President Bush's disclosure of new details about a foiled 2002 terrorist plan to destroy the city's tallest building has strained relations between the White House and the mayor of Los Angeles, who accused the Bush administration of taking too long to tell him of the new information.
Mr. Bush detailed the planned attack in a speech Thursday, saying terrorists intended to use shoe bombs to hijack an airliner and crash it into downtown's 73-story U.S. Bank Tower.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he got word of the new details like everyone else — watching Mr. Bush's speech on TV. He said his office should have been warned beforehand about the announcement, which set off a new round of anxiety over terrorism in the nation's second-largest city.
"I'm amazed that the president would make this (announcement) on national TV and not inform us of these details through the appropriate channels," the mayor said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I don't expect a call from the president — but somebody."
Villaraigosa also criticized the White House for rebuffing requests in July and August to meet with the president to discuss security issues.
As it turns out, the White House did notify City Hall, if indirectly. A spokesman for Matt Bettenhausen, California's homeland security chief, said he personally contacted a deputy mayor Wednesday afternoon with advance notice of the president's comments.
Michelle Petrovich, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said the agency notified the Los Angeles Police Department, along with state officials, that the 2002 plot would be mentioned during the president's speech.
Villaraigosa later confirmed that City Hall was notified Wednesday. But that information was only general, city officials said, and the mayor was never informed. They said they had no warning that numerous new details of the plot would be disclosed.
CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante says that while the president did add some new details, the story of the West Coast plot was already known. So why talk about it now?
The White House said it was to point out the importance of international cooperation in foiling the al Qaeda plan.
"It took the combined efforts of several countries to break up this plot. By working together, we took dangerous terrorists off the streets. By working together, we stopped a catastrophic attack on our homeland," Mr. Bush said Thursday.
"I think the president implied that the knowledge from that came from this program. I have no way of knowing whether it did or it didn't," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
The White House said there was no connection, one senior official told CBS News. "The fact that we did this during the debate on the NSA was coincidence, not by design," the official said.
Members of the House and Senate Intelligence committees did call their briefings helpful, but many thought they didn't get enough information.
"Hello, White House. If you cut us out, we're not going to be your advocates," said Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif.
Frances Townsend, Mr. Bush's adviser on homeland security and counterterrorism, would not say what role wiretaps may have played in thwarting the planned attack.
"We use all sorts of methods. For me to comment on which ones we did or didn't use in this particular case really gives our enemy too much information about how we go about it," Townsend told CBS News' The Early Show.
Townsend said the administration chose to wait until Thursday to reveal details about the plot because it took time to track down leads resulting from the investigation.
"We got a lot of the operational leads ... but it took a long time, so you've got to run out all those operational leads," Townsend said.
She added that it is hard to say how close the terrorist plotters came to achieving their mission. "They clearly had the training and the expertise .... so it was just a matter of timing. ... They had clearly selected their target."
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks who was captured in 2003, had already begun planning the West Coast operation in October 2001, Mr. Bush said in a Washington speech.
Security officials and terrorism experts in Southeast Asia said Friday that Malaysian engineer Zaini Zakaria was among three people preparing to take part in the attack. Zaini, who has been detained without trial in Malaysia since December 2002, pulled out of the plan when he witnessed the carnage of the Sept. 11 attacks, the officials said.
As the plots were described, the hijackers were to use shoe bombs to blow open the cockpit door of a commercial jetliner, take control of the plane and crash it into the Library Tower in Los Angeles, since renamed the US Bank Tower.
City officials stressed that Los Angeles was not facing an imminent threat. Others urged residents not to worry.
At the tower, financial consultant Monica Ding, 27, who works on the 26th floor, said the revelations did not worry her.
"I guess they do all they can to prevent it," she said. "If it fails and an airplane flies into our building, there's nothing we can do to stop it."