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A Challenge for the Liberal Blogging Community

To hear the liberals tell the story of the PDB, you would think Bin Laden himself gave Bush the flight numbers and Bush ignored it. They feign outrage that Bush should have "done something."

But do you notice something missed from their criticism? They can rant for days that Bush should have "done something" but not a single one of them has said what should have been done, much less what could have been done, with that memo to stop the attacks.

So I'll offer a simple challenge to the liberal blogging community. If you can give me a plan of action that should (and could) have been adopted because of that memo that would have stopped the 4 attacks a month later, then I will vote for John Kerry. (In my world, the stakes don't get much higher)

To save time on the debate, read the rules in this related post.

I don't predict any takers.

Comments (36)

For the liberals, I present... (Below threshold)

For the liberals, I present the text of the memo. I think most of them have only heard the title, and think it outlines Osama's master plan or something. This is about as undetailed as it gets, if you ask me. The memo is available on yahoo.

[Ed note- In order to keep the comments clean I'll provide a link to the full text of the memo. Hope you don't mind me doing it that way spc4]

You know what, Paul? I ain... (Below threshold)

You know what, Paul? I ain't gonna bite. I don't think that 9/11 was preventable by a president; the problems w/ the intel community, IMO, are far more systemic ... or were at 9/11.


It's obvious, he should hav... (Below threshold)
Rodney Dill:

It's obvious, he should have started the 71st FBI investigation.


What is really missing as far as context is what normally appears in this sort of document. I don't think the president himself, is expected to think of solutions and have the PDB only offer problems.

Since the most efficient use of the PDB would be status and to suggest actions that need to be taken, I'm sure that is the way it is handled in all administrations. There is a lack of suggestions of actions that need to be considered, which means the intelligence was offering a status and not a suggestion that actions are required at this time.

The Presidents job is as a decision maker, not an idea man (I'm sure all the liberals will say amen to that), but I think this was true for past presidents, including Clinton, as well. The lack of ideas for actions may still fall to the executive branch, but not just to the President and his administration.

Paul: Are you in a swing st... (Below threshold)

Paul: Are you in a swing state?

OH YEAH- We went Bush in th... (Below threshold)

OH YEAH- We went Bush in the last election but have 2 dem senators and a dem gov.

(I doubt it would happen but) Statistically we could be the Florida of 2004.

Why you gonna take the chal... (Below threshold)

Why you gonna take the challenge???

I saw you changed Bush's quotes on your blog. If they were that bad why did you change them?

You fall into the mix. Change his quotes then bash the man for a quote he did not say.

Class man, real class.

I'll be waiting for your plan. I assume it will be a long wait.

Erm...Paul, are you talking... (Below threshold)

Erm...Paul, are you talking to me?


Calm down, Beavis. One ques... (Below threshold)

Calm down, Beavis. One question mark is sufficient.

As to your underlying question, no. I've read corporate income tax forms that were less complicated, and I don't agree with the underlying premise that I for which I would be arguing (that Bush could have stopped 9/11).

Which state, again?

Never let it be said that I... (Below threshold)

Never let it be said that I don't know how to delegate:


I don't think he's aware of your challenge, so, in all fairness, you don't have to vote for anyone even assuming you like his plan.

Holy crap. A Paul post that... (Below threshold)

Holy crap. A Paul post that I actually liked! :)

Norb.: thanks for the link.

He grows on you :-)...... (Below threshold)

He grows on you :-)...

Let's see. What could have ... (Below threshold)

Let's see. What could have the president done based on the info in the PDB? Checked to make sure we had armed jets closer to New York than 130 miles away in Massachusetts... Remembered that WTC was attacked in 1993. Remembered that Yousef had said to FBI agents that they would bring down the WTC "next time."...Prioritized major targets in New York and Washington, which were both mentioned in the PDB...

That's just for starters. I'll check out your rules, and send you the plan.

That's pretty unrealistic, ... (Below threshold)

That's pretty unrealistic, Doug. Only one small bit of the information contained in the PDB was from earlier in 2001, and it dealt with using explosives, which weren't even used in the 9/11 attacks. Everything else was years old.

No way that PDB gave sufficient cause to spend the money your suggestion would entail. You're trying to operate from the vantage point of 2004, not August 2001.

Careful Joe-- If I get you ... (Below threshold)

Careful Joe-- If I get you thinking you might just have to switch sides.

And Doug, swing and a miss.... (Below threshold)

And Doug, swing and a miss. Not even a foul tip.

