The contentious 28 pages of the 900-page US congressional report on the September 11, 2001 al Qaeda terrorist attacks on America reach back into a murky past and forward into an uncertain future, pinpointing their powerful interaction for the first time.
When the report produced by a joint House-Senate inquiry panel came out on Thursday July 24, those pages hit the US President George W. Bush between the eyes. According to a senior Washington source, speaking to DEBKA-Net-Weekly, the president judged at once that the authors, particularly the Democratic lawmakers on the inquiry body, had not confined themselves to probing into the intelligence failings leading up to the attacks but broadened the scope of the inquiry to fashion a weapon for use in the vendetta waged against him since he decided to go to war on Iraq, as well as generating fodder for his rivals in the up-and-coming election campaign. This weapon, he believed, was also aimed at the heads of his inner circle of advisers: vice president Richard Cheney, CIA director George Tenet, FBI chief Robert Mueller and the senior White House staff, especially national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.
One of those advisers was quoted to us as referring to the 28 critical pages as an attempt to blow up the White House.
A source who has read the entire report described those few pages as an incendiary concoction of highly sensitive intelligence materials relating to war, foreign relations, domestic politics and even the President’s campaign for reelection in 2004. Its connotations are potentially detrimental to the president and even more so to America’s world standing amid its preoccupations with two wars.
As soon as he had perused the contentious section, Bush stamped the explosive 28 pages classified, delaying only to put in telephone calls to the CIA and FBI Directors. The president stated that publication would be injurious to national security and jeopardize an ongoing investigation.
He told his staff that he would personally handle its contents and forbade any one else to deal with the subjects named without his say-so.
A DEBKA-Net-Weekly intelligence source who knows how the material was gathered and put together noted the president’s use of the word “personal”. Some White House staffers would much have preferred not to have read the contentious pages because leaks might turn the president’s accusing finger in their direction.
But the cat may soon be out of the bag anyway. The president could not prevent the congressional committee sending out unexpurgated copies to a long list of recipients in and outside America. Several dozen full texts have reached a number of European and Middle Eastern capitals.
Riyadh is one.