In the early days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Bush White House cut by nearly two-thirds an emergency request for counterterrorism funds by the FBI, an internal administration budget document obtained by the Washington Post shows.
The document, dated Oct. 12, 2001, shows that the FBI requested $1.5 billion in additional funds to enhance its counterterrorism efforts with the creation of 2,024 positions. But the White House Office of Management and Budget cut that request to $531 million. Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, working within the White House limits, cut the FBI’s request for items such as computer networking and foreign language intercepts by half, cut a cyber-security request by three quarters and eliminated entirely a request for “collaborative capabilities.”
The document was one of several administration papers obtained and given to The Washington Post by the Center for American Progress, a liberal group run by former Clinton chief of staff John D. Podesta. The papers show that Ashcroft ranked counterterrorism efforts as a lower priority than his predecessor did, and that he resisted FBI requests for more counterterrorism funding before and immediately after the attacks.
The documents are being released as Clinton and Bush administration officials prepare to testify this week about their counterterrorism efforts before the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks. They add to an already vigorous debate in which Bush officials and former Clinton aides are blaming each other for failing to take the terrorist threat seriously enough.