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March 24, 2004

911 Testimony: My Take FWIW

Clarke's briefing in 2002, as quoted on Fox. Now I first saw this quoted by Liddy in Oliver Willis's comments here (which then devolved into a "who can fart the loudest" contest - Oliver really should monitor and delete attack exchanges).

Rather than swallow it whole I had some questions (and you'll have to go to the Fox link to generally understand my points):
Link to that Clarke / Angle "conversation" would have been nice.
(It's here at Fox,)
Anywhere else?
I detect some severe editing by them. And with a handful of reporters this had to be cleared (today???????) by the White House. How convenient.
It beggars belief.
And this phrase "(Break in briefing details as reporters and Clarke go back and forth on how to source quotes from this backgrounder.)" set my bullshit radar real high. If this is "background" it was never intended for being on the record, so why a transcript?
Who puts that in a transcript? And is it a briefing or a backgrounder?
Or is it a product of wishful thinking.
If true, it does indeed raise all kinds of questions. But a lot of that is not inconsistent with his statements since. Remember this was an Aug. 2002 "conversation"
This (me) is a reporter talking and the words (again which seem to be so exactly helpful to Bush) mentioned above seem fishy.
And relased on the day of Clarke's testimony? Again, I see some severe editing and or something else going on.
If true, if the answers are to the questions mentioned as presented it hurts Clarke's cause - no doubt about it.

Just five minutes ago (although when I finish this it might be closer to 20 minutes ago) I saw this further enumeration at Talking Points Memo, who answered a couple of my questions (and if anyone tries to call Marshall, a deliberative and conscientious -- and admittedly partisan -- reporter a hack ... ).
The campaign to destroy Dick Clarke's credibility is today rolling out (or I should say the White House is rolling out) a background briefing Clarke gave in August 2002. (Needless to say, the White House has taken it off background -- which is in itself reminiscent of this earlier incident. Interestingly, the transcript has thus far only appeared on the White House-subservient Fox News network, which may be a point that bears watching.)

They've brought this transcript forth because in it Clarke seems to follow some of the same line or spin that the Bush administration is now using against him -- much of it this point about whether there was a 'plan' handed over. Now, I've given it a quick read. And on some points there's not much of a contradiction at all. On other points there are contradictions, though I think one of the issues here is that what now Clarke says the new team ignored wasn't a Clinton administration plan per se, but rather his plan.

In any case, the larger point I think is this: Career civil servants working for a given White House do tend to follow that White House's spin when they're giving background briefings. That's hardly a surprise. It's somewhat in the nature of the enterprise.

Luckily we don't have to rely on what Clarke said then or what he's saying now.

He's now come forward, speaking for himself, with a long list of detailed claims and accusations about the White House's inattention to the terrorism issue during the first eight months of the administration and their desire to wrench the war on terror into a second Iraq war after 9/11.

I further posted at Oliver's site a separate little link I found that Marshall had not, yet. That is that just days prior to 9-11 Clarke sent out a letter, which said:

Clarke Warned of Hundreds Dead Just Before 9/11
Wed Mar 24, 2004 02:25 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former counterterrorism official Richard Clarke sent a letter to national security adviser Condoleezza Rice one week before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks urging Bush administration aides to imagine how they would feel if hundreds of Americans were killed in a terrorist strike.

The existence of the letter came to light in testimony on Wednesday to the national commission investigating the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Commissioner Tim Roemer, a former Democratic congressman, referred to the letter when questioning Clarke.

"You urge policymakers to imagine a day after hundreds of Americans lay dead at home and abroad after a terrorist attack and ask themselves what else they could have done. You write this on Sept. 4, seven days before Sept. 11."

In the letter, Clarke blasted the Pentagon and the CIA for failing to act against the al Qaeda organization.

In his testimony, Clarke said the United States was too timid in its policy toward al Qaeda and accused the Bush administration of failing to treat terrorism as an urgent matter before the Sept. 11 attacks.

He said the Bush administration did not view terrorism as an urgent priority. "The Bush administration saw terrorism policy as important but not urgent, prior to 9/11," he said.

The former official, who worked for four administrations, said it had been difficult under Bush to convene a Cabinet-level meeting on terrorism. He said top Bush administration officials "sent unfortunate signals to the bureaucracy about the administration's attitude toward the al Qaeda threat."

I'm just trying to put the pieces together.

What I think, I hope, will develop - in history since I don't think a fair and balanced look at the 911 commission is currently allowed anymore - is that these public hearings of the commission, (whatever the final result or whether I disagree with it) are extremely helpful. At last - the voices of the people involved, directly from the people involved. And the questioning seems to really be searching for answers rather than blame. For instance, I heard rabid Republican, former WA Senator Slade "Skeletor" Gorton ask Ted Kennnedyesque hard questions of Tenet regarding what the Bush plan was. Gordon was of the belief that there didn't seem to be much of a plan until it was too late and it took way too long.

Thank you C-SPAN and the various clips.

This is ultimately very helpful. What I'm hearing is a lot of information that I don't like hearing regarding the timidity of the Clinton administration. What I'm hearing, similarly, are a lot of damning comments for the Bush administration (these are often from the same people - Tenet, Clarke) which are being denied vehemently by the Rove administration and the "Bush 2004 or Bust" team, who has not wanted either 911 Commission to do anything or even form to ask questions.

I feel better after hearing this testimony for the simple reason that I know it is out there. It is the continued Bush team denials that get me bitter).

Other pundit takes on this. Eric Alterman (MSNBC, sort of) and Clifford May (NRO) and Fred Kaplan (Slate). And Scott McClellan's press briefing yesterday.

(ASIDE: Other than, perhaps, his testimony I predict we won't hear another peep out of Bill Clinton during these preceedings or before the final report is released.)

MORE LINKS: Al Franken's chapter "Operation Ignore" ..... RichardKevin Drum: "Clinton and 9/11" ..... NRO Wolfowitz vs Clarke transcript .... Hart-Rudman report (PDF) ...