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Thread: Clarke: Sorry, we botched 911

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    Clarke: Sorry, we botched 911

    Clarke: Sorry,
    we botched 9/11

    Ex-aide says Prez lax on anti-terror


    Former Bush administration counterterror boss Richard Clarke.

    WASHINGTON - President Bush's former counterterror chief apologized yesterday to the families of 9/11 victims for failing to protect them, but said Bush had scaled back anti-terror efforts.
    Richard Clarke's testimony set off a wave of emotion from the victims' families and infuriated the White House.

    Clarke started his appearance before the independent 9/11 commission with an act of contrition, telling the families, "Your government failed you. Those entrusted with protecting you failed you. And I failed you." He asked for their "understanding and forgiveness."

    Family members at the hearing were moved.

    "Clarke is the first person who's ever apologized," said Mindy Kleinberg, whose husband was killed at the World Trade Center. "I felt like crying."

    Mary Fetchet, who lost her son Bradley, said she appreciated Clarke accepting blame and praised him for being "brave enough to talk openly about the truth."

    For 2-1/2 hours, Clarke coolly recounted his version of events in Clinton and Bush administrations in the years before the worst terror attack in the nation's history.

    He said that under President Bill Clinton, there was "no higher priority" than combating terrorists. The Bush White House, he said, made it "an important issue, but not an urgent issue."

    Several times, beginning right after Bush's January 2001 inauguration, Clarke said, he pleaded with higher-ups to meet and discuss the growing Al Qaeda threat.

    "I spent less time talking about the problems of terrorism with the national security adviser in this administration," he said, referring to Bush's adviser Condoleezza Rice.

    Alarms sounded during the summer of 2001, when terrorist chatter about a spectacular strike spiked to levels not seen since the plot to blow up U.S. targets during the millennium celebrations, he said.

    Clarke said he demanded that the CIA and FBI tell the National Security Council about "anything that looked the slightest bit unusual."

    But they never told him about two Al Qaeda operatives who had entered the U.S. just before 9/11 or about Zacarias Moussaoui, an Al Qaeda "sleeper" arrested at a flight school in August 2001.

    He said intelligence officials had known for about five years that Al Qaeda wanted to fly planes into buildings, and he was furious at not being told about the Al Qaeda suspects in the U.S.

    "For them to have ... not told me, I still find absolutely incomprehensible," Clarke testified. "I could have connected those dots."

    Clarke grew so frustrated at the Bush team's alleged inattention to terrorism that he wrote a letter a week before the 9/11 attacks to Rice. In the letter, he urged Rice to imagine a day "after hundreds of Americans lay dead at home and abroad following a terrorist attack" where officials would ask what could have been done to prevent it.

    Rice - who has refused to testify before the 9/11 commission - hit back yesterday, calling Clarke's charges "scurrilous" and "arrogant in the extreme."

    Rice also cited an E-mail Clarke sent to her days after the 9/11 attacks, praising the administration for making sure that law enforcement agencies knew a "major Al Qaeda attack was coming and it could be in the U.S."

    Panel member Jim Thompson, a Republican and former Illinois governor whom 9/11 families had criticized for missing past meetings, took up the President's cause and cited a press briefing Clarke gave in August 2002 praising the administration's anti-terror efforts.

    "We have your book, and we have your press briefing of August 2002. Which is true?" Thompson asked.

    The White House has spent four days trying to discredit Clarke, accusing him of making his charges now to sell his new book, "Against All Enemies," and "auditioning" for a job in a John Kerry administration.

    Clarke replied yesterday that he's a Republican and swore he won't work for Kerry if Kerry is elected President.

    Originally published on March 24, 2004

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    "Those entrusted with protecting you failed you," said Richard A. Clarke as he began his testimony to the Sept. 11 commission. "And I failed you."

    ... But I'll make sure my book release is timed with my testimony to maximize profit.

    I wonder if any of the profits from R. Clarke's book will be donated to support the victims of 9/11?

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    White House retreat on 9/11 claims

    White House retreat on 9/11 claims


    WASHINGTON - A member of the 9/11 commission said yesterday that national security adviser Condoleezza Rice indicated in a private session she was wrong to have once stated no one expected terrorists to use planes as missiles.
    The White House reportedly also backpedaled yesterday on whether President Bush pressed counterterror czar Richard Clarke the day after the attacks to find evidence that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was involved.

    Clarke said the meeting occurred in the White House Situation Room and presidential aides said earlier this week the meeting never happened. But CBS News reported last night that White House aides now concede the meeting "probably" occurred.

    The conflicting versions of events before and after 9/11 will ensure that debate will continue through the weekend over Clarke's accusations that Bush downgraded the importance of counterterrorism.

    Clarke, Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will all appear on talk shows tomorrow to press their case.

    Rice, who has refused to testify before the panel under oath and in public, met with the commission privately for four hours Feb. 7.

    One issue was her May 16, 2002, statement at the White House when she said, "I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center . . . that they would try to use . . . a hijacked airplane as a missile." Intelligence reports had detailed such plans as much as five years before 9/11.

    Richard Ben-Veniste, a member of the 9/11 panel, said that during a closed door session Rice revised that statement.

