SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think we have everyone on. This will be a background briefing. We should be referred to as senior White House officials. I will say a few things -- address a few opening issues. Then my colleague and I will take some questions.
White House Briefing on Release of the August 6, 2001
President's Daily Brief Excerpt
"Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in U.S."
April 10, 2004
The document you have is a copy of the document that was prepared for the President for his August 6th President's Daily Briefing. I want to talk a little bit about, before we get into the substance, just a minute about the process of declassification. I think it's important to highlight how we came to this moment.
This action reflects both the President's full and unprecedented support for the commission's work in the unique, historic circumstances of the 9/11 attacks. While the President has the ultimate constitutional authority over the classification of information, the Director of Central Intelligence has statutory responsibility to safeguard intelligence sources and methods, and is one of the officials to whom authority to declassify information is delegated by executive order. The President authorized, and Dr. Rice requested, that the DCI review this PDB item to determine whether, in his judgment, declassification and release of this item would damage intelligence sources and methods, and is releasable in light of the relevant provisions of Executive Order on Classification and Declassification of Information.
The DCI has advised Dr. Rice in writing that he has made the required determination and has, in fact, declassified the PDB item. And I believe you have it. The DCI determined that three specific items of information -- the names of foreign intelligence or security services -- must be redacted in order to protect intelligence sources and methods. Those items are replaced with black on the declassified and released version of the PDB you have.
The other redactions on the released version are the original classification of the document as "Top Secret." As the DCI's written declassification order states, this declassification and release "shall not be deemed to constitute any precedent concerning any future declassification or release of any other PDB."
Before I get to substance, I want to take a moment to go back to how this all began. We all remember the threat spike in the summer of 2001. Although the majority of this threat reporting data dealt with threats overseas, the President asked if any of this information pointed to any attack on the United States. That's how we got to this date.
Let me go through a few key points before I jump into the substance. I think, first, the release of this PDB should clear up the myth that's out there that somehow the President was warned about September 11th, or was warned -- or, excuse me -- was briefed on information related to September 11th. As you see this PDB contains no warning of the attacks of September 11th. This piece you have before you, this President's Daily Briefing, was not prompted by new threat information. It is a review of material that was already available. And I think it shows, if you read it closely, it shows that for the threats that were discussed in this review of material you have, that those threats were being pursued aggressively by the appropriate agencies.
Let me go into the substance of the PDB, and then we'll take your questions. The August 6, 2001 PDB item that's titled, "bin Laden Determined To Strike In U.S.," was prepared in response to questions asked by the President about the possibility of attacks by al Qaeda inside the U.S. This article, as I said before, did not warn of the September 11th attacks. Although the PDB does refer to the possibility of hijackings, it did not discuss the possible use of planes as weapons. The PDB was based largely on background information about past terrorist attacks conducted by al Qaeda and general threats, dating back from the late 1990s. The only recent information concerning possible current activities in the PDB relate to two incidents -- and there is no information, as you'll see from the briefing materials you have and as I will get to in a second -- that there's no information that either incident was related to the acts of September 11th.
I know you have a few key questions. I'm going to take a couple now, before we open up. One, we've been asked how was this -- or, excuse me -- why was this PDB prepared. Director Tenet has already addressed and described the genesis of this PDB, itself, in a letter he wrote to the September 11th Commission, dated March 26, 2004. This PDB item, as I said before, was prepared in response to questions President Bush asked his PDB briefer. The President had seen previous intelligence reports about possible al Qaeda threats to U.S. targets outside the U.S. And the President had asked whether any of the information pointed to a possible attack inside our country.
When this PDB item was presented to the President on August 6, 2001, his PDB briefer told him that it was prepared in response to the President's previous questions. I know I've covered that twice. I apologize, but I wanted to make sure you got that point.
Now, what information does this PDB item contain? The article advised the President of what was publicly already well-known, that bin Laden had a desire to attack inside the United States. I repeat, this was already publicly well-known. Bin Laden had stated publicly in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would try to "bring the fighting to America."
Most of the information in the article that you have was an analysis of previous terrorist attacks by al Qaeda and a summary and discussion of general threat reporting, as I've said, that dated back to the late 1990s. And I would note that this draft was prepared by the CIA after consultation with an FBI analyst.
