Brian Clark: ‘I, too, continue to trade with Ameritrade – not because they still have a great price, but because they do it right. No extra charges, no gimmicks, $11 bucks a trade, period.’
This concludes the financial portion of today’s reading.
The rest is optional. But for those interested in the integrity and security of our nation – or who may have missed the ’60 Minutes’ interview Sunday, or a short but equally compelling, complementary CNN interview, there is a lot to read.
Indeed, let’s take Friday off . . . read this over the weekend if that better fits your schedule.
1. Kay implores US to admit mistakes in Iraq
By Missy Ryan, Reuters, 3/23/2004
CAMBRIDGE — The former chief US weapons inspector in Iraq warned yesterday that the United States is in “grave danger” of destroying its credibility at home and abroad if it does not own up to its mistakes in Iraq.
“The cost of our mistakes . . . with regard to the explanation of why we went to war in Iraq are far greater than Iraq itself,” David Kay said in a speech at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
“We are in grave danger of having destroyed our credibility internationally and domestically with regard to warning about future events,” he said. “The answer is to admit you were wrong, and what I find most disturbing around Washington . . . is the belief . . . you can never admit you’re wrong.”
Kay’s comments came as the White House sought to fend off accusations from its former antiterrorism chief, Richard Clarke, who said President Bush ignored the Al Qaeda threat before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and focused on Iraq, rather than on the Islamic militant group, afterward. . . .
2. Floor Statement of Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle on the Administration Attacking Good People for Telling the Truth, 3/23/2004
I want to talk this morning about a disturbing pattern of conduct by the people around President Bush. They seem to be willing to do anything for political purposes, regardless of the facts and regardless of what’s right.
I don’t have the time this morning to talk in detail about all the incidents that come to mind. Larry Lindsay, for instance, seems to have been fired as the President’s Economic Advisor because he spoke honestly about the costs of the Iraq War. General Shinseki seems to have become a target when he spoke honestly about the number of troops that would be needed in Iraq.
There are many others, who are less well known, who have also faced consequences for speaking out. U.S. Park Police Chief Teresa Chambers was suspended from her job when she disclosed budget problems that our nation’s parks are less safe, and Professor Elizabeth Blackburn was replaced on the Council on Bioethics because of her scientific views on stem-cell research.
Each of these examples deserves examination, but they are not my focus today.
Instead, I want to talk briefly about four other incidents that are deeply troubling.
When former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill stepped forward to criticize the Bush Administration’s Iraq policy, he was immediately ridiculed by the people around the President and his credibility was attacked. Even worse, the Administration launched a government investigation to see if Secretary O’Neill improperly disclosed classified documents. He was, of course, exonerated, but the message was clear. If you speak freely, there will be consequences.
Ambassador Joseph Wilson also learned that lesson. Ambassador Wilson, who by all accounts served bravely under President Bush in the early 1990s, felt a responsibility to speak out on President Bush’s false State of the Union statement on Niger and uranium. When he did, the people around the President quickly retaliated. Within weeks of debunking the President’s claim, Ambassador Wilson’s wife was the target of a despicable act.
Her identity as a deep-cover CIA agent was revealed to Bob Novak, a syndicated columnist, and was printed in newspapers around the country. That was the first time in our history, I believe, that the identity and safety of a CIA agent was disclosed for purely political purposes. It was an unconscionable and intolerable act.
Around the same time Bush Administration officials were endangering Ambassador Wilson’s wife, they appear to have been threatening another federal employee for trying to do his job. In recent weeks Richard Foster, an actuary for the Department of Health and Human Services, has revealed that he was told he would be fired if he told Congress and the American people the real costs of last year’s Medicare bill.
Mr. Foster, in an e-mail he wrote on June 26 of last year, said the whole episode had been “pretty nightmarish.” He wrote: “I’m no longer in grave danger of being fired, but there remains a strong likelihood that I will have to resign in protest of the withholding of important technical information from key policymakers for political purposes.”
Think about those words. He would lose his job if he did his job. If he provided the information the Congress and the American people deserved and were entitled to, he would lose his job. When did this become the standard for our government? When did we become a government of intimidation?
And now, in today’s newspapers, we see the latest example of how the people around the President react when faced with facts they want to avoid.
