Clinton Aides Plan to Tell Panel of Warning Bush Team on Qaeda

  1. All that is wanted is the complete, unadulterated truth, no matter who in the seat of power (past and present) it hurts!


    Clinton Aides Plan to Tell Panel of Warning Bush Team on Qaeda

    Published: March 20, 2004

    WASHINGTON, March 19-Senior Clinton administration officials called to testify next week before the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks say they are prepared to detail how they repeatedly warned their Bush administration counterparts in late 2000 that Al Qaeda posed the worst security threat facing the nation-and how the new administration was slow to act.

    They said the warnings were delivered in urgent post-election intelligence briefings in December 2000 and January 2001 for Condoleezza Rice, who became Mr. Bush's national security adviser; Stephen Hadley, now Ms. Rice's deputy; and Philip D. Zelikow, a member of the Bush transition team, among others.

    One official scheduled to testify, Richard A. Clarke, who was President Bill Clinton's counterterrorism coordinator, said in an interview that the warning about the Qaeda threat could not have been made more bluntly to the incoming Bush officials in intelligence briefings that he led.

    At the time of the briefings, there was extensive evidence tying Al Qaeda to the bombing in Yemen two months earlier of an American warship, the Cole, in which 17 sailors were killed.

    "It was very explicit," Mr. Clarke said of the warning given to the Bush administration officials. "Rice was briefed, and Hadley was briefed, and Zelikow sat in." Mr. Clarke served as Mr. Bush's counterterrorism chief in the early months of the administration, but after Sept. 11 was given a more limited portfolio as the president's cyberterrorism adviser.

    The sworn testimony from the high-ranking Clinton administration officials-including Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and Samuel R. Berger, Mr. Clinton's national security adviser-is scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.

    They are expected to testify along with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who will answer for the Bush administration, as well as George J. Tenet, director of central intelligence in both administrations.

    While Clinton officials have offered similar accounts in the past, a new public review of how they warned Mr. Bush's aides about the need to deal quickly with the Qaeda threat could prove awkward to the White House, especially in the midst of a presidential campaign. But given the witnesses' prominence in the Clinton administration, supporters of Mr. Bush may see political motives in the testimony of some of them.

    The testimony could also prove uncomfortable for the commission, since Mr. Zelikow is now the executive director of the bipartisan panel. And the Clinton administration officials can expect to come under tough questioning about their own performance in office and why they did not do more to respond to the terrorist threat in the late 1990's.

    The White House does not dispute that intelligence briefings about the Qaeda threat occurred during the transition, and the commission has received extensive notes and other documentation from the White House and Clinton administration officials about what was discussed.

    What is at issue, Clinton administration officials say, is whether their Bush administration counterparts acted on the warnings, and how quickly. The Clinton administration witnesses say they will offer details of the policy recommendations they made to the incoming Bush aides, but they would not discuss those details before the hearing.

    "Until 9/11, counterterrorism was a very secondary issue at the Bush White House," said a senior Clinton official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Remember those first months? The White House was focused on tax cuts, not terrorism. We saw the budgets for counterterrorism programs being cut."

    The White House rejects any suggestion that it failed to act on the threats of Qaeda terrorism before the Sept. 11 attacks.

    "The president and his team received briefings on the threat from Al Qaeda prior to taking office, and fighting terrorism became a top priority when this administration came into office," Sean McCormack, a White House spokesman, said. "We actively pursued the Clinton administration's policies on Al Qaeda until we could get into place a more comprehensive policy."

    Mr. Zelikow, the director of the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia and a co-author of a 1995 book with Ms. Rice, has been the target of repeated criticism from some relatives of Sept. 11 victims. They have said his membership on the Bush transition team and his ties to Ms. Rice pose a serious conflict of interest for the commission, which is investigating intelligence and law-enforcement actions before the attacks.

