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At Camp David, Advise and Dissent

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The CIA director also described a role for the opposition tribes in the southern part of Afghanistan, groups hostile to the northern opposition forces but crucial to a campaign against al Qaeda and the Taliban. Tenet said the CIA had begun working with a number of tribal leaders in the south the previous year. Some would try to play on both sides, he said, but once the war began, they could be enticed by money, food, ammunition and supplies to join the U.S.-led campaign.

On the financial front, Tenet called for clandestine computer surveillance and electronic eavesdropping to locate the assets of al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, with a particular focus on the charitable groups that were a critical element in bin Laden's funding.

Tenet then turned to another top secret document, called the "Worldwide Attack Matrix," which described covert operations in 80 countries that were either underway or that he was now recommending. The actions ranged from routine propaganda to lethal covert action in preparation for military attacks. Included were efforts to disrupt terrorist plots or attacks in countries in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. In some countries, CIA teams would break into facilities to obtain information.

Because the CIA had been working aggressively against terrorism for years, Tenet said, the agency had done extensive target development and network analysis. What it needed was money and flexibility -- so the CIA could move quickly, even instantly, if it discovered terrorist targets -- and broad authority.

Rumsfeld was enthusiastic about what Tenet laid out that morning, despite potential friction between the CIA and the Pentagon over roles and responsibilities in any military campaign. "I was convinced we had to get people on the ground," Rumsfeld said in an interview. "And to the extent the CIA had relationships or could develop relationships that would facilitate that, [then] that would be critically important."

"Rumsfeld understood the utility of having the CIA involved," the president said in an interview last month. "I think he quickly grasped what I grasped. . . . It was near unanimity on the immediate plan for Afghanistan, which was to mate up our assets with the Northern Alliance troops."

When the CIA director finished his presentation, Bush left no doubt what he thought of it, virtually shouting with enthusiasm: "Great job."

After a break, Bush turned to Robert S. Mueller III, who had taken over as FBI director the week before the attacks.

Mueller, a former federal prosecutor, had spent years working on the 1988 terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. He knew that the worst thing that could happen to an FBI director was to have a major domestic terrorist incident on his watch. The second thing he knew was that he had not prepared a presentation. He had been shocked that he had been invited to the Camp David war-planning session and expected to be called on somewhat later, if at all.

Not used to the company and slightly intimidated by the presence of the nation's top leadership, Mueller soon found himself giving a routine summary of the investigation into the four Sept. 11 hijackings. He told other FBI officials afterward that he was so unhappy with his own performance that he brought his remarks to an early close. At least one of the president's advisers concluded that the FBI was still too focused on prosecuting terrorists and not on preventing them from acting.

Attorney General John D. Ashcroft provided an update to the group on his efforts to develop a legislative package to expand the powers of law enforcement to fight terrorism. He outlined a two-phase strategy, aimed first at "immediate disruption and prevention of terrorism" and followed by longer-term efforts to put terrorists "off keel." Ashcroft warned that it was "important to disrupt" the terrorists now, but added, "We need to remember these are patient people," noting that eight years passed between the two attacks on the World Trade Center. The administration needed a new long-term strategy, he said, "because that's the kind of strategy they have in place."

The final presentation of the morning came from Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who had also brought a big briefcase to Camp David. Bush had ordered the Pentagon to come to the meeting with plenty of options, and Shelton was prepared to talk about military action against both Afghanistan and, if pressed, Iraq, although he opposed that step then. But as the day developed, he discussed only three options, all aimed at Afghanistan.


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