MADELEINE BRAND, host:
The other big political story this weekend was about State of Denial. That's the new Bob Woodward book that characterizes the Bush administration as out of touch on the war in Iraq and the broader fight against terrorism. It seems everyone in Washington is reading the book, including members of the 9/11 Commission, who say it has information they never knew about but should have.
One anecdote involves a meeting on July 10th, 2001 between CIA director George Tenet and Condoleezza Rice, who was the president's national security advisor then. Woodward writes that Tenet hurriedly arranged the meeting because he wanted to get Rice's attention, to shake her. In that meeting, Woodward writes, Tenet asked Rice for the authority and funding to go after Osama Bin Laden. She was polite but she brushed them off, according to the book. Reacting to the book, Rice said today it was incomprehensible that she could have ignored dire terrorist threats. She says she doesn't even remember meeting Tenet that day. Tim Roemer of the 9/11 Commission joins us now. He's a former Democratic congressman from Indiana. And welcome to the program.
Mr. TIM ROEMER (9/11 Commission Member): Thank you, Madeleine.
BRAND: Well, had you heard of this meeting before reading Woodward's book?
Mr. ROEMER: No. And clearly, if we had received this type of information, along the lines reported by Mr. Woodward, we would have included it in our final report.
BRAND: Why is it important?
Mr. ROEMER: Well, it's important if it's true in that, one, the CIA is, as they've described it to us, George Tenet's hair is on fire that summer and the system is blinking red - do they actually take that concern to the White House and warn the White House about what they think might be an attack, whether it be overseas or domestically?
According to Mr. Woodward's book, he says that George Tenet and Cofer Black - two significant players at the CIA - proactively went to the White House in July, almost two months before the September 11th attacks, and were warning about the possibility of an attack and complaining about not having enough resources. That would be significant because they're seen as being proactive about these attacks. And it would also be important in that the White House would have been reacting slowly to the policy implications of those complaints.
BRAND: Well, why do you suppose that Mr. Tenet and Mr. Black, who was Mr. Tenet's counterterrorism chief at the time, why do you suppose they told Bob Woodward this but didn't tell you, the Commission?
Mr. ROEMER: Well, it's very frustrating to me because we've had interviews with Cofer Black once and George Tenet three times. And while their memories may have been hazy and clouded in 2004, all of a sudden in 2006 a light bulb goes on and they suddenly recall very critically important details of a July 10th meeting. That's intriguing to me and would be exceptionally interesting to the 9/11 Commission. And we need to get to the bottom of this.
Why didn't they tell us under oath about this meeting? And why does it suddenly pop into their minds when they're providing background information to Mr. Woodward for a book two years later?
BRAND: What are your suspicions?
Mr. ROEMER: Well, either they have cloudy memories and this is not accurate, or Mr. Woodward has gotten it wrong, which he claims even over the weekend, no, he has it right. Or Dr. Rice is not recalling accurately what was presented to her with the kind of warning that Mr. Tenet and Mr. Cofer Black claim.
BRAND: Now, Bob Woodward writes in that passage that the executive director of the 9/11 Commission, Philip Zelikow, knew about the meeting; he was on Rice's staff then. And he said that planning for an attack against bin Laden did go forward, although not as quickly as it could have, not before the 9/11 attacks.
Mr. ROEMER: Well, Mr. Zelikow in The New York Times claims, as of the last few days, that no, he did not know about that meeting. And if he had, as the staff director of the 9/11 Commission, it would have been, as he said, quote, "a huge thing," unquote.
BRAND: So what happens now?
Mr. ROEMER: Ultimately, we need to get to the bottom of, if this did take place, why wasn't this kind of information shared with the 9/11 Commission? Why wasn't it shared with the United States Senate and House Oversight Committees? And if people were under oath and being peppered with questions about these kinds of meetings, why wasn't that information shared?
BRAND: Tim Roemer, a Democrat, was a member of the 9/11 Commission.
Tim Roemer, thank you very much for joining us.
Mr. ROEMER: A pleasure to be with you.
CHADWICK: Stay with us on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.
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