For the reading list:
Richard Clarke - His Own Words
Richard Clarke on 60 Minutes, Mar 21
RichardClarke on 60 Minutes - transcript
Richard Clarke on PBS, Mar 22
Richard Clarke on Meet The Press, Mar 28
Richard Clarke on CNN Late Night, Mar 28
Transcript of testimony to 9/11 panel
Staff Statement 8 - National Policy Coordination
Joint Congressional Inquiry into 9-11; and supplemental documents are available at:
Documents From Congress' Joint Inquiry into 9/11
CNN Account: Bush's national security speech at the Citadel, Sept 23, 1999. Their excerpts mention terror twice, and Iraq not at all.
Clarke is a Hero!
Did the Bush administration's preoccupation with developing a "comprehensive strategy" against al-Qaida in 2001 get in the way of addressing the immediate prospect of an attack on the United States?
Mr. Saletan introduces the theme in an earlier piece.
The gist - Plodding bureacracy versus Rapid, Flexible Response! Or, Planning versus Fire Drills. Team Bush focussed on churning out a long term plan without responding to the increased threat environment in the summer of 2001. In Clarke's phrase, they failed to shake the trees.
My comment - I think this overestimates the likely impact of tree-shaking in 2001 - in 1999, terrorists with explosives in Jordan and at the Canadian border had been captured, trigggering a full court press in anticipation of Dec 31, 1999; in the summer of 2001, the intel was softer, and the deadline non-existent. I would also note that, following Mr. Saletan's evidently non-self-deflating correction, it was the CIA which sat on key information, even though DCI Tenet was reporting daily to Pres. Bush, and the CIA was sufficiently alarmed that, apparently on their own initiative, they prepared a domestic threat assessment in early August 2001. My advice - shake your own tree. Yeah.
I also think this view misunderestimates the inabilty of the Clinton team to develop a coherent plan. However, it is similar to the case I would make when I am feeling sympathetic to Clarke.
Fred Kaplan - "Dick Clarke Is Telling the Truth" - precedes, rather than explains, the release of the Aug 2002 briefing.
[We could use some nominees here]
Clarke is a Bum! (Sorry, we are not doing nuance, although Drezner and Adesnik are, below)
TIME Magazine - "Richard Clarke, at War With Himself"
Dan Drezner; I would add a pop-psychology touch - it may not be just Clarke's personal prestige, but the guilt.anger/frustration of 3,000 deaths which Clarke seems to believe maybe, maybe, maybe could have been prevented (see Saletan, above)
Rep. Chris Shays (R, CT)
Rich Lowry from the NY Post - attempts to reconcile the book, the testimony, and the Aug 2002 briefing.
David Adesnik of OxBlog
The Sept 12 Meeting where Bush instructed Clarke to look at Iraq.
NY Times on the Sept 12 meeting. We assist:
Mr. Cressey... is a partner with Mr. Clarke in a consulting company that advises on cybersecurity issues...
Mr. Cressey cast Mr. Bush's instructions to Mr. Clarke less as an order to come up with a link between Mr. Hussein and Sept. 11, and more as a request to "take a look at all options, including Iraq." He backed off Mr. Clarke's suggestion that the president's tone was intimidating. "I'm not going to get into that," Mr. Cressey said. "That is Dick's characterization."
Dan Drezner - Clarke book excerpt - examines and supports the TIME comment on this point.
On the linkage of Iraq and 9/11 generally, John Kerry's Oct 2002 Senate speech always makes us smile, since he takes the position that Bush should have addressed the Saddam problem either in his inaugaural address, or right after 9/11, but surely not in October 2002. For the Kerr-bears, this timing problem can be expressed as "Saddam - hier ot demain mais pas aujourd'hui".
But the administration missed an opportunity 2 years ago [Huh? The USS Cole bombing was Oct 200, two year before this speech. A link?] and particularly a year ago after September 11. They regrettably, and even clumsily, complicated their own case. The events of September 11 created new understanding of the terrorist threat and the degree to which every nation is vulnerable. That understanding enabled the administration to form a broad and impressive coalition against terrorism. Had the administration tried then to capitalize on this unity of spirit to build a coalition to disarm Iraq, we would not be here in the pressing days before an election, late in this year, debating this now. The administration's decision to engage on this issue now, rather than a year ago or earlier, and the manner in which it has engaged, has politicized and complicated the national debate and raised questions about the credibility of their case.
"A Sense Of Urgency"
Clarke raised Republican hackles with his assertion, as described in the WaPo, that:
Ex-Aide Recounts Terror Warnings
Clarke Says Bush Didn't Consider Al Qaeda Threat a Priority Before 9/11
...Clarke told the commission in testimony yesterday afternoon that whereas the Clinton administration treated terrorism as its highest priority, the Bush administration did not consider it to be an urgent issue before the attacks. "
Clarke's full quote is available in the testimony transcript, and modifies the Clinton's "highest priority" reported by the WaPo:
CLARKE: My impression was that fighting terrorism, in general, and fighting Al Qaida, in particular, were an extraordinarily high priority in the Clinton administration -- certainly no higher priority. There were priorities probably of equal importance such as the Middle East peace process, but I certainly don't know of one that was any higher in the priority of that administration.
CLARKE, Frontline Interview, March 2002:
Certainly after the embassy bombing in Africa in 1998, it was very obvious that what John [John O'Neill, FBI counter-terrorist] was saying, what I was saying, was right: that this was more than a nuisance; that this was a real threat. But I don't think everyone came to the understanding that it was an existential threat. The question was, "This group is more than a nuisance, but are they worth going to war with? After all, they've only attacked two embassies. Maybe that's a cost of doing business. This kind of thing happens. Yes, we should spend some time some energy trying to get them, but it's not the number one priority we have."
Here is Pres. Clinton urging us on against terror, in the Jan 2000 State of the Union:
I predict to you, when most of us are long gone but some time in the next 10 to 20 years, the major security threat this country will face will come from the enemies of the nation state: the narcotraffickers and the terrorists and the organized criminals, who will be organized together, working together, with increasing access to ever-more sophisticated chemical and biological weapons.
Folks expert in finding "imminent threat" warnings will no doubt find one here. Those with less imagination will probably founder on the "10 to 20 years" timeframe.
Matt Hoy noticed that the NY Times, in its main story on the Clarke testimony, did not even mention his "top priority" assessment. "All The News That's Fit To Print, Unless It Makes Our Guy Look Implausible". By comparison, the WaPo ran the Clinton comparison in the third paragraph.
The findings also put into perspective the criticism of President Bush's approach to terrorism by Richard A. Clarke, the former White House counterterrorism chief: For all his harsh complaints about Bush administration's lack of urgency in regard to terrorism, he had no serious quarrel with the actual policy Bush was pursuing before the 2001 attacks.
Hmm. So when the lying, crooked RAM said that Clarke was lying about that we were... (a) flat out wrong; (b) maybe possessing a valid point?
And since Sen. Bill Frist, in his speech attacking Richard Clarke, alludes to the possibility that Mr. Clarke may have lied to Congress and might be investigated for perjury, we think ironists will delight in this next quote. It comes from Mr. Clarke himself, in his now-controversial Congressional testimony of 2002, and he is urging people in the Executive Branch to shed their risk aversion, take a few more chances, and endure the possible consequences of a Congressional probe:
"Believe it or not, a lot of people in the executive branch are scared stiff about being up in front of a congressional committee"
We believe it.