I have been struck by the way the same network reporters who tripped all over themselves to suggest "Bush knew" about 9/11 in advance and could possibly have prevented the whole thing are practically mute on Congressman Curt Weldon's charge -- seconded by a U.S. military intelligence official -- that civilian law enforcement agencies felt they could not act when the military figured out that Mohommed Atta and three other men were al Qaeda operatives in the U.S.
Could the networks' unenthusiastic approach be because the lapses Weldon is talking about happened during the Clinton era?
This afternoon I put together a Media Reality Check fax report laying out the ways the TV networks approached both stories. The network piece that really struck me as most over the top was one by CBS's Michelle Miller for the April 12, 2004 Early Show, who showed off a widow who insisted her husband (in Miller's paraphrase) “might have escaped the 76th floor of the South Tower, she says, if key facts in the August 6th memo were released to the public.”
The key paragraph from that famous memo: “We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a [censored] service in 1998 saying that Bin Ladin wanted to hijack a U.S. aircraft to gain the release of the ‘Blind Shaykh’ Umar Abd al-Rahman and other U.S.-held extremists.”
In other words, Bush was told of an old, unverified ransom plot, not a devilish scheme to use planes as guided missiles.
I guess the idea is that somehow the government being aware that al Qaeda was interested in hijacking (a notion they could not corrobate, according to the memo), was a huge red flag that should have kept every office worker at home on September 11. But figuring out that Atta was a terrorist and that he was here in the U.S. with at least three others -- that seems to my ears the kind of information that, if properly acted upon, could actually have disrupted some or all of the 9/11 plot.
So where are the networks?