Rice: No Warning of Al Qaeda Using Planes As Bombs
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 8, 2004 Although the U.S. government was aware of the al Qaeda threat, senior policy makers had received no warning that the terrorists would use planes as bombs to attack the homeland, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told the 9-11 panel here today.
Rice acknowledged to Thomas H. Kean, chairman of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, that she and other senior government officials were "quite cognizant" of al Qaeda prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and realized that "something had to be done."
Kean then asked Rice whether she had ever received any memo or other document from the FBI, CIA or any other intelligence agency that warned of terrorists "using planes as bombs."
Intelligence information pointing to potential terrorist "use of airplanes as weapons actually was never briefed to us," Rice responded. She acknowledged, however, that she couldn't say whether such a report may have existed, but that one simply wasn't presented to the most senior officials.
Regarding the process of discerning potential terrorist threats, Rice noted, "part of the problem is you have thousands of pieces of information car bombs and this method and that method. And you have to depend, to a certain degree, on the intelligence agencies to sort (and) to tell you what is actually relevant, what is actually based on sound sources, what is speculative."
Rice said she could only assume that U.S. intelligence agencies didn't have enough hard evidence to support a warning that airliners would be used to attack the homeland.
"I do not remember any reports to us (providing) a kind of strategic warning that planes might be used as a weapon," she told the commission.