What we learned from the Report of the 9/11 Commission XVII.

At the end of June the CIA ordered its station chiefs to contact their liaison with host-nation services and to get disruption operations going. (pp. 370-371.) During July and August 2001 disruption operations were carried out in about twenty countries.

On 5 July 2001Clarke called in the security representatives from a bunch of domestic agencies for a security briefing from the CIA. The briefing was not particularly helpful. (pp. 371-372.) On 6 July 2001 the CIA informed Clarke that al Qaeda sources said that the next attack would be “spectacular” and unlike either the embassy bombings or the attack on the USS Cole. (p. 372.)

Then nothing happened. In mid-July 2001 CIA received reports that Bin Laden had been forced to postpone execution of, but had not abandoned, his operation. (pp. 372-373.) On 27 July 2001 Clarke told Rice that reports had stopped coming in, but that he believed that the attack would still come in the near future. (p. 373.)

On 1 August 2001 the Deputies Committee decided that it was legal for the CIA to kill Bin Laden or his henchmen. (p. 306.) On 4 August 2001 Bush wrote to Musharraf again to ask for his assistance against al Qaeda. (p. 299.) On 6 August 2001 President Bush received a Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) from the CIA which reviewed al Qaeda’s commitment to launch attacks against America and which stated that the FBI was investigating al Qaeda operations in the United States. (pp. 374-376.) Then everyone went on vacation for August.

On 4 September 2001 the Principals Committee met on al Qaeda for the first time. They approved the draft presidential directive on dealing with al Qaeda. (p. 308.) This directive established a new policy of giving the Taliban yet another “last chance,” then coercing them with covert aid to all sorts of anti-Taliban elements within Afghanistan, then working to overthrow them if they still would not play ball. (p. 299.) At the Principals Committee, “Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill was skittish, cautioning about the implications of trying to kill an individual.” (p. 309.)

On 9 September 2001 two al Qaeda suicide bombers killed Ahmed Shah Massoud, the leader of the Northern Alliance.

On 10 September 2001 the Deputies Committee met to work out the last details of the policy approved by the Principals Committee a week before. (p. 299.) Hadley told Tenet to draft the documents authorizing these actions and also authorizing the use of lethal force against al Qaeda leaders. (p. 310.) The Americans had arrived at the decision for decisive action against al Qaeda: the gloves had come off.

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