Because the New York Times refuses to print it (or even refer to it) and in case you missed it elsewhere, the following are excerpts from a conversation that former counterterrorism chief Richard A. Clarke had with several news reporters in August 2002 about the Bush administration’s efforts to combat terrorism prior to 9-11:
Clarke: “I think the overall point is, there was no plan on al-Qaida that was passed from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration.”
“[T]he 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 … 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.”
“[T]he 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. … The second thing the [Bush] 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.”
“[T]hat 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-Qaida.”
[T]he newly appointed deputies [in the Bush administration] – 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-Qaida over the course of five years, which it had been, to a new strategy that called for the rapid elimination of al-Qaida. That is in fact the timeline.”
News Reporter: What is your response to the suggestion in the [Aug. 12, 2002] Time [magazine] article that the Bush administration was unwilling to take on board the suggestions made in the Clinton administration because of animus against the – general animus against the foreign policy?
Clarke: I think if there was a general animus that clouded their vision, they might not have kept the same guy dealing with terrorism issue. This is the one issue where the National Security Council leadership decided continuity was important and kept the same guy around, the same team in place. That doesn’t sound like animus against, uh, the previous team to me.
News Reporter: 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.
News Reporter: Were all of those issues part of [an] alleged plan that was late December and the Clinton team decided not to pursue because it was too close to …
Clarke: There was never a plan, Andrea. What there was was these two things: One, a description of the existing strategy, which included a description of the threat. And two, those things which had been looked at over the course of two years, and which were still on the table.
News Reporter: Had those issues evolved at all from October of ’98 ’til December of 2000?
Clarke: Had they evolved? Um, not appreciably.
News Reporter: So, just to finish up if we could then, so what you’re saying is that there was no – one, there was no plan; two, there was no delay; and that actually the first changes since October of ’98 were made in the spring months just after the [Bush] administration came into office?
Clarke: You got it. That’s right.
News Reporter: Now the five-fold increase for the money in covert operations against al-Qaida – did that actually go into effect when it was decided or was that a decision that happened in the next budget year or something?
Clarke: Well, it was gonna go into effect in October, which was the next budget year, so it was a month away.
News Reporter: That actually got into the intelligence budget?
Clarke: Yes it did.
News Reporter: Just to clarify, did that come up in April or later?
Clarke: No, it came up in April and it was approved in principle and then went through the summer. And you know, the other thing to bear in mind is the shift from the rollback strategy to the elimination strategy. When President Bush told us in March to stop swatting at flies and just solve this problem, then that was the strategic direction that changed the NSPD from one of rollback to one of elimination.
Rather than reporting facts which bear upon the credibility of Clarke’s recent testimony, the New York Times preferred to spin Clarke as “an impressive, reasonable witness” who was being subject to “a furious round of denunciations from the White House.”
Perhaps if the Times stopped telling lies about the Bush administration, the White House would stop telling the truth about Mr. Clarke.