Condiliar Strikes Back

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Bush Administration, September 11, Terrorism

Following up the last post, which describes how the Bush Administration failed to take action to prevent the 9/11 attack — Condi Rice gave the New York Post an exclusive interview rebutting Bill Clinton

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday accused Bill Clinton of making “flatly false” claims that the Bush administration didn’t lift a finger to stop terrorism before the 9/11 attacks.

Rice hammered Clinton, who leveled his charges in a contentious weekend interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News Channel, for his claims that the Bush administration “did not try” to kill Osama bin Laden in the eight months they controlled the White House before the Sept. 11 attacks.

“The notion somehow for eight months the Bush administration sat there and didn’t do that is just flatly false – and I think the 9/11 commission understood that,” Rice said during a wide-ranging meeting with Post editors and reporters.

“What we did in the eight months was at least as aggressive as what the Clinton administration did in the preceding years,” Rice added.

Rice lies.

I combed through the article looking for all the ways the Bushies were at least as aggressive as what Clinton did. Here’s one:

“I would just suggest that you go back and read the 9/11 commission report on the efforts of the Bush administration in the eight months – things like working to get an armed Predator [drone] that actually turned out to be extraordinarily important,” Rice added.

In the last post I quoted a Newsweek article from 2002 (not free content) which said,

Rumsfeld vetoed a request to divert $800 million from missile defense into counterterrorism. The Pentagon chief also seemed uninterested in a tactic for observing bin Laden left over from the Clinton administration: the CIA’s Predator surveillance plane. Upon leaving office, the Clintonites left open the possibility of sending the Predator back up armed with Hellfire missiles, which were tested in February 2001. But through the spring and summer of 2001, when valuable intelligence could have been gathered, the Bush administration never launched even an unarmed Predator. Hill sources say DOD didn’t want the CIA treading on its turf.

Ah, but that’s old information. What did the 9/11 report actually say? I found comments on the drone beginning on page 210:

The main debate during the summer of 2001 concentrated on the one new mechanism for a lethal attack on Bin Ladin–an armed version of the Predator drone.

In the first months of the new administration, questions concerning the Predator became more and more a central focus of dispute. Clarke favored resuming Predator flights over Afghanistan as soon as weather permitted, hoping that they still might provide the elusive “actionable intelligence” to target Bin Ladin with cruise missiles. Learning that the Air Force was thinking of equipping Predators with warheads, Clarke became even more enthusiastic about redeployment.

The CTC chief, Cofer Black, argued against deploying the Predator for reconnaissance purposes. He recalled that the Taliban had spotted a Predator in the fall of 2000 and scrambled their MiG fighters. Black wanted to wait until the armed version was ready.” I do not believe the possible recon value outweighs the risk of possible program termination when the stakes are raised by the Taliban parading a charred Predator in front of CNN,” he wrote. Military officers in the Joint Staff shared this concern. There is some dispute as to whether or not the Deputies Committee endorsed resuming reconnaissance flights at its April 30, 2001, meeting. In any event, Rice and Hadley ultimately went along with the CIA and the Pentagon, holding off on reconnaissance flights until the armed Predator was ready.

The CIA’s senior management saw problems with the armed Predator as well, problems that Clarke and even Black and Allen were inclined to minimize. One (which also applied to reconnaissance flights) was money. A Predator cost about $3 million. If the CIA flew Predators for its own reconnaissance or covert action purposes, it might be able to borrow them from the Air Force, but it was not clear that the Air Force would bear the cost if a vehicle went down. Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz took the position that the CIA should have to pay for it; the CIA disagreed.

Second, Tenet in particular questioned whether he, as Director of Central Intelligence, should operate an armed Predator.” This was new ground,”he told us. Tenet ticked off key questions:What is the chain of command? Who takes the shot? Are America’s leaders comfortable with the CIA doing this, going outside of normal military command and control? Charlie Allen told us that when these questions were discussed at the CIA, he and the Agency’s executive director, A. B.”Buzzy” Krongard, had said that either one of them would be happy to pull the trigger, but Tenet was appalled, telling them that they had no authority to do it, nor did he.

