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King: Bush 'furious' about criticism

CNN Senior White House Correspondent John King
CNN Senior White House Correspondent John King  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush is making his feelings apparent toward the criticism leveled at the White House about its handling of intelligence warnings of terror attacks before September 11. CNN White House Correspondent John King talked about that Friday with anchor Paula Zahn.

KING: (It's) a little more than a full day since we learned about that briefing the president received back in August about the possibility, considered remote at the time, but the possibility of an al Qaeda hijacking plot.

As this has ... is proceeding ... on two tracks. On one, there is the policy track, and even the White House concedes very legitimate questions.

Exactly what did the president know? What did the FBI know? What did the CIA know before the September 11 attacks and what did the government do about it?

Included in that debate now is this briefing to the president. He was told there could be an al Qaeda hijacking plot. What did he do to act on that information?

Now the administration says even before that, it had put out general warnings to the airlines (about potential) hijackings.

Some of the airlines are saying that information was so vague they had no way of acting on it in any way to actually know what to do or improve security. So that will be part of the debate.

The White House also is suggesting that it senses a bit of politics here.

The president went up to Capitol Hill yesterday, smiling in public. We are told ... he told Senate Republicans there was "a sniff of politics in the air," that he believed Democrats were taking advantage of this to suggest in public that perhaps he knew enough to do something about the attacks.

We are told this morning (Friday) the president is furious that some Democrats are saying in public that he had enough information to at least try to do something.

Vice President Cheney addressed that point directly last night, cautioning the Democrats not to play politics with this issue.

So this is both complicated and sensitive and it will go on for weeks, if not months.

A number of congressional inquiries are now planned about this, and again the White House says some of these questions are quite legitimate.

What did the government know? What did it do about that information? Did the agencies share information?

Early answers to some of those questions are no, and perhaps those agencies should have shared that information.




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