    Mr. Clarke said if Mr. Zelikow left any of the White House intelligence briefings in December 2000 and January 2001 without understanding the imminent threat posed by Al Qaeda, "he was deaf."

    Mr. Zelikow said in an interview that he has recused himself from any part of the investigation that involves the transition, to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. He said his participation in the Qaeda intelligence briefings was already well known. "The fact of what occurred in these briefings is not really disputed," he said.

    Ms. Rice has refused a request to testify at the hearings next week, saying it would violate White House precedent for an incumbent national security adviser to appear in public at a hearing of what the White House considers a legislative body. She has given a private interview to several members of the commission.

    The commission, known formally as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, was created by Congress in 2002 over the initial objections of the Bush administration.

    Ms. Albright and Mr. Cohen declined to be interviewed about their testimony. Mr. Berger refused to discuss details of his testimony, saying only, "I intend to talk about what we did in the Clinton administration, as well as my recommendations for the future."

    In the past, Mr. Berger has said that he and his staff organized the intelligence briefings in December 2000 at which Ms. Rice, Mr. Hadley and Mr. Zelikow were warned in detail about the Qaeda threat and that on his departure, he advised Ms. Rice that he believed the Bush administration would be forced to spend more time on dealing with Al Qaeda than on any other subject.

    In his testimony, Mr. Clarke is also expected to discuss what he believed to be the Bush administration's determination to punish Saddam Hussein for the Sept. 11 attacks even though there was no evidence to tie the Iraqi president to Al Qaeda.

    The issue is addressed in a new book by Mr. Clarke, and in an interview to promote the book on "60 Minutes" on CBS-TV scheduled for Sunday, Mr. Clarke said that the White House considered bombing Iraq in the hours after the Sept. 11 attacks, even when it became clear that Al Qaeda was responsible.

    "I think they wanted to believe there was a connection, but the C.I.A. was sitting there, the F.B.I. was sitting there, saying, `We've looked at this issue for years-for years, we've looked, and there's just no connection,' " Mr. Clarke said. He recalled telling Defense Secretary Rumsfeld that "there are a lot of good targets in a lot of places, but Iraq had nothing to do" with the Sept. 11 attacks.

    The White House has insisted that it acted aggressively throughout 2001 on the warnings to deal with the threat from Qaeda terrorists, and that there was an exhaustive staff review throughout the spring and summer, with a proposal ready for President Bush in early September to step up the government's efforts to destroy the terrorist network.

    The Clinton administration witnesses may face difficult questions at the hearings about why they did not do more to deal with Qaeda immediately after the Cole attack and the discovery the previous winter that Qaeda terrorists had come close to coordinated attacks timed to the Dec. 31, 1999, festivities for the new millennium.

    "There was no contemplation of any military action after the millennium plots, and there should have been," said Bob Kerrey, a Democratic member of the commission and a former senator from Nebraska.

    "The Cole is even worse, because that was an attack on a military target," he said. "It was military against military. It was an Islamic army against our Navy. Just because you don't have a nation-state as your adversary doesn't mean you should not consider a declaration of war."
    Last edit by Ted on Mar 20, '04
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  3. by   Mkue
    I've read so many opinions of what could have been done to prevent 9/11, one being that Bin Ladin could have been handed over to us prior to 2000, I don't know what to believe and even if the mastermind of 9/11 Bin Ladin was turned over to us prior to 9/11 would the plan still have been carried out, I don't know. Will we ever know the truth, I don't know that either.
  4. by   elkpark
    I remember reading an article in The New Yorker shortly after 9/11 in which a top Clinton administration person was describing briefing his counterpart in the Bush administration as part of the transition. He said that he had told the Bushie that he would be spending most of his time keeping track of various Middle Eastern terrorists, because the Clinton people had been v. involved in this -- keeping track of where they were and what they were doing. He said that the Bushie's response was nah, we're not interested in that. He tried to tell the guy, no really, this is a big deal, everyone's v. concerned about the risk of an attack in the US, and the Bushie's response continued to be, nope, not an issue, not interested ...