Again, we're asked, did this PDB item include any warning of the September 11th attack, and the answer is, no. The only recent information concerning possible current activities in the PDB relates to two incidents, and as I've said before, there is no information that either incident was related to the 9/11 attacks.
I want to talk about these two incidents because it's important that you focus on the facts of each. The first incident involved suspected recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York, as you read the PDB. This information was based on a report that two Yemeni men had been seen taking photographs of buildings at Federal Plaza in New York City. The FBI later interviewed the men and determined that their conduct was consistent with tourist activity. And the FBI's investigation identified no link to terrorism. So that's the first incident.
The second incident involved a call made on May 15, 2001, by an unidentified individual to the U.S. Embassy in the UAE, saying that a group of bin Laden supporters was in the United States planning attacks with explosives. The caller did not say where or when the attacks might occur. And there are a few key points on this that show how aggressively this call was addressed.
As I said, the call came in on May 17, 2001 -- excuse me, on May 15, 2001. On May 17th, 2001, the NSC's counterterrorism staff convened what you know as a CSG, the Counterterrorism Security Group. And the members of this group -- I just want to take a second to remind you -- include the State Department, Department of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the CIA. And at this meeting, they reviewed the information that had been provided by the caller to the embassy. It's important to note that this information from the caller was also shared with customs, INS, and the FAA -- cc: the long list of agencies there.
The PDB article advised the President, as you see, that the CIA and FBI were investigating this information. And we had no information either before or after 9/11 that connects the caller's information with the 9/11 attacks. So both those incidents, I think you see, looking at the facts, both were being and had been investigated aggressively by the appropriate agencies in a timely fashion.
The next question that some have raised, which I just want to take on -- this PDB item states that al Qaeda members have resided in or traveled to the U.S. for years, and the group apparently maintains a support structure that could aid attacks. And you'll probably ask if this was new information and what was being done about it. I'll note that the presence of individuals associated or affiliated with al Qaeda in the U.S. was not new information. This information had been well-known to the intelligence and law enforcement communities for a number of years. The FBI was actively investigating individuals associated or affiliated with al Qaeda in the United States. And this is a fact I want to point you to that's noted it the PDB article, that the FBI had been actively investigating these individuals.
As you also see -- and it's important you read the PDB closely -- as you also note in that article, the FBI was conducting approximately 70 full field bin Laden-related investigations.
Now, the term you'll see in the PDB -- you'll ask, why is the term "patterns of suspicious activity" used in the PDB and what does it refer to. The CIA author of the PDB item judged, after consulting an FBI colleague, that there was suspicious patterns of activity that were worrisome, even though nothing pointed to a specific operation in a specific location. And I'll just point that out again -- nothing pointed to a specific operation in a specific location.
In that vein, the author was concerned that one of the East African bombing defendants had told FBI officers earlier in 2001 that bin Laden would retaliate if the defendants in the trial were convicted. I'll note that four were convicted -- excuse me, four were convicted in New York on May 29th -- excuse me, let me just go back and repeat this point, because it's an important point. In that vein, the author was concerned that one of the East African bombing defendants had told FBI officers earlier in 2001 that bin Laden would retaliate if the defendants in the trial were convicted -- I noted four were convicted -- with a major attack, something the FBI interpreted to mean possibly in the United States. In addition, the CIA author understood that there had been possible recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York, which I discussed earlier.
Except for the information relating to the possible surveillance of federal buildings in New York, which was later -- I would note, was later determined by the FBI to be consistent with tourist-related activity, the PDB item you have contained no information from FBI investigations that indicated activities relating to the preparation or planning for hijackings or other attacks within the United States. None of the information relating to the "patterns of suspicious activity" section you see was later deemed to be related to the attacks of September 11th -- important point.
From June through September -- and this is, again, this is an important point for you to know, because you'll have questions about what was being done -- from June through September, the FAA and the FBI issued a number of warnings about the possibility of terrorist attacks. The FAA warnings, I would note, included specific warnings about the possibility of a hijacking to free imprisoned al Qaeda members inside the U.S., and the possibility of attacks in response to law enforcement actions against al Qaeda members.
I addressed before the question about why information has been redacted. And that's just to protect the names of foreign governments that have provided information to our government.
With that, my colleague and I are happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: My first question is, can you just make sure we all understand exactly what was redacted here? Were these names of government agents, that is, individuals, or just the countries they came from?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Neither. They are foreign government services. As you can see, all three of them, the black mark comes before the word "service." They're not the names of agents or the countries they come from; it's just from a particular foreign government service, meaning intelligence service.
