Former President George W. Bush, in his new memoir out Tuesday, contends that he gave the original order to shoot down planes on Sept. 11, 2001, according to excerpts in the New York Times.
“I told [Vice President Cheney] that I would make decisions from the air and count on him to implement them on the ground,” he wrote. “I told Dick that our pilots should contact suspicious planes and try to get them to land peacefully. If that failed, they had my authority to shoot them down. … I had just made my first decision as a wartime commander in chief.”
Although Bush, Cheney and former Chief of Staff Josh Bolten have claimed that Bush gave the original order, the 9/11 Commission found that it was Cheney who first ordered that suspicious planes be shot down, and that he only called Bush — who was en route to Washington from Florida — for the order after Bolten pressed him.
The Times pulled out a few other choice excerpts.
Bush said he was “blindsided” by the debate over his warrantless wiretapping problem and would never have sent aides to Attorney General John Ashcroft’s hospital room if he knew Ashcroft had temporarily ceded power to a deputy.
On interrogation techniques he said that, although he personally gave the order to waterboard terrorism suspects, he told the CIA not to use two other techniques he felt crossed the line.
“I knew that an interrogation program this sensitive and controversial would one day become public,” he wrote. “When it did, we would open ourselves up to criticism that America had compromised its moral values. I would have preferred that we get the information another way. But the choice between security and values was real.”
On the roles of executive power and Congress in governing, Bush says, “In retrospect, I probably could have avoided some of the controversy and legal setbacks by seeking legislation” that approved his programs.