    It did seem obvious in the reporting since 9/11 about who knew what when that the Bush administration knew (or would have known if they were paying attention) everything about the attacks except the actual date and time , but once it happened, their position was, Wow! Who could have seen this coming?

    Just makes me want to puke (in fact, I've been wanting to puke for close to four years now ...)
  5. by   nekhismom
    Very sickening indeed. I wish we could spread the word to the MASSES of American voters this year. We definately DO NOT need 4 more years under the shrub. Will Kerry be better? I don't know, but I do know that what he currently have is NOT working, so a change is in order.
  6. by   movealong
    If I remember correctly, this is supposed to be on 60 minutes tonight (the author of the book).

    I had already read some articles maybe a year ago that covered how the Bush administration handled the info passed along by the Clinton team. It was a very low priority.

    I want to see how Bush and co. will try to explain the memos re: bombing Iraq that predated 9/11. I think it's very telling.
  7. by   donmurray
    Perhaps it's this one,

    Rumsfeld 'wanted to bomb Iraq' after 9/11
    By Ted Bridis in Washington
    21 March 2004

    Donald Rumsfeld, the US Secretary of Defence, urged President Bush to consider bombing Iraq almost immediately after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, says a former senior aide.

    Richard Clarke, the White House counter-terrorism coordinator at the time, has revealed details of a meeting the day after the attacks during which officials considered the US response. Already, he said, they were certain al-Qa'ida was to blame and there was no hint of Iraqi involvement. "Rumsfeld was saying we needed to bomb Iraq," Mr Clarke said. "We all said, 'No, no, al-Qa'ida is in Afghanistan.'"

    But Mr Clarke, who is expected to testify on Tuesday before a federal panel reviewing the attacks, said Mr Rumsfeld complained in the meeting that "there aren't any good targets in Afghanistan and there are lots of good targets in Iraq." A spokesman for Mr Rumsfeld last night said he could not comment immediately.

    Mr Clarke makes the assertion in a book, Against All Enemies, published tomorrow. In an interview for CBS's 60 Minutestonight he says he believes the administration sought to link Iraq with the attacks because of a long-standing interest in overthrowing Saddam Hussein. "I think they wanted to believe that there was a connection" between Iraq and the al-Qa'ida attacks in the US, he says. "There's absolutely no evidence that Iraq was supporting al-Qa'ida."

    Mr Clarke also criticised Mr Bush for now promoting his efforts against terrorism."Frankly, I find it outrageous that the President is running for re-election on the grounds that he's done such great things about terrorism," he told CBS. "He ignored terrorism for months."
    Last edit by donmurray on Mar 21, '04
  8. by   sbic56
    Quote from movealong
    If I remember correctly, this is supposed to be on 60 minutes tonight (the author of the book).

    I had already read some articles maybe a year ago that covered how the Bush administration handled the info passed along by the Clinton team. It was a very low priority.

    I want to see how Bush and co. will try to explain the memos re: bombing Iraq that predated 9/11. I think it's very telling.
    Yes, he is on 60 Minutes, tonight. I'll be watching...
  9. by   sbic56
    This guy has worked with the last 4 presidents. I think he will be taken as credible. Also, here is the 60 minutes link for the entire transcript. (Too long to post.) Astounding.

    Posted on Mon, Mar. 22, 2004


    Bush quickly sought Iraqi 9/11 link

    President Bush's former counterterrorism coordinator says that on Sept. 12, 2001, Bush told him to 'see if Saddam did this' and bristled when told the Iraqi leader apparently had no involvement.


    Washington Post Service

    WASHINGTON - On the evening of Sept. 12, 2001, according to a newly published memoir, President Bush wandered alone around the Situation Room in a White House emptied by the previous day's calamitous events.

    Spotting Richard A. Clarke, his counterterrorism coordinator, Bush pulled him and a small group of aides into the dark-paneled room.

