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White House releases bin Laden memo

Presidential briefing was at center of Rice's testimony

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(CNN) -- The White House declassified and released Saturday the daily intelligence briefing delivered to President Bush a month before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

The declassified intelligence report said the FBI had detected "patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings."

The names of countries that supplied the CIA with intelligence have been removed from the memo dealing with Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network and dated August 6, 2001.

"We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a [redacted] service in 1998 saying that bin Laden wanted to hijack a U.S. aircraft to secure the release of 'Blind Sheikh' Omar Abdel Rahman and other U.S.-held extremists," the memo says in part.

Rahman is serving a life sentence for conspiring to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and to blow up New York landmarks.

The White House said the presidential daily briefing, or PDB, was requested by Bush, who sought information about the possibility of an al Qaeda attack in the United States.

"The PDB article did not warn of the 9/11 attacks," the White House said in a statement released Saturday night. "Although the PDB referred to the possibility of hijackings, it did not discuss the possible use of planes as weapons."

The memo, titled "Bin Laden determined to attack inside the U.S.," had been described by the White House as a largely historical document with scant information about domestic al Qaeda threats.

The memo includes intelligence on al Qaeda threats as recent as three months before the attacks.

Highlights of the report include:

• An intelligence report received in May 2001 indicating that al Qaeda was trying to send operatives to the United States through Canada to carry out an attack using explosives. That information had been passed on to intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

• An allegation that al Qaeda had been considering ways to hijack American planes to win the release of operatives who had been arrested in 1998 and 1999.

• An allegation that bin Laden was set on striking the United States as early as 1997 and through early 2001.

• Intelligence suggesting that suspected al Qaeda operatives were traveling to and from the United States, were U.S. citizens, and may have had a support network in the country.

• A report that at least 70 FBI investigations were under way in 2001 regarding possible al Qaeda cells/terrorist-related operations in the United States.

The two-page document became the highlight of national security adviser Condoleezza Rice's testimony Thursday before the commission investigating the attacks.

Rice told the commission Thursday that the briefing included mostly "historical information" and that most of the threat information known in the summer of 2001 referred to overseas targets.

She said she did not recall any reports about al Qaeda using aircraft as weapons before September 11.

Former counterterrorism aide Richard Clarke had testified two weeks before that the White House had ignored warnings about bin Laden's terrorist organization. Clarke said the Bush administration, including Rice, was aware of al Qaeda threats but did not treat them as "urgent."

The commission asked that the presidential daily briefing be declassified after Rice's testimony.

"This was the commission's hope," spokesman Al Felzenberg said Saturday.

"The White House has now complied. The White House agreed to release the documents. This is what the commission had hoped."

The August briefing was delivered to Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Some commission members said the administration was given enough information about bin Laden's intentions and capabilities to have warned the public that an attack was possible.

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