Some CIA analysts were so frustrated with the Bush administration's failure to heed their Al Qaeda warnings in the months before 9/11 that they discussed transferring to a different division, according to classified records obtained by author and reporter Kurt Eichenwald. In today's NY Times, Eichenwald has an editorial claiming that the Bush administration's myopic obsession with regime change in Iraq blinded them to warnings about Al Qaeda, and that Bush did nothing to act on repeated warnings received long before the infamous August 6th brief titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S."

According to documents reviewed by Eichenwald, "the Aug. 6 document, for all of the controversy it provoked, is not nearly as shocking as the briefs that came before it." On May 1st, for example, the CIA warned the administration that there was a terrorist group already in the United States planning an attack, and in June they warned that multiple Al Qaeda attacks could be "imminent." But that wasn't what the Bush administration wanted to hear, and Eichenwald alleges that "some in the administration considered the warning to be just bluster.":

An intelligence official and a member of the Bush administration both told me in interviews that the neoconservative leaders who had recently assumed power at the Pentagon were warning the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled; according to this theory, Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat.

After many frustrating months spent watching their dire terrorism warnings shrugged off, Eichenwald reports that "officials at the Counterterrorism Center of the C.I.A. grew apoplectic. On July 9, at a meeting of the counterterrorism group, one official suggested that the staff put in for a transfer so that somebody else would be responsible when the attack took place, two people who were there told me in interviews. The suggestion was batted down, they said, because there would be no time to train anyone else."

The Times op-ed, which coincides with the 11th anniversary of the attack (and the release of Eichenwald's book 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars this month) has sparked predictable condemnation. This morning the author appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe with former Governor George Pataki, who said Eichenwald's investigation just isn't fair:

I just think this is incredibly unfortunate. First of all... on September 11th and for weeks and months thereafter, President Bush provided inspired, effective leadership... To look eleven years later and say that this was happening before September 11th in the summer and to go through and selectively take out quotes and say 'you should have done that, you should have done that,' I think is incredibly unfair and a disservice to history.

The two locked horns repeatedly during the segment, which you can watch below. It ended with Pataki declaring that, "thank God," he hasn't read Eichenwald's book and doesn't intend to, and Eichenwald arguing that Pataki's indignation was transparently partisan. "We cannot say, 'I'm not going to pay attention to history, because that part of history is my party,' " Eichenwald told the former governor.

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