Why Netanyahu's “Intelligence Failure” is being Treated Very Differently than Bush's
While nothing could be done about Bush when America learned he’d lost Florida & his “intelligence failures” came to light, Netanyahu can be replaced whenever the Knesset musters the political will...
The New York Times this morning published a blockbuster report about how Israeli intelligence — and, thus, presumably, Prime Minister Netanyahu — knew the details of the coming Hamas attack a full year before the horrors of October 7th.
The article, by Ronan Bergman and Adam Goldman reporting from Israel, lays out the damning details:
“Israeli officials obtained Hamas’s battle plan for the Oct. 7 terrorist attack more than a year before it happened, documents, emails and interviews show. …
“The approximately 40-page document, which the Israeli authorities code-named ‘Jericho Wall,’ outlined, point by point, exactly the kind of devastating invasion that led to the deaths of about 1,200. …
“Hamas followed the blueprint with shocking precision. The document called for a barrage of rockets at the outset of the attack, drones to knock out the security cameras and automated machine guns along the border, and gunmen to pour into Israel en masse in paragliders, on motorcycles and on foot — all of which happened on Oct. 7.”
In many ways, today’s reporting from Israel echoes the “intelligence failures” of the Bush administration on 9/11 here in America.
Bush, after all, was informed a full month before the twin towers were struck that an attack was coming in the infamous August 6th “Bin Laden Determined To Strike Within the United States” memo that the CIA sent an officer to Texas to hand-deliver to Bush.
As Cofer Black, then the chief of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center later testified and Bush presumably then knew, by May of 2001:
“[I]t was very evident that we were going to be struck, we were gonna be struck hard and lots of Americans were going to die.”
In fact, the American intelligence community had called for a concerted response to Bin Laden, but the Bush administration nixed it, as Politico reported:
“The drama of failed warnings began when [CIA Director] Tenet and Black pitched a plan, in the spring of 2001, called ‘the Blue Sky paper’ to Bush’s new national security team. It called for a covert CIA and military campaign to end the Al Qaeda threat—‘getting into the Afghan sanctuary, launching a paramilitary operation, creating a bridge with Uzbekistan.’
“‘And the word back,’ says Tenet, ‘was ‘we’re not quite ready to consider this. We don’t want the clock to start ticking.’ (Translation: they did not want a paper trail to show that they’d been warned.)”
Netanyahu’s response to the warnings he received was to discount the possibility of a successful Hamas attack, calling it merely “aspirational”; Bush’s was to refuse to return to Washington, DC until after Bin Laden’s attack was completed, going instead to the state run by his brother Jeb, producing the longest presidential “vacation” in the entire 200+ year history of the presidency.
In another parallel, both men suffered from a crisis of legitimacy at the time of the attacks.
Netanyahu is under multiple criminal indictments for bribery and corruption, and his position as Prime Minister is pretty much the only thing keeping him out of prison.
He has gotten repeated delays in his trials using procedural strategies similar to Trump’s, and, like Trump has promised will happen if he’s reelected, is trying to reconfigure the Israeli judiciary in a way that would both protect himself and make it easier for him to go after his political enemies.
The result has been an ongoing spectacle of hundreds of thousands of Israelis repeatedly turning out in the streets of Israel to protest his nakedly corrupt efforts to rig the criminal justice system in his favor.
Bush, America knew, had been handed the presidency by five Republicans on the US Supreme Court, which had broken two centuries of precedent (and the 10th Amendment) by blocking enforcement of the Florida Supreme Court’s mandated recount of the election in that state.
Reporting by Greg Palast for the BBC also let the world know that Bush’s brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, had purged between 40,000 and 90,000 mostly African American voters from the rolls in the months immediately preceding the 2000 election.
To compound Bush’s problem, almost a year after the election, a consortium of news organizations acquired and then physically counted all the Florida ballots, as the Florida Supreme Court had ordered. What they found—just a few weeks after the 9/11 attacks—so horrified them that they chose to report the story in an intentionally confusing way so as not to diminish President Bush’s authority during a time of crisis.
