In his public testimony before the 9/11 Commission the other day, Attorney General John Ashcroft exposed Commissioner Jamie Gorelick's role in undermining the nation's security capabilities by issuing a directive insisting that the FBI and federal prosecutors ignore information gathered through intelligence investigations. But Ashcroft pointed to another document that also has potentially explosive revelations about the Clinton administration's security failures. Ashcroft stated, in part:
... [T]he Commission should study carefully the National Security Council plan to disrupt the al Qaeda network in the U.S. that our government failed to implement fully seventeen months before September 11.It goes on to explain what Ashcroft meant, in detail.
The NSC's Millennium After Action Review declares that the United States barely missed major terrorist attacks in 1999 with luck playing a major role. Among the many vulnerabilities in homeland defenses identified, the Justice Department's surveillance and FISA operations were specifically criticized for their glaring weaknesses. It is clear from the review that actions taken in the Millennium Period should not be the operating model for the U.S. government.
In March 2000, the review warns the prior Administration of a substantial al Qaeda network and affiliated foreign terrorist presence within the U.S., capable of supporting additional terrorist attacks here. [AD info?]
Furthermore, fully seventeen months before the September 11 attacks, the review recommends disrupting the al Qaeda network and terrorist presence here using immigration violations, minor criminal infractions, and tougher visa and border controls.
These are the same aggressive, often criticized law enforcement tactics we have unleashed for 31 months to stop another al Qaeda attack. These are the same tough tactics we deployed to catch Ali al-Marri, who was sent here by al Qaeda on September 10, 2001, to facilitate a second wave of terrorist attacks on Americans.
Despite the warnings and the clear vulnerabilities identified by the NSC in 2000, no new disruption strategy to attack the al Qaeda network within the United States was deployed. It was ignored in the Department's five-year counterterrorism strategy.
I did not see the highly-classified review before September 11. It was not among the 30 items upon which my predecessor briefed me during the transition. It was not advocated as a disruption strategy to me during the summer threat period by the NSC staff which wrote the review more than a year earlier.
I certainly cannot say why the blueprint for security was not followed in 2000. I do know from my personal experience that those who take the kind of tough measures called for in the plan will feel the heat. I've been there; I've done that. So the sense of urgency simply may not have overcome concern about the outcry and criticism which follows such tough tactics."
But this gets better...
I certainly have no conclusions or particular insight into the Sandy Berger Affair, but neither does my hometown paper...The Washington Post has by far the most informative coverage. A name immediately jumped out at me from its report--Richard A. Clarke. He's the author of the missing documents? Who'd a thunk it? The President's very nemesis (at least until he admitted no one could have prevented 9/11). Could the missing "notes" stuffed into Berger's pockets have something to do with Clarke as well? Beats me.
The missing copies, according to Breuer and their author, Richard A. Clarke, the counterterrorism chief in the Clinton administration and early in President Bush's administration, were versions of after-action reports recommending changes following threats of terrorism as 1999 turned to 2000. Clarke said he prepared about two dozen ideas for countering terrorist threats. The recommendations were circulated among Cabinet agencies, and various versions of the memo contained additions and refinements, Clarke said last night.
Now we know why Sandy Burglar's sentencing was delayed at the onset of the Able Danger story.