vacation15 Apr 2004
I do think the line of questioning directed at President Bush during his press conference was a little idiotic and lacking in substance. But along the lines of the “do you think there’s anything more you could have done?” questions, there’s one suggestion I wish they would have raised, for example: “Do you think there’s anything more you could have done, like, say, actually being in the white house more often?”
It’s no mystery that Bush is fond of his vacations. Defenders of Bush are quick to point out that these are “working vacations”, citing (PDF) his daily itineraries during August 2001 as evidence. But the fact remains that he was not in the White House, and this bureaucratic lack of communication should be scrutinized every bit as much as the lack of cooperation between the CIA and the FBI. The transcript from Tenet’s testimony on the 14th is demonstrative of the problems that result from Bush’s absence, whether or not it was a “working” vacation:
MR. ROEMER: And you have the information [from the F.B.I.] at that point [August 2001] on Moussaoui?
A. Yes, I was briefed on Moussaoui in late August.
Q. August what?
A. I believe it’s the 23rd or the 24th. . . .
Q. Now, do you all share this information then with other people at C.T.C. [Counterterrorist Center] and F.B.I. and other places? What do you do with this information?
A. . . . I believe in that time period we immediately tried to undertake a way to figure out how to help the F.B.I. get data and deal with this particular problem. But I’d really want to go back and check records.
Q. With this interesting, curious, fascinating piece of data, do you share this data at the Sept. 4 principals’ meeting with other people in the room at that point, when you’re discussing this policy that has taken seven months to make its way through the process on Al Qaeda?
A. It wasn’t discussed at the principals’ meeting, since we’re having a separate agenda. . . .
Q. Would it ? made any difference, if you had mentioned ? did you ever mention it, for instance, to the president, you’re briefing the president from Aug. 6 on ??
A. I didn’t see the president. I was not in briefings with him during this time. He was on vacation. I was here.
Q. You didn’t see the president between Aug. 6, 2001, and Sept. 10?
A. Well, no, but before. Saw him after Labor Day, to be sure.
Q. So you saw him Sept. 4 at the principals’ meeting?
A. He was not at the principals’ meeting.
Q. Well, you don’t see him ??
A. Condoleezza Rice ? I saw him in this time frame, to be sure.
Q. O.K., I’m just confused. You see him on Aug. 6th with the P.D.B. [President’s Daily Brief].
A. No, I do not, sir. I’m not there.
**Q. O.K., you’re not the . . . When do you see him in August?</p>
A. I don’t believe I do.
Q. You don’t see the president of the United States once in the month of August?
A. He’s in Texas, and I’m either here or on leave for some of that time. So I’m not here.</b>
Q. So who’s briefing him on the P.D.B.’s?
A. The briefer himself. We have a presidential briefer.
Q. So ? but you never get on the phone or in any kind of conference with him to talk, at this level of high chatter and huge warnings during the spring and summer, to talk to him, through the whole month of August?
A. Talked to ? we talked to him directly throughout the spring and early summer, almost every day ??
**Q. But not in August?</p>
A. In this time period, I’m not talking to him, no. . . .</b> </blockquote>
This communication is a two-way street and Tenet is very quick to assume his share of the responsibility. Later on, he acknowledges that had his “hair been on fire”, he could have picked up a phone and gotten the president, but that there was no reason to.
The President, as the head of the Executive branch of the government, and the leader of this country, has an obligation to be a leader, and set a direction. This means actually being in the White House. This is a difficult task with bureaucracis as large (and uncooperative) as the FBI and CIA. Going an entire month without communicating with the director of the CIA once is inexcusible. The commission should focus on this, and the administration should be taking flak for it, because it’s something that needs to change.