QUESTION: Okay. And what did the President say when he received this? Did he ask any questions? What was his reaction?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't have any information on that. I don't think either one of us were in the room for that.
QUESTION: Could you check on that for me?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure.
QUESTION: Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Actually, can I go back to the last question. I think we will not take that question, because that's not the sort of thing that we would discuss, is the interaction between the President and his briefer. That's a confidential relationship between the briefer who briefs the President each morning and the President. So not only do we not know, but it's not the sort of thing that we would discuss.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Right.
QUESTION: On these surveillance of federal buildings in New York, can you tell me when that surveillance took place, when the FBI interviewed the men, and whether that determination that it was consistent with tourist activity was prior to 9/11?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We can provide you a little bit on that, but we don't have all of the details here. That was in the spring of 2001. It was checked out subsequently by the FBI and determined to be activity that was tourist-related, people simply taking pictures of buildings in New York.
QUESTION: Can you be more specific about when "subsequently" was? Presumably it was after August 6th.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: After August 6th; I don't have more information on that.
QUESTION: Thank you for doing this. I'm curious about the line, "the FBI is conducting approximately 70 full field investigations throughout the U.S. that it considers bin Laden-related." Can you elaborate on those investigations? And what would have been the criteria for the FBI to consider one of its investigations bin Laden-related?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We certainly wouldn't comment on FBI investigations. Something -- I'll leave it at that.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think the answer actually is, we don't have information on that. That would be the -- the FBI was simply letting the President know that they had 70 investigations, but we didn't have the details, and we don't have the details. They could be any kinds of investigations, criminal investigations or intelligence investigations and, in some way, bin Laden-related. But we don't have any more information.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you all for doing this. The essence of Condi's testimony the other day was that at the end of this briefing, there was nothing actionable by the President for -- by her or anybody else. But if I understand what you've said is that even though they weren't related to September 11th, these two events, both the federal buildings surveillance and the threat in the UAE, were not resolved at the time that this briefing happened. So it makes me wonder -- and this gets back to how the President reacted -- whether or not he indicated at that time any concern about that, or any renewed effort that he wanted done to find these cells in the United States.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We can't give you any information about the President's reaction. We don't know the President's reaction, and it would not be the sort of thing that we would discuss. But with respect to, one, the President is told, in fact, that the FBI and the CIA are investigating the call to the embassy. So that's what would be, in fact, done. And with respect to the first one, that one was being -- was being checked out.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Can I also address the second -- I just want to point out that, as I've said before, that the agencies were aggressively investigating this call. Again, I remind you that on May 17th of 2001, the NSC counterterrorism staff convened the CSG, the Counterterrorism Security Group: that includes the State Department, Department of Defense, JCS, Department of Justice, FBI, CIA. And they reviewed this. This was also shared with customs, INS, and FAA. So this was being aggressively pursued.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me actually add one more thing to that, which is that the kinds of responses that one would normally take to this sort of activity, had it been, in fact, suspicious, even though we -- it had turned out later that it, in fact, was not related to 9/11 -- but the kinds of activity that you would take to respond, in fact, were already being taken. Both FAA and FBI had issued warnings with respect to possible hijackings to free incarcerated terrorists, and to be on the alert for attacks in the event of convictions or other law enforcement actions, and in addition, the FBI was investigating, in particular, this particular attack. So the sorts of things that one would do to respond to these things if they, in fact, amounted to anything were already being done.
QUESTION: And do I remember correctly -- I don't have Condi's testimony right in front of me -- that she was asked at one point on Thursday, was she ever made aware of cells operating in the United States; I believe she said that, no, she was not.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I don't. You can go back and check her transcript, David, but I think she said, in fact, that it was mentioned by Dick Clarke in the transition, essentially in passing, that this was something that was -- had been determined as a result of the Millennium, that there were al Qaeda affiliates in the United States, but that that was simply factual information that had been provided. It was not something that was being recommended as far as an action item, something that needed to be done.
QUESTION: But she thought, again, obviously, when she read --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Right.
QUESTION: Okay. Had she seen it anytime between those two? SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I couldn't speak to that. I don't believe so.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hey, David, I just want to put a point on the two incidents you raised. Also, again, I'll just repeat that there was no information that either incident was related to the attacks of September 11th. It's important that we keep going back to remember that.
