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April 7, 2004
9/11 Commission "Reconsidering" Clarke Testimony: Washington Times

Thanks to the Washington Times' publication of the national-security report submitted to Congress in December 2000 by the Clinton administration, the Times reports that the 9/11 Commission will be "reconsidering" testimony from former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke, whose claim that al-Qaeda was the previous administration's top focus was undercut by the report's anemic approach to terror (via Power Line):

The September 11 commission will look at the discrepancy between the testimony of Richard A. Clarke that the Clinton administration considered the threat of al Qaeda "urgent" and its final national-security report to Congress, which gave the terror organization scant mention.

Al Felzenberg, spokesman for the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States, said commission members are familiar with an article in yesterday's editions of The Washington Times, which showed that President Clinton's final public document on national security never referred to al Qaeda by name and mentioned Osama bin Laden just four times. ...

The Clinton document consistently characterized terrorist attacks against Americans and U.S. interests as "crimes" and outlined how it was using diplomatic and economic pressure to bring the "perpetrators to justice." The use of military force "should be selective and limited, reflecting the importance of the interests at stake," the document said.

Although the Clinton administration pledged in the report to retaliate militarily for the al Qaeda attack on the USS Cole in October 2000, no operation was carried out.

The problem with Clarke is that in his haste to do political damage to the administration that reduced his authority, he will inevitably wind up doing more damage to the previous administration by focusing on their feckless approach to terrorism specifically, and foreign policy in general. However, given the prevailing wisdom of the day, the Clinton NSS really isn't that remarkable for being bad or good; it just demonstrates a lack of imagination that could easily be applied to both sides of the political spectrum prior to 9/11. The key difference is that one side seems to have woken up since then a bit more than the other -- and Clarke desperately wants people to believe that he set the alarm clock a bit earlier than the record shows.

My analyses of the report itself can be found here, here, here, here, and here.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 7, 2004 6:59 AM

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Tracked on April 7, 2004 7:35 AM

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