Third, the Hellfire warhead carried by the Predator needed work. It had been built to hit tanks, not people. It needed to be designed to explode in a different way, and even then had to be targeted with extreme precision. In the configuration planned by the Air Force through mid-2001,the Predator’s missile would not be able to hit a moving vehicle.

White House officials had seen the Predator video of the “man in white.” On July 11, Hadley tried to hurry along preparation of the armed system. He directed McLaughlin, Wolfowitz, and Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Richard Myers to deploy Predators capable of being armed no later than September 1. He also directed that they have cost-sharing arrangements in place by August 1. Rice told us that this attempt by Hadley to dictate a solution had failed and that she eventually had to intervene herself.

On August 1, the Deputies Committee met again to discuss the armed Predator. They concluded that it was legal for the CIA to kill Bin Ladin or one of his deputies with the Predator. Such strikes would be acts of self-defense that would not violate the ban on assassinations in Executive Order 12333. The big issues–who would pay for what, who would authorize strikes, and who would pull the trigger–were left for the principals to settle. The Defense Department representatives did not take positions on these issues.

The CIA’s McLaughlin had also been reticent. When Hadley circulated a memorandum attempting to prod the deputies to reach agreement, McLaughlin sent it back with a handwritten comment on the cost-sharing:”we question whether it is advisable to make such an investment before the decision is taken on flying an armed Predator.” For Clarke, this came close to being a final straw. He angrily asked Rice to call Tenet.” Either al Qida is a threat worth acting against or it is not,” Clarke wrote.” CIA leadership has to decide which it is and cease these bi-polar mood swings.”

These debates, though, had little impact in advancing or delaying efforts to make the Predator ready for combat. Those were in the hands of military officers and engineers. General John Jumper had commanded U.S. air forces in Europe and seen Predators used for reconnaissance in the Balkans. He started the program to develop an armed version and, after returning in 2000 to head the Air Combat Command, took direct charge of it.

There were numerous technical problems, especially with the Hellfire missiles. The Air Force tests conducted during the spring were inadequate, so missile testing needed to continue and modifications needed to be made during the summer. Even then, Jumper told us, problems with the equipment persisted. Nevertheless, the Air Force was moving at an extraordinary pace.” In the modern era, since the 1980s,”Jumper said to us,”I would be shocked if you found anything that went faster than this.”

September 2001

The Principals Committee had its first meeting on al Qaeda on September 4. On the day of the meeting, Clarke sent Rice an impassioned personal note. He criticized U.S. counterterrorism efforts past and present. The “real question” before the principals, he wrote, was “are we serious about dealing with the al Qida threat? . . . Is al Qida a big deal? . . . Decision makers should imagine themselves on a future day when the CSG has not succeeded in stopping al Qida attacks and hundreds of Americans lay dead in several countries, including the US,” Clarke wrote. “What would those decision makers wish that they had done earlier? That future day could happen at any time.”

So, in a nutshell, through the spring and summer of 2001, when valuable intelligence could have been gathered, while Condi and crew were spinning their wheels over an armed Predator, the Bushies never launched even an unarmed Predator. The DOD didn’t want the CIA treading on its turf.

This is Condi’s version of being “at least as aggressive” as the Clinton Administration? At least the Clinton White House made use of unarmed drones to spy on bin Laden. Condi is blowin’ smoke. The Drone exemplifies exactly the opposite of what Condi claims.

There’s more on the dithering over the drones revealed in CBS and Fox News reports from 2003.

Now, let’s go back to the New York Post story for Condi’s other criticism of the Clinton interview.

She also said Clinton’s claims that Richard Clarke – the White House anti-terror guru hyped by Clinton as the country’s “best guy” – had been demoted by Bush were bogus.

“Richard Clarke was the counterterrorism czar when 9/11 happened. And he left when he did not become deputy director of homeland security, some several months later,” she said.

How can you tell when Condi Rice is lying? It’s when her lips are moving. As Fred Kaplan explained,

Clarke wasn’t a Cabinet secretary, but as Clinton’s NCC, he ran the “Principals Committee” meetings on counterterrorism, which were attended by Cabinet secretaries. Two NSC senior directors reported to Clarke directly, and he had reviewing power over relevant sections of the federal budget.

