the warnings.
He is quoted as saying, “The only thing we didn’t do was pull the trigger to the gun we were holding to her head.” Mr. Black did not return calls left at the security firm Blackwater, which he joined last year.
The book says that Mr. Tenet hurriedly organized the meeting — calling ahead from his car as it traveled to the White House — because he wanted to “shake Rice” into persuading the president to respond to dire intelligence warnings that summer about a terrorist strike. Mr. Woodward writes that Mr. Tenet left the meeting frustrated because “they were not getting through to Rice.”
The disclosures took members of the bipartisan Sept. 11 commission by surprise last week. Some questioned whether information about the July 10 meeting was intentionally withheld from the panel.
In interviews Saturday and today, commission members said they were never told about the meeting despite hours of public and private questioning with Ms. Rice, Mr. Tenet and Mr. Black, much of it focused specifically on how the White House had dealt with terrorist threats in the summer of 2001.
“None of this was shared with us in hours of private interviews, including interviews under oath, nor do we have any paper on this,” said Timothy J. Roemer, a Democratic member of the commission and a former House member from Indiana. “I’m deeply disturbed by this. I’m furious.”
Another Democratic commissioner, former Watergate prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste, said that the staff of the Sept. 11 commission was polled in recent days on the disclosures in Mr. Woodward’s book and agreed that the meeting “was never mentioned to us.”
“This is certainly something we would have wanted to know about,” he said, referring to the July 10, 2001, meeting.