“Something So Big”

“SOMETHING SO BIG”….Judy Miller talks today about the one that got away. It’s July 4th weekend in 2001, the counterintelligence community is spun up because they’re convinced al-Qaeda has an attack planned, and Miller decides to spend the weekend in Washington DC:

As somebody metaphorically put it: ‘They uncorked the White House champagne’ that weekend because nothing had happened. We got through the weekend…nothing had happened.

But I did manage to have a conversation with a source that weekend. The person told me that there was some concern about an intercept that had been picked up. The incident that had gotten everyone’s attention was a conversation between two members of Al Qaida. And they had been talking to one another, supposedly expressing disappointment that the United States had not chosen to retaliate more seriously against what had happened to the Cole. And one Al Qaida operative was overheard saying to the other, ‘Don’t worry; we’re planning something so big now that the U.S. will have to respond.’

And I was obviously floored by that information. I thought it was a very good story: (1) the source was impeccable; (2) the information was specific, tying Al Qaida operatives to, at least, knowledge of the attack on the Cole; and (3) they were warning that something big was coming, to which the United States would have to respond. This struck me as a major page one-potential story.

But Miller was unable to dig up more details, so she and her editor, Stephen Engelberg, killed the story. Perhaps now would be a good time to follow it up?