Bush at War [NOOK Book]

Overview

With his unmatched investigative skill, Bob Woodward tells the behind-the-scenes story of how President George W. Bush and his top national security advisers, after the initial shock of the September 11 attacks, led the nation to war.
Extensive quotations from the secret deliberations of the National Security Council -- and firsthand revelations of the private thoughts, concerns and fears of the president and his war cabinet -- make Bush at ...
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Bush at War

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Overview

With his unmatched investigative skill, Bob Woodward tells the behind-the-scenes story of how President George W. Bush and his top national security advisers, after the initial shock of the September 11 attacks, led the nation to war.
Extensive quotations from the secret deliberations of the National Security Council -- and firsthand revelations of the private thoughts, concerns and fears of the president and his war cabinet -- make Bush at War an unprecedented chronicle of a modern presidency in time of grave crisis.
Based on interviews with more than a hundred sources and four hours of exclusive interviews with the president, Bush at War reveals Bush's sweeping, almost grandiose, vision for remaking the world. "I'm not a textbook player, I'm a gut player," the president said.
Woodward's virtual wiretap into the White House Situation Room reveals a stunning group portrait of an untested president and his advisers, three of whom might themselves have made it to the presidency.
Vice President Dick Cheney, taciturn but hard-line, always pressing for more urgency in Afghanistan and toward Iraq.
Secretary of State Colin Powell, the cautious diplomat and loyal soldier, tasked with building an international coalition in an administration prone to unilateralism.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the brainy agitator and media star who led the military through Afghanistan and, he hopes, through Iraq.
National security adviser Condoleezza Rice, the ever-present troubleshooter who surprisingly emerges as perhaps the president's most important adviser.
Bush at War includes a vivid portrait of CIA director George Tenet, ready and eager for covert action against terrorists in Afghanistan and worldwide. It follows a CIA paramilitary team leader on a covert mission inside Afghanistan to pay off assets and buy friends with millions in U.S. currency carried in giant suitcases.
In Bush at War, Bob Woodward once again delivers a reporting tour de force.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Bush at War is a gripping book that takes us behind the scenes, showing our leaders confronting some of the greatest issues confronting us in modern times. Watergate icon Bob Woodward uses quotations from 50 National Security Council meetings in the 100 days following 9/11, tracking the process by which policy and program were hammered out. To this record he added takes from White House, Pentagon, and Camp David conversations, in effect giving us a front-row seat to history unfolding.

At the heart of the story is how the Bush team forced out the Taliban, scattered Al Qaeda, and created a worldwide anti-terrorism alliance -- all within 100 days.

Woodward captures the tension of competing agendas: as the president focused on rapid response, other top officials worked on signing up allies, winning time to develop workable military plans, and validating intelligence on Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban.

As the "Let's roll" pressure builds, Woodward captures the principals' anxieties about their risk-heavy plan. They had listened and learned, but garbled communications, lost aircraft, collateral damage, defecting allies, and post-Taliban quagmires still threatened. Yet surprisingly little went wrong as a new-style, post-9/11 rapid response war was fought and won. Peter Skinner

Publishers Weekly
Quoting liberally from transcripts of National Security Council meetings and hundreds of interviews with those in the presidential inner circle, including four hours of interviews with Bush himself, the Washington Post assistant managing editor, best-selling author and Watergate muckraker manages to provide a nonpartisan account of the first 100 days of the post September 11 war on terror. While Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, President Bush and CIA Director George Tenet are impressive, Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz come off as hawkish and reactionary, repeatedly calling for a strike against Iraq in the first days of the conflict while pushing for a more widespread, global war. Woodward does an excellent job of exposing the seat-of-their-pants planning sessions conducted at the highest levels of power and the hectic diplomacy practiced by Powell and Bush in trying to get the air war against Afghanistan off the ground. He also brings to light the divisions among the planners concerning the bombing in Afghanistan, which made little impact until late in the game, when the Taliban lines were finally hit. In addition to recounting the heated arguments about when and how to retaliate against Al Qaeda, Woodward also follows Special Ops agents flown into Afghanistan with millions in payoff money weeks in advance of any other American presence. Living in harsh conditions with little to no support, these "110 CIA officers and 316 Special Forces personnel," in this account, ran the show, and effectively won the war with their intelligence gathering operations. While at times relying a bit too heavily on transcribed conversations, Woodward nonetheless offers one of the first truly insightful and informative accounts of the decision making process in the war on terror. 16 pages of b&w photos. ( Nov.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Foreign Affairs
There was a time when it was necessary to wait for memoirs and the opening of archives before finding out how senior policymakers had handled the great issues of war and peace. We now expect an instant running commentary, and few are so well placed to provide one as Woodward. He had access to the key Washington players as they orchestrated the "war on terror" and also to notes of their meetings. The result is always informative and often riveting, as much for the early tussles over policy toward Iraq as for the conduct of the campaign against al Qaeda. Woodward insists he provides only corroborated "facts," but he still distorts the overall picture by relying too much on cooperation with the key players and by paying too little attention to the actual course of events on the ground (especially from the battle of Tora Bora on) or failing to consider the wider context. As with Woodward's book on the Persian Gulf War, The Commanders, quick publication brings scoops but also a lack of perspective.
From the Publisher
Thomas Powers The New York Times Book Review Remarkable...Bush at War is akin to an unofficial transcript of 100 days of debate over war in Afghanistan.

Evan Thomas Newsweek Human and convincing in its telling detail.

Steve Neal Chicago Sun-Times Woodward has produced the best book yet written about the September 11 terrorist attacks on America and how Bush fought back.

Fred Barnes The Weekly Standard Woodward...is the best pure reporter of his generation, perhaps ever. He uncovers more things than anyone else.

James Rubin The New York Observer A great read...Bob Woodward has unearthed important new information on the behind-the-scenes struggles that have led to success — and failure — in President Bush's War on Terror.

Fouad Ajami The Washington Post Book World A work of spareness and authority...We are fortunate to have this richly detailed view of our nation's central policy command.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743215381
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 11/21/2002
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 221,550
  • File size: 17 MB
  • Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

Meet the Author

Bob Woodward
Bob Woodward is an associate editor at The Washington Post, where he has worked for forty-one years. He has shared in two Pulitzer Prizes, first for The Washington Post’s coverage of the Watergate scandal, and later for coverage of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He has authored or coauthored twelve #1 national nonfiction bestsellers. He has two daughters, Tali and Diana, and lives in Washington, DC, with his wife, writer Elsa Walsh.

Biography

Perhaps the only journalist who can claim to feature both Judy Belushi and Ronald and Nancy Reagan on his list of enemies, Washington Post editor and Watergate watchdog Bob Woodward is famously (purposefully?) a lightning rod for criticism. Woodward raises as many eyebrows for his anonymous sourcing as he summons applause for his scorched-earth approach in interviewing masses of people for every project; the extensive information he digs up is held in awe, yet greetings from the nation's book critics and journalists don't always read like love letters. Joan Didion, in the pages of The New York Review of Books called The Choice, his account of the 1996 presidential campaign, "political pornography."

The New Republic opened its review of The Agenda: Inside the Clinton White House by pleading with readers not to buy the book. Frank Rich, the opinion columnist for The New York Times, said that Woodward's book Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate should have instead been entitled All the Presidents Stink, since none of the nation's post-Watergate presidents seemed able to withstand the author's tut-tutting over minor peccadilloes.

For the record, Judy Belushi objected to what she called Woodward's overly negative portrait of husband John's drug use and lifestyle excesses in the 1984 biography Wired, and the Reagans didn't like what he had to say about deceased CIA Director William Casey in Veil.

Still, Woodward delivers the goods.

On the job for nine months as a night cops reporter for The Washington Post in 1972, Woodward lucked into the petty crime of the century: the break-in at Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate complex. Woodward and reporter Carl Bernstein's investigation reached the highest levels of the Nixon White House, and has become a template for investigative journalism ever since. Thousands of students have poured out of journalism schools in the ensuing years -- for better or worse -- sniffing the winds for their own private Watergate.

