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My continuing effort to take politics out of 9/11

I’ve already said that those who blame Presidents Bush or Clinton for 9/11 are just taking partisan cheap shots and that I look forward to some answers from a unanimous, bipartisan report from the 9/11 commission. I’ve said I will support its findings no matter what they decide and no matter who is to “blame.”

And this weekend’s release of the August 6, 2001 Presidential daily briefing memo, entitled “bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.” doesn’t really change anything. It does not and should not mean it’s time to blame President Bush. Almost everything in the memo is information that President Clinton should have had as well: threats from bin Laden in the late 1990s, sources from the late 90s warning of al Qaeda efforts to attack the U.S at home, a summary of the dangers bin Laden and his followers pose to the U.S.

Yes, it’s true the memo specifically refers to more recent “patterns of suspicious activity in this country, consistent with preparations for hijackings or other attacks,” and that is disturbing. But again, the Clinton administration should have been concerned as well. In fact, 9/11 commissioner Tom Kean is pushing to declassify another Presidential daily briefing related to al Qaeda that was delivered to President Clinton. Both presidents were thinking in a pre-9/11 mentality where the FBI handled these matters and where in the words of the August 6 memo, the more “sensational threat reporting could not be corroborated.”

The 9/11 report will serve up plenty of blame in addition to suggestions for the future. But until then, hold your political fire. The answers may not be as neat as some of the partisans would like.