Clarke writes (and nobody has disputed) that when Condi Rice took over the NSC, she kept him onboard and preserved his title but demoted the position. He would no longer participate in, much less run, Principals’ meetings. He would report to deputy secretaries. He would have no staff and would attend no more meetings with budget officials.

Clarke probably resented the slight, took it personally. But he also saw it as a downgrading of the issue, a sign that al-Qaida was no longer taken as the urgent threat that the Clinton White House had come to interpret it. (One less-noted aspect of Clarke’s book is its detailed description of the major steps that Clinton took to combat terrorism.)

The Post staff, in their official function as propagandists and mouthpieces for the VRWC, did not fact check Condi’s remarks. That this exclusive was given to the Post suggests to me that Condi didn’t want the piece fact checked; indeed, she didn’t want the general public looking at it real hard at all. By talking to the New York Post she catapulted the propaganda directly at the Right.

But now I want to go back to the 9/11 Commission Report quote from above. This bit is on page 212:

The Principals Committee had its first meeting on al Qaeda on September 4. On the day of the meeting, Clarke sent Rice an impassioned personal note. He criticized U.S. counterterrorism efforts past and present. The “real question” before the principals, he wrote, was “are we serious about dealing with the al Qida threat? . . . Is al Qida a big deal? . . . Decision makers should imagine themselves on a future day when the CSG has not succeeded in stopping al Qida attacks and hundreds of Americans lay dead in several countries, including the US,” Clarke wrote. “What would those decision makers wish that they had done earlier? That future day could happen at any time.”


The Principals Committee had its first meeting on al Qaeda on September 4.
Yeah, real aggressive, Condi. Took you more than seven months to hold a bleeping meeting.

The Principals Committee of the National Security Council was established by Poppy Bush, a.k.a. “41.” Apparently this is a Big Deal committee. Richard Clarke sent a memo to Condi Rice on January 25, 2001, which said “We urgently need . . . a Principals level review on the al Qida network.”

The “urgent” meeting was held, finally, on September 4. In Condi World, urgent and aggressive mean “dither for more than seven months.”

Finally, let’s go back to the New York Post story one more time:

The secretary of state also sharply disputed Clinton’s claim that he “left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy” for the incoming Bush team during the presidential transition in 2001.

“We were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al Qaeda,” Rice responded during the hourlong session.

Would it surprise you if I told you Condi is lying? Let’s go back to this page.

Washington, D.C., February 10, 2005 – The National Security Archive today posted the widely-debated, but previously unavailable, January 25, 2001, memo from counterterrorism coordinator Richard Clarke to national security advisor Condoleezza Rice – the first terrorism strategy paper of the Bush administration. The document was central to debates in the 9/11 hearings over the Bush administration’s policies and actions on terrorism before September 11, 2001. Clarke’s memo requests an immediate meeting of the National Security Council’s Principals Committee to discuss broad strategies for combating al-Qaeda by giving counterterrorism aid to the Northern Alliance and Uzbekistan, expanding the counterterrorism budget and responding to the U.S.S. Cole attack. Despite Clarke’s request, there was no Principals Committee meeting on al-Qaeda until September 4, 2001.

The January 25, 2001, memo, recently released to the National Security Archive by the National Security Council, bears a declassification stamp of April 7, 2004, one day prior to Rice’s testimony before the 9/11 Commission on April 8, 2004. Responding to claims that she ignored the al-Qaeda threat before September 11, Rice stated in a March 22, 2004 Washington Post op-ed, “No al Qaeda plan was turned over to the new administration.”

Two days after Rice’s March 22 op-ed, Clarke told the 9/11 Commission, “there’s a lot of debate about whether it’s a plan or a strategy or a series of options — but all of the things we recommended back in January were those things on the table in September. They were done. They were done after September 11th. They were all done. I didn’t really understand why they couldn’t have been done in February.”

Also attached to the original Clarke memo are two Clinton-era documents relating to al-Qaeda. The first, “Tab A December 2000 Paper: Strategy for Eliminating the Threat from the Jihadist Networks of al-Qida: Status and Prospects,” was released to the National Security Archive along with the Clarke memo. “Tab B, September 1998 Paper: Pol-Mil Plan for al-Qida,” also known as the Delenda Plan, was attached to the original memo, but was not released to the Archive and remains under request with the National Security Council.

It appears The NSC is still sitting on Tab B, “Pol-Mil Plan for al-Qida.” Or else sometime on September 12, 2001, Condi ran it through a shredder.

Update: More about the “comprehensive strategy to fight al Qaeda” that Condi doesn’t remember at ThinkProgress. Apparently the 9/11 Commission says she got it.

As the Clinton administration drew to a close, Clarke and his staff developed a policy paper of their own [which] incorporated the CIA’s new ideas from the Blue Sky memo, and posed several near-term policy options. Clarke and his staff proposed a goal to “roll back” al Qaeda over a period of three to five years …[including] covert aid to the Northern Alliance, covert aid to Uzbekistan, and renewed Predator flights in March 2001. A sentence called for military action to destroy al Qaeda command-and control targets and infrastructure and Taliban military and command assets. The paper also expressed concern about the presence of al Qaeda operatives in the United States.” [p. 197]


Update update:
From the Department o’ Stupid Sheep — Several rightie bloggers, including the Anchoress, complain that “the MSM’ didn’t fact check Clinton. Everything Condi says is, of course, automatically true. None of the sheep bothered to check what she told the New York Post against the 9/11 commission report.

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28 Comments

22 Comments

  1. NorthOf49  •  Sep 26, 2006 @9:27 am

    This is insane. Where’s the accountability? Has the US become so polarized politically that no matter what is said or done you always support your party? Has this become a game of football (or another preferred sport if you wish), where no matter how many games the home team loses, or no matter how incompetent the players are, you root them on? The teams slogan is – we’ll try to improve next year.

    I know, it’s the cheerleaders, we need more cheerleaders.

    Only problem is, this isn’t a game!

    A serious lack of accountabilty is happening at the moment. Why isn’t anyone paying for misinformation, mistakes or outright lies? If this were a football team, the coach would have been fired by now.

  2. Preston  •  Sep 26, 2006 @9:47 am

    Condi must not have the last word. Someone from the Clinton/Democrat side must respond immediately to her fabrications. They must not be allowed to stand unanswered.

  3. k  •  Sep 26, 2006 @10:31 am

    Condi must not have the last word as she didn’t state any facts just assertion. Last night Nightline asserted that Clinton ‘threw a tantrum’ at Chris Wallace. Now why would ABC be covering for Chris Wallace? Why cover for Bushco? Somebody sure doesn’t like facts and sure wants the story line continued. Somebody sure doesn’t want the table turned and be asked when did you quit beating your wife. The dam must break, the BIG Lie must not stand. What can we do to make this happen? call every Dem write every network?

  4. Rick  •  Sep 26, 2006 @11:00 am

    Will the liberal media now do its job and report? Once torture is sanctioned they will probably be “interogated” if someone wants a little information about sources so it might behoove them to have a different set of players in charge.

  5. Timewalker  •  Sep 26, 2006 @11:21 am

    Why would ABC cover for Bushco? Does “The Path to 9/11” ring a bell? Because they are owned by Disney and have to suck up to the Repubs in charge fro their corporate tax breaks, that’s why.

    I want Colin Powell to refute Condi’s claims!

  6. Swami  •  Sep 26, 2006 @12:30 pm

    Rice wants to blow it off as a rehash.. the same dismissal technique that Scott McClellan used on the Downing Street Memos. Just a bunch of crazy liberals barking at the wind.

    ” we’ve been over this before”

  7. Donna  •  Sep 26, 2006 @1:11 pm

    Thank you, Maha, for the ‘Condiliar’ label.

    Some while ago, I wondered if there weren’t in play some sort of Orwellian subliminal programming going on for the purpose of addicting folks to spin ‘talking points’ slogans and blind loyalism while creating a simultaneous adversion to truth and facts.
    That possibility is the only thing that even begins to explain for me the [by now] predictable defaulting on facts by the Bush team, who obviously count on fantasy-addicted supporters greedily accepting the latest ‘fix’ so they can all stay stoned out of reality.

    Time for another prayer: “Dear God, please shine the light of truth on this situation. Amen”

  8. fshk  •  Sep 26, 2006 @1:55 pm

    For some context, this is the Post. It’s a tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch loaded with punny headlines and mostly coverage of celebrities and sports. It called Hugo Chavez a “jerk” in a headline on the front page last week. Not exactly a classy paper. (Today’s cover features a photo of Condi and the headline “WRONG!” which I think is pretty funny… if you can’t see the sub-head, you’d think the paper was calling Condi wrong.) Now, if you’re the secretary of state of the US and you want to grant an exclusive interview to a newspaper, which paper do you choose? Well, clearly the one that you know won’t bother to check facts.

  9. Swami  •  Sep 26, 2006 @1:58 pm

    Time for another prayer: “Dear God, please shine the light of truth on this situation. Amen”

    That prayer was already answered before it was asked. What we need is a more specific petition before the Lord…Adoni, please give George Bush a palsied tongue. See how quick he is to answer the prayers of the just.

  10. moonbat  •  Sep 26, 2006 @2:29 pm

    Glad to see this posted over at DKos. You do such fine work and many more need to know about it.

  11. David  •  Sep 26, 2006 @2:30 pm

    Well, the thing is somebody must do something to stop all this bullshit. I can’t really believe that a country that used to be proud (and used to be an example to the rest of the world) like the US is bending and grabbing it’s ankles to this group of … nah, there’s no word that would give a correct idea of the amount of contempt I hold for them.

    Can anyone ask for impeachment, or bring any of this clowns to trial for their lies? This is amazing…

  12. KJ  •  Sep 26, 2006 @4:37 pm

    It’s not going to stop. people. Did you just watch Tucker Carlson go at it with Terry McCauliffe? Disgusting. McCauliffe is reprehensible, or my money. Was there no one else on the MSNBC payroll from the Dem side who could manage a sustained and cogent and forceful rebuttal to Tucker’s bullshit? There are Bloggers, and posters to various Blogs, who would’ve presented a stronger case agaisnt the Bush crime family and its mouthpiece Faux News than McCauliffe.

    The Dems are still reacting rather than being proactive, which tells me they are all still lost at sea. Prospects don’t look good at all for Dem gains come the mid-term elections. Perhaps, yet another merciless ass-kicking by the Republicans awaits them.

    Is there no one in the Democratic party who is capable of taking on and taking down these sons-of-bitches? The evidence is there. Just somebody please make the damn case for fuck’s sake!

  13. DUDACKATTACK!!!  •  Sep 26, 2006 @5:23 pm

    Memories of Hart-Rudmann failing Condi, too?

    http://dir.salon.com/story/news/feature/2004/04/02/hart/index.html

  14. Donna  •  Sep 26, 2006 @5:26 pm

    #13, you could have fooled me that Tucker Carlson is from the Dem side……over the weekend I caught a bit of him interviewing a guy [I believe a local NYC councilman] about Chavez offering low-cost fuel to Harlem. Tucker was way out of line cheerleading for Bush, but the much more informed and articulate interviewee mopped the floor with Tucker, much to my delight.

  15. KJ  •  Sep 26, 2006 @6:08 pm

    donna, (re)read the post. In pertinent part: Was there no one else on the MSNBC payroll from the Dem side who could manage a sustained and cogent and forceful rebuttal to Tucker’s bullshit?

    Ok? While lil’ Tucker may boast that he’s no apologist for Bush, it is quite apparent that he is, undeniably, a flunky for the Right.
    However, whoever that NYC Councilperson is, I’m gald to know he didn’t pull a dive such as Rangel/Pelosi did.

  16. Donna  •  Sep 26, 2006 @7:06 pm

    KJ, oops, apologies for misreading your post! I tried to google to get the identity of the guy who so neatly put Tucker in his place….but no luck. It might have been on Saturