Thursday, March 25, 2004

Dick Clarke made a number of factual claims about the Bush administration pre-9/11 handling of terrorism:

1. Soon after Bush was elected, Clarke sought to have a principals meeting on the topic of terrorism (a principals meeting is a meeting that involves the senior officials: Secretaries of State, Defense, and Treasury, the National Security Advisor, Attorney General, CIA chief). Such meetings had been routinely held in the Clinton administration. Clarke had a list of anti-terrorism measures that he felt ought to be implemented quickly. Clarke sent a memo to Rice asking for such a meeting. Rice replied that in the Bush administration a principals meeting is inappropriate; Clark should instead go through depuites meeting on the topic first (a deputies meeting is one where the second-in-commands from each agency are present).

It took eight months of wrangling with the deputies to get something up to the principals meeting. The principals finally convened on Sept 4, 2001, a week before 9/11. Bush never saw the recommendations made until after 9/11, when they were finally implemented.

2. Clarke wanted a terrorism policy passed to the CIA that called for "eliminating" al Qaeda. His language was eliminated from the drafts, which went around various agencies for months and months. "Eliminating" was replaced with "significantly erode." After 9/11, the languages was changed back to Clarke's "eliminate."

3. Clarke wrote to Rice & others in the executive branch seeking to brief the President on counter-terrorism. He hoped that if the President were more interested in the topic, it would be given higher priority by all and speed up the process. His request was denied.

This insousiant attitude about terorrism, Clark maintains, is unusual because George Tenet was telling Bush every day in his intelligence briefing about the urgency of the terrorist threat. And yet the White House simply didn't see terrorism as all that urgent. At least, not enough to expedite the lengthy inter-agency bureaucratic process.

These claims rest on facts that can be easily checked. None of them depend on Clarke's credibility. The White House has not rebutted them. It hasn't even tried. No, instead, it launched a vicious personal attack on Clarke.

George Bush ran promising to improve the tone in Washington. It seems that he's discovered that personal attacks are the easiest way out of public scrutiny. The "politics of personal destruction," to use Dick Gephardts term, is alive and well in the Bush administration.

By the way: Stuart Benjamin makes a similar point at the Volokh Conspiracy.


Post a Comment

<< Home