The White House’s former lead counter-terrorism advisor, Richard Clarke, is under fierce attack for questioning the White House’s record on combating terrorism. Mr. Clarke has served in four White Houses, beginning with Ronald Reagan’s Administration, and earned an impeccable record for his work.
Now the White House seeks to destroy his reputation. The people around the President aren’t answering his allegations; instead, they are trying to use the same tactics they used with Paul O’Neill. They are trying to ridicule Mr. Clarke and destroy his credibility, and create any diversion possible to focus attention away from his serious allegations.
The purpose of government isn’t to make the President look good. It isn’t to produce propaganda or misleading information. It is, instead, to do its best for the American people and to be accountable to the American people. The people around the President don’t seem to believe that. They have crossed a line-perhaps several lines-that no government ought to cross.
We shouldn’t fire or demean people for telling the truth. We shouldn’t reveal the names of law enforcement officials for political gain. And we shouldn’t try to destroy people who are out to make country safer.
I think the people around the President have crossed into dangerous territory. We are seeing abuses of power that cannot be tolerated.
The President needs to put a stop to it, right now. We need to get to the truth, and the President needs to help us do that.
3. CBS 60 Minutes – Lesley Stahl Interviews Richard Clarke 3/21/04
Lesley Stahl: Right now, a special presidential commission is investigating whether the attacks on the world trade center and the pentagon on September 11, 2001, were preventable. There are few people in a better position to answer that question than Richard Clarke, the administration’s former top advisor on counter-terrorism, who left the White House last year. Clarke has helped shape U.S. Policy on terrorism since the 1980s, when he got his first presidential appointment from Ronald Reagan. Clarke went on to serve the first President Bush, was held over by President Clinton to be his terrorism czar, then held over again by president George W. Bush. In testimony before the 9/11 commission later this week and in a new book to be published tomorrow, Against All Enemies, Clarke will tell the story of what happened behind the scenes at the White House before, during, and after September 11. He does so first, tonight, on “60 minutes.”
Stahl: When the terrorists struck on the morning of 9/11, it was thought that the White House would be the next target, and the building was evacuated.
Richard Clarke: It went from hundreds of people in the White House, a hubbub of activity, to only a few people.
Stahl: Richard Clarke was one of only a handful of people who stayed behind. He ran the government’s response to the attacks from the situation room in the west wing.
Clarke: Well, I kept thinking of the words from “apocalypse now,” the whispered words of Marlon Brando, when he thought about Vietnam– “the horror, the horror”– because we knew what was going on in New York. We knew about the bodies flying out of the windows, people falling through the air. We knew that Osama bin Laden had succeeded in bringing horror to the streets of America.
Stahl: After the president returned to the White House on 9/11, he and his top advisors, including Clarke, began holding meetings about how to respond and retaliate. As Clarke writes in his book, he expected the administration to focus its military response on Osama bin laden and al Qaeda, but was surprised that the talk quickly turned to another target. You relate a conversation you had with Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld.
Clarke: Well, Rumsfeld was saying that we needed to bomb Iraq. And… and… we all aid, but no, no, al Qaeda is in Afghanistan. We need to bomb Afghanistan.” And Rumsfeld said, there aren’t any good targets in Afghanistan. And there are lots of good targets in Iraq.” I said, “well, there are lots of good targets in lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with it.”
Stahl: You wrote, you thought he was joking.
Clarke: Oh, initially, I thought when he said there aren’t enough targets in… in Afghanistan, I thought he was joking.
Stahl: Now what was your reaction to all of this Iraq talk? What did you tell everybody?
Clarke: Well, what I said was, you know, invading Iraq or bombing Iraq, after we’re attacked by somebody else, you know, it’s akin to what Franklin Roosevelt did after Pearl Harbor. Instead of going to war with Japan, he said, “Let’s invade Mexico.” You know, it’s very analogous.
Stahl: Yeah, but didn’t they think that there was a connection?
Clarke: No. I think they wanted to believe that there was a connection, but the C.I.A. as sitting there, the F.B.I. Was sitting there, I was sitting there, saying we’ve looked at this issue for years. For years we’ve looked, and there’s just no connection.
Stahl: And you told them that?
Stahl: You, personally?
