As we ponder George W. Bush's final week as president, what was his most fateful day in office? One is that day in August of 2001 when he got word in a national security intelligence briefing that terrorist Osama Bin Laden was planning a major attack. Thirty six days later the warning came true.
A censored copy of the intelligence memo that Bush saw on Aug. 6 at his Texas ranch was released by the White House three years later. It was entitled, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US," and provided many details about his activities, including that members of his organization, Al-Qa'ida, "have resided in or traveled to the US for years, and the group apparently maintains a support structure that could aid attacks." At least 70 FBI investigations were underway to find them, the memo reported to the president.
There was even a reference to Bin Laden's desire to hijack U.S. aircraft, although the memo did not foresee that hijackings would be used to crash into buildings, as happened a little over a month later to the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington.
Bush shuffled the CIA's warning over to his National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice -- and went bass fishing. He never called a meeting or followed up on the matter until nearly 3,000 Americans were killed on Sept. 11, 2001. The day after the intelligence warnings in Augustthere was more recreation time, as Bush played golf and joked around with reporters.
"No mulligans, except on the first tee," Bush said to laughter as he hit a second drive on the first fairway. "That's just to loosen up. You see, most people get to hit practice balls."