The New York Times, on November 12, 2001, published the results of the statewide recount that, it said, “could have produced enough votes to tilt the election his [Gore’s] way, no matter what standard was chosen to judge voter intent.”
The Times article went on to document how Al Gore won Florida in 2000:
“In a finding rich with irony, the results show that even if Mr. Gore had succeeded in his effort to force recounts of undervotes in the four Democratic counties, Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Volusia, he still would have lost, although by 225 votes rather than 537. An approach Mr. Gore and his lawyers rejected as impractical -- a statewide recount -- could have produced enough votes to tilt the election his way, no matter what standard was chosen to judge voter intent.”
By focusing on Al Gore’s failed lawsuit rather than the actual statewide recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court, the Times was able to justify a headline suggesting Gore lost, no matter what.
And all of this information was buried well after the seventeenth paragraph of the story, which carried the baffling headline “Study of Disputed Florida Ballots Finds Justices Did Not Cast the Deciding Vote.”
The Times analysis further showed that had “spoiled” ballots—ballots normally punched but “spoiled” because the voter also wrote onto the ballot the name of the candidate—been counted, the results were even more spectacular.
“While 35,176 voters wrote in Bush’s name after punching the hole for him, 80,775 wrote in Gore’s name while punching the hole for Gore. [Florida Secretary of State] Katherine Harris decided that these were ‘spoiled’ ballots because they were both punched and written upon and ordered that none of them should be counted.
“Many were from African American districts, where older and often broken machines were distributed, causing voters to write onto their ballots so their intent would be unambiguous.”
The New York Times added this information in a sidebar article with a self-explanatory title by Ford Fessenden: “Ballots Cast by Blacks and Older Voters Were Tossed in Far Greater Numbers.”
Although it took a year for these findings to become public, even at the time of the election in November, 2000 reports were leaking into Washington, D.C. — and thus to the five Republican appointees on the Court — that there were huge irregularities in Florida.
The Florida secretary of state, Katherine Harris, was also in charge of the Bush campaign in that state, and African-American groups like the NAACP were protesting that as many as eighty thousand Blacks had been purged from the voter rolls because a Republican-affiliated Texas corporation Harris had hired to “clean” the Florida list found that those Florida residents had names “similar” to the names of Texas felons.
(You can find a complete summary of that election recount and the role of each of the five Republicans on the Supreme Court in installing Bush in the White House here.)
In the months after 9/11, as news came out that Bush had definitely lost Florida to Gore and that he had been informed of Bin Laden’s plans at least a month in advance, the United States had no mechanism in place to remove him from office and essentially re-do the 2000 election.
Unlike most modern democracies, elections in the US for the chief executive are exclusively mandated every four years and the only other mechanism to replace the president is impeachment, something that had zero support among both the American people and the political class at the time.
This, compounded by the shock of 9/11, appears to be the main reason America’s press chose to largely ignore both Bush’s illegitimacy and his incompetence in dealing with the intelligence about Bin Laden’s pending strike.
“Why compound the crisis of the attack on America?” by questioning Bush’s legitimacy or unwillingness to respond to the CIA’s warning, seemed to be their response. After all, creating a crisis of legitimacy would only weaken Bush at a time the country very much needed strong leadership: it would only hurt the country, they believed.
(Tragically, Bush used the opportunity this decision by our press gave him to lie us into two illegal and unnecessary wars as part of his 2004 reelection strategy.)
Israel, on the other hand, has a parliamentary system where Netanyahu can be challenged in a snap election (within procedural limits) at any time.
That may account for much of the difference between the way his “intelligence failure” is being treated in the Israeli and American media: while nothing could be done about Bush when America learned he’d lost Florida and his “intelligence failures” came to light, Netanyahu can be replaced whenever the Knesset musters the political will.