Clarke: I told them that. George Tenet told them that.
Stahl: Who did you tell?
Clarke: I told that to the group, to the secretary of state, the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General. They all knew it.
Stahl: In fact, you talk about a conversation you personally had with the president.
Clarke: Yes, the president. We’re in the situation room complex. The president dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door, and said, “I want you to find whether Iraq did this.” Now he never said, “Make it up,” but the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this.
Stahl: Didn’t you tell him that you’d looked and … and there’d been no connection?
Clarke: I said… I said, “Mr. President,” we’ve done this before. We have been looking at this. We looked at it with an open mind. There’s no connection.” He came back at me and said, “Iraq, Saddam, find out if there’s a connection,” and in a very intimidating way. I mean, that we should come back with that answer. We wrote a report.
Stahl: You… in other words, you did go back and look?
Clarke: We went back again and we looked.
Stahl: You did. And was it a serious look? Did you really…
Clarke: It was a serious look. We got together all the F.B.I. Experts, all the C.I.A. Experts. We wrote the report. We sent the report out to CIA and found FBI and said, “Will you sign this report?” They all cleared the report. And we sent it up to the president, and it got bounced by the national security advisor or deputy. It got bounced and sent back saying, “wrong answer.”
Stahl: Come on.
Clarke: “Do it again.”
Stahl: Wrong answer?
Clarke: Do it again.
Stahl: Did the president see it?
Clarke: I have no idea, to this day, if the president saw it, because after we did it again, it came to the same conclusion. And frankly, Leslie, I don’t think the people around the president show him memos like that. I don’t think he sees memos that he doesn’t…wouldn’t like the answer.
Stahl: Clarke was the president’s top advisor on terrorism, and yet it wasn’t until 9/11 that he ever got to brief Mr. Bush on the subject. Clarke says that prior to 9/11, this Administration didn’t take the threat seriously.
Clarke: We had a terrorist organization that was going after us, al Qaeda. That should have been the first item on the agenda. And it was pushed back and back and back for months.
Stahl: You’re about to testify publicly before a committee that wants to know if the Bush administration dropped the ball. What are you going to tell the committee when they ask you that?
Clarke: Well, there’s a lot of blame to go around, and I probably deserve some blame, too. But on January 24, 2001, I wrote a memo to Condoleezza Rice, asking for, urgently–underlined urgently-a cabinet-level meeting to deal with the impending al Qaeda attack. And that urgent memo wasn’t acted on.
Stahl: Do you blame her for not understanding the significance of terrorism?
Clarke: I blame the entire Bush leadership for continuing to work on cold war issues when they were back in power in 2001. It was as though they were preserved in amber from when they left office eight years earlier. They came back, they wanted to work on the same issues right away– Iraq, star wars — not new issues that… the new threats that had developed over the preceding eight years.
Stahl: Clarke finally got his meeting to brief about al Qaeda in April, three months after his urgent request. But it wasn’t with the president or the cabinet. It was with the number twos in each relevant department. For the pentagon, that was Paul Wolfowitz.
Clarke: I began saying, “we have to deal with bin laden, we have to deal with al Qaeda.” Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, said, “no, no, no. We don’t have to deal with al Qaeda. Why are we talking about that little guy? We have to talk about Iraqi terrorism against the United States.” And I said, “Paul, there hasn’t been any Iraqi terrorism against the united states in eight years.” And I turned to the deputy director of the C.I.A. And said, “Isn’t that right?” And he said, “Yeah, that’s right. There is no Iraqi terrorism against the United States.”
Stahl: In eight years.
Clarke: In eight years.
Stahl: Now, explain that. He explained that there was no Iraqi terrorism against the United States after 1993, when Saddam Hussein attempted to assassinate the first president Bush while he was visiting Kuwait.
Clarke: We responded to that by blowing up Iraqi intelligence headquarters, and by sending a very clear message through diplomatic channels to the Iraqis, saying, “if you do any terrorism against the United States again, it won’t just be Iraqi intelligence headquarters. It’ll be your whole government.” It was a very chilling message. And apparently it worked, because there’s absolutely no evidence, since that day, of Iraqi terrorism directed against the United States, until we invaded them. Now there’s Iraqi terrorism against the United States.
