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April 6, 2004
Clinton Report: Protecting the Homeland

Another interesting subsection of Part 2 of the Clinton national-security report is titled Protecting the Homeland. Remember when George Bush was criticized for using the term "homeland" in national security planning? Pundits associated the word with Nazi Germany and claimed that it promoted a "sacred earth" notion that went against everything that American principles represented. Apparently, we know now where that term originated.

Under that heading, the report details the strategy for protecting US territory in this order:

1. National Missile Defense
2. Countering Foreign Intelligence Collection
3. Combating Terrorism
4. Domestic Preparedness Against WMDs
5. Critical Infrastructure Protection
6. National Security Emergency Preparedness
7. Fighting Drug Trafficking and Other Int'l Crime

Again, national missile defense appears to be the primary concern of the Clinton administration's national-security strategy, while terrorism is addressed third, after NMD and foreign espionage. In fact, it was Bill Clinton who made it our national policy in 1999 to pursue an NMD solution:

On July 23, 1999, President Clinton signed H.R. 4, the "National Missile Defense Act of 1999," stating that it is the policy of the United States to deploy an effective NMD system as soon as technologically possible. ... In August 1999, President Clinton decided that the initial NMD architecture would include: 100 ground-based interceptors deployed in Alaska, one ABM radar in Alaska, and five upgraded early warning radar. This approach is the fastest, most affordable, and most technologically mature approach to fielding an NMD system capable of protecting all 50 states against projected emerging threats.

In September 2000, Clinton decided that we had nothing yet to implement but determined that continuing development of an NMD system was still critical to our national-security strategy:

The Clinton Administration is committed to the development of a limited National Missile Defense (NMD) system designed to counter the emerging ballistic missile threat from states that threaten international peace and security. On September 1, 2000, the President announced that while the technology for NMD was promising, the system as a whole is not yet proven, and thus he was not prepared to proceed with the deployment of a limited NMD system. The President has instead asked the Secretary of Defense to continue a robust program of development and testing. The Administration recognizes the relationship among the ABM Treaty, strategic stability, and the START process, and is committed to working with Russia on any modifications to the ABM Treaty required to deploy a limited NMD. An NMD system, if deployed, would be part of a larger strategy to preserve and enhance peace and security.

So much for Condi Rice and George Bush being distracted by an unproven NMD concept; the impetus for that effort likely came directly from Richard Clarke himself, continuing the strategy of the previous administration.

After NMD but before terrorism, the report details American vulnerability to foreign espionage:

As the rapidity of global technological change accelerates and the gap with some nations has widened, these countries' foreign intelligence agencies are stepping up their efforts to collect classified or sensitive information on U.S. weapons systems, U.S. intelligence collection methods, emerging technologies with military applications, and related technical methods. Such information enables potential adversaries to counter U.S. political and military objectives, develop sophisticated weapons more quickly and efficiently, and develop countermeasures against U.S. weapons and related technical methods. Intelligence collection against U.S. economic, commercial, and proprietary information enables foreign states and corporations to obtain shortcuts to industrial development and improve their competitiveness against U.S. corporations in global markets. ...

Increased threats to our cyber security and the inadvertent or deliberate disclosure of sensitive information underscore the necessity for the National Security Community to have reliable, timely, and trusted information available to those who both need it and are authorized to have it. During the last five years we have established a set of security countermeasures policies, practices, procedures, and programs for a rational, fair, forward looking, and cost-effective security system. More needs to be done, however, and efforts will continue in providing a better synchronized, integrated and interoperable programs for personnel security, physical security, technical security, operational security, education and awareness, information assurance, classification management, industrial security, and counterintelligence.

Only after this does the report go into the specifics of combating terrorism on the homeland, and what it says points to the conclusion that terrorism was considered primarily a law-enforcement issue:

Our strategy requires us to both prevent and, if necessary, respond to terrorism. Prevention -- which includes intelligence collection, breaking up cells, and limiting the movement, planning, and organization of terrorists -- entails more unknowns and its effectiveness will never be fully proven or appreciated, but it is certainly the preferable path. For example, as a result of the quiet cooperation with some of our allies and among federal authorities, agencies, and local law enforcement, planned terrorist attacks within the United States and against U.S. interests abroad during the millennium celebration were thwarted. A major aspect of our prevention efforts is bolstering the political will and security capabilities of those states that are on the front lines to terrorist threats and that are disproportionately impacted by the expanding threat. This coalition of nations is imperative to the international effort to contain and fight the terrorism that threatens American interests. ...

When terrorism occurs, despite our best efforts, we can neither forget the crime nor ever give up on bringing its perpetrators to justice. We make no concessions to terrorists. Since 1993, a dozen terrorist fugitives have been apprehended overseas and rendered, formally or informally, to the United States to answer for their crimes. These include the perpetrators of the World Trade Center bombing, the attack outside CIA headquarters, and an attack on a Pan Am flight more than 18 years ago. In 1998, the U.S. Armed Forces carried out strikes against a chemical weapons target and an active terrorist base operated by Usama bin Ladin, whose terror network had carried out bombings of American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam and planned still other attacks against Americans. We will likewise pursue the criminals responsible for the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen.

This paragraph never mentions al-Qaeda by name, even though it was submitted just a month or two before Condi Rice's supposed ignorance of AQ's existence made such an impression on Richard Clarke. But the acknowledgement that bin Ladin's "network" was responsible for the series of attacks on American assets begs the question of what action was being taken, or even contemplated, against it after 1998. It's also worded in such a way as to make it read as though the 1998 attack effectively stopped it from being a threat to American interests. No further mention of bin Ladin is made in Section 2 of the report, which details the strategies used to counter threats to American interests.

Just to be clear, the prioritization given in this report is, in historical context, eminently defensible. In fact, it's so defensible that the incoming Bush administration followed its recommendations for the first few months it was in office and getting its own personnel in place. However, it directly contradicts assertions made from Clinton's national-security team -- specifically, Richard Clarke and Madeline Albright -- who have tried their best to claim that they had al-Qaeda in the headlights and counterterrorism was Job 1 during their tenure.

More to come ....

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 6, 2004 12:59 PM

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