On 9/11 Anniversary, CBS Promotes Vanity Fair Editor's Blame Bush Tome

Eight weeks before the presidential election, Tuesday's CBS This Morning marked the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by helping Vanity Fair's Kurt Eichenwald forward his accusation that the Bush administration ignored warnings about a possible terrorist strike as early as May 2001. Eichenwald claimed that "the CIA did a spectacular job...the White House and others said, well, they didn't tell us enough. No, they told them everything they needed to know to go on a full alert, and the White House didn't do it."

The morning show also helped the former New York Times reporter promote his new Bush-bashing book, where he hinted at the supposed religious extremism of the former President during the lead-up to the Iraq war: "He [Bush] mentioned something called Gog and Magog, which is very central to the Book of Revelation...[former French president] Chirac didn't know what he was talking about...they went off and got a biblical expert...who then looked at this and said, the President's a fanatic."

Before playing the first segment from their pre-recorded interview with Eichenwald seven minutes into the program, anchor Norah O'Donnell summarized his finger-pointing op-ed in Tuesday's Times: "There are new accusations about what the George W. Bush administration knew about al Qaeda's plans. We learned after 9/11 that a presidential briefing paper in August of 2001 was headlined 'Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the U.S.' But this morning, in The New York Times, investigative reporter Kurt Eichenwald says the White House received ominous warnings as early as May – May of 2001."

Kurt Eichenwald, Vanity Fair Editor; Screen Cap From 11 September 2012 Edition of CBS This Morning | NewsBusters.orgThe journalist first related what he apparently saw in still-classified presidential daily briefings from the spring of 2001: "What I've been able to see are the presidential daily briefs before August 6 of 2001, and they're horrific...an attack is coming. There are going to be mass casualties. The worst of them...the neo-conservatives at the Pentagon – as the CIA was coming in saying, you know, al Qaeda's going to attack, said, oh, this is just a false flag operation...And so, there are presidential daily briefs that are literally saying, no, they're wrong. This isn't fake. It's real."

O'Donnell followed up by asking, "Well, then, when a lot of people hear this, aren't they going to say, this is another example of where - not just the Bush administration, but our intelligence community dropped the ball?" Eichenwald replied with his "spectacular" compliment of the CIA and his charge that the Bush White House didn't do anything with the "full alert" level of information.

Co-anchor Charlie Rose then turned to senior correspondent John Miller, a former assistant director of national intelligence, for his take on the Vanity Fair editor's op-ed. Miller tossed cold water on Eichenwald's accusations: "I think what Kurt has stumbled into here is a bit of a well-worn path. We knew some of that. What he has added is the granularity of the actual memos and some of the actual words that were – that were there in front of the White House and the national security team."

The morning newscast played the second part of the interview in their final segment. Rose prompted the former New York Times journalist to give his supposed anecdote about Bush and Chirac from his book, which was published by a CBS-owned outfit - Simon & Schuster:

CHARLIE ROSE: Well, what you do have is some of the stories that – having been like a fly on the wall. It is – like when Jacques Chirac is talking to President Bush.

KURT EICHENWALD: That's one of the scenes that's, sort of, when I found out about it, was just amazing - was that when Bush was pushing Chirac, the president of France, to join on with the coalition to go after Iraq, he wasn't having a lot of success. Chirac didn't believe the intelligence. He thought the intelligence was shoddy - so did [Vladimir] Putin and others. And Bush finally went to – well, you and I share the same faith-

ROSE: You're a Catholic, and I'm a Protestant, but the same God-

EICHENWALD: You're Catholic, I'm a Methodist, and this confrontation is willed by God. Biblical prophesies are being fulfilled. He mentioned something Gog and Magog, which is very central to the Book of Revelation - in other words, you know, Armageddon. And Chirac didn't know what he was talking about. He didn't know what Gog and Magog was, and he had to – they went off and got a biblical expert to write a report for Chirac, who then looked at this and said, the President's a fanatic. I'm not joining in this thing.

The transcript of the relevant portion from the first portion of the Kurt Eichenwald interview on Tuesday's CBS This Morning, including part of the following segment with John Miller:


NORAH O'DONNELL: This morning, 11 years after the 9/11 attacks, there are new accusations about what the George W. Bush administration knew about al Qaeda's plans. We learned after 9/11 that a presidential briefing paper in August of 2001 was headlined 'Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the U.S.' But this morning, in The New York Times, investigative reporter Kurt Eichenwald says the White House received ominous warnings as early as May – May of 2001.

Well, we spoke with Kurt yesterday.

[CBS News Graphic: "Pre-9/11 Warnings: Reporter: Bush White House Ignored Briefings"]

KURT EICHENWALD, AUTHOR, "500 DAYS" (from pre-recorded interview): What I've been able to see are the presidential daily briefs before August 6 of 2001, and they're horrific, and they are – our – reports are, an attack is coming. There are going to be mass casualties. The worst of them – the Pentagon – the neo-conservatives at the Pentagon – as the CIA was coming in saying, you know, al Qaeda's going to attack, said, oh, this is just a false flag operation. Bin Laden is trying to take our eye off of the real threat - Iraq. And so, there are presidential daily briefs that are literally saying, no, they're wrong. This isn't fake. It's real.

O'DONNELL: Well, then, when a lot of people hear this, aren't they going to say, this is another example of where - not just the Bush administration, but our intelligence community dropped the ball? They failed to heed the warnings that were in a number of these PDB's that went all the way up to the President of the United States.

EICHENWALD: Actually, the counter-terrorist center of the CIA did a spectacular job, and that's what really comes down. You know, in the aftermath, the White House and others said, well, they didn't tell us enough. No, they told them everything they needed to know to go on a full alert, and the White House didn't do it.

CHARLIE ROSE (live): Senior correspondent John Miller, former FBI deputy director and assistant director of national intelligence, joins us now. So, what do you make of this?

JOHN MILLER: Well, I think what Kurt has stumbled into here is a bit of a well-worn path. We knew some of that. What he has added is the granularity of the actual memos and some of the actual words that were – that were there in front of the White House and the national security team. But, you know – and Richard Clark, who is the national security adviser for terrorism, in his book, 'Against All Enemies', he said all the lights were blinking red, and we were pushing this in front of Condi Rice every day and it was hard to get any priority on this. In George Tenet's book, he details the briefings they were given. So, some of this we knew and-

ROSE: But it's something that we didn't know?

MILLER: And there's – there's some of it in terms of the level of detail we didn't know.

O'DONNELL: A failure of imagination, a failure to connect the dots, as we've known from the 9/11 Commission report.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center