Panel's focus falls on Aug. 6 Bush
By Mimi Hall and John Diamond, USA
April 08, 2004
In the alphabet soup that marks so many government hearings in
the nation's capital, PDB — for President's Daily Brief
— was the acronym of the day Thursday.
Members of the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks
grilled national security adviser Condoleezza Rice about the Aug.
6 PDB, which referred to al-Qaeda's plans to attack the United
"Isn't it a fact, Dr. Rice, that the Aug. 6th PDB warned
against possible attacks in this country?" commissioner Richard
Ben-Veniste, a onetime Watergate prosecutor, said after Rice
testified that the president had not been given specific warnings
about such plots. "And I ask you whether you recall the title of
Rice replied, "I believe the title was 'Bin Laden Determined
to Attack Inside the United States.' "
It was a defining moment in the hearing, and it cut to the
core of what Rice was there to answer: what the president and his
team knew in the weeks and months before Sept. 11, 2001, and
whether they did enough to respond to the growing threat from
Commissioners are looking for answers in the top-secret PDBs
from the CIA about threats to the nation. Some suggested Thursday
that the Aug. 6, 2001, PDB included a warning about al-Qaeda
attacks on U.S. targets.
The public may be able to make an independent judgment on what
the PDB implies. The White House said Thursday night that it
intends to take the unprecedented step of declassifying the PDB.
"We're actively working the declassification process," White
House spokeswoman Pamela Stevens said.
The Aug. 6 PDB was the type of top-secret briefing Bush
receives six days a week, accompanied by a CIA memo that's
distributed to the president, vice president, national security
adviser and about 17 other top officials.
The Aug. 6 PDB has become a flash point because some suggest
it proves Bush knew there was a plot in the works. He and his
aides have said they didn't have any way of knowing al-Qaeda's
Thursday, Rice said the memo was prepared in response to
questions Bush had about whether al-Qaeda might attack in the
USA, as opposed to attacking American interests abroad, as had
been the pattern.
She said the PDB contained "historical information based on
old reporting" about al-Qaeda. "It did not ... warn of any coming
attacks inside the United States," she said.
Later in the hearing, commissioner and former Democratic
senator Bob Kerrey cited some of the language in the PDB. "This
is what the Aug. 6 memo said to the president: that the FBI
indicates patterns of suspicious activity in the United States
consistent with preparations for hijacking."
Rice said those reports were "checked out" and the Federal
Aviation Administration warned airlines. An earlier congressional
inquiry into the attacks reported that the PDB warned of recent
intelligence that al-Qaeda planned to carry out attacks with
explosives. But Rice continued to maintain that the information
in the Aug. 6 PDB was historical.
Several commission members have been allowed to view copies of
some of the memos. At a hearing last month, commissioner Jamie
Gorelick said the threats reported during the summer of 2001
would "set your hair on fire."
© Copyright 2004 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co.