New York Gov. George Pataki defended President
Bush Thursday morning in the wake of Wednesday night's report
that the White House had been briefed last August on the
possibility that terrorists linked to Osama bin Laden were
plotting to hijack U.S. airliners.
"After the fact, everybody knows everything and everybody's
a genius," Pataki told radioman Don Imus.
"You can always put things together and say - you know,
it's like Pearl Harbor. They're still writing books about how
FDR knew about the attack. No one knows what information the
president did or didn't have on Dec. 6."
The New York governor, who, along with former New York City
Mayor Rudy Giuliani became a symbol of America's resolve in
the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks, suggested that no matter
what information the CIA briefed to the White House last
summer, the problem was one of coordination of the different
"I think that what the president has been saying is right,"
Pataki told Imus. "You can't have the FBI operating a little
fiefdom and the CIA operating a separate one and other parts
of the Justice Department just going their own way."
Pataki adressed reports this week that FBI agents in
Phoenix and Minneapolis had uncovered evidence of the 9-11
plot last summer, but didn't connect the dots.
"There's no question in hindisight that - why does someone
who comes from the Middle East on a temporary visa want to
learn only how to fly a plane level," the governor said. "It
immediately has to raise enormous questions."
But he reminded Imus that Bush had inherited an
intelligence community from the Clinton administration that
had been oblivious to the terrorist threat.
"I think it just points out that you have to have people
who are on top of things," he said. "And for the longest time,
it seems to me, the administration - not this administration
but prior administrations - weren't particularly focused on
the global war against terrorism or the threat that it could
place against American citizens."
Still, the New York governor said that regardless of what
signals had been missed in the past, the government is now
alert to potential attacks.
"Now we all are. And thank God we are," he told Imus. "But
I don't think it's fair to go back and place ourselves in
Sept. 10, pull together various pieces of information and link
it together now."
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