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Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Richard Clarke

In his recent book, Against All Enemies, Richard Clarke "slammed the Bush administration for paying insufficient attention to the terrorist threat in the summer of 2001." Clarke also praises the Clinton administration during the March 24, 2004 9/11 Commission Hearings for it's efforts fighting terrorism:
CLARKE: My impression was that fighting terrorism, in general, and fighting Al Qaida, in particular, were an extraordinarily high priority in the Clinton administration -- certainly no higher priority. There were priorities probably of equal importance such as the Middle East peace process, but I certainly don't know of one that was any higher in the priority of that administration.
However, this description of the world by Clarke is absolutely and completely the opposite of how he described the world in August, 2002:
RICHARD CLARKE: Actually, I've got about seven points, let me just go through them quickly. Um, the first point, I think the overall point is, there was no plan on Al Qaeda that was passed from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration.

Second point is that the Clinton administration had a strategy in place, effectively dating from 1998. And there were a number of issues on the table since 1998. And they remained on the table when that administration went out of office -- issues like aiding the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, changing our Pakistan policy -- uh, changing our policy toward Uzbekistan. And in January 2001, the incoming Bush administration was briefed on the existing strategy. They were also briefed on these series of issues that had not been decided on in a couple of years.

And the third point is the Bush administration decided then, you know, in late January, to do two things. One, vigorously pursue the existing policy, including all of the lethal covert action findings, which we've now made public to some extent.

And the point is, while this big review was going on, there were still in effect, the lethal findings were still in effect. The second thing the administration decided to do is to initiate a process to look at those issues which had been on the table for a couple of years and get them decided.

So, point five, that process which was initiated in the first week in February, uh, decided in principle, uh in the spring to add to the existing Clinton strategy and to increase CIA resources, for example, for covert action, five-fold, to go after Al Qaeda.

The sixth point, the newly-appointed deputies -- and you had to remember, the deputies didn't get into office until late March, early April. The deputies then tasked the development of the implementation details, uh, of these new decisions that they were endorsing, and sending out to the principals.

Over the course of the summer -- last point -- they developed implementation details, the principals met at the end of the summer, approved them in their first meeting, changed the strategy by authorizing the increase in funding five-fold, changing the policy on Pakistan, changing the policy on Uzbekistan, changing the policy on the Northern Alliance assistance.

And then changed the strategy from one of rollback with Al Qaeda over the course of five years, which it had been, to a new strategy that called for the rapid elimination of Al Qaeda. That is in fact the timeline. [...]

JIM ANGLE: You're saying that the Bush administration did not stop anything that the Clinton administration was doing while it was making these decisions, and by the end of the summer had increased money for covert action five-fold. Is that correct?

CLARKE: All of that's correct.
Clarke now claims he was lying during the August 2002 interview, but he is now telling the truth. Not surprisingly, a quick scan shows that left leaning websites believe this and right leaning sites think that Clarke is lying now and was telling the truth in August 2002. My personal belief is that once someone has been shown (and admits to) lying for personal gain in the past (he was making his employer look good), anything they say that could possibly be for personal gain in the future (e.g., it might sell more books) should be heavily discounted.

In a presidential election, about 40% of Americans vote Democrat no matter what and about 35% vote Republican no matter what. The keys to winning the election are to get out the vote from your party and to get the swing voters to vote for you. It doesn't look to me like Clarke's "revelations" will significantly affect the turnout of the party faithful for either party. The more interesting question is what effect, if any, it will have on swing voters. My guess is that this debate has occurred too early to have much of an effect (very few will remember this when they vote in November). I also guess that the Democrats will choose not to keep it in the forefront since there has been some negative mainstream press and Senator Bill Frist has threatened to prosecute Clarke for lying under oath to Congress:
Third, Mr. Clarke has told two entirely different stories under oath. In July 2002, in front of the Congressional joint inquiry on the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Clarke testified under oath that the administration actively sought to address the threat posed by Al Qaeda during its first seven months in office.

It is one thing for Mr. Clarke to dissemble in front of the media. But if he lied under oath to the United States Congress, it is a far more serious matter. As I mentioned, the intelligence committee is seeking to have Mr. Clarke's previous testimony declassified so as to permit an examination of Mr. Clarke's two different accounts. Loyalty to any administration will be no defense if it is found that he has lied before Congress.

Fourth, notwithstanding Mr. Clarke's efforts to use his book first and foremost to shift blame and attention from himself, it is also clear that Mr. Clarke and his publishers adjusted the release date of his book in order to make maximum gain from the publicity around the 9/11 hearings. Assuming the controversy around this series of events does in fact drive the sales of his book, Mr. Clarke will make quite a bit of money for his efforts.

I find this to be an appalling act of profiteering, trading on his insider access to highly classified information and capitalizing upon the tragedy that befell this nation on Sept. 11, 2001.
If the Democrats do keep this in the forefront of the media's attention, I'm still not sure what effect it will have with swing voters. I have a hunch that Karl Rove, with all that Republican money and his talent, will be able to more than counteract Clarke's charges. The problem is that each time the Democrats attack Bush in this manner only to have Rove and company mitigate the effect by casting doubt on the perpetrators, the swing voters may become even more skeptical about new information. Unfortunately, that may further diminish Kerry's ability to make headway against Bush.

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