Bush should hire Prof. Peab... (Below threshold)
RedBull Junkie:

Bush should hire Prof. Peabody and go into the way-back machine and....

Entirely unhelpful,


Doug, I got a needle here t... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Doug, I got a needle here to poke a few HUGE holes in your suggestions. First, a timeline:

8:30: NORAD officially notified that American Airlines Flight 11 has been hijacked. (Some reports say 8:40, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt.)

8:42: United Airlines Flight 175 hijacked.

8:46: AA 11 hits North Tower.

9:03: UA 175 hits South Tower.

Just where are these fighters based out of that they could get up in the air, over New York City (the most crowded airspace in the world), pick out the TWO rogue airliners, and shoot them down on such short notice?

And here's the second point: People have been spoiled by TV, movies, and video games. These planes are shot DOWN, not destroyed. They don't just magically explode and dissolve into pixie dust. They fall out of the sky and make huge messes on the ground. How big a footprint would a jumbo jet flying very fast at low altitude leave on some of the most crowded real estate in the world? I don't know NYC well enough, but I imagine there must be neighborhoods where the death toll would have dwarfed the actual numbers. Remember, the Twin Towers fell straight down -- a 500+MPH airliner that's been gut-shot at a couple thousand feet (at most) would leave a very long, very messy trail of twisted shrapnel and flaming fuel. Think of it as a Claymore mine of immense proportions.

Maybe there could have been some security precautions that could have prevented or minimized 9/11, but the American people would never have stood for it at the time.

It's been a pet theory of mine that United Flight 93 (the one that came down in Pennsylvania) was actually shot down by the Air Force. I have enormous sympathy for the pilot who may have had to do this. Doug, are you suggesting that we should have been ready to shoot down civilian airliners BEFORE the first tower was hit? Before it was apparent that these were not hostages, but weapons? I don't think so.


I think its entirely likely... (Below threshold)
Rodney Dill:

I think its entirely likely that in their attempt to take over the cockpit of flight 93 the passengers piled on the pilot and nosed the plane straight down into the ground.

Actually Jay it was downed ... (Below threshold)

Actually Jay it was downed by this thing pilots call weight and balance. The passengers really did themselves in. They were all in the very back of the plane and the plane was trimmed out and flying level. When they all rushed the cockpit at once, the plane was dramatically nose heavy. That plane was coming down if Chuck Yeager was flying.

Imagine 40 people on one side of a see-saw all running to the other side.

The media downplayed that because it would have made it look like they died needlessly. But ask a pilot what happened.

Im guessing arresting all t... (Below threshold)

Im guessing arresting all those people the FBI was watching who were actually taking pilot lessons would have been a no no.

Sorry Paul, it's not really... (Below threshold)

Sorry Paul, it's not really believable that 40 passengers rushed the cockpit.

I've seen this effect when I was flying in P-3s in the Navy. Whenever we had a new pilot, we'd get a crowd together and run from the front of the aircraft to the back, then to the front, then to the back, etc., in order to give the new pilot a hard time trying to keep the aircraft level.

While the pilot had to keep working at it, there's just not enough room to make a significant center of gravity problem to the degree that would cause an airliner to crash.

And for the record (and I don't mean to be disrespectful or anything, Jay), I find the theory that we shot down flight 93 ludicrous. We'd certainly know about it by now if that actually happened. You just can't keep that kinda stuff secret in the military, trust me.

Im guessing arresting al... (Below threshold)

Im guessing arresting all those people the FBI was watching who were actually taking pilot lessons would have been a no no.

Where exactly in the PDB do they discuss people taking fling lessons? (and before 9/10 no, they never would have done it.)


Boyd- Obviously I was not there but the folks who called out on their cell phones said they were all in the back of the plane. They gathered whatever weapons they could and all rushed forward. There were about 35 on board plus flight attendants. As I recall the "Let's Roll" guy (Mark Beamer?) told the story of the stews boiling water and they all decided to go at once.

Of course not all of them made it IN the cockpit, they'd never fit.

But if you flew P3s you know a nose heavy aircraft will not respond to controls easily. It will nose down, pick up speed and not respond to controls. All the data suggested that it did a slow nose in, rolling almost inverted. That would be very consistent with a nose heavy condition. (but not BTW consistent with a shoot down)

The "official" government finding was that the passengers did not even get in the cockpit and the lead hijacker ordered the pilot to crash the plane. The problem is the tapes the survivors heard had that order on it and the pilot refusing. It also heard various voices in the cockpit.

I dunno, I did all the research over 2 years ago and the best guess we had then was that they all went at once. If that is still the best guess then I'll stand by my theory.

My "We shot down Flight 93"... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

My "We shot down Flight 93" theory isn't some grand conspiracy, just a hunch. I certainly don't intend anything malicious about it -- like I said, I have incredible sympathy for the hypothetical pilot who had to push the button.

My main argument in favor of it, Paul, is that there were at least 3 separate debris fields, the two secondary ones 3 and 8 miles from the main impact point. To this amateur (who'd be much more comfortable discussing merits of one battleship vs. another, or just when Genesis began it's slide into mediocrity and oblivion), that suggests a breakup in midair, and even more likely an externally-caused breakup.


Yikes. After reading Jay T... (Below threshold)

Yikes. After reading Jay Tea's theories, I now know what it would feel like if a colleague, whom you'd previously believed to be generally reasonable, suddenly announced to you, "They faked those moon landings, you know."

Paul, my point is that you ... (Below threshold)

Paul, my point is that you couldn't get enough people close enough together on an airliner to where it couldn't be nosed back up. It would make the controls sluggish and require moderately greater force pulling back the stick, but not uncontrollable.

When we did it on a P-3, it was usually about five people, mostly because you couldn't get any more into a significant clump, and outliers would dampen the effect, moving the CG back toward the center of the aircraft.

But in the end, as you say, we'll never know for sure.

I doubt the added weight to... (Below threshold)
Rodney Dill:

I doubt the added weight to the front would have much, impact, rather the rough man-handling of the then terrorist pilot, if they did reach the cockpit, would push the yoke forward and put the plane in an out of control dive.

Spoons, it's a hunch, a not... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Spoons, it's a hunch, a notion, a theory, not a grand conspiracy obsession. More along the lines of someone watching "Capricorn 3" and saying afterwards "Hm... I wonder how tough it would've been to fake the moon landings."

I don't spend a lot of time obsessing about it, but those 3 separate areas, miles apart, that ended up with significant parts of that flight make me think that it very well have broken up in midair, not on impact, and under those circumstances I think we can rule out such possibilities as spontaneous molecular dissolution, a meteor strike, and bad feng shui. An air-to-air missile or two seems to fit the physical evidence and external circumstances.

We now return you to to your regularly scheduled moonbattery.


Your "rules" mention severa... (Below threshold)
Bob Munck:

Your "rules" mention several times that you can't do various things because you have only a month until the attack, yet you also say 4) You have no idea WHEN it is going to happen. That seems somewhat contradictory to me; Bush can't really use the limited time before the attack as an excuse for not doing anything. He didn't know that there was only a month to do something.

I think that Clarke laid it out pretty well: he should have "shaken the tree" of his hierarchy to see what fell out. You can't claim that it's completely impossible that they would have grabbed one of the guys or someone else that knew of the plans and that person would have spilled the whole thing.

It's all probabilities; the entire attack might have been prevented by bad weather on 9/11. Almost any action by Bush other than playing a round of golf would have been more likely to prevent it.

Bush can't really use t... (Below threshold)

Bush can't really use the limited time before the attack as an excuse for not doing anything. He didn't know that there was only a month to do something.

Bob, that is the whole point. You have to operate off a PDB that gave no time frame but yet your plan needs to be so elegant that it would have taken effect in a month with no rush.

With no DATE in PDB it would be hard to do anything that, by happenstance, worked within that month. If he KNEW it was a month a way the whole thing changes.

In effect he had to meet a deadline he was not given to solve a problem he did not know he had.

If you genuinely think about my point you will see what I mean.

Almost any action by Bush other than playing a round of golf would have been more likely to prevent it.

OK, If anything other than playing 18 holes would have stopped 9/11 PLEASE by all means share.

Everyone on the left makes ridiculous statements like this but nobody can tell me what he should have done.

So far, you've failed that challenge.

I said:Almost a... (Below threshold)
Bob Munck:

I said:

Almost any action by Bush other than playing a round of golf would have been more likely to prevent it.

You replied:

OK, If anything other than playing 18 holes would have stopped 9/11 PLEASE by all means share.

I can only assume that you missed or did not understand the words more likely in what I said.

If, for example, Bush had asked for a crash high-level review of the ongoing investigations mentioned in the PBD, it's possible that a correlation between two of them would have been noticed, led to an arrest, disclosure of the entire plot under questioning, and the interception of one or all of the hijack attempts. Sure, it's very low probability, maybe one chance in a hundred, but that's one chance more than playing golf produced.

