That sure is different than a general warning about al Qaeda. Did this information appear in Bush’s August 6, 2001, PDB? The committees are not in a position to say, but their staff has told reporters they strongly believe some — if not all — of this material was included in the PDB. That suggests that Rice misled the public about this briefing and that Bush had been presented with more than a routine warning about al Qaeda. And one Democratic senator on the committee told reporters (including me) that the July warning — the one noting a “spectacular” attack loomed — had indeed gone to senior White House officials and the president.
The current battle over Bush’s PDBs is important. They can show what Bush knew before 9/11 about al Qaeda’s designs. They can provide a foundation for evaluating — finally — whether he and the federal government acted responsibly and reasonably in the weeks and months before the attacks. Which is one reason why anyone with an inquiring mind should be suspicious of a deal that does not provide the commission unfettered access to these reports and that grants the White House the possible means to protect a serious but little-noticed cover-up.