QUESTION: Yes, but that's retrospective. I mean, you know, at the time you didn't know what kind of attack you were going to have. So whether it was related to September 11th or not, this does not inform the President of whether there was enough being done, based on these threats.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I will remind you, I think, where you are heading on that, David, is the recommendations that we were getting as far as action items that needed to be taken were focused not at activity in the United States, but at activity outside the United States. Things like going into Afghanistan, or the Predator, or other things. This was not on the list of recommended actions of -- in fact, I think as you heard Sandy Berger say when he got this question about the possible cells in the United States -- he got this question in the hearing, and he said that this was being followed up by the FBI, which is exactly what this memo says, is that the FBI is conducting 70 investigations.
QUESTION: I know you don't want to go into the President's reaction, but can you tell us whether he read the PDB, the article, or whether he was briefed on it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We don't have any information on that. I actually just don't know the answer to that. The norm would be that he has both, that he was given the book and reads it, and the briefer may provide -- may answer questions or provide additional detail. But that's simply a normal process over all of the briefings that the President takes. The President likes an interactive process for his briefer. As you know, it's something that he revived, because he's very interested in intelligence, at the beginning of his term, he revived the practice of actually having a long intelligence briefing in the morning with his DCI present, so that he could have interaction with the briefer, to both read the material, get additional color on it from either the DCI or the briefer, and to be able to ask questions. But as far as what happened in this particular incident, I don't think we have anything on that for you.
QUESTION: He was in Crawford at the time, I believe -- correct me if I'm wrong --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Correct.
QUESTION: Was he briefed in person?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He was briefed in person.
QUESTION: And it was on -- he was actually briefed on August 6th, is that right?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Correct.
QUESTION: And a second question -- you've said a number of times that none of the threats described in this PDB had anything to do with 9/11, but they involved parts of the same network of terrorists, did they not?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Again, I don't think, going back to Osama bin Laden's public statements -- he said publicly in '97 and '98 that his followers should try to "bring the fighting to America." I don't think it's a surprise to anyone looking at the history of that organization that they wanted to attack our country. I mean -- and as I said before, as the PDB notes, the presence of people and individuals associated or affiliated with al Qaeda in the U.S. wasn't new information. This had been well-known in the intelligence and law enforcement communities for a number of years. So I don't understand your question, given the facts of the matter.
QUESTION: Well, I wonder if you could explain how you know that none of these had anything to do with any of the personnel involved in September 11th.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, the two -- almost all of the information in this piece is historical. There are 17 sentences in the piece; 14 of the sentences relate to historical information or previous incidents. The 15th sentence says, the FBI is conducting current investigations. The other two are things that were closer to the present time -- the one about the possible surveillance and the one about the unidentified caller. Those two were checked out and neither of them was determined to have had any ties to 9/11. The two Yemenis were determined to be tourist related photographs. And we could not find any connection between the information that was provided by the caller to the UIE and September 11th.
So I think that's what my colleague means is that there's -- for all of these other 14 things in there that -- they're part of al Qaeda and we know that al Qaeda did this to us, it's all part -- maybe all part of one organization. But there's nothing in here that we can show was tied to the 9/11 plot.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Is this the only PDB in which al Qaeda is mentioned, or are there others?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, there are more than 40 over the period that the President was briefed, from the time he took office to September 11th. The al Qaeda was regularly mentioned to the President and the various things that they were doing. That was what prompted the President's comment to Dr. Rice in May that, "I am tired of swatting at flies," because the PDBs would indicate they are here, they are there, they're in this country, they're in that country. And the DCI would generally tell him the things that were being done to address these different al Qaeda operations in different countries. And that is when the President responded, "I am tired of swatting at flies." And Dr. Rice said, "We are preparing a comprehensive strategy for you to do something about them."
