May 2001: Around this time, intercepts from Afghanistan warn that al-Qaeda could attack an American target in late June or on the July 4 holiday. However, The White House's Counterterrorism Security Group does not meet to discuss this prospect. This group also fails to meet after intelligence analysts overhear conversations from an al-Qaeda cell in Milan suggesting that bin Laden's agents might be plotting to kill Bush at the European summit in Genoa, Italy, in late July (see July 20-22, 2001). In fact, the group hardly meets at all. By comparison, the Counterterrorism Security Group met two or three times a week between 1998 and 2000 under Clinton. [New York Times, 12/30/01]

June 3, 2001: This is one of only two dates that Bush's national security leadership meets formally to discuss terrorism. This group, made up of the National Security Adviser, CIA Director, Defense Secretary, Secretary of State, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and others, met around 100 times before 9/11 to discuss a variety of topics, but apparently rarely terrorism. In wake of these reports, the White House "aggressively defended the level of attention, given only scattered hints of al-Qaeda activity." This lack of discussion stands in sharp contrast to the Clinton administration and public comments by the Bush administration. For instance, in January 2001 Clinton National Security Adviser Sandy Berger told his replacement Rice: "I believe that the Bush Administration will spend more time on terrorism generally, and on al-Qaeda specifically, than any other subject." [Time, 8/4/02] Bush said in February 2001: "I will put a high priority on detecting and responding to terrorism on our soil." A few weeks earlier, Tenet had told Congress, "The threat from terrorism is real, it is immediate, and it is evolving." [AP, 6/28/02]

September 4, 2001 (C): Bush's Cabinet-rank advisers have their second ever meeting on terrorism (see June 3, 2001). [Washington Post, 5/17/02] Back in January, terrorism "czar" Richard Clarke had proposed an ambitious plan to "roll back" al-Qaeda's operations around the world. The plan was strengthened and finally approved at this meeting. It no longer plans a "roll back" of al-Qaeda but aims to "eliminate" it altogether. The plan calls for significant support to the Northern Alliance, the last remaining resistance to the Taliban in Afghanistan. At the same time, the US military would launch air strikes on training camps and special-operations missions in Afghanistan. In the words of a senior Bush Administration official, the proposals amounted to "everything we've done since 9/11." The plan was awaiting Bush's signature on 9/11. Clinton's limited missile attack in 1998 faced a lot of controversy - this new ambitious plan would have faced much more opposition had it not been for 9/11. [Time, 8/4/02] A senior Bush administration official dismisses the allegations: "This idea that there was somehow a kind of -- some sort of full-blown plan for going after al-Qaeda is just incorrect." [CNN, 8/5/02]