The Center for American Progress has compiled an exhaustive, day-by-day overview of the Bush administration’s public statements on national security, defense and international issues from Jan. 20 to Sept. 10, 2001. The 50-page compilation includes all official news releases, press briefings, press availabilities, news advisories, speeches, public addresses, executive orders, and proclamations posted by the White House, the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and the Department of Justice, as well as transcripts of major media appearances by top Bush administration officials, in the eight months prior to 9/11.
While the Bush administration maintains it was focused extensively on terrorism, our analysis of 557 public statements reveals only one mention of al Qaeda by the administration over the 8-month period. Notably, this single mention of al Qaeda was found in a signed notice from President Bush continuing an executive order – issued by President Clinton – prohibiting transactions with the Taliban. Osama bin Laden was mentioned only 19 times during the same period, 17 of which occurred in the context of press briefings or questions from journalists.
The record clearly shows that terrorism and the threat from al Qaeda were not on the list of priorities for the Bush administration in early 2001. At a time when al Qaeda was finalizing its plans to attack America, the Bush administration was focused on Iraq and national missile defense rather than the threat from extremist terrorist groups.
This document shows that top Bush administration officials discussed Iraq and Saddam Hussein in 104 separate statements and missile defense in 101 statements. Weapons of mass destruction were discussed in 65 separate statements.
The document also includes a day-by-day overview of President Bush’s schedule after Aug. 6, 2001 – the day the White House received a "hair raising" warning about imminent attacks from al Qaeda.