QUESTION: And just to follow up, if this is -- even a fair amount of it is reviewing ground that was well-known in intel circles about al Qaeda, it's still got a fairly alarmist tone to this PDB. And why is -- if I'm hearing you right, the only thing that's really done in reaction to this is this May 17th joint counterterror meeting. I mean, what else really, in terms of the tree shaking bit, Dr. Rice kind of disparaged at the testimony, what else really gets done after this?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, that's an easy one. Remember, this is basically coming at the end of an extremely long spring and summer period where the administration really has been at battle stations and is doing something absolutely every day. We have issued -- State Department has issued warnings, the Defense Department has issued warnings, the FAA has issued numerous warnings, the FBI has issued numerous warnings, the CSG is meeting almost every day, sometimes twice a day. The President is discussing this with the DCI and with Dr. Rice in his office every morning when the issue comes up. Dr. Rice is talking about it each morning in her phone calls with the Secretaries of State and the Secretary of Defense. She's talking about it with the DCI. There are -- the Vice President, members of the NSC staff and the DCI are making phone calls to foreign intelligence services, to foreign leaders saying, get us anything you have. The CIA is telling all of its chiefs of station around the world, be on the highest levels of alert, send us any information that you've got.
So this is not the only thing that is being done. This is sort of at the end of the summer when, in fact, people have been told that it looks like things may be petering off and the President asks this question. This is what this has been prepared -- been prepared in response to. But this is after a long spring and summer of an extremely heightened level of alert and activity.
And then just one last point. On the UAE call, it's not that the only thing that was done was to have a meeting; that was just -- the point there was simply that within -- that the call was made on the 15th; CIA reported the information on the 16th. As soon as the information was received, the counterterrorism staff here immediately convened a meeting to review it to make sure that everybody was aware of it. And then, there's a long chronology which we didn't put in here of about 12 or 15 steps of actions that were taken by CIA or other agencies to run down the information on this particular report and the names that were mentioned in it.
QUESTION: Right, so this really did raise the sense of urgency. It was --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I wouldn't say this raised the sense of urgency. I'm not sure what you mean by "this," but if you mean this, the piece, I'd say, the sense -- the sense of urgency had been raised starting in the May-June timetable. And, if anything, this was more sort of towards the end of the period -- in fact, the intelligence that had been coming in at this point was more that whatever seemed to be coming seemed to have been put off.
QUESTION: Right. But this is more -- in other words, was this different in kind than previous reports, or was this --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You have to keep going back to the point -- again, I have to remind you -- the threat data was showing threats overseas. This piece you have was brought to the President at the President's request. You have to keep going back to remember that fact.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you.
QUESTION: Hi, gentlemen. Thank you. You'll have to forgive me, looking for a little bit of background and context for those of us who don't read Presidential Daily Briefings on a regular basis. I'm just a little surprised that so much of this is -- that there's a classified document the President sees every morning that is mostly made up of information that is publicly already known. Is that what PDBs usually consist of?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Do I sense a little bit of irony in your tone? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Perhaps. (Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me tell you something. One of the biggest issues in intelligence collection and analysis these days is how much information is simply publicly available that can be used and analyzed, and how much information comes from clandestine sources. And there's a whole cottage industry of people out there who, in fact, say, look, if you spend enough time simply analyzing -- collecting, analyzing, compiling the open-source intelligence, you can tell a lot.
So, in fact, the PDB items and all intelligence items are almost always a combination of clandestine information from human sources, signals, intelligence, other kinds of sources, as well as open stuff. And so this was telling the President -- which might not necessarily be in the front of everybody's mind, that, in fact, bin Laden -- you've asked, is bin Laden interested in hitting the U.S. Yes, Mr. President, he has, in fact, he said it publicly in 1997 and 1998, and has issued fatwas and has declared his intent to strike the U.S.
So much of the information in here, yes, is classified, highly classified. But the fact that bin Laden was interested in hitting the U.S. is, in fact -- really should not have come as a surprise to people.
QUESTION: I guess I don't understand what's highly classified if it's publicly already well-known. Those seem like oxymorons to me.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, it's a mix of information. The fact that bin Laden was interested in hitting the U.S. was publicly known. The details of some of the things that are in this report, of things that were said by individual terrorists were, in fact, highly classified at the time because they came from intelligence sources.
QUESTION: Thank you so much.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would just point out, as you note on there, the parts that are redacted -- which are the names of foreign governments that we work closely with, obviously, to provide information to our government -- that helps answer your question further, I think.
QUESTION: Thank you, yes.