    ''Go back over everything, everything,'' Bush said, according to Clarke's account. ``See if Saddam did this.''

    ''But Mr. President, al Qaeda did this,'' Clarke replied.

    ``I know, I know, but . . . see if Saddam was involved. Just look. I want to know any shred.''

    Reminded that the CIA, FBI and White House staffs had sought and found no such link before, Clarke said, Bush spoke ''testily.'' As he left the room, Bush said a third time, ``Look into Iraq, Saddam.''

    For Clarke, then in his 10th year as a top White House official, that day marked the transition from neglect to folly in the Bush administration's stewardship of war with Islamic extremists.

    His account -- in Against All Enemies, which reaches bookstores today, and in interviews -- is the first detailed portrait of the Bush administration's wartime performance by a major participant. The account was sharply disputed by a high-ranking Bush advisor.

    Acknowledged by foes and friends as a leading figure among career national security officials, Clarke served more than two years in the Bush White House after holding senior posts under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. He resigned 13 months ago Sunday.

    Although expressing points of disagreement with all four presidents, Clarke reserves by far his strongest language for George W. Bush. The president, he said, ''failed to act prior to September 11 on the threat from al Qaeda despite repeated warnings and then harvested a political windfall for taking obvious yet insufficient steps after the attacks.'' The rapid shift of focus to Saddam Hussein, Clarke writes, ``launched an unnecessary and costly war in Iraq that strengthened the fundamentalist, radical Islamic terrorist movement worldwide.''

    Among the motives for the war, Clarke argues, were the politics of the 2002 midterm election. 'The crisis was manufactured, and Bush political advisor Karl Rove was telling Republicans to `run on the war,' '' Clarke writes.

    Clarke said in an interview that he was a registered Republican in the 2000 election. But the book arrives amid a campaign in which Bush asks to be judged as a wartime president, and Clarke has thrust himself among the critics.

    ''I'm sure I'll be criticized for lots of things, and I'm sure they'll launch their dogs on me,'' Clarke told CBS's 60 Minutes in an interview broadcast Sunday. ``But, frankly, I find it outrageous that the president is running for reelection on the grounds that he's done such great things about terrorism.''

    On the same broadcast, deputy national security advisor Stephen J. Hadley said, ''We cannot find evidence that this conversation between Mr. Clarke and the president ever occurred.'' In interviews for this story, two people who were present confirmed Clarke's account.

    National security advisor Condoleezza Rice, in an opinion article published in The Washington Post today, writes: ``It would have been irresponsible not to ask a question about all possible links, including to Iraq -- a nation that had supported terrorism and had tried to kill a former president. Once advised that there was no evidence that Iraq was responsible for Sept. 11, the president told his national security council on Sept. 17 that Iraq was not on the agenda and that the initial U.S. response to Sept. 11 would be to target al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.''

    White House and Pentagon officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity described Clarke's public remarks as self-serving and politically motivated.

    Like former Treasury secretary Paul H. O'Neill, who spoke out in January, Clarke said some of Bush's leading advisors arrived in office determined to make war on Iraq. Nearly all of them, he said, believed Clinton had been ''overly obsessed with al Qaeda.'' During Bush's first week in office, Clarke asked urgently for a Cabinet-level meeting on al Qaeda. He did not get it -- or permission to brief the president directly on the threat -- for nearly eight months
  10. by   jnette
    Watched it..(60 Minutes)... and it became so very clear how from the get go all GWB was interested in was finishing family business in Iraq. Truly disturbing, yet not surprising. :stone
  11. by   Mkue
    Sins of Commission
    Behind the effort to blame Bush for September 11.

    Monday, March 22, 2004 12:01 a.m. EST

    It was always a terrible idea for the September 11 commission to drop its report in the middle of a Presidential election campaign, and we are now seeing why. That body is turning into a fiasco of partisanship and political score-settling.