    "She corrected [herself] in our private interview by saying, 'I could not anticipate that they would try to use an airplane as a missile,' but acknowledging that the intelligence community could anticipate it," Ben-Veniste said.

    "No reports of the use of airplanes as weapons were briefed or presented to Dr. Rice prior to May 2002," said her spokesman Sean McCormack.

    The White House is insisting that Rice get another shot before the panel to rebuff sensational charges by Clarke, but commissioners are still balking at Rice's position that she cannot testify under oath and in public because of executive privilege.

    "This [latest discrepancy] is yet another reason why we need to have Dr. Rice come before us in public rather than at the highest classified level," said Democratic commissioner Tim Roemer, a former Indiana congressman.

    Even some of Rice's associates as well as congressional Republicans think muzzling Rice is a political blunder. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said yesterday he supports the decision, but he added, "Personally, I think her voice is so good, so powerful that to have her come before the 9/11 commission publicly would be to the administration's benefit."

    With James Gordon Meek

    Originally published on March 27, 2004

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    9-11 group wants Rice under oath

    Tuesday, March 30, 2004

    9-11 group wants Rice under oath

    Discrepancies in testimony noted

    Philip Shenon and Richard W. Stevenson

    WASHINGTON- The chairman and vice chairman of the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks said yesterday they would ask Condoleezza Rice to testify under oath in any future questioning because of discrepancies between her statements and those made in sworn testimony by Bush's former counterterrorism chief.

    "I would like to have her testimony under the penalty of perjury," said the commission's chairman, Thomas H. Kean, the former Republican governor of New Jersey, in comments that reflected the panel's exasperation with the White House and Rice, the president's national security adviser.

    Rice has refused to testify in public before the commission even as she has granted numerous interviews about the commission's investigation.

    The White House declined to respond to Kean's comments.

    One official who had been briefed on discussions between the White House and the commission said last night that a number of options were under consideration that might lead to a compromise over Rice. The official declined to specify the options and said nothing had been decided.

    Rice has granted one private interview to the 10-member, bipartisan commission and has requested another. The White House has cited executive privilege in refusing to allow her to testify in public or under oath. That decision has led Democrats and other critics to accuse the White House of attempting to hide embarrassing information about its failure to preempt the Sept. 11 attacks.

    "I think she should be under the same penalty as Richard Clarke," Kean said in an interview, referring to the former White House counterterrorism adviser who testified last week that the Bush administration had not paid sufficient attention to the threat from al-Qaida before Sept. 11, 2001.

    Congressional Republican leaders have said that Clarke lied under oath and requested that previous Congressional testimony by him be declassified. Clarke, in turn, has said he would like declassification for all his testimony, as well as for e-mail between himself and Rice.

    In a private interview in February with several members of the commission, Rice was not required to be under oath, and panel officials said that no transcript was made of the four-hour conversation.

    The commission has required all witnesses testifying at public hearings to be sworn in, opening them to perjury charges if they are found to be lying, while most of the hundreds of witnesses questioned behind closed doors have not been sworn.

    In separate interviews, Kean and the panel's vice chairman, Lee H. Hamilton, a former Democratic House member from Indiana, said they would continue to press for Rice to testify under oath in public.

    They said that if the White House continued to refuse to have her answer questions at a public hearing, any new private interviews with Rice should be under new ground rules, with the national security adviser placed under oath and a transcription made.

    Kean and Hamilton also said that if the White House agreed, they were ready to declassify and make public the notes taken by commissioners when they interviewed Rice on Feb. 4, along with the transcripts of nearly 15 hours of a deposition of Clarke before the commission prior to last week's hearing.

    "My tendency is to say that everything should be made public," Kean said.

    There were signs all day yesterday of a debate within the administration over whether to hold fast to the principle of not allowing White House aides to testify before Congress or to seek a deal that would allow Rice to appear before the commission.

    White House officials said Rice herself was looking for ways that she could be permitted to respond to the commission, despite the reservations of the White House counsel's office and the potential difficulty of explaining why the administration was reversing course on what it had made a matter of principle.

    The White House has cast its objections to allowing Rice to make a formal appearance before the commission as a matter of upholding the separation of powers between Congress, which created the commission, and the executive branch.

    In a letter to the commission last week, Alberto R. Gonzales, the White House counsel, said that to protect the ability of any president "to receive the best and most candid possible advice from their White House staff" on national security issues, it was important that "these advisers not be compelled to testify publicly before congressional bodies such as the commission."

    After finding herself at the center of the political furor over Clarke's testimony, Rice asked last week for a separate meeting with the commission, specifically to rebut the allegations made by Clarke in his testimony and in his new, best-selling memoir.

    "With other witnesses, our policy has been to conduct interviews when key factual matters are in dispute, and there are obviously some factual matters here under dispute," Hamilton said, adding, however, that the commission would probably go ahead with the interview even if she refused. "If she decided not to be placed under oath, that would be her decision, and we are still going to want her testimony."

    The commission has voted in the past against issuing a subpoena for Rice, and panel members said yesterday that they were unlikely to reconsider given the lengthy court challenge that might result.

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