Skip to comments.(Clinton) Holdovers in addition to Clarke) Held Up Security Strategy ("MUST READ")
Posted on 03/29/2004 11:10:44 PM PST by FairOpinion
When former White House counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke fingered President George W. Bush for having "botched the response to 9/11," he and other critics left out a major point: Until just two months before the attack, nearly all the senior counterterrorism and intelligence officials on duty at the time were holdovers from the Clinton administration.
From the CIA to the Pentagon to the National Security Council (NSC), Clinton holdovers populated the Bush administration's intelligence and counterterrorism community. While maintaining a seasoned cadre of nonpolitical career professionals in senior national-security posts is considered crucial for any administration, former senior government officials say keeping too many can be damaging to a president when the toughest decisions must be made.
Clarke was the type of man any president would want on his team. Or so it seemed until his stunning denunciations of President Bush and his closest defense and security advisers in Clarke's newly released kiss-and-tell book. One of the longest-serving staffers ever employed on the NSC, Clarke criticizes the former Clinton administration and trashes the current Bush administration in his revenge tale, Against All Enemies: Inside the White House's War on Terror. Afloat on a Niagara of publicity, the book is No.1 on the Amazon.com sales list.
In his numerous television and press interviews, as well as in testimony before a bipartisan panel investigating U.S. intelligence failures, Clarke is harsher against Bush and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who demoted him after 9/11, than ever he indicated even in his hostile book. And while Clarke appears to be a righteously angry but often credible accuser, many of his longtime friends are saying publicly that his anti-Bush diatribe has cost him his credibility.
The Clarke drama is a textbook case of why presidents should put their own people in the most sensitive decisionmaking positions and be choosy about hanging on to officials who served in the previous administration, a former senior NSC official who has served both Democratic and Republican administrations tells Insight. This flaw in the way Rice staffed the NSC, friends of the president say, led to one of the weakest National Security Councils since the office was created at the dawn of the Cold War, with career foreign-service officers and other Clinton holdovers providing continuity with the past instead of supporting the new president's effort to craft policies consistent with his vision.
Insight often has reported on Clinton-era officials and Republican defectors who have tied Bush's national-security strategy in knots since the beginning of his presidency [see "Blinded Vigilance," Oct. 15, 2001; "Clinton Undead Haunting Pentagon," June 17, 2002; and "Democrats Subvert War Intelligence," Jan. 6-19]. Indeed, this magazine reported on Sept. 7, 2001, just four days before the terrorist attacks, that Clinton holdovers continued to run the U.S. intelligence community [see "Ground Down CIA Still in the Pit" at Insight online] without needed reforms to deal with post-Cold War threats such as international terrorism [see sidebar, p. 19]. Days after the carnage, even the president's most bellicose critics in Congress, including Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.), were on CNN saying as publicly as they could that they were reconsidering their long-held positions that limited the fight against the terrorist enemy and piously alluding to the need to repeal a post-Watergate executive order banning assassinations abroad.
At that point the president's own defense and security team was still taking shape. His top NSC special assistant for intelligence programs, Mary K. Sturtevant, had been on the job only eight weeks before the 9/11 attacks. For months, Sen. Levin personally had held up the confirmation hearings of Bush's appointees who were to design the U.S. antiterrorism strategy - Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Programs J.D. Crouch and Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Peter W. Rodman - refusing for apparently partisan purposes to allow them to take office until late July 2001. While Levin was holding up their appointments, the incoming Pentagon policy team had no legal or political authority to do their vital jobs - a fact that helps explain why it took eight months for the Bush administration to draw up a strategic operational plan to destroy al-Qaeda.
Making matters worse for the Pentagon leadership after 9/11 were the machinations of a network of senior Clinton political appointees who still held sensitive posts, including Peter F. Verga, Clinton's deputy undersecretary of defense for policy integration, which was a major intelligence post. Senior administration sources tell Insight that Verga made himself useful to the Rumsfeld team but beavered to curry favor at the top, in part by "sniping and playing bureaucratic games" to make life difficult for the incoming defense policy team. Even today the divisive Verga holds a senior homeland-security post at the Defense Department.
Under Clinton, Clarke held a Cabinet-level post as "counterterrorism czar." His powerful position gave him wide-ranging authority to task the intelligence community to focus on specific terrorist threats, and to be the lead point man in developing counterterrorism policy for the president, advising the president and ensuring execution of the policy his way.
He remained in that post until after the counterterrorism failures of 9/11 - failures he told the 9/11 commission were his own - and apparently was kept unaware of an aggressive strategy that the president's still-forming national-security team was developing to destroy al-Qaeda and kill Osama bin Laden and his followers. According to NSC Deputy National Security Adviser Steve Hadley, Bush had asked for a strategy to destroy al-Qaeda in the earliest days of his presidency. For whatever reason, Clarke gave no indication in his book or his recent public comments that he knew of such a plan, and indeed alleged the opposite. Vice President Richard Cheney told reporters that the failed Clarke "wasn't in the loop, frankly, on a lot of this stuff."