    To be precise, Democrats are using the commission as a platform to assail the Bush Administration for fumbling the war on terror, implicitly blaming it even for 9/11. That's the clear message of the testimony to be offered this week to the commission by former Clinton officials, who conveniently leaked their opinions to the New York Times in advance. Conveniently, too, former anti-terror aide Richard Clarke has chosen this week to begin the media tour for his new book pushing the same anti-Bush theme. He's also scheduled to meet the commission this week.

    If you believe this is all a coincidence, you probably also believe that a reflective, nonpartisan look at the mindset that allowed 9/11 to happen is possible in today's Washington. It would be nice if it were. Democracies are notoriously bad at anticipating crises, and it would help future policy makers to have a thoughtful look at how and why we missed the al Qaeda threat as it was massing in the 1990s. In order to take such a detached view, the Pearl Harbor inquiry waited until after World War II to publish its findings.

    The 9/11 Commission has instead been driven from the start by meaner political calculations: To appease the demands of those (few) victims' families looking for someone to blame, and to provide a vehicle to embarrass the Bush Administration. That's the real reason Henry Kissinger and George Mitchell--two men who have acted in the past as statesmen--were hounded out as the original commission leaders on trivial conflict-of-interest grounds.
    Their replacements are the junior varsity and have been unable to lift the commission above narrow partisan scheming. Republican chairman Tom Kean, a former governor little schooled in defense and foreign affairs, is apparently oblivious to the political hardball being played around him. Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton, an ex-member of Congress well-versed in national security, is a better choice.

    But Mr. Hamilton has to contend with his fellow Democrats, who include hyper-partisans Richard Ben-Veniste, Jamie Gorelick and Tim Roemer. These three caucus weekly, reporting back regularly to Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle for political fine-tuning.

    Ms. Gorelick has her own clear conflict of interest: As Janet Reno's deputy attorney general, she had a major law enforcement role in combatting the terror threat. Her Administration's decision to handle the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 as a mere "law-enforcement" problem ought to be central to the commission's probe. She and Mr. Ben-Veniste also wouldn't mind being Attorney General in a Kerry Administration.

    Inside the commission, these Members have been pushing the argument that Clinton officials warned the Bush Administration about al Qaeda, only to be ignored by men and women who were too preoccupied with Iraq and missile defense to care. So having failed to contain al Qaeda during its formative decade, and having made almost no mention of this grave threat in the 2000 campaign, these officials now want us to believe that in their final hours they urgently begged the Bushies to act with force and dispatch. Sure.

    As for Mr. Clarke, he is now flacking his book by blaming the Bush Administration for failing to capture Osama bin Laden while offering the novel sociological insight (in last week's Time magazine) that "maybe we should be asking why the terrorists hate us." We'd take Mr. Clarke's words more seriously if, as America's lead anti-terror official from 1998 through Mr. Bush's first two years, he had warned someone that al Qaeda might have a strategy to hijack airplanes and fly them into buildings. He already knew that an Egyptian had flown one plane into the drink and that al Qaeda was interested in flight training. Why didn't Mr. Clarke connect those dots?

    The author is also highly critical of both the Afghan and Iraq campaigns. But inside the Clinton and Bush Administrations, his main pre-9/11 counsel was to energize the proxy war in Afghanistan through the Northern Alliance to make life more difficult for the Taliban. This certainly would have helped in the mid-1990s when al Qaeda was massing in that country. But by 2001 it would have done nothing to break up the al Qaeda cells that were already operating in Florida and Germany and that carried out the 9/11 hijackings.

    As for Iraq, he and other Bush critics want to claim that the U.S. invasion has only created more terrorists--as if there weren't any before March 2003. And as if those terrorists are only striking at Americans and our allies in Iraq, not also at Turks, and Indonesians, French and Saudis.

    Mr. Clarke lambastes the White House for seeking links between Iraq and 9/11, even as he himself asserts that he knew in the immediate aftermatch that there were no such links. How could he have known that? Mr. Clarke fails to mention that Abdul Rahman Yasin, the one conspirator from the 1993 WTC bombing still at large, had fled to Iraq and was harbored by Saddam Hussein for years. In our view, a U.S. President who failed to ask questions about Iraq and other state sponsors of terrorism in the wake of 9/11 would have been irresponsible.

    There is a profound contradiction at the heart of this 20-20 hindsight. On the one hand, the critics want to blame the Bush Administration for failing to prevent 9/11, but on the other they assail it for acting "pre-emptively" on a needless war in Iraq. Well, which do they really believe?
    We'd guess it is the latter because when these same critics held the reins of government they failed to do much against al Qaeda beyond fire cruise missiles from hundreds of miles away. Their boast that after 9/11 they would have toppled the Taliban, as well as increased pressure on Saddam Hussein, is impossible to credit. Their criticism now, in books and especially through the 9/11 Commission, is a case of blaming the Bush Administration in order to absolve themselves of any and all responsibility.

    If the 9/11 Commission members really wanted to make a public contribution, they would shut down and resume their probe after the elections. Their final report is now due on July 26, two months after its original deadline and the same day that the Democratic Party convention begins in Boston. We doubt that's a coincidence either.

    Here is an interesting opinion article from the WSJ which gives a different view. Food for thought.
  12. by   movealong
    You've got to be kidding, right? Stop the 9/11 investigation? Why on earth would we, the American people not want to know???

    The report has been delayed, and most of the delays are due because of Bush and Co. Maybe the report would be coming out sooner if they had full co operation.

    And furthermore, I'd like to see Connie Rice and other Bush officials give their testimony UNDER OATH, which they have REFUSED to do thus far. I'd take any testimony alot more seriously if given under oath. But of course, if they were to testify under oath, they be open to lawsuits later on..........
    As far as Clarke's book, and the info given in it, it isn't anything very new. I didn't learn awhole new from it. The information contained in it has been around for several months already. I've read some of it in other books, and in newspaper columns. So much regarding the's been around.
  13. by   Spidey's mom
    10 Questions...

    March 23, 2004

    Ten Questions for Richard Clarke.

    Number 1: Mr. Clarke, the first time the Sudanese government offered bin Laden to the United States, exactly what advice did you give Bill Clinton?

    Number 2: Mr. Clarke, the second time the Sudanese government offered bin Laden to the United States, exactly what advice did you give Bill Clinton?

    Number 3: Mr. Clarke, the third time the Sudanese government offered bin Laden to the United States, exactly what advice did you give Bill Clinton?

    Number 4: When Al-Qaeda attacked our barracks in Saudi Arabia, exactly what advice did you give Clinton for striking back at them?

    Number 5: Mr. Clarke, when Al-Qaeda attacked the World Trade Center in 1993, what advice did you give Clinton for striking back at them?

    Number 6: Mr. Clarke, when Al-Qaeda attacked the USS Cole, what advice did you give President Clinton for striking back at them?

    Number 7: Mr. Clarke, when Al-Qaeda attacked the two U.S. embassies in North Africa, weren't you one of the experts who advised Clinton to bomb the pharmaceutical factory in Sudan?

    Number 8: Mr. Clarke, when Clinton was slashing the defense budget in the face of these Al-Qaeda attacks, did you advise him against it?

    Number 9: Mr. Clarke, when Clinton undermined the CIA in the face of all these takers, did you advise him against that?

    Number 10: Mr. Clarke, isn't it true that you and your colleagues in the Clinton administration generally were complete and miserable failures in defending this nation?

    And let me add an eleventh question. Mr. Clarke, isn't it true that your attempts to blame President Bush for what happened in the first nine months of his administration when you didn't do anything for the eight years previous, is pathetic
  14. by   movealong
    Interesting you leave Bush completely off your post. LOL.