Woodward himself hasn't found it, but he has maintained a reputation as the investigator within American journalism, often winning unparalleled access to his subjects and developing a reputation for almost manic multiple-fact-checking of information. After turning the Watergate story into the book and film All the President's Men, Woodward and Bernstein -- or "Woodstein," as they became known in the Post's newsroom -- collaborated on a second book, The Final Days, a look at the end of the Nixon presidency. In 1979, Woodward cast his glance around Washington and found The Brethren, an inside look at the inner workings of the Supreme Court, this time with co-author Scott Armstrong.

Aside from the Belushi biography, Woodward has stuck to the political. He went inside the Clinton White House with The Agenda, inside the CIA with Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987 (raising questions about his mysterious hospital interview with a groggy Bill Casey) and inside the 1996 Clinton-Dole duel for the presidency in The Choice.

Woodward is the only author to publish four books on a sitting president during the president's time in office. He spent more time than any other journalist or author interviewing President Bush on the record -- a total of nearly 11 hours in six separate sessions from 2001 to 2008.

His four books on President George W. Bush are Bush at War (2002), about the response to 9/11 and the initial invasion of Afghanistan; Plan of Attack (2004), on how and why Bush decided to invade Iraq; State of Denial (2006), about Bush's refusal to acknowledge for nearly three years that the Iraq war was not going well as violence and instability reached staggering levels; and The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008 (2008), about the deep divisions and misunderstandings on war strategy between the civilians and the military as the president finally decided to add 30,000 troops in a surge.

In every case, Woodward digs deep. And it all started when he was a teenager, working one summer as a janitor in his father's law office in Wheaton, Ill. He made his way through the papers in his father's desk, his father's partner's desk and the files in the attic.

"I looked up all my classmates and their families, and there were IRS audits or divorces or grand juries that did not lead to indictment," he told U.S. News and World Report in 2002. "It was a cold shower to see that the disposed files contained the secret lives of many of the people in this perfect town and showed they weren't perfect."

Good To Know

Richard Nixon said his wife, Pat, had a stroke while reading the Woodward and Bernstein book Final Days.

Woodward once briefly dated reporter Leslie Stahl, who also covered the Watergate story, even to the point of following John Dean into a men's room to continue questioning him.

He voted for Richard Nixon.
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    1. Hometown:
      Washington, D.C.
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 26, 1943
    2. Place of Birth:
      Geneva, Illinois
    1. Education:
      B.A., Yale University, 1965

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Tuesday, September 11, 2001, began as one of those spectacular pre-fall days on the East Coast, sunny, temperatures in the 70s, light winds, the sky a vivid light blue. With President George W. Bush traveling in Florida that morning promoting his education agenda, his intelligence chief, CIA Director George J. Tenet, didn't have to observe the 8 A.M. ritual of personally briefing the president at the White House on the latest and most important top secret information flowing into America's vast spy empire.

Instead Tenet, 48, a hefty, outgoing son of Greek immigrants, was having a leisurely breakfast at the St. Regis Hotel, three blocks north of the White House, with the man who was most responsible for his rise in the world of secret intelligence -- former Oklahoma Democratic Senator David L. Boren. The two had struck up an unusually close friendship going back 13 years when Tenet was a mid-level staffer on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which Boren chaired. Boren had found Tenet to be a gifted briefer and had jumped him over others with more seniority to make him staff director, a post which granted him access to virtually all the nation's intelligence secrets.

Boren then recommended Tenet to President-elect Bill Clinton in 1992, urging that he be appointed to head the administration's transition team on intelligence. The following year, Tenet was named National Security Council staff director for intelligence, responsible for coordinating all intelligence matters for the White House, including covert action. In 1995, Clinton named him deputy CIA director, and two years after that, he appointed him director of central intelligence (DCI), charged with heading the CIA and the vast U.S. intelligence community.

High-strung and a workaholic, Tenet had a heart attack while he was NSC intelligence staff director. He could be volatile. During President Clinton's second term, when he was CIA director, he stormed out of a principals' committee meeting that included the secretaries of state and defense but not the president. He thought the meeting, which was keeping him from attending his son's school Christmas play, was droning on too long. "Fuck you, I'm leaving" had been his parting comment. But Tenet had since learned how to control his temper.

In early 2001, Boren called President-elect Bush, praising Tenet as nonpartisan and urging him to keep him on as CIA director. Ask your father, he suggested. When the younger Bush did, the former President George H.W. Bush said, "From what I hear, he's a good fellow," one of the highest accolades in the Bush family lexicon. Tenet, who has a keen nose for cultivating political alliances, had helped the senior Bush push through the controversial nomination of Robert Gates as CIA director in 1991, and later led the effort to rename CIA headquarters for Bush, himself a former DCI.

The former president also told his son, the most important thing you'll do as president every day is get your intelligence briefing.

Beginning with his time heading the Senate Intelligence Committee staff, Tenet had developed an understanding of the importance of human intelligence, HUMINT in spycraft. In an era of dazzling breakthroughs in signals intelligence, SIGINT -- phone, teletype and communications intercepts and code breaking -- and overhead satellite photography and radar imagery, the CIA had downgraded the role of HUMINT. But Tenet earmarked more money for human intelligence and the training of case officers, the clandestine service operatives who work undercover recruiting and paying spies and agents in foreign governments -- called "sources" or "assets."

Without case officers, Tenet knew, there would be no human sources to provide intelligence, no access to governments, opposition groups or other organizations abroad, little inside information, little opportunity for covert action. And covert action to effect change in foreign countries was part of the agency's charter, however controversial, misguided or bungled it may have been over the years.

The case officers were the critical first step. At one point in the 1990s, only 12 were being trained for the future in the year-long intensive program at the CIA facility called "the Farm" in the Virginia countryside. In 2001, Tenet had 10 times as many in training, an incredible jump. It was designed to increase HUMINT and make covert action, if authorized by the president, possible. All this had been done during the Clinton years.

"What are you worried about these days?" Boren asked Tenet that morning.

"Bin Laden," Tenet replied, referring to terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, an exiled Saudi who was living in Afghanistan and had developed the worldwide network al Qaeda, Arabic for "the Base." He was convinced that bin Laden was going to do something big, he said.

"Oh, George!" Boren said. For the last two years he had been listening to his friend's concerns about bin Laden. How could one private person without the resources of a foreign government be such a threat? he asked.

"You don't understand the capabilities and the reach of what they're putting together," Tenet said.

Boren was worried that his friend had developed an unhealthy obsession about bin Laden. Nearly two years earlier, just before the 2000 millennium celebration, Tenet had taken the highly unusual and risky step of personally warning Boren not to travel or appear at big public events over New Year's Eve or New Year's Day because he anticipated major attacks.

More recently, Tenet had worried that there would be attacks during the July 4, 2001, celebration. Though he didn't disclose it to Boren, there had been 34 specific communications intercepts among various bin Laden associates that summer making declarations such as "Zero hour is tomorrow" or "Something spectacular is coming." There had been so many of these intercepts -- often called chatter -- picked up in the intelligence system and so many reports of threats that Tenet had gone to maximum alert. It seemed like an attack of some sort was imminent against U.S. embassies abroad or concentrations of American tourists, but the intelligence never pinpointed when or where or by what method.

Nothing had happened, but Tenet said it was the issue he was losing sleep over.

Suddenly, several of Tenet's security guards approached. They were not strolling. They were bolting toward the table.

Uh-oh, Boren thought.

"Mr. Director," one of them said, "there's a serious problem."

"What is it?" Tenet asked, indicating that it was okay to speak freely.

"The World Trade tower has been attacked."

One of them handed Tenet a cell phone and he called headquarters.

"So they put the plane into the building itself?" Tenet asked incredulously.

He ordered his key people to gather in his conference room at CIA headquarters. He would be there in about 15-20 minutes.

"This has bin Laden all over it," Tenet told Boren. "I've got to go." He also had another reaction, one that raised the real possibility that the CIA and the FBI had not done all that could have been done to prevent the terrorist attack. "I wonder," Tenet said, "if it has anything to do with this guy taking pilot training." He was referring to Zacarias Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent whom the FBI had detained in Minnesota the previous month after he had acted suspiciously at a local flight training school.

Moussaoui's case was very much on his mind. In August, the FBI had asked the CIA and the National Security Agency to run phone traces on any calls Moussaoui had made abroad. He was already the subject of a five-inch-thick file in the bureau. As Tenet hopped in his car to go to the 258-acre CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, the past, present and future of his counterterrorism efforts were swirling in his head.

The CIA had been after bin Laden for more than five years, and increasingly so after the devastating 1998 bin Laden-sponsored terrorist bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that had left more than 200 people dead. At that time, President Clinton directed the U.S. military to launch 66 cruise missiles into terrorist training camps in Afghanistan where bin Laden was believed to be in a high-level meeting. But he had apparently left a few hours before the missiles arrived.

In 1999, the CIA commenced a covert operation to train 60 commandos from the Pakistani intelligence agency to enter Afghanistan to capture bin Laden. But the operation was aborted because of a military coup in Pakistan. More ambitious and riskier options had been weighed in seemingly endless meetings with the top Clinton national security officials.

One option that had been considered was a clandestine helicopter-borne night assault on bin Laden with a small, elite U.S. military Special Forces unit of roughly 40 men. It would require aerial refueling, as the helicopters would have to fly some 900 miles. But they were spooked by the 1980 Desert One operation President Carter had ordered to rescue the American hostages held in Iran when several aircraft had crashed in the desert, and the downing of two Blackhawk helicopters in Somalia during a 1993 mission, which had led to 18 American deaths. The military said a raid on bin Laden might fail and could involve substantial U.S. casualties. Intelligence reports also showed that bin Laden had his key lieutenants keep their families with the entourage, and Clinton was opposed to any operation that might kill women and children.

A U.S. Special Forces unit and U.S. submarines capable of firing cruise missiles were put on alert, but they required six to ten hours advance warning about bin Laden's future location.

One of the most guarded secrets in the CIA was the existence of 30 recruited Afghan agents, operating under the codeword GE/SENIORS, who had been paid to track bin Laden around Afghanistan for the last three years. The group, which was paid $10,000 a month, could move together or break into smaller tracking teams of five men.

The CIA had daily secure communications with the "Seniors" as they were called, and had bought them vehicles and motorcycles. But tracking bin Laden grew increasingly difficult. He moved at irregular times, often departing suddenly at night.

Incredibly, the Seniors seemed to have him located most of the time, but they were never able to provide "actionable" intelligence -- to say with any confidence that he would remain there for the time needed to shoot cruise missiles at the location. And the CIA failed to recruit a reliable human spy in bin Laden's circle who could tip them to his plans.

There were those in the Clinton White House and national security apparatus who were skeptical of the Seniors, because at times there was contradictory intelligence about bin Laden's location. And in Afghanistan people, especially intelligence assets, were regularly bought off.

Neither Clinton, nor Bush to this moment, had given the CIA lethal authority to send the Seniors or other paid CIA assets to kill or assassinate bin Laden. The presidential ban on assassination, first signed by President Gerald Ford, had the force of law.

During one period, the leader of the Afghan Seniors had met several times with the CIA station chief from Islamabad, Pakistan, who controlled and paid them. The Senior leader maintained that they had shot at bin Laden's convoy on two occasions in self-defense, which was permissible, but he wanted to go after the convoy in a concerted way, proposing an ambush -- shoot everything up, kill everyone and then run.

The CIA station chief kept saying, "No, you can't, you can't do that." It would violate U.S. law.

Given the money that was available, the covert action resources and the atmosphere, Tenet figured the CIA had done everything they knew how to do. But he had never requested a change in the rules, had never asked Clinton for an intelligence order that would have permitted the Seniors to ambush bin Laden.

The lawyers at the Justice Department or the White House, he believed, would have said no, that it would have violated the assassination ban. He felt bound by the dovish attitude of Clinton and his advisers. Everything was "lawyered to death," he would say. But he too had contributed to that atmosphere during his five and a half years as Clinton's DCI and deputy DCI.

What the rules did permit was for the CIA to seize bin Laden and turn him over to law enforcement, an operation legally known as a "rendering." A big operation to do this was put on the covert action drawing boards. Tenet was convinced that bin Laden would never allow himself to be taken alive, so such an operation, if successful, would lead to his demise.

But all the CIA experts in the Directorate of Operations thought it would not work -- that it would lead to a lot of people getting killed, and not necessarily bin Laden. And Tenet agreed. The plan never went further. A proposal by the Saudis that the CIA place a homing device in the luggage of bin Laden's mother, who was traveling from Saudi Arabia to visit her son in Afghanistan, was also rejected as risky and unlikely to work.

By 9:50 A.M., Tenet was in his seventh floor office. Two commercial passenger airliners had already struck both World Trade Center towers and a third had hit the Pentagon. A fourth hijacked plane was over Pennsylvania apparently heading for the Washington area.

Reports were swamping the system saying that future targets included the White House, the Capitol and the State Department. CIA headquarters, a highly visible and recognizable landmark near the Potomac River, was a possible target. Investigators knew that Ramzi Yousef, an al Qaeda terrorist who was responsible for the first World Trade Center attack in 1993, had had plans to fly a plane packed with explosives into the CIA buildings.

"We have to save our people," Tenet told his senior leadership. "We have to evacuate the building." He wanted everyone out, even the core staff of hundreds from the Counterterrorism Center (CTC) down in the windowless bowels of the building.

Cofer Black, the head of the CTC, looked on this order with skepticism, almost shaking his head. At 52, Black was a veteran covert operator and one of the agency's legends. He had helped in the 1994 capture of Carlos the Jackal, perhaps the most notorious pre-bin Laden international terrorist. Black had thinning hair and wore prominent eyeglasses, and bore a striking resemblance to Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political strategist. He was a throwback to the era when the agency was filled with colorful and eccentric figures. While most everyone in the CIA called Tenet by his first name, Black observed old-school protocol, calling him "Mr. Director" or simply "Sir."

"Sir," Black said, "we're going to have to exempt CTC from this because we need to have our people working the computers."

"Well," Tenet said, "the Global Response Center..." He was referring to the eight people on watch on the sixth floor, near the top of the building, who monitored the latest intelligence on terrorism throughout the world. "They're going to be at risk."

"This is an element -- we're going to have to keep them in place."

"Well, we have to get those people out," Tenet insisted.

"No, sir, we're going to have to leave them there because they have a key function to play in a crisis like this. This is exactly why we have the Global Response Center."

"Well, they could die."

"Sir, then they're just going to have to die."

Tenet paused.

The CIA director was a sort of father protector to the thousands who worked there. In the popular culture and to many in Washington, the CIA was a broken, even unnecessary institution; at best, it was an endangered species of sorts. A director protected.

"You're absolutely right," Tenet finally told Black. The rules, maybe all of them, had changed that morning. Thousands were already dead in New York City and at the Pentagon.

Black sensed an important shift. People, including the director, were maturing before his eyes in a very short period of time, moving from the bureaucratic mode to acceptance of risk, even death. Black was not at all surprised by the attack, but even he was shocked at the level of carnage.

In his three years as counterterrorism chief, he had concluded that if the CTC chief was not more aggressive than his superiors, then they had the wrong person in the job. He had operated against al Qaeda when he was station chief in Khartoum, Sudan, and had been the target of a failed ambush and assassination attempt in 1994. He had made some aggressive, lethal covert action proposals to get bin Laden, but they had been rejected. He figured given the climate, it was probably inevitable.

Now all that had changed.

Tenet ordered the building evacuated, except for those in the Global Response Center.

In Lima, Peru, that morning, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell had just sat down to breakfast with the new president, Alejandro Toledo. Powell was attending an Organization of American States meeting. He anticipated a pleasant series of events with the foreign ministers or leaders of 34 of the 35 countries in the region. Cuba had not been invited.

Toledo was going on and on about U.S. textile quotas. He wanted an exemption for high-quality cotton which he maintained would not compete with lower-quality cotton produced in certain Southern states of the U.S. which of course insisted on the quotas.

Suddenly, the door opened and Craig Kelly, Powell's executive assistant, rushed in with a note written on a piece of paper that had been ripped out of a spiral wire notepad: Two airplanes had crashed into the World Trade Center.

d

Two is not an accident, Powell realized. The next note said it was two jets. Powell thought, I've got to go home. No matter what it was, it was too big for him to be sitting around at a conference of foreign ministers in Peru. The plane, get the plane, he told Kelly. Go tell them we're leaving.

It would take about an hour to get the plane ready, so Powell stopped by the conference. Other foreign ministers made speeches of sympathy. Powell spoke briefly, thanking the assembly members for their condolences and vowing that the U.S. would respond and ultimately prevail. "A terrible, terrible tragedy has befallen my nation," he said, "but...you can be sure that America will deal with this tragedy in a way that brings those responsible to justice. You can be sure that as terrible a day as this is for us, we will get through it because we are a strong nation, a nation that believes in itself."

The others stood and applauded. Powell then raced to the airport for the seven-hour flight. Once the plane took off, Powell found that he couldn't talk to anybody because his communications were connected to the system in the U.S., which was swamped. Without a phone or his e-mail, he was like a man without a country.

After a few minutes, he went to the front of the plane to call over the radio. That meant over-and-out, nonsecure communications. He reached Richard L. Armitage, the deputy secretary of state and his best friend. They spoke several times, but real talk was hopeless. Armitage, a 1967 Naval Academy graduate, had served four tours in Vietnam, and later as an assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration. He was an outspoken, muscular, barrel-chested man who deplored fancy-pants, pin-striped diplomatic talk. Even before they took over the State Department, Powell and Armitage talked several times each day. "I would trust him with my life, my children, my reputation, everything I have," Powell said of Armitage.

Of all the things Powell hated, being out of the action was at the top of the list. A central part of national security policymaking was crisis management. No matter what structure a president, a White House or a national security team might try to impose on the process of policymaking, there was a random quality to some of the big moments. Crisis provided the greatest danger and the greatest opportunity.

At 64, Powell had already sat in three of the seats in the White House Situation Room -- national security adviser to President Reagan for a year, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the first President Bush during the Gulf War and now secretary of state to the new Bush for the last nine months.

A report came that another airliner had hit the Pentagon, and there were vague reports and rumors flying around about all kinds of other planes all over the place.

Powell started to scribble notes to himself. Ever the soldier, he wrote, What are my people going to be responsible for? How is the world, the United States going to respond to this? What about the United Nations? What about NATO? How do I start calling people together?

The seven hours of isolation seemed an eternity for the man who could have been commander in chief.

In 1995, Powell, two years retired from the Army, had considered running for president. He wrote an autobiography, My American Journey, which became a No. 1 national best-seller. He was poised at the epicenter of American politics, with stratospheric poll ratings, the Republican nomination nearly his for the asking, and the presidency within reach.

Armitage had been passionately against it. "It's not worth it. Don't do it," he advised, finally telling his friend, "I don't think you're ready for this." The process of campaigning would be everything Powell hated, "every bad thing you could imagine." Powell liked well-laid plans, order, predictability, a level of certainty that was not part of the hurly-burly of American politics.

It was well known his wife, Alma, was opposed to his running. What was secret was that Alma had flatly told him that if he ran for president she would leave him. "If you run, I'm gone," she said. She feared he would be attacked or shot. Running for president, becoming president, making her first lady was not what she wanted for her life. "You will have to do it alone," she said.

After Bush won the 2000 Republican presidential nomination, Powell signed on to help, but Karl Rove found that the campaign had to move heaven and earth to get him to appear at an event with Bush. Nearly every other important Republican fell in line, not Powell. His people always wanted to know who else would be at an event, what would be said, who the audience was, what was the political purpose. All this seemed designed to determine the political fallout -- on Powell, not Bush. Rove detected a subtle, subversive tendency, as if Powell were protecting his centrist credentials and his own political future at Bush's expense.

Nevertheless, he was an available vehicle to move Bush toward the center, and he became the almost certain choice for secretary of state if Bush were elected. Powell let it be known this was a post he would accept. Within his inner circle, there was a strong sense that voters knew they were choosing a team -- not just Bush and his vice presidential running mate, former Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, but also Powell.

When the Supreme Court declared Bush the winner by 537 votes in the Florida saga, Powell's advisers were convinced that their boss had clearly provided the margin of victory many, many times over.

• • •

In his first months as secretary of state, Powell had never really closed the personal loop with Bush, never established a comfort level -- the natural, at-ease state of closeness that both had with others. There existed a distance between these two affable men -- a wariness -- as if they were stalking each other from afar, never sitting down and having it out, whatever the "it" was. Both Bush and Powell used barracks-room humor freely with others, but rarely with each other.

Rove was disturbed and felt Powell was beyond political control and operating out of a sense of entitlement. "It's constantly, you know, 'I'm in charge, and this is all politics and I'm going to win the internecine political game,' " Rove said privately.

Whenever Powell was too out in front on an issue and became the public face of the administration, the political and communications operations at the White House reined him in, kept him out of the limelight. Rove and Karen P. Hughes, Bush's longtime communications director, now White House counselor, decided who from the administration would appear on the Sunday talk shows, the major television evening news and the morning programs. If the White House didn't call to suggest that he accept the numerous invitations to appear, Powell knew the rules. He told the shows no.

In April 2001, when an American EP-3E military spy plane off the coast of China was intercepted, forced down and taken hostage along with its 24 crew members by the Chinese government, the White House determined to keep Bush away from the issue, so that the president would not appear to be emotionally involved or the negotiator. It was important to behave as if there was no hostage crisis, mindful of how the Iranian hostage crisis had paralyzed President Carter and how the Lebanon hostage situation had become a consuming obsession for President Reagan in the mid-1980s.

The issue was turned over to Powell, who successfully won their release after 11 days. It was a big win, but even then the White House didn't want him on television to take credit.

Powell and Armitage would joke that Powell had been put in the "icebox" or the "refrigerator" -- to be used only when needed.

Just the week before September 11, Time magazine had done a cover story on Powell with the headline, "Where Have You Gone, Colin Powell?" The story said he was leaving "shallow footprints" on policy and losing out to administration hard-liners. It was a very effective hit by the White House, where certain officials had cooperated with the writers to prove that Powell was operating, sometimes desperately, often in isolation, at the edges of the new administration.

Rove, for one, was saying privately that he thought Powell had somehow lost a step and that it was odd to see him uncomfortable in the presence of the president.

Powell and others in his circle had spent hours with the Time reporters unsuccessfully trying to talk them down from the story line. But Powell and Armitage knew the overwhelming power of perception in Washington where charting rise and fall is more than a parlor game. The problem was that the vivid story line would be seen as the truth, even if it wasn't. The larger problem was that it was in part true. Powell was not formulating a foreign policy. He was getting assignments and reacting to one minor crisis after another. But as he once said in private, "Survival at the top is pragmatics."

When he had been chairman of the Joint Chiefs, he had written out some of his favorite sayings and slipped them underneath the glass on his desk in the Pentagon. One said, "Never let them see you sweat."

Copyright © 2002 by Bob Woodward
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Table of Contents

The President of the United States George W. Bush
The Principals
Vice President of the United States Dick Cheney
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Condoleezza Rice
Director of the Central Intelligence Agency George J. Tenet
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard B. Myers
White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr.
The Deputies
Chief of Staff to the Vice President I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby
Deputy Secretary of STate Richard L. Armitage
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz
Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Stephen J. Hadley
Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency John E. McLaughlin
Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace
Other Key Advisers
Commander in Chief, U.S. Central Command General Tommy Franks
Attorney General of the United States John D. Ashcroft
Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Robert S. Mueller III
Counselor to the President Karen P. Hughes
Senior Adviser to the President Karl Rove
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer
The Central Intelligence Agency
Deputy Director for Operations James L. Pavitt
Director of the Counterterrorism Center Cofer Black
Chief of Counterterrorist Special Operations Hank
Jawbreaker Team Leader Gary
The Northern Alliance
Lead Commander Mohammed Fahim
Commander of Forces in Northern Afghanistan Abdurrashid Dostum
Commander of Forces in Northern Afghanistan Attah Mohammad
Commander of Forces in Central Afghanistan Karim Khalili
Commander of Forces in Western Afghanistan Ismail Khan
Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah
Chief of Security Engineer Muhammed Arif Sawari
Interim Leader of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai
Read More Show Less

First Chapter

Chapter 1

Tuesday, September 11, 2001, began as one of those spectacular pre-fall days on the East Coast, sunny, temperatures in the 70s, light winds, the sky a vivid light blue. With President George W. Bush traveling in Florida that morning promoting his education agenda, his intelligence chief, CIA Director George J. Tenet, didn't have to observe the 8 A.M. ritual of personally briefing the president at the White House on the latest and most important top secret information flowing into America's vast spy empire.

Instead Tenet, 48, a hefty, outgoing son of Greek immigrants, was having a leisurely breakfast at the St. Regis Hotel, three blocks north of the White House, with the man who was most responsible for his rise in the world of secret intelligence -- former Oklahoma Democratic Senator David L. Boren. The two had struck up an unusually close friendship going back 13 years when Tenet was a mid-level staffer on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which Boren chaired. Boren had found Tenet to be a gifted briefer and had jumped him over others with more seniority to make him staff director, a post which granted him access to virtually all the nation's intelligence secrets.
 
Boren then recommended Tenet to President-elect Bill Clinton in 1992, urging that he be appointed to head the administration's transition team on intelligence. The following year, Tenet was named National Security Council staff director for intelligence, responsible for coordinating all intelligence matters for the White House, including covert action. In 1995, Clinton named him deputy CIA director, and two years after that, he appointed him director of central intelligence (DCI), charged with heading the CIA and the vast U.S. intelligence community.

High-strung and a workaholic, Tenet had a heart attack while he was NSC intelligence staff director. He could be volatile. During President Clinton's second term, when he was CIA director, he stormed out of a principals' committee meeting that included the secretaries of state and defense but not the president. He thought the meeting, which was keeping him from attending his son's school Christmas play, was droning on too long. "Fuck you, I'm leaving" had been his parting comment. But Tenet had since learned how to control his temper.

In early 2001, Boren called President-elect Bush, praising Tenet as nonpartisan and urging him to keep him on as CIA director. Ask your father, he suggested. When the younger Bush did, the former President George H.W. Bush said, "From what I hear, he's a good fellow," one of the highest accolades in the Bush family lexicon. Tenet, who has a keen nose for cultivating political alliances, had helped the senior Bush push through the controversial nomination of Robert Gates as CIA director in 1991, and later led the effort to rename CIA headquarters for Bush, himself a former DCI.
 
The former president also told his son, the most important thing you'll do as president every day is get your intelligence briefing.

Beginning with his time heading the Senate Intelligence Committee staff, Tenet had developed an understanding of the importance of human intelligence, HUMINT in spycraft. In an era of dazzling breakthroughs in signals intelligence, SIGINT -- phone, teletype and communications intercepts and code breaking -- and overhead satellite photography and radar imagery, the CIA had downgraded the role of HUMINT. But Tenet earmarked more money for human intelligence and the training of case officers, the clandestine service operatives who work undercover recruiting and paying spies and agents in foreign governments -- called "sources" or "assets."

Without case officers, Tenet knew, there would be no human sources to provide intelligence, no access to governments, opposition groups or other organizations abroad, little inside information, little opportunity for covert action. And covert action to effect change in foreign countries was part of the agency's charter, however controversial, misguided or bungled it may have been over the years.

The case officers were the critical first step. At one point in the 1990s, only 12 were being trained for the future in the year-long intensive program at the CIA facility called "the Farm" in the Virginia countryside. In 2001, Tenet had 10 times as many in training, an incredible jump. It was designed to increase HUMINT and make covert action, if authorized by the president, possible. All this had been done during the Clinton years.
 

"What are you worried about these days?" Boren asked Tenet that morning.

"Bin Laden," Tenet replied, referring to terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, an exiled Saudi who was living in Afghanistan and had developed the worldwide network al Qaeda, Arabic for "the Base." He was convinced that bin Laden was going to do something big, he said.

"Oh, George!" Boren said. For the last two years he had been listening to his friend's concerns about bin Laden. How could one private person without the resources of a foreign government be such a threat? he asked.

"You don't understand the capabilities and the reach of what they're putting together," Tenet said.

Boren was worried that his friend had developed an unhealthy obsession about bin Laden. Nearly two years earlier, just before the 2000 millennium celebration, Tenet had taken the highly unusual and risky step of personally warning Boren not to travel or appear at big public events over New Year's Eve or New Year's Day because he anticipated major attacks.

More recently, Tenet had worried that there would be attacks during the July 4, 2001, celebration. Though he didn't disclose it to Boren, there had been 34 specific communications intercepts among various bin Laden associates that summer making declarations such as "Zero hour is tomorrow" or "Something spectacular is coming." There had been so many of these intercepts -- often called chatter -- picked up in the intelligence system and so many reports of threats that Tenet had gone to maximum alert. It seemed like an attack of some sort was imminent against U.S. embassies abroad or concentrations of American tourists, but the intelligence never pinpointed when or where or by what method.

Nothing had happened, but Tenet said it was the issue he was losing sleep over.

Suddenly, several of Tenet's security guards approached. They were not strolling. They were bolting toward the table.
 
Uh-oh, Boren thought.

"Mr. Director," one of them said, "there's a serious problem."

"What is it?" Tenet asked, indicating that it was okay to speak freely.

"The World Trade tower has been attacked."

One of them handed Tenet a cell phone and he called headquarters.

"So they put the plane into the building itself?" Tenet asked incredulously.

He ordered his key people to gather in his conference room at CIA headquarters. He would be there in about 15-20 minutes.

"This has bin Laden all over it," Tenet told Boren. "I've got to go." He also had another reaction, one that raised the real possibility that the CIA and the FBI had not done all that could have been done to prevent the terrorist attack. "I wonder," Tenet said, "if it has anything to do with this guy taking pilot training." He was referring to Zacarias Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent whom the FBI had detained in Minnesota the previous month after he had acted suspiciously at a local flight training school.

Moussaoui's case was very much on his mind. In August, the FBI had asked the CIA and the National Security Agency to run phone traces on any calls Moussaoui had made abroad. He was already the subject of a five-inch-thick file in the bureau. As Tenet hopped in his car to go to the 258-acre CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, the past, present and future of his counterterrorism efforts were swirling in his head.

The CIA had been after bin Laden for more than five years, and increasingly so after the devastating 1998 bin Laden-sponsored terrorist bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that had left more than 200 people dead. At that time, President Clinton directed the U.S. military to launch 66 cruise missiles into terrorist training camps in Afghanistan where bin Laden was believed to be in a high-level meeting. But he had apparently left a few hours before the missiles arrived.

In 1999, the CIA commenced a covert operation to train 60 commandos from the Pakistani intelligence agency to enter Afghanistan to capture bin Laden. But the operation was aborted because of a military coup in Pakistan. More ambitious and riskier options had been weighed in seemingly endless meetings with the top Clinton national security officials.

One option that had been considered was a clandestine helicopter-borne night assault on bin Laden with a small, elite U.S. military Special Forces unit of roughly 40 men. It would require aerial refueling, as the helicopters would have to fly some 900 miles. But they were spooked by the 1980 Desert One operation President Carter had ordered to rescue the American hostages held in Iran when several aircraft had crashed in the desert, and the downing of two Blackhawk helicopters in Somalia during a 1993 mission, which had led to 18 American deaths. The military said a raid on bin Laden might fail and could involve substantial U.S. casualties. Intelligence reports also showed that bin Laden had his key lieutenants keep their families with the entourage, and Clinton was opposed to any operation that might kill women and children.
 
A U.S. Special Forces unit and U.S. submarines capable of firing cruise missiles were put on alert, but they required six to ten hours advance warning about bin Laden's future location.

One of the most guarded secrets in the CIA was the existence of 30 recruited Afghan agents, operating under the codeword GE/SENIORS, who had been paid to track bin Laden around Afghanistan for the last three years. The group, which was paid $10,000 a month, could move together or break into smaller tracking teams of five men.

The CIA had daily secure communications with the "Seniors" as they were called, and had bought them vehicles and motorcycles. But tracking bin Laden grew increasingly difficult. He moved at irregular times, often departing suddenly at night.

Incredibly, the Seniors seemed to have him located most of the time, but they were never able to provide "actionable" intelligence -- to say with any confidence that he would remain there for the time needed to shoot cruise missiles at the location. And the CIA failed to recruit a reliable human spy in bin Laden's circle who could tip them to his plans.

There were those in the Clinton White House and national security apparatus who were skeptical of the Seniors, because at times there was contradictory intelligence about bin Laden's location. And in Afghanistan people, especially intelligence assets, were regularly bought off.

Neither Clinton, nor Bush to this moment, had given the CIA lethal authority to send the Seniors or other paid CIA assets to kill or assassinate bin Laden. The presidential ban on assassination, first signed by President Gerald Ford, had the force of law.

During one period, the leader of the Afghan Seniors had met several times with the CIA station chief from Islamabad, Pakistan, who controlled and paid them. The Senior leader maintained that they had shot at bin Laden's convoy on two occasions in self-defense, which was permissible, but he wanted to go after the convoy in a concerted way, proposing an ambush -- shoot everything up, kill everyone and then run.

The CIA station chief kept saying, "No, you can't, you can't do that." It would violate U.S. law.

Given the money that was available, the covert action resources and the atmosphere, Tenet figured the CIA had done everything they knew how to do. But he had never requested a change in the rules, had never asked Clinton for an intelligence order that would have permitted the Seniors to ambush bin Laden.

The lawyers at the Justice Department or the White House, he believed, would have said no, that it would have violated the assassination ban. He felt bound by the dovish attitude of Clinton and his advisers. Everything was "lawyered to death," he would say. But he too had contributed to that atmosphere during his five and a half years as Clinton's DCI and deputy DCI.

What the rules did permit was for the CIA to seize bin Laden and turn him over to law enforcement, an operation legally known as a "rendering." A big operation to do this was put on the covert action drawing boards. Tenet was convinced that bin Laden would never allow himself to be taken alive, so such an operation, if successful, would lead to his demise.

But all the CIA experts in the Directorate of Operations thought it would not work -- that it would lead to a lot of people getting killed, and not necessarily bin Laden. And Tenet agreed. The plan never went further. A proposal by the Saudis that the CIA place a homing device in the luggage of bin Laden's mother, who was traveling from Saudi Arabia to visit her son in Afghanistan, was also rejected as risky and unlikely to work.


By 9:50 A.M., Tenet was in his seventh floor office. Two commercial passenger airliners had already struck both World Trade Center towers and a third had hit the Pentagon. A fourth hijacked plane was over Pennsylvania apparently heading for the Washington area.

Reports were swamping the system saying that future targets included the White House, the Capitol and the State Department. CIA headquarters, a highly visible and recognizable landmark near the Potomac River, was a possible target. Investigators knew that Ramzi Yousef, an al Qaeda terrorist who was responsible for the first World Trade Center attack in 1993, had had plans to fly a plane packed with explosives into the CIA buildings.

"We have to save our people," Tenet told his senior leadership. "We have to evacuate the building." He wanted everyone out, even the core staff of hundreds from the Counterterrorism Center (CTC) down in the windowless bowels of the building.

Cofer Black, the head of the CTC, looked on this order with skepticism, almost shaking his head. At 52, Black was a veteran covert operator and one of the agency's legends. He had helped in the 1994 capture of Carlos the Jackal, perhaps the most notorious pre-bin Laden international terrorist. Black had thinning hair and wore prominent eyeglasses, and bore a striking resemblance to Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political strategist. He was a throwback to the era when the agency was filled with colorful and eccentric figures. While most everyone in the CIA called Tenet by his first name, Black observed old-school protocol, calling him "Mr. Director" or simply "Sir."

"Sir," Black said, "we're going to have to exempt CTC from this because we need to have our people working the computers."
 
"Well," Tenet said, "the Global Response Center..." He was referring to the eight people on watch on the sixth floor, near the top of the building, who monitored the latest intelligence on terrorism throughout the world. "They're going to be at risk."

"This is an element -- we're going to have to keep them in place."

"Well, we have to get those people out," Tenet insisted.

"No, sir, we're going to have to leave them there because they have a key function to play in a crisis like this. This is exactly why we have the Global Response Center."

"Well, they could die."

"Sir, then they're just going to have to die."

Tenet paused.

The CIA director was a sort of father protector to the thousands who worked there. In the popular culture and to many in Washington, the CIA was a broken, even unnecessary institution; at best, it was an endangered species of sorts. A director protected.

"You're absolutely right," Tenet finally told Black. The rules, maybe all of them, had changed that morning. Thousands were already dead in New York City and at the Pentagon.

Black sensed an important shift. People, including the director, were maturing before his eyes in a very short period of time, moving from the bureaucratic mode to acceptance of risk, even death. Black was not at all surprised by the attack, but even he was shocked at the level of carnage.

In his three years as counterterrorism chief, he had concluded that if the CTC chief was not more aggressive than his superiors, then they had the wrong person in the job. He had operated against al Qaeda when he was station chief in Khartoum, Sudan, and had been the target of a failed ambush and assassination attempt in 1994. He had made some aggressive, lethal covert action proposals to get bin Laden, but they had been rejected. He figured given the climate, it was probably inevitable.

Now all that had changed.

Tenet ordered the building evacuated, except for those in the Global Response Center.

In Lima, Peru, that morning, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell had just sat down to breakfast with the new president, Alejandro Toledo. Powell was attending an Organization of American States meeting. He anticipated a pleasant series of events with the foreign ministers or leaders of 34 of the 35 countries in the region. Cuba had not been invited.

Toledo was going on and on about U.S. textile quotas. He wanted an exemption for high-quality cotton which he maintained would not compete with lower-quality cotton produced in certain Southern states of the U.S. which of course insisted on the quotas.
 
Suddenly, the door opened and Craig Kelly, Powell's executive assistant, rushed in with a note written on a piece of paper that had been ripped out of a spiral wire notepad: Two airplanes had crashed into the World Trade Center.

Two is not an accident, Powell realized. The next note said it was two jets. Powell thought, I've got to go home. No matter what it was, it was too big for him to be sitting around at a conference of foreign ministers in Peru. The plane, get the plane, he told Kelly. Go tell them we're leaving.

It would take about an hour to get the plane ready, so Powell stopped by the conference. Other foreign ministers made speeches of sympathy. Powell spoke briefly, thanking the assembly members for their condolences and vowing that the U.S. would respond and ultimately prevail. "A terrible, terrible tragedy has befallen my nation," he said, "but...you can be sure that America will deal with this tragedy in a way that brings those responsible to justice. You can be sure that as terrible a day as this is for us, we will get through it because we are a strong nation, a nation that believes in itself."

The others stood and applauded. Powell then raced to the airport for the seven-hour flight. Once the plane took off, Powell found that he couldn't talk to anybody because his communications were connected to the system in the U.S., which was swamped. Without a phone or his e-mail, he was like a man without a country.

After a few minutes, he went to the front of the plane to call over the radio. That meant over-and-out, nonsecure communications. He reached Richard L. Armitage, the deputy secretary of state and his best friend. They spoke several times, but real talk was hopeless. Armitage, a 1967 Naval Academy graduate, had served four tours in Vietnam, and later as an assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration. He was an outspoken, muscular, barrel-chested man who deplored fancy-pants, pin-striped diplomatic talk. Even before they took over the State Department, Powell and Armitage talked several times each day. "I would trust him with my life, my children, my reputation, everything I have," Powell said of Armitage.

Of all the things Powell hated, being out of the action was at the top of the list. A central part of national security policymaking was crisis management. No matter what structure a president, a White House or a national security team might try to impose on the process of policymaking, there was a random quality to some of the big moments. Crisis provided the greatest danger and the greatest opportunity.

At 64, Powell had already sat in three of the seats in the White House Situation Room -- national security adviser to President Reagan for a year, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the first President Bush during the Gulf War and now secretary of state to the new Bush for the last nine months.

A report came that another airliner had hit the Pentagon, and there were vague reports and rumors flying around about all kinds of other planes all over the place.

Powell started to scribble notes to himself. Ever the soldier, he wrote, What are my people going to be responsible for? How is the world, the United States going to respond to this? What about the United Nations? What about NATO? How do I start calling people together?

The seven hours of isolation seemed an eternity for the man who could have been commander in chief.

In 1995, Powell, two years retired from the Army, had considered running for president. He wrote an autobiography, My American Journey, which became a No. 1 national best-seller. He was poised at the epicenter of American politics, with stratospheric poll ratings, the Republican nomination nearly his for the asking, and the presidency within reach.

Armitage had been passionately against it. "It's not worth it. Don't do it," he advised, finally telling his friend, "I don't think you're ready for this." The process of campaigning would be everything Powell hated, "every bad thing you could imagine." Powell liked well-laid plans, order, predictability, a level of certainty that was not part of the hurly-burly of American politics.

It was well known his wife, Alma, was opposed to his running. What was secret was that Alma had flatly told him that if he ran for president she would leave him. "If you run, I'm gone," she said. She feared he would be attacked or shot. Running for president, becoming president, making her first lady was not what she wanted for her life. "You will have to do it alone," she said.

After Bush won the 2000 Republican presidential nomination, Powell signed on to help, but Karl Rove found that the campaign had to move heaven and earth to get him to appear at an event with Bush. Nearly every other important Republican fell in line, not Powell. His people always wanted to know who else would be at an event, what would be said, who the audience was, what was the political purpose. All this seemed designed to determine the political fallout -- on Powell, not Bush. Rove detected a subtle, subversive tendency, as if Powell were protecting his centrist credentials and his own political future at Bush's expense.
 
Nevertheless, he was an available vehicle to move Bush toward the center, and he became the almost certain choice for secretary of state if Bush were elected. Powell let it be known this was a post he would accept. Within his inner circle, there was a strong sense that voters knew they were choosing a team -- not just Bush and his vice presidential running mate, former Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, but also Powell.

When the Supreme Court declared Bush the winner by 537 votes in the Florida saga, Powell's advisers were convinced that their boss had clearly provided the margin of victory many, many times over.

• • •
In his first months as secretary of state, Powell had never really closed the personal loop with Bush, never established a comfort level -- the natural, at-ease state of closeness that both had with others. There existed a distance between these two affable men -- a wariness -- as if they were stalking each other from afar, never sitting down and having it out, whatever the "it" was. Both Bush and Powell used barracks-room humor freely with others, but rarely with each other.

Rove was disturbed and felt Powell was beyond political control and operating out of a sense of entitlement. "It's constantly, you know, 'I'm in charge, and this is all politics and I'm going to win the internecine political game,' " Rove said privately.
 
Whenever Powell was too out in front on an issue and became the public face of the administration, the political and communications operations at the White House reined him in, kept him out of the limelight. Rove and Karen P. Hughes, Bush's longtime communications director, now White House counselor, decided who from the administration would appear on the Sunday talk shows, the major television evening news and the morning programs. If the White House didn't call to suggest that he accept the numerous invitations to appear, Powell knew the rules. He told the shows no.

In April 2001, when an American EP-3E military spy plane off the coast of China was intercepted, forced down and taken hostage along with its 24 crew members by the Chinese government, the White House determined to keep Bush away from the issue, so that the president would not appear to be emotionally involved or the negotiator. It was important to behave as if there was no hostage crisis, mindful of how the Iranian hostage crisis had paralyzed President Carter and how the Lebanon hostage situation had become a consuming obsession for President Reagan in the mid-1980s.

The issue was turned over to Powell, who successfully won their release after 11 days. It was a big win, but even then the White House didn't want him on television to take credit.

Powell and Armitage would joke that Powell had been put in the "icebox" or the "refrigerator" -- to be used only when needed.
 
Just the week before September 11, Time magazine had done a cover story on Powell with the headline, "Where Have You Gone, Colin Powell?" The story said he was leaving "shallow footprints" on policy and losing out to administration hard-liners. It was a very effective hit by the White House, where certain officials had cooperated with the writers to prove that Powell was operating, sometimes desperately, often in isolation, at the edges of the new administration.

Rove, for one, was saying privately that he thought Powell had somehow lost a step and that it was odd to see him uncomfortable in the presence of the president.

Powell and others in his circle had spent hours with the Time reporters unsuccessfully trying to talk them down from the story line. But Powell and Armitage knew the overwhelming power of perception in Washington where charting rise and fall is more than a parlor game. The problem was that the vivid story line would be seen as the truth, even if it wasn't. The larger problem was that it was in part true. Powell was not formulating a foreign policy. He was getting assignments and reacting to one minor crisis after another. But as he once said in private, "Survival at the top is pragmatics."

When he had been chairman of the Joint Chiefs, he had written out some of his favorite sayings and slipped them underneath the glass on his desk in the Pentagon. One said, "Never let them see you sweat."

 

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  • Posted September 26, 2011

    Can Get Boring and Hard to Read.

    This book is interesting at many points, but it can get very boring. It is written as a journal, that keeps track of President George W. Bush's life almost day by day, for the days immediately following the attacks of September 11th. The book starts out very good, but that's the climax of the book. The book starts off at its climax, and just dies from that point on. The book starts out with the terrorist attack of September 11th, and is very interesting, but the rest of the book is very hard to read. It has less detail, and a lot of it is repetitive. At least half of the book is saying that Bush is either writing a speech, talking about classified information in a meeting, or traveling to a different state. There is also good information in this book as well, that is very interesting. People should read this book for that good information, and also to see the tragedy of this time in a completely new prospective. I really liked reading about this from the prospective of someone high up in the government. If you can focus on the interesting facts, like the threats and military strategies, the book is possible to get through. If you don't focus on the interesting facts, than the book could be very hard to read. The book has a lot of information in it, and can be overwhelming unless you pick out certain details. The major message is to inform the audience on what President Bush did after the attacks, but a lot of the facts are very broad and almost seem like propaganda in a lot of cases. It seems like Bob Woodward may have wrote this book to influence people to agree with his opinion. Knowing that though, if ignore the instances where you feel like you're being persuaded than you can understand the true meaning of the book. The book is about how Bush reacted to the attacks in a political, military, and executive fashion. He reacts in a political fashion by confronting the public with speeches and visits. He reacted in a military fashion by deciding to go to war right away, and creating a new strategy for war. He did this by doing a bombing campaign, and started by destroying the bottom of the loop of the Taliban and al Qaeda first. He would than work his way up to their main leaders. He reacted in an executive fashion by having multiple meetings a day, to make decisions about what to do and how to do it. This book is interesting at some points, but it can get very boring.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2008

    As Usual Woodward Delivers

    Woodward delivers a spellbounding account of the first days on the War on Terror that was fought with much anticipation and bungling from the White House, CIA, NSA, military on down. I read this book when it first came out and didn't understand the full implications of this books' meanings because of its reporting on the divisions between Powells' State Department and Rusmfeld's DoD. It was remarkable, like wine, that after reading you can tell that time is the only real indicator of truth. In time, we realize these two inevitably conflictual personalities will bungle the worst foreign policy disaster in American history--the Iraq War, and like children, accuse the other of the misfortune on the ground. As the ground war in Afghanistan seemed to be going so miracuously well, we clearly lost our concentration very quickly on this most critical of geopolitical regions who has a way of throwing out foreigners--such as the Soviets, Pakistanis, Mongols, Persians, the list goes on. And it seems we might be next as ISI, that most corrupt of foreign intelligence agencies, will ultimately be the nail in the coffin for the American empire, as they were for the Soviets.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2006

    A Sycophantic Hagiography

    It's sad to see Bob Woodward sink so low, from honest reporter to sycophant of the rich and powerful. His book is a glorification of a group of inglorious zealots lead by a narcissistic mental lightweight. Woodward¿s whitewash is especially ironic given how badly Bush¿s ill-conceived war has turned out. Most painful is knowing that the president¿s mindless egotism has cost thousands of innocent lives and hundreds of billions of dollars. Worse is the fact that all of this tragic waste could have been avoided had the president ever bothered to pick up a book in his life or at least listen to his own experts. The book entertains like so many trite and wholly fictionalized television dramas, only it¿s painful to read when one knows the terrible truth of what has actually unfolded.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2005

    Compelling Account Again By Woodward

    As you would expect,Woodward deliveres an impartial accounting of activities, strengths and weaknesses inside our national executive leadership team following September 11, 2001. It is a compelling read and reinforces the value of our First Amendment.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2004

    Very intensive look at Bush's Administration

    I enjoyed this book a lot. It presents the facts, not the defending of the Bush Administration. Great book for anyone that wants to know what really happened.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2004

    A Window On To The Oval Office

    Bob Woodward makes the reader feel like a fly on the wall in the Oval Office during a period where many wonder if 'the principals' had lost their minds. This shows them as rational human beings carrying out the tasks assigned to them, even if some of them do have moments where passion prevails over reason. Bush, for his part, comes across as more assertive than his public image. There is also a squirrely edge to him which is disconcerting. There may well be more that went on in the immediate aftermath of 911 than what appears here, but Woodward has dug deep enough to paint a detailed picture of the planet's most powerful people at work and it is fascinating.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2004

    Inside Look at the White House in a Time of Crisis

    This is an excllent book that I would highly recommend. It provides a detailed and insightful look at how the Bush White House team reacted to the 9/11 tragedies and in the end how it began to prepare for war in Iraq. The level of detail is fascinating and the candor with which some the Bush cabinet speak is remarkable. The book is a very easy read (I read it in little over a week). Great book that I would highly recommend.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2003

    OUTSTANDING!!!!!

    THIS BOOK IS NOT ONLY WONDERFULLY WRITTEN; INFORMATIVE, ENGAGING AND EASY TO FOLLOW, IT ALSO HAS FACTUAL BACK UP BY NUMEROUS SOURCES MENTIONED THROUGHOUT THAT ARE CONSISTENT W/ ONE ANOTHER. YOU WONT FIND ANY CONCOCTED 'THEORIES' OR BIASED JOURNALISM HERE. PICK IT UP!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2003

    Educational

    I recommend the book for anyone who struggles to understand the problems facing the Middle East as well as the rest of the world. I noticed one review said it was boring,I strongly disagree maybe you should head to the front lines.. this book is informative on all the different religions, countries, and political agendas that the US has to deal with when facing a crisis of this magnitude.You also get a personal view of the different personalities that possess power in the US.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2003

    I read it a second time.....

    I read this book a second time just to see if maybe it was any more enjoyable than the first and I can honestly say it was not. Oh well I tried. Sorry Bob.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2003

    Not too bad...

    A great book for readers looking to get inside the White House... It is dry at parts, but there's a lot of cool anecdotes and inside info... Now I know what the acronyms FUBAR and WAG mean...hehehe. Probably not so good to read now, the material is staggeringly outdated. It was difficult to focus on Afghanistan when there were bombs going off in Baghdad at the same time... but an interesting read...!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2002

    Question the truth!

    Using words like Megalomaniac and Schizophrenic, to describe a President that manages his cabinet by provoking his subordinates, could be considered inflammatory or at least very subjective. So read the book, for yourself. I am overwhelmed with concern over the complete lack of foresight by this administration, however I can offer no speedy remedy- sorry folks. A great concern arises about the only two stable figures in the book- Powell and Rice. What will happen to the world should they ever resign? So many questions come out of reading this book. Who are the "evil doers" history will remember? Does the goal justify the means? Summary; Good news is we cured the disease, bad news is the patient died.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2002

    The Best Available Information

    Once again Mr. Woodward has taken on a political issue and done extensive research to provide us with an exhaustive compilation of available facts surrounding an issue affecting all of us today. There is more in-depth and background information provided here which offers us a "front row" seat in the planning and implementation of policies relating to the terrorism situation. What the casual reader must keep in mind however (and this comes from first hand experience) is that there is a voluminous amount of classified information that will never be released in our lifetime which directly affects the decisions which the principals in the book make. We will not at any time publish information in a book which can be read by the objects of a military offensive. Hey, Mr. Woodward hasn't even revealed who 'Deep Throat' is. Remember him/her?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2003

    OVERRATED!

    If you like reading meeting minutes, this is the book for you! I found very little in this book that would be even closely considered insightful or informative, mainly a documentary of who said what at secrity council and other, high level administration meetings. Next time, I'll just watch CNN. I was hoping for a lot more from a writer of Woodward's reputation.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2002

    NOT A FAN OF BUSH, BUT THIS BOOK DOES MAKE YOU THINK

    I purchased this book as a way to get the shipping discount. It made me wonder what things would have been like if Gore had become President. It also made me wonder if Bush hadn't become President, would any of this terrorist stuff be happening. Either way ,It is an inteligent book and one worth reading.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2003

    Interesting But Propagandaish

    Overall, it is a pretty good book providing the story from Sept 11 to through the war on Afganistan. However, Woodward relies completely on interviews from Bush and his staff and meeting information given by them. No external verification or research is cited so it should probably be called Bush's Version of the War on Terrorism. Some key things are left out for what would appear to be political reasons. For example, it would seem obvious that Israel helped the US with intelligence and it seems likely that Bush would have consulted his father on some key decisions albeit probably without giving lots of details. Cheney's influence is downplayed which I think was intentional. Still, it's a pretty good book if taken with a grain of salt.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2003

    NRC Writes Book!!

    Bush at War suffers from teenage crush level perspective. Steely eyed George marching thru admiring underlings where the measure of virtue is the distance from positions deemed to be "Clintonian". My problem with Woodward's book is that it makes for a boring book. Surely these events had to have more doubt and drama than this book brings to the table. You can barely stay awake for through page after page of writing and word usage that makes it difficult to tell page one from one hundred. If I hear the term "boots on the ground" one more time I might just get a pair. I'm very proud of myself and my patriotism for getting through this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2003

    RARE INSIGHT INTO OUR PRESIDENT

    As one who did not vote for George Bush and was almost always embarassed by his verbal gaffes, I found Bob Woodward's book to be an eye-opener. Assuming Mr. Woodward is truly an unbiased and non-partisan reporter of the facts, I find his interviews with and quotes of G.W. Bush to be refreshing, at the very least, and illuminating at best. The president comes off "smelling like a rose," as do certain other key members of Mr. Bush's inner circle. Contrary to my earlier impressions of the president as a tongue-tied, inarticulate pol, whose misuses and limitations of the English language were legion, I came away impressed again and again by his thoughtfulness and articulateness. So too, with George Tenet of the CIA. I remember that one of the shortcomings of Woodward's book, according to a New York Times reviewer, was that only the key players in the Bush inner circle who gave a wide berth to Woodward, came off in a favorable light. And, conversely, those who granted limited access to the author came away in a more negative or neutral light. Since I already had some pre-conceived biases as to the individuals I "liked" and those I did not, the book only served to validated those "feelings." As one who lived through Watergate, and is a contemporary of Mr. Woodward's, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and its perspective on politics in present-day Washington. As an undergraduate student in Washington, D.C.in the late sixties, I appreciated the sometimes humorous local color of "provincial," southern Washington, D.C. that Mr. Woodward paints from the vantage point of a keen fifty-something observer and a resident of the D.C. area. When I typically like a book, I seek out other titles by the same author. This case is no exception. I intend to attempt to read some of Woodward's earlier books, including -- especially -- his portrait of Fed chairman Greenspan. Having worked at the New York Fed and still familiar with specialists at the FRB, I suspect I will gain some insight from that account as well. In short, I highly recommend this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2002

    Best book since Geneva Nights

    I'm not a bush fan to say the least, but Woodward is without question a great writer.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2002

    Interesting Read

    Trying to figure out President Bush's strategy in regards to Iraq is certainly curious. I'm of the belief that Iraq is a danger and it is a matter of self preservation for our country. But seeing other possibilities to Bushes motives as well as exploring the possible consequences of going to war are truly facinating and thought provoking. Though I'm not 100% in agreement with the tone of this book I must say that Bob Woodward is an exceptional writer and it's worth the read.

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