Stahl: Was there any connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda?
Clarke: Were they cooperating? No.
Stahl: Was Iraq supporting al Qaeda?
Clarke: No. There’s absolutely no evidence that Iraq was supporting al Qaeda, ever.
Stahl: But you know, you call certain people in the administration, and they’ll say that’s still open. That’s an open issue.
Clarke: Well, they’ll say that until hell freezes over.
Stahl: By June, 2001, there still hadn’t been a cabinet- level meeting on terrorism, even though the U.S. Intelligence community was picking up an unprecedented level of ominous chatter. The C.I.A. Director warned the White House.
Clarke: George tenet was saying to the White House, saying to the president–because he briefed him every morning– a major al Qaeda attack is going to happen against the united states somewhere in the world in the weeks and months ahead. He said that in June, July, August.
Stahl: The last time the C.I.A. Had picked up a similar level of intelligence chatter was back in December 1999, when Clarke was the terrorism czar in the Clinton White House. Clarke says President Clinton ordered his cabinet to go to battle stations, meaning, they went on high alert, holding meetings nearly every day. That, Clarke says, helped thwart a major attack on Los Angeles international airport, when this al Qaeda operative was stopped at the border with Canada, driving a car full of explosives. Clarke harshly criticizes President Bush for not going to battle stations when the C.I.A. warned him of a comparable threat in the months before 9/11.
Clarke: He never thought it was important enough for him to hold a meeting on the subject, or for him to order his national security advisor to hold a cabinet-level meeting on the subject.
Stahl: Why would having a meeting make a difference?
Clarke: If you compare December ’99 to June and July of 2001, in December ’99, every day or every other day the head of the FBI, the head of the CIA, the attorney general, had to go to the White House and sit in a meeting and report on all the things they personally had done to stop the al Qaeda attack. So they were going back every night to their departments and shaking the trees, personally, finding out all the information. If that had happened in July 2001, we might have found out in the White House, the attorney general might have found out that there were al Qaeda operatives in the United States. FBI at lower levels knew. Never told me. Never told the highest levels in the F.B.I.
Stahl: The FBI and the C.I.A. Knew that these two al Qaeda operatives, both among the 9/11 hijackers, had been living in the U.S. Since 2000, yet neither agency passed that information up the chain of command or told Dick Clarke, as the White House terrorism coordinator.
Clarke: Here I am in the White House, saying, “something’s about to happen. Tell me, you know… if A… if a sparrow falls from the tree, I want to know, if anything unusual is going on, because we’re about to be hit.”
Stahl: No one told you. No one told you?
Clarke: The FBI knows they’re in the country. Lesley, if we had put their picture on the “CBS Evening News,” if we had put their picture on Dan Rather, on “U.S.A. Today,” we could have caught those guys. And then we might have been able to pull that thread, and… and get more of the conspiracy. I’m not saying we could have stopped 9/11, but we could have at least had a chance.
Stahl: But as we all know, the al Qaeda sleeper cell was left free to plan the 9/11 attack, while Dick Clarke kept agitating for the high-level White House meeting he’d been seeking.
Stahl: You finally did get your cabinet-level meeting, finally. When did that meeting take place?
Clarke: The cabinet meeting I asked for right after the inauguration took place one week prior to 9/11.
Stahl: When he got his meeting on September 4, he proposed a plan to bomb al Qaeda’s sanctuary in Afghanistan, and to kill Osama bin Laden. Same plan he tried to persuade the Clinton administration to adopt to no avail. When we come back, Clarke’s view of the when we come back, his view of the president’s actions after 9/11, and the White House view of Clarke.
Stahl: Richard Clarke served in the Reagan, Bush one, and Clinton administrations, before he became George W. Bush’s top official on counter-terrorism. In a new book, he says that the Bush administration should have, and could have, taken out al Qaeda and its training camps in Afghanistan long before the attacks of September 11. He also says the fact that Osama bin Laden is still at large is another major failure, made possible by what he calls the administration’s sluggish response to 9/11. Clarke’s book, in effect an indictment of the president’s handling of the war on terrorism, arrives just as Mr. Bush is beginning to hit the campaign trail in earnest.
Bush ad: “I’m George W. Bush and I approve this message.”
Stahl: The president’s new campaign ads highlight his handling of 9/11. He’s making it the centerpiece of his bid for reelection. You are writing this book in the middle of this campaign. The timing, I’m sure, you will be questioned about and criticized for. Why are you doing it now?
Clarke: Well, I’m sure I’ll be criticized for lots of things, and I’m sure they’ll launch their dogs on me. 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. He ignored it. He ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11. Maybe we’ll never know.
Stahl: Does a person who works in the White House owe the president his loyalty?
Stahl: Well, this is not a loyal book. I’m sorry.
Clarke: No, no, I know. It… just up to a point, up to a point. When the president starts doing things that risk American lives, then loyalty to him has to be put aside. And the way…
Stahl: You think he risked American lives?
Clarke: I think the way he has responded to al Qaeda, both before 9/11 by doing nothing, and by what he’s done after 9/11, has made us less safe. Absolutely.
Stahl: Don’t you think he handled himself… hit all the right notes after 9/11-showed strength, got us through it? You don’t give him credit for that?
Clarke: He gave a really good speech the week after 9/11.
Stahl: You don’t give him credit for anything. Nothing.
Clarke: I think he’s done a terrible job on the war against terrorism.
Stahl: That may be the most serious indictment yet of the administration’s handling of terrorism, since it comes from the president’s own former terrorism advisor. It’s not a surprise that the number two man on the president’s national security counsel, Stephen Hadley, vehemently disagrees with Clarke. He says the president has taken the fight to the terrorists and is hardening the homeland.
Stahl: Dick Clarke, he was the administration’s top official on counter-terrorism. How would you describe the job he did?
Hadley: Look, Dick is very dedicated, very knowledgeable about this issue. When the president came into office, one of the decisions we made was to keep Mr. Clarke and his counter-terrorism group intact, bring them into the new administration.
Stahl: He says Clarke did a good job, but is just dead wrong when he says the president didn’t heed the warnings about al Qaeda before the attacks on 9/11.
Hadley: The president heard those warnings. The president got… met daily with his chief of intelligence, the director of central intelligence, George Tenet and his staff. They kept him fully informed, and at one point the president became somewhat impatient with us and said, “I’m tired of swatting flies. Where’s my new strategy to eliminate al Qaeda?”
Stahl: Hadley says that contrary to Clarke’s assertion, the president didn’t ignore the ominous intelligence chatter in the summer of 2001.
Hadley: All the chatter was of an attack, a potential al Qaeda attack overseas. But interestingly enough, the president got concerned about whether there was the possibility of an attack on the homeland. He asked the intelligence community, “Look hard. See if we’re missing something about a threat to the homeland.” And at that point, various alerts went out from the federal aviation administration to the FBI, saying the intelligence suggests a threat overseas. We don’t want to be caught unprepared. We don’t want to rule out the possibility of a threat to the homeland. And therefore preparatory steps need to be made. So the president put us on battle stations.
Stahl: Now, he’s the top terrorism official in this administration at that point. He says you didn’t go to battle stations.
Hadley: Well, I think that’s just wrong.
Stahl: He also says Clarke was wrong when he said the president pressured him to find a link between Iraq and 9/11.
Hadley: We cannot find evidence that this conversation between Mr. Clarke and the president ever occurred.
Stahl: Now, can I interrupt you for one second. We have done our own work on that ourselves, and we have two sources who tell us independently of Dick Clarke that there was this encounter. One of them was an actual witness.
Hadley: Look, I stand on what I said. But the point I think we’re missing in this is, of course, the president wanted to know if there was any evidence linking Iraq to 9/11.
Stahl: So he’s not denying the president asked for another review, nor is he denying that Clarke wrote a memo stating once again that Iraq was not involved in 9/11. In fact, the White House showed us the memo dated September 18. As Clarke said, it was bounced back. The notation reads: “Please update and resubmit.” And it was written by Stephen Hadley.
Hadley: I asked him to go back- not “wrong answer.” I asked him to go back and check it again a week or two later to make sure there was no new emerging evidence that Iraq was involved. That’s what I was asking him to do.
