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March 26, 2004
Clarke's Story Contines to Crumble

Richard Clarke's testimony to the 9/11 Commission and his new book continues to be contradicted by stubborn facts, this time in today's Boston Globe:

FBI officials vehemently denied yesterday recent assertions by former White House terrorism czar Richard A. Clarke that the FBI learned in December 1999 that terrorists had been slipping into Boston on liquefied natural gas tankers from Algeria, yet failed to notify local authorities. We did thoroughly investigate that LNG tanker situation and came to the conclusion they were not being used to transport terrorists into our country, said Kenneth Kaiser, the special agentin-charge of the FBIs Boston office. We didnt brief the mayor that there was an Al Qaeda cell here, because there wasnt one.

According to Kaiser, the FBI was investigating the thwarted 1999 millennium plot to blow up Los Angeles International Airport when it learned that several people being questioned in Boston had entered the country by stowing away on LNG tankers from Algeria.

The Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes members from the Boston police and the Massachusetts State Police, conducted an intensive investigation and concluded that none of the stowaways were terrorists, Kaiser said.

This is more evidence that Clarke was talking out of his rear end in his book and his recent testimony. The Boston Globe also takes Clarke to task by reprinting an interesting bit of information in a Boston Herald editorial (via Instapundit):

We'd like to know how Clarke squares his contention that he was the only one in the Bush administration truly committed to thwarting terrorism before the Sept. 11 attacks with this: It was Clarke who personally authorized the evacuation by private plane of dozens of Saudi citizens, including many members of Osama bin Laden's own family, in the days immediately following Sept. 11. ... The same sanctimonious Clarke who now claims National Security adviser Condoleezza Rice didn't even know what al-Qaeda was, could have stopped the bin Laden airlift singlehandedly.

Why didn't he appeal to Rice, or even President Bush [related, bio] himself in one of those one-on-ones in the Situation Room, to block the flights? Surely it would have been helpful to determine - without a shred of doubt - that those passengers knew nothing about the Sept. 11 plot or the modus operandi of their notorious relative.

By all accounts, Clarke made hundreds of decisions in the days after Sept. 11, many clear-headed and right. Approving those special flights seems like a wrong one, but it was a judgment call made in the aftermath of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil in history. Perhaps it was the best decision he could make under the circumstances. It's too bad Clarke cuts no one in the Bush administration the same slack he so easily cuts himself.

Clarke has been unmasked as an opportunist, and a particulrly greedy one at that, and at the same time has allowed the entire paradigm over pre-emption to be turned around. The message that has been blared out over the past week was that the US did not take enough pre-emptive action against terrorist groups before 9/11. That directly contradicts the anti-Bush's gripe that Bush took too much pre-emptive action, primarily in Iraq, and has derided pre-emption as a strategy altogether. Now pre-emption is the order of the day -- as I've argued all along since 9/11 -- and that puts the Iraq action in a much different light. Had Saddam remained in power and attacked the US next year or the year after -- or gave material support to non-state actors who did, like the Taliban did -- we'd be having another commission coming up with the same questions and the same blame-throwing.

When does Bush get credit for learning the lesson of 9/11 and removing threats before we get attacked, instead of waiting for new attacks to happen first?

UPDATE: Or, as Mike over at Two Irrelevant Opinions puts it:

This column [by John Podhoretz] also reminds me of how the left is trying to blame September 11th on Bush, but I know that if Bush declared a War on Terrorism in February 2001 and he subsequently invaded Afghanistan, the left (NYT, Europe, professors, aging hipsters, etc.) would've gone absolutely bonkers. The left wants to blame Bush for not doing what they never would've let him do!

And now that he is doing in Iraq what they say Bush didn't do when he took office, they call him Hitler.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 26, 2004 7:57 AM

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