Tim Russert, host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” has shown once again why he is one of America’s finest reporters.
In last week’s cover story, David Freddoso reported that Senate Intelligence Chairman Bob Graham had told HUMAN EVENTS in a tape-recorded interview that he had seen the same intelligence prior to September 11 as President Bush. On the May 26 edition of “Meet the Press,” Russert confronted Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D.-S.D.) with the HUMAN EVENTS story and challenged Daschle on his earlier suggestion that Bush may have had prior warning of the September 11th attacks and had failed to share that warning with Congress or the country.
Freddoso’s and Russert’s interviews of Graham and Daschle should put this ridiculous conspiracy theory to rest for good.
Here is how Russert used Freddoso’s interview with Graham to put Daschle in a box–and then shut the lid.
Reprinted with permission from NBC
Russert: Let’s go right to it and show you and our viewers, again, your comments from May 16 and give you a chance to talk about it. Let’s watch:
(Videotape, May 16, 2002):
Daschle: I’m gravely concerned about the information provided us just yesterday that the President received a warning in August about the threat of hijackers by Osama bin Laden.
Russert: Why were you gravely concerned?
Daschle: Well, we’re concerned in part, Tim, because we don’t have the facts. We don’t have the information. We want to find ways with which to ensure that we never repeat what happened on September 11. And whether we can acquire the facts, whether we can acquire all of those issues leading up to what happened on September 11, is really the big question right now. I don’t think anyone implicates the President in this. The question is: Why didn’t he have the information? Why weren’t we able to make a better judgment about our vulnerability than we did in August, and then in the period since September 11?
Russert: HUMAN EVENTS has now come out with an interesting article, and I’ll show it to you and our viewers and put it on the screen right here. It says that: “Sen. Bob Graham (D.-Fla.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told HUMAN EVENTS May 21 that his committee had received all the same terrorism intelligence prior to September 11 as the Bush administration. ‘Yes, we had seen all the information,’ said Graham. ‘But we didn’t see it on a single piece of paper, the way the President did.'”
He went on: “HUMAN EVENTS: Was the analysis that included the possibility of hijackings, specifically–was that something that came to the attention of the committees?”
“Graham: We’ve had, we had the reports of hijackings. As to the particular report that was in the President’s Daily Briefing for that day was about three years old. It was not a contemporary piece of information.”
Knowing that, Bob Graham, saying the Senate Intelligence Committee had the same information as the President of the United States, would you have still made your comments that you made on May 16?
Daschle: Well, Tim, the same information, I think, is the question. How do you define that? I think what I’ve heard Bob Graham say is that they had summaries of that information. They had the same general information; they didn’t have the specifics. But that’s really not the issue. The issue is why didn’t the best information get to those at the very top? Why didn’t those in the executive branch have the information to make a better judgment? Why weren’t we better prepared, given what we know now about memos, about the warnings, about all of the information gathering within the FBI, why wasn’t that provided to the President, and in a more readable or understandable form to the Congress? It’s the administration that must make the ultimate decision, but I think the fact that that information was not shared, did not get to those at the very top of the decision-making ladder, is something we need to find out, and that’s really in part what this call for the commission is all about.
Russert: But that’s a different issue than you raised on the 16th. You said that you were gravely concerned that the President received a warning in August.
Daschle: Well, we were told on that particular morning that the President had received a particular set of facts that he may or may not have received. He’s denied having received that information, and we accept that. If he says he didn’t receive it, I’m not going to challenge that. What I am going to say is why didn’t he receive it, and why did it take so long after September 11 for all this information to be made public? There are some disconcerting questions here, Tim, that we’ve got to be able to figure out, to find out, so that at the bottom line, this never happens again, we don’t have this kind of a fouled-up information-sharing process, whether it’s within the administration or with the Congress itself.
Russert: As the Senate majority leader, you are an ex officio member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. You could have had access to the same information that Bob Graham said he had and the President had.
Daschle: That’s correct.
Russert: Were you party to those briefings? Did you have that information?
Daschle: We have not been given any information. I wasn’t given any information last summer in this regard, and I didn’t have access to it, at least in terms of somebody volunteering the information with us. But again, it goes to the question, Tim, why? Why wasn’t I given it? Why wasn’t the Intelligence Committee given it in a way that would flag these issues? Why wasn’t a decision made within the FBI to do something about it? Why didn’t they give the information to the FBI? These are questions that I think are very valid, and I don’t think today have been answered satisfactorily.
Russert: But Graham said he had–his committee had the information the President was given, and as an ex officio member of the Intelligence Committee, you could have access to that.
Daschle: That’s correct.
Russert: Did you have access?
Daschle: I did not.
Russert: The 19–
Daschle: The question is, did I have access? I’m sure I had access. Was it provided to me? The answer is no.
Russert: But it could have been if you chose to see it.
Daschle: If I’d been told about it, I would have chosen to see it, correct.
Russert: Well, if it was before the Intelligence Committee, you could have access to it.
Russert: And Graham says it was before the Intelligence Committee.
Daschle: That’s correct.
Russert: Also, the 1999 Library of Congress report, which said that an event like this may happen, that’s available to the President, but also to all senators, correct?
Daschle: That’s correct. But we’re not–let me just emphasize something. The Congress isn’t responsible for taking the day-to-day actions within the FBI, within the CIA, within the executive branch. That isn’t our role. Our responsibility is oversight, our responsibility is, of course, legislative policy, so I think there is a difference between what it is we do and know and what it is the administration knows and then does. But I think it is important–again, I emphasize, that while this information may have been out there, it wasn’t presented in a form that allowed either the President or those at the very top of the decision-making infrastructure within the administration to do something about, and that’s what’s wrong. That’s what I fault, and that’s what I think we’ve got to look at to ensure it never happens again.
Russert: But that’s a long way away from suggesting the President had advance warning.
Daschle: Well, we were told that–when this news broke, we were told that he did have advanced warning. He has now denied that. And as I said before, we accept it. But the question is, if he wasn’t provided that information, why? Why has it taken this long for all these pieces of the puzzle to be put into place? These are questions that I think merit a lot more careful consideration than they’ve been given so far.