At least two things should raise suspicions about the motives of Richard Clarke, the former anti-terrorism advisor to four presidents, whose name, face and book were all over the newspapers last weekend and on "60 Minutes" Sunday night (March 21). One is that Clarke's book, in which he accuses the Bush administration of not heeding "warnings" from the Clinton administration about possible terrorist attacks by Al Qaeda, was available only to journalists and not to those in the administration on the receiving end of Clarke's criticism. This is according to an administration spokesman with whom I spoke.
The other red flag that should make us cautious about Clarke's assertions is that his former deputy, Rand Beers, is now an advisor to the presidential campaign of John F. Kerry. Part of Kerry's campaign strategy is to persuade the public that President Bush has failed to effectively fight the war on terror.
Clarke is right about one thing. He admits "there's a lot of blame to go around (for 9/11), and I probably deserve some blame, too." Yes, he does, and he can begin with the first World Trade Center bombing and continue with the bombing of the USS Cole and the attack on the American Embassy in Tanzania, all of which occurred on the watch of President Bill Clinton, whom Clarke was advising. Was Clinton not listening to Clarke's advice? Did Clinton "do a terrible job on the war against terrorism," the charge he levels against President Bush, who was in office less than nine months prior to 9/11?
Responding to Clarke's allegations, a senior administration official told me that Clarke is engaged in a "flagrant effort to avoid responsibility for his own failures." He added, "The Clinton administration never gave the Bush administration a plan that included the possibility of hijacked airplanes used as missiles to be flown into buildings. Most of their advice was general in nature." Even if it had specifically warned the Bush people, he said, it probably would not have prevented Sept. 11, which was well on its way to the execution stage by the time the Bush administration took office.
The official confirmed press reports that Al Qaeda suspects at Guantanamo Bay are providing "good stuff that's reliable" and are helping to locate wanted suspects still in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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