Cheney's comment is consistent with previous news reports, which administration officials confirm, that the White House national-security process is unusually compartmented, so that even senior NSC officials would not necessarily know of secret strategic planning. Much of the reason, administration sources say, is because of the many Clinton holdovers in the top ranks of government who were from the start working to kill plans they didn't like by leaking them to left-wing media.
In October 2001, Rice demoted Clarke to a staff rank on the NSC and put him in charge of cybersecurity. Bush passed him over for an appointment as deputy secretary of the newly created Department of Homeland Security, according to White House spokesman Scott McClellan, whereupon the bristling Clarke began to boycott regular NSC meetings that Rice chaired. There was talk in the NSC of Clarke quitting just as his self-described "best friend," NSC Senior Director for Combating Terrorism Rand Beers, was readying to leave to become coordinator of national-security and homeland-security issues for Kerry's presidential campaign in early 2003. After leaving the NSC, Clarke and Beers became adjunct lecturers at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, coteaching a course called "Post-Cold War Security: Terrorism, Security and Failed States," according to a Harvard Website.
Some of those who have worked with Clarke have expressed surprise at his sudden vitriolic attacks. Rice and others on the NSC insist that Clarke never made known his present grievances on fighting al-Qaeda or preparations for the battle with Iraq while he was in the White House, or even afterward during the early weeks of the Iraq fighting, when Rice and Clarke met for lunch. The White House has released Clarke's January 2003 resignation letter, which expressed no dissatisfaction or concern about the president's policies.
"I really don't know what Richard Clarke's motivations are," Rice told CNN, "but I'll tell you this: Richard Clarke had plenty of opportunities to tell us in the administration that he thought the war on terrorism was moving in the wrong direction, and he chose not to." Rice went further in an op-ed for the Washington Post, noting that, contrary to what he is saying now, Clarke never presented her with a plan to go after al-Qaeda. "In response to my request for a presidential initiative, the counterterrorism team, which we had held over from the Clinton administration, suggested several ideas, some of which had been around since 1998 but had not been adopted. No al-Qaeda plan was turned over to the new administration," she emphasized.
One of the most controversial points of Clarke's book is his allegation that after 9/11, "The president dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door, and said, 'I want you to find whether Iraq did this.' Now he never said, 'Make it up.' But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said, 'Iraq did this.' He came back at me and said, 'Iraq! Saddam! Find out if there's a connection,' and in a very intimidating way."
The White House says it has no record of Clarke and Bush being together at that time. Clarke produced his former deputy, Roger Cressey, as a witness, to verify that the conversation did indeed occur. But Cressey, when questioned by the New York Times, "backed off Mr. Clarke's suggestion that the president's tone was intimidating." Another unnamed witness said the same, according to the Times.
"He's a very dedicated public servant, he's very credible, but he's selling books," said John Lehman, a member of the 9/11 commission, in talking to MSNBC the day before Clarke testified. The next day during the hearing, Lehman was disturbed that Clarke, whom he says he has admired for years, was destroying his credibility. "You've got a real credibility problem," Lehman told Clarke during the testimony. "Because of my real, genuine, long-term admiration for you," he said, "I hope you'll resolve that credibility problem, because I'd hate to see you become totally shoved to one side during a presidential campaign as an active partisan selling a book."
Is Clarke trashing President Bush for partisan reasons? He says he isn't. He implies he voted Republican in 2000. But what about the years since? According to Federal Election Commission (FEC) records, Clarke has been giving his money to Democratic friends - not Republicans - running for national office.
In 2002, while still on the Bush NSC, Clarke gave the legal maximum limit of $2,000 to a Democratic candidate for Congress, Steve Andreasen, who tried to unseat Republican Rep. Gil Gutknecht of Minnesota. Andreasen had been director for defense policy and arms control on the Clinton NSC. In making his donations of $1,000 on July 22 and another $1,000 on Nov. 7, 2002, Clarke listed his occupation as "U.S. Government/Civil Servant," according to FEC records indexed with the Center for Responsive Politics.
Clarke maxed out again in the 2004 election cycle, donating $2,000 to another Clinton White House veteran, Jamie Metzl, who is running as a Democrat for Congress from Missouri. Metzl was a staffer on the Clinton NSC and worked for Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) as deputy staff director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. With that donation, made on Sept. 15, 2003, after his resignation from the Bush NSC, Clarke listed his occupation as "Self Employed/Consultant."
FEC records show that Clarke reported no political contributions when he worked in the Clinton administration in the electoral cycles of the 1990s and 2000, when he said he was a Republican.