Stahl: Hadley says the whole issue about Iraq was moot by the time Clarke submitted his memo, since the president, at a meeting with his war cabinet at Camp David, had already decided to focus the U.S. Response to 9/11 on Afghanistan, which is what Clarke had been recommending. But Clarke says it was not moot, because the administration wanted to make Iraq phase two of the response, no mater what happened in Afghanistan.
Bush video clip: You can’t distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror.
Stahl: Clarke contends that with statements like that, the president continually left an impression that Saddam had been involved in 9/11.
Clarke: The White House carefully manipulated public opinion. Never quite lied, but gave the very strong impression that Iraq did it.
Stahl: Yeah, but you’re suggesting here that they knew better, and it was deliberate.
Clarke: They did know better. They did know better. We told them. The CIA told them. The FBI told them. They did know better. And the tragedy here is that Americans went to their deaths in Iraq thinking they were avenging September 11, when Iraq had nothing to do with September 11. I think for a commander in chief and a vice president to allow that to happen is unconscionable.
Stahl: And he thinks the president, to this day, misinterprets the nature and the essence of the terrorist threat.
Clarke: He asked us after 9/11 to give him cards with pictures of the major al Qaeda leaders and tell us when they were arrested or killed so he could draw x’s through their pictures. And you know, I write in the book, I have this image of George Bush sitting by a warm fireplace in the White House drawing x’s through al Qaeda leaders, and thinking that he’s got most of them, and therefore he’s taken care of the problem. And while George Bush thinks he’s crossing them out one by one, there are all these new al Qaeda people who are being recruited who hate the united states in large measure because of what Bush has done.
Stahl: He says that the war in Iraq has not only inflamed anti-Americanism in the Arab world, it drained resources away from the fight in Afghanistan and the push to eliminate Osama bin Laden.
Hadley: It’s not correct. Iraq, as the president has said, is at the center of the war on terror. We have narrowed the ground available to al Qaeda and to the terrorists. Their sanctuary in Afghanistan is gone. Their sanctuary in Iraq is gone. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are now allies on the war on terror. So Iraq has contributed in that way in narrowing the sanctuaries available to terrorists.
Stahl: Don’t you think that Iraq, the Middle East, and the world is better off with Saddam Hussein out of power?
Clarke: I think that…
Stahl: It’s a widely held view that…
Clarke: Lesley, I think the world would be better off if a number of leaders around the world were out of power. The question is, what price should the United States pay? The price we paid was very, very high, and we’re still paying that price for doing it.
Stahl: What do you mean?
Clarke: Osama bin Laden had been saying for years, America wants to invade an Arab country and occupy it, an oil-rich Arab country. He had been saying this. This is part of his propaganda. So what did we do after 9/11? We invade an oil-rich country and occupy and oil-rich Arab country which was doing nothing to threaten us. In other words, we stepped right into bin Laden’s propaganda. And the result of that is that al Qaeda and organizations like it, offshoots of it, second- generation al Qaeda, have been greatly strengthened.
Stahl: Exhibit “A,” he now says, is the attack on the passenger trains in Madrid, the deadliest terrorist attack in Europe since World War II. Dick Clarke worked for Reagan, Bush one, Clinton, and now here. He has a track record. Why do you think a man with those credentials would be so completely critical of the way this administration has handled the war on terrorism?
Hadley: Well, I don’t know. I’ve not read Dick’s book. I don’t know what he said about the prior administration, which, again, was in office and dealing with this problem for eight years. We were in office dealing with this problem for 230 days. At the time when he left us, the conversations I had with him was that he was pleased at the leadership provided by the president.
Stahl: He did tell you he was pleased when he left?
Hadley: My belief was that he appreciated the leadership the president had provided.
Stahl: No hint of that in his book or in our interview. When Clarke worked for President Clinton, he was known as the terrorism czar. When George Bush came into office, though he kept Clarke on at the White House, he stripped him of his cabinet-level rank. They demoted you. Aren’t you open to charges that this is all sour grapes because they demoted you and reduced your leverage, your power in the White House?
Clarke: Well, frankly if I had been so upset that the national coordinator for counter-terrorism had been downgraded from a cabinet-level position to a staff-level position… if that had bothered me enough, I would have quit. I didn’t quit.
Stahl: Not for another two years. He finally resigned last year, after 30 years in government service. A senior White House official told us he thinks Clarke’s book is an audition for a job in the Kerry campaign. Are you working to defeat Bush, and are you working to help Kerry get elected?
Clarke: No, I’m not working for Kerry. I’m an independent. I’m not working for the Kerry campaign.
Stahl: We’re here at Harvard right now. You teach a course at the Kennedy school with Kerry’s national security advisor, Rand Beers.
Clarke: Mm-hmm. I have worked for Ronald Reagan. I have worked for George Bush the first. I have worked for George Bush the second. I’m not participating in this campaign, but I am putting facts out that I think people ought to know.
Stahl: Looking back on September 11, the day itself, besides the attacks and the horrible images of those planes hitting, what do you remember?
Clarke: I remember trying very hard to keep my emotions in check. I knew people in the pentagon. I knew people in the world trade center. I assumed that friends of mine had died, and in fact it turned out they had. I felt an enormous rage and anger against al Qaeda, but also a rage and anger against the U.S. Government that we hadn’t been able to stop this.
Stahl: Well, I’ll tell you something, some of that rage is in this book.
Clarke: Well, it should be.
Stahl: Over the weekend, we got a note from the pentagon saying, “any suggestion that the president did anything other than act aggressively, quickly, and effectively to address the al Qaeda and Taliban threat in Afghanistan is absurd.”
4. Clarke on CNN’s American Morning with Bill Hemmer, 3/23/04
HEMMER: They say the best defense is a good offense and the White House was hitting back at its former counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke from every angle yesterday.
In his new book, Against All Enemies, slamming the White House for its actions, or lack of them, before and after 9/11, Clarke will testify tomorrow before a public hearing at the 9/11 Commission. That panel also hearing from senior members of the Bush and the Clinton administrations.
Richard Clarke, our guest here live this morning on AMERICAN MORNING.
Nice to see you. Good morning to you.
RICHARD CLARKE, AUTHOR, “AGAINST ALL ENEMIES”: Thanks Bill.
HEMMER: You paint a picture of a White House obsessed with Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Why do you believe that was the case?
CLARKE: Well because I was there and I saw it. You know, the White House is papering over facts such as in the weeks immediately after 9/11, the president signed a national security directive instructing the Pentagon to prepare for the invasion of Iraq.
Even though they knew at the time from me, from the FBI, from the CIA, that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.
HEMMER: The White House says before they even arrived at the White House the previous administration was obsessed with nothing — and I want you to look at a picture here that we saw last week from NBC News.
An al Qaeda terrorist training camp outside of Kandahar. They allege at the time why wasn’t anything done to take al Qaeda out?
This was August of 2000.
CLARKE: Well, a great deal was done. The administration stopped the al Qaeda attacks in the United States.
And around the world at the millennium period and they stopped al Qaeda in Bosnia. They stopped al Qaeda from blowing up embassies around the world. They authorized covert lethal action by the CIA against al Qaeda.
They retaliated with Cruise missile strikes into Afghanistan. They got sanctions on Afghanistan from the United Nations.
There was a great deal that the administration did even though at the time, prior to 9/11, al Qaeda had arguably not done a great deal to the United States. If you look at the eight years of the Clinton administration, al Qaeda was responsible for the deaths of fewer than 50 Americans over those eight years.
Contrast that with Ronald Reagan where 300 Americans were killed in Lebanon and there was no retaliation. Contrast that with the first Bush administration where 260 Americans were killed on Pan Am 103 and there was no retaliation.
I would argue that for what had actually happened prior to 9/11, the Clinton administration was doing a great deal. In fact, so much that when the Bush people came into office they thought I was a little crazy, a little obsessed with this little terrorist bin Laden. Why wasn’t I focused on Iraqi-sponsored terrorism?
HEMMER: It seems that this could go for pit for pat and almost a ping-pong match. Show you a couple more images. Two you mentioned a few back to the 1980s, show you the U.S.S. Cole bombing, October 2000 and a few short weeks before the election I saw — eventually George Bush take the White House helm.
Prior to that, August 1998 Tanzania, Kenya, the U.S. Embassy bombings there.
If you want to go back to Beirut, Lebanon, the early 1980s the White House now was saying go back to 1998, go back to the fall of 2000.
CLARKE: Right, and what happened after 1998? There was a military retaliation against al Qaeda and the covert action program was launched, the U.N. sanctions were obtained.
The administration did an all-out effort compared to what the Bush administration did. And the Bush administration did virtually nothing during the first months of the administration prior to 9/11.
President Bush himself said in a book, when he gave an interview to Bob Woodward, he said I didn’t feel a sense of urgency about al Qaeda. It was not my focus; it was not the focus of my team.
He’s saying that. President Bush said that to Bob Woodward. I’m not the first one to say it.
HEMMER: In part, but the White House would come back and say but the reason why they suggest that statement is because of what was stated yesterday in “The Washington Post.”
Condoleezza Rice wrote, in part, Dr. Rice’s words on the screen now — “No al Qaeda plan was turned over to the new administration.” Is she wrong?
CLARKE: Yes, she’s — that’s counter-factual. We presented the plan to her, call it a plan, call it a strategy. We presented it to her before she was even sworn in to office.
There are lots of witnesses and it’s just — you know — they’re trying to divert attention from the truth here and they’re trying to get me involved in personal vendettas and all sorts of attacks on my personality, and they’ve got all sorts of people on the taxpayers rolls going around attacking me and attacking the book and writing talking points and distributing them to radio talk shows and whatnot around the country.
Now, let’s just look at the facts. The administration had done nothing about al Qaeda prior to 9/11 despite the fact that the CIA director was telling them virtually every day that there was a major threat.
HEMMER: I am hearing from some families of the victims from 9/11 — they’re saying if it was such an urgent matter, if you truly believed the White House botched the war on terror, beginning on September 12 why now?
On such a critical national/international issue do you write the book in March of 2004?
CLARKE: I wrote the book as soon as I retired from government. It was finished last fall, and it sat in the White House for months because as a former White House official my book has to be reviewed by the White House for security purposes.
This book could have come out a long time ago, months and months ago, if the White House hadn’t sat on it.
HEMMER: The White House is saying you only check the facts when it comes to the book itself on whether or not they are sacrificing national security.
CLARKE: They took months and months and months to do it. They’re saying why is the book coming out in the beginning of the election?
I didn’t want it to come out at the beginning of the election; I wanted it to come out last year. They’re the reason — because they took so long to clear it.
HEMMER: Let me stop you one second here. I want to go back to the issue of Iraq. Condoleezza Rice with Soledad yesterday on AMERICAN MORNING.
This is how she phrased this alleged conversation that happened on the 12 of September 2001.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I can’t recollect such a conversation, but its not surprising that the president wanted to know if we were going to retaliate who — against whom were we going to retaliate.
And of course Iraq, given our history, given the fact that they tried to kill a former president, was a likely suspect.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HEMMER: There are now questions about this conversation, what happened, what did not happen.
On “Sixty Minutes” Sunday night you said this: “Well, there’s a lot of blame to go around. I probably deserve some blame, too.”
How do you blame yourself?
CLARKE: Well I don’t blame myself for making up the conversation. I didn’t hallucinate.
There are four eyewitnesses to the conversation which the president had with me, so it’s very convenient that Dr. Rice and the president are now having a memory lapse, a senior moment.
But there are four eyewitnesses who recall vividly what happened, and agree with my interpretation. This is not the president saying do everything, look at everybody, look at Iran, look at Hezbollah.
This is the president in a very intimidating way finger in my face saying I want a paper on Iraq and this attack.
Now, everyone in the room got the same impression and everyone in the room recalls it vividly. So, I’m not making it up. I don’t have to make it up.
It’s part of a pattern with this administration even before they came into office. He was out to get Iraq even though Iraq was not threatening the United States.
HEMMER: One final question if I could. Tomorrow you’ll be publicly testifying on Capitol Hill before that 9/11 Commission. What is your message to them that we will hear tomorrow?
CLARKE: I think the message is that the United States mechanisms, the FBI, the CIA, the DOD, the White House — failed during both the Clinton administration and during the Bush administration.
HEMMER: Richard Clarke, “Against All Enemies,” thank you. Nice to talk to you.
CLARKE: Thanks Bill.
Have a good weekend. See you Monday.
Quote of the Day
There they go. I must follow them. I am their leader.~Gandhi
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