QUESTION: Gentlemen, how are you?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Fine.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. My question is, after the warnings went out from the various government agencies, do you know what, specifically, they did, beyond issuing the warnings. For example, what did the FAA have airports do, in terms of airport security personnel? And what specifically, beyond -- did the FBI report back on the results of their investigations?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You would have to check with them on the details of that. I don't, sitting here, know the answers to that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: I apologize if you already answered this, but I don't think you did. I was trying to figure out if the President -- having requested this information in the first place, then requested a follow-up on the caller to the UAE and to the people who had been doing the surveillance?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Don't have any information for you on the President's specific reactions to this piece.
QUESTION: Okay. If he didn't request it, was he later informed about the follow-up to those two pieces of information?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I didn't say he didn't request it, I said we don't have any information for you on what he requested or what he didn't request.
QUESTION: Was there any follow-up to those two questions that was reported back to the White House?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As I mentioned earlier, on the UAE piece there had been -- in fact, the White House had convened a meeting on the UAE caller and called in all the different government agencies to make sure they were aware of the information and that it was being shared.
QUESTION: And then once it was determined that it was not a threat, was that then passed/// back to the White House? What was the process there? And the same with the surveillance Yemeni guys.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't have any information for you on that. I don't know the answer.
QUESTION: So how should we characterize -- it seems, then, that that sounds like a loose end, that it never doubled back to the White House. I mean, it doesn't sound as though, then, it was resolved.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think they were resolved. In the first case, the FBI went and checked out the information and determined that it was tourist information. On the second, the CIA and FBI and a bunch of other agencies investigated it from the President's point of view, which is what I think you're asking. He was aware, in the case of the UAE call, that CIA and FBI are investigating it. In fact, there are lots of call-ins to embassies. I can tell you, it's like in the United States, people who call in to police stations. There are hundreds, if not more -- you'd have to check with CIA -- of call-ins to embassies. And the mere fact of a call-in to an embassy about a threat is not particularly alarming. The President is told that FBI and CIA are investigating it.
QUESTION: Let me ask you about that, then. How unusual was it that there was this meeting convened at the White House after that call? How often does that usually happen upon notice of a threat?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That happens fairly regularly during a period of a threat spike like this, where everybody is on high alert and they go and check out -- they go and check out everything. I think that's, in fact, why something like this would be put in this report. I think -- anticipating your question of why, if there are lots of call-ins to embassies why was it put in here; and, in fact, we asked the people who prepared that and the answer is, even though there are lots and lots of call-ins, I don't think this stuck out any more than others, other than that this piece overall was about information about bin Laden's interest in striking the U.S. And that was a relevant piece of information, but it was not necessarily any more credible than any others.
QUESTION: Got it. Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: All right, I think we'll take one more.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on that one. If you say the investigation started in May and this is in August, am I to assume that it hadn't been concluded by August?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't think it was concluded by August. Unless things are absolutely put to bed one way or another, they are left open. After September 11th, as you know, people have scrubbed back through every shred of information and we were not able to determine that there was any linkage between the information that this caller made and involvement in September 11th.
QUESTION: And just to sort of round one thing up, you mentioned earlier about patterns of suspicious activity and cited one. What other patterns? I mean, this is July -- in July you have the Phoenix memo and you have some other things popping up.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Glad you asked that question, because I think that's one of the things that is, in fact, somewhat difficult to understand here, which is, what are the patterns of suspicious activity? Let me just reemphasize something that my colleague said, is that the patterns of suspicious activity here are not patterns based on FBI investigative observations, other than the one observation of the surveillance of buildings. The pattern was the CIA analyst's judgment that if you connect -- having talked to the FBI analysts -- that if you connect the threat spike overall with the information from the East Africa defendant that bin Laden might be interested in retaliating if people were convicted, and, in fact, they had just been convicted, and that people had recently been seen surveilling the courthouse where they, in fact, had been convicted, even though -- although she did not know it at this time -- that this surveillance turned out to be tourist-related; that if, in her judgment, if you connected those dots, that seemed to be a pattern of possibly suspicious activity in this country.
But just to be clear here, this was not based on FBI information -- FBI observations of patterns of suspicious activity derived from their investigative observations, other than that one of surveillance of the courthouse later determined to be tourist-related.
QUESTION: But to put it a different way, to prepare this paper, no one went back to the FBI to ask for all the information they had relative to potential hijacking?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The analyst called -- the CIA analyst called an FBI analyst for information that would be relevant. And the FBI analyst provided the information that we just described to you.
QUESTION: Right. Okay. ThankS.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay, everybody, well, thank you. Appreciate the good questions, and we'll talk to you soon.