Note: This is the fourth in a six-part series detailing the risks to American national security if Barack Obama should ever choose to let Richard Clarke back into government. Clarke is currently one of Obama’s top national security advisers. Read Part 1, “Will a traitor head Obama’s CIA?” Part 2, “Obama adviser’s credibility gap,” and Part 3, “Obama adviser jeopardizes American security.”
“When George Bush came into office, though he kept Clarke on at the White House, he stripped him of his Cabinet level rank.”
So lamented Leslie Stahl during the March 2004 “60 Minutes” profile that would make Richard Clarke ace crowd surfer in the intellectual mosh pit of the anti-war left.
For all the anguished headbanging since, there was never any reason to lament. Documents I have received this week from a high level source suggest why Clarke was so stripped.
In reality, his demotion had less to do with Bush’s negligence, as Clarke and others have implied, than with Clarke’s own perceived incompetence.
After the first installments in this series were published in WorldNetDaily, I was contacted by Peter Huessy, a veteran of the Reagan administration and president of GeoStrategic Analysis, a defense consulting firm specializing in combating nuclear terrorism.
Huessy provided me with correspondence he had freely received in hard copy form from Connecticut Republican Rep. Christopher Shays after Shays had seen Huessy speak on C-Span.
Shays had written the two letters in question in 2000 and 2001, respectively, when he served as chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs, and International Relations, Committee on Government Reform.
Shays had no partisan ax to grind. Famously moderate, he even voted against the impeachment of President Clinton. Shays did, however, have a serious problem with the performance of Clinton’s anti-terror czar, Richard Clarke.
In the summer of 2000, the last year of the Clinton presidency, Shays’ committee had requested a classified briefing from Clarke “on government-wide efforts to detect, deter, prevent and respond to terrorist acts.”
Clarke responded with an oddly incoherent briefing and slide show. Shays was not at all pleased. In a brusquely worded letter to Clarke, he described the presentation as “less than useful.”
When Shays’ committee asked Clarke if his office had prepared an “integrated threat assessment,” he responded that this would have been “difficult to accomplish because of all the different threats faced by the United States.”
When committee members asked if Clarke had prepared a “comprehensive strategy to combat terrorism,” the notoriously patronizing Clarke blew them off.
It was “silly” to believe such a strategy could be developed, said Clarke, “belittling” the committee for daring to pose the question.
“If there are no clear requirements or plan,” Shays asked in obvious disgust, “how does the administration prioritize the $12.9 billion it intends to spend” on counterterrorism and related activities?
Shays never received a satisfactory answer. So troubled was he by Clarke’s non-performance that on Jan. 22, 2001, the first work day after the inauguration of Bush, he sent an impassioned three-page letter to the new national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice.
In the letter, Shays alerted Rice to Clarke’s “lack of leadership” in the war on terror and his refusal to recognize even the “need for a national strategy.”
To be sure, the Richard Clarke that Shays and his committee had experienced was not at all the one America would meet on “60 Minutes.”
The self-rehabilitated Clarke would tell Stahl that on Jan. 24, 2001 – two days after Shays had sent his letter to Rice – he had sent an urgent memo to Rice requesting “a Cabinet level meeting to deal with the impending al-Qaida attack.”
If Rice ignored him, there is now reason to understand why. Given the feedback from Shays and his colleagues, she had reason not to trust Clarke’s judgment. As history will record too, there was no al-Qaida attack “impending” in any meaningful sense of that word.
In fact, it would be another five months before the director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, would warn Bush of a likely attack.
That attack, as Clarke described it on “60 Minutes,” was “going to happen against the United States, somewhere in the world in the weeks and months ahead.” This kind of warning did not require a West Wing Nostradamus.
Given Clinton’s feckless counter-terror performance under Clarke’s leadership, Islamic terrorists had been attacking American interests around world regularly and with impunity for the previous eight years.
The terror had begun during Clinton’s first week on the job in January 1993 when Pakistani national Mir Aimal Kasi shot five CIA employees, two of them fatally, as they waited in their cars outside CIA headquarters.
It continued right up through October 2000 when Islamic terrorists attacked the USS Cole, killing 17 crewmembers and wounding 39 more.
Knowing this, it is hard to read the “60 Minutes” transcript, even today. To see such stunning duplicity and treachery go unpunished pains the reader.
On the show, for instance, Clarke let slip that Bush, unlike Clinton, had insisted on a daily briefing not from Clarke, but from CIA head Tenet, himself a Clinton holdover.
As late as August 2002, the still-loyal Clarke was publicly boasting that Bush had increased CIA anti-al-Qaida resources five-fold before 9/11 with clear instructions “to stop swatting at flies and just solve the problem.”
Yet for all that information in the public sphere, Clarke would tell a complicit Stahl in March 2004 that Bush responded to al-Qaida before 9/11 “by doing nothing.”
“He ignored terrorism for months,” added Clarke, “when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11.” As for Stahl, she just nodded her head sagely in shared dismay.
“What [Bush has] done after 9/11 has made us less safe,” Clarke continued. “Absolutely.”
Clarke’s “less safe” snipe has become something of a truism on the left. But as they say in Crawford, “You can put your boots in the oven but that don’t make them biscuits.”
Before 9/11, there were in 1993 alone the CIA shootings, the first World Trade Center bombing, the assassination attempt on George H.W. Bush and the Blackhawk Down incident in Somalia. The Oklahoma City and Riyadh bombings followed in 1995. Khobar Towers, TWA Flight 800 and Olympic Park all occurred in 1996. The two American embassies in Africa were blown up in 1998. The Centennial bomb plot was luckily thwarted in 1999 by an alert border guard. And the USS Cole was bombed in 2000.
After 9/11, there has been a routine share of Islamic terrorism around the world but against “us,” beyond the battlefields, close to nothing.
If Obama prevails, this unrepentant dissembler, Richard Clarke, would very likely become the national security adviser. And nothing Leslie Stahl can say will make us any safer.
Read Part 1, “Will a traitor head Obama’s CIA?”
Read Part 2, “Obama adviser’s credibility gap.”
Read Part 3, “Obama adviser jeopardizes American security.”