J. Michael Waller is a senior writer for Insight.
The article has an error:
"He implies he voted Republican in 2000."
From another article:
"Clarke said he voted for Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore in 2000, but "I'm not going to endorse John Kerry," Bush's presumptive opponent in November. "That's what the White House wants me to do. They want to say I'm part of the Kerry campaign."
And I think someone posted an interview of Clarke on TV, posting the actual quotes. If anyone remembers it, could you please post the link -- we need to let Insight Magazine know of the error in their otherwise excellent article.
Too bad they spent more time trying to sink freedom of speech on the internet, instead of going after real terrorists. Yet another illustrious example of Clinton's legacy...
Worth repeating. I believe if you look back at the FR threads from the 2000 election, it was predicted by Freepers that the Clinton hold out people would turn out to be nothing but trouble, especially considering all the corruption of his administration. How could anyone even trust them?
As far as Condi Rice testifying, It looks to me like the rats aren't trying to resolve anything about 9/11, but are trying to blame Bush and the pubbies for it. Unfortunately the press is successfully spinning this to make Condi look bad.
I think now would be a good time to re-visit the memo that Sean Hannity has ( that was leaked to him), about the rats plans to use National Security committee to trash president Bush. As I recall, they came up with a plan (in the memo), that seems very similar to what is going on in the "hearings" today (i.e.find info that makes Bush look bad.)
It's also another example of their (rats) total disregard for our security. I don't think people got it at first, but now it will make more sense to them.
Since the Clintons were so "concerned" about terrorism, Why did they pardon terrorists?
JANUARY 6, 2003 : (CAPITOL HILL BLUE ARTICLE : DEMOCRATS PLAN CAMPAIGN TO ATTACK BUSH) Democrats plan to undermine public confidence in President George W. Bush by challenging his credibility and raising doubts about America, sources within the party tell Capitol Hill Blue. A multi-pronged attack against Republicans and the President will focus not only on economic issues, but question American values, raise doubts about how this country is viewed by other nations and question the patriotism of Bush and his party. The extensive campaign, developed by senior Democratic consultants and party leaders, was launched last week with attacks on the Bush economic plan by Democratic presidential hopeful Rep. Richard Gephardt.
In coming weeks, Democratic elected officials will question the Presidents intentions on the pending war with Iraq.
Writers and broadcasters friendly to the Democratic cause have already been provided talking points suggesting the war is about oil, not terrorism. The talking points were developed before the end of last year and sent out to operatives and friendly media, one Democratic consultant confided. No Democratic member of Congress will question the Presidents patriotism openly but we will use the media and other surrogates to raise doubts.
Capitol Hill Blue obtained a copy of the talking points when the Democratic National Committee sent them to a news outlet recently acquired by CHBs parent company. The talking points outline a strategy to raise public doubts of the Presidents real intentions, including:
--Saying the war is about oil and will be fought to benefit oil companies that have long supported Bush and the Republican party;
--Claiming the Bush administration has manufactured evidence against Saddam Hussein and used that evidence to encourage Britain and other allies to join the American fight against Iraq;
--Suggesting a wartime economy is the only way the administration can revive the countrys lagging economic situation.
It is clear that the current approval ratings of the administration are tied directly to strong American feelings toward traditional values, the talking points say. To counter this, doubt must be raised as to Americas true position within the world community and the true intent of the Bush administration in waging war.
Some Democrats admit privately they are uneasy with the party strategy to undermine American values in an attempt to get Bush. My boss doesnt want anything to do with it, one senior Senate aide told Capitol Hill Blue on Monday. You dont undermine this country to win elections.
Others, however, are willing to try anything to put the White House and Congress back under Democratic control. The real war isnt in Iraq, one Democratic consultant said. Its right here at home, at the ballot box in 2004.
Among the other points Democrats hope to make in the coming weeks:
--Both President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are controlled by oil and defense industry special interest groups. --The war on terrorism is a failure because Osama bin Laden is still at large.
--America is unprepared for another terrorist attack because of White House preoccupation with Iraq. --War will increase the countrys economic woes.
--Bush will be forced to raise taxes to finance the war.
Its time to take the battle to the people and make them understand just how dangerous George W. Bushs policies are to the future of America, the talking points conclude.
Democratic sources say the talking points were developed by Democratic Chairman Terry McAuliffe, former Clinton campaign strategist James Carville, Senate Majority Leader Daschle and former House Democratic Leader Gephardt.
This is a classic, Jim Carville, scorched earth campaign, crows one DNC staffer. Take no prisoners. Thats how you win elections. Democratic party spokesmen would not return phone calls seeking comment on this report.
- "Dems Plan to Undermine America to Beat Bush," by Doug Thompson, CapitolHillBlue, January 6, 2003
Sent to Levin with the added note that the blood of 9/11 victims is on his hands. What a disgusting, evil man.