You also said:

With no DATE in PDB it would be hard to do anything that, by happenstance, worked within that month.

That's not true; doing anything, easy or hard, could by happenstance have worked. That's the point of "happenstance." Clarke suggested the action Bush could have taken that would have had the highest probability of working: "shaking the tree." You're having to ignore that solution in order to claim that no one is giving you any solutions. Would you like to refute the idea that that action would have increased the likelihood that the attack would have been prevented?

It's a standard strategy of game theory; when the optimum action is unknowable, the worst possible action is to do nothing.

So basically you are saying... (Below threshold)

So basically you are saying Bush might have stopped it, but then he might as well have played the lottery. Odd way to make national policy.

My point stands... The liberals are quick to criticize him for not "doing enough" yet none of them can say exactly that he should have done to prevent it.

So basically you are say... (Below threshold)
Bob Munck:

So basically you are saying Bush might have stopped it, but then he might as well have played the lottery. Odd way to make national policy.

Do you know anything at all about probability? The odds of winning a typical state lottery are on the order of one hundred million to one. The odds that Bush could have stopped 9/11 by taking some positive action might be as bad as a thousand to one; but that's a full five orders of magnitude more likely. Bush would have been one hundred thousand times more likely to succeed.

Let's put it another way: the terrorists hijacked four planes to increase their odds of success. I'll bet they were expecting and would have been happy if just one of them had worked. Instead, they had amazing luck and three of the four succeeded. Moreover, two of them (the towers) were much more destructive than they anticipated. Bush could have (and should have) done any number of things that would have had a chance of preventing the predicted attack; he did the one thing that had no chance of doing so. Bush could have sent the FBI out to arrest and interrogate one hundred people at random; his chance of getting one of the terrorists in that group and stopping the attack would have been better than the chance of winning a lottery.

Probability is part of everything, from the quantum level on up. All we can ever do is hope to increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome; there are no guarantees.

My point stands... The liberals are quick to criticize him for not "doing enough" yet none of them can say exactly that he should have done to prevent it.

You know, I've figured out what you're doing here. You're using essentially the same strategy that Bush did in declaiming that if he'd known the specific date, method, and location of the attacks, he'd have done his best to stop them. That comment is so monumentally dumb that the only possible reply is a teenage girl's voice saying "well, duuhhhh!"

In like manner, you're refusing to accept or even acknowledge any suggested actions that aren't pin-point specific and which lead demonstratably and inexorability to the prevention of the attack. Your point does not stand, nor was it ever on its feet; Richard Clarke offered a reasonable suggestion and many others have suggested alternatives and variants of it. Your arguments against them have been mostly nonexistent and fatuous where they did exist. Give it up; you've lost the argument.

Bob you are all over the pl... (Below threshold)

Bob you are all over the place and making no sense.

Read the PDB and tell me what you would have done.

If you don't have any answers then you have failed the challenge.

Discussions of statistics are meaningless.

I guess I was right about y... (Below threshold)
Bob Munck:

I guess I was right about you not knowing much about probability, since you don't seem to know that it's an entirely different concept from statistics.

For the last time, Bush should have done what Clarke said in his testimony and what Clinton did before 1/1/00: had daily meetings of the NSC principals (heads of CIA, FBI, DoD, other agencies) run by a real NSA (i.e. not Rice) at which each reported the current progress and findings of their agency in investigating terrorism. This would have caused them to go back and "shake the trees" and bring the scattered bits of information about the terrorists to the top where it could be correlated. It's clear now that the agencies and investigations had enough information in scattered pieces to put together the whole story, and this would have caused it to be gathered together and seen as a whole.

Do you have some reason to believe that this approach would not have worked, or are you simply going to declare that it's not an answer again? It doesn't make for much of a discussion when you don't say anything of any substance, but just put your hands over your ears and chant "nyah, nyah, nyah. I can't hear you."

Heavy Heavy SighBo... (Below threshold)

Heavy Heavy Sigh

Bob, read the challenge. You advocate meetings. Forget the meetings I made Al Gore President and he figured it out with his colossal brain power. You don't need meeting, I gave you the data already.


What are you going to do to stop it?

You have wasted an incredible amount of my time for someone who did apparently did not read the challenge.

(for about the 5th time) If you have a plan that would stop 9/11 please share. If not, then please quit wasting my time.


But to answer your question... (Below threshold)

But to answer your question:

Do you have some reason to believe that this approach would not have worked, or are you simply going to declare that it's not an answer again?

No, meetings won't stop hijackings.






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