Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Clarke - Two years ago, a different story

Its interesting to compare Richard Clarke's view from two years ago with those he voices now:PBS interview, March 2002:

CLARKE: "I believe that, had we destroyed the terrorist camps in Afghanistan earlier, that the conveyor belt that was producing terrorists sending them out around the world would have been destroyed. So many, many trained and indoctrinated Al Qaeda terrorists, which now we have to hunt down country by country, many of them would not be trained and would not be indoctrinated, because there wouldn't have been a safe place to do it if we had destroyed the camps earlier."


QUESTION: So that's a pretty basic mistake that we made?

CLARKE: "Well, I'm not prepared to call it a mistake. It was a judgment made by people who had to take into account a lot of other issues. None of these decisions took place in isolation. There was the Middle East peace process going on. There was the war in Yugoslavia going on. People above my rank had to judge what could be done in the counterterrorism world at a time when they were also pursuing other national goals."

So Clinton's failure to deal with al Qaida was not a "mistake" but rather was "a judgment made by people who had to take into account a lot of other issues". Rather generous in comparison to what he has to say about Bush. But clearly for Clarke things must have become so much less complex, especially in hindsight.

QUESTION: A lot of people looked at Sept. 11, and said "Massive intelligence failure. Haven't seen an intelligence failure like this since Pearl Harbor." What's your opinion on that allegation?

CLARKE: "I think it's a cheap shot. I think when people say, no matter what event it is, they say, "Oh, it was an intelligence failure," they frequently don't know what the intelligence community said prior to the event. In June 2001, the intelligence community issued a warning that a major Al Qaeda terrorist attack would take place in the next many weeks. They said they were unable to find out exactly where it might take place. They said they thought it might take place in Saudi Arabia.

"We asked, "Could it take place in the United States?" They said, "We can't rule that out." So in my office in the White House complex, the CIA sat and briefed the domestic U.S. federal law enforcement agencies, Immigration, Federal Aviation, Coast Guard, and Customs. The FBI was there as well, agreeing with the CIA, and told them that we were entering a period when there was a very high probability of a major terrorist attack. Now I don't think that's an intelligence failure. It may be a failure of other parts of the government, but I don't think that was an intelligence failure."

So where is all this "Bush could have prevented it" stuff coming from?

And as for the claims that Bush was immediately out for Saddam:

QUESTION: Because one of the things that surprises a lot of the public, I think, is that immediately after Sept. 11, the administration knew exactly who had done it. Was that why?

CLARKE "No. On the day of Sept. 11, then the day or two following, we had a very open mind. CIA and FBI were asked, "See if it's Hezbollah. See if it's Hamas. Don't assume it's Al Qaeda. Don't just assume it's Al Qaeda." Frankly, there was absolutely not a shred of evidence that it was anybody else. The evidence that it was Al Qaeda began just to be massive within days after the attack."

So they were just checking to see if anyone else could possibly have been responsible, making sure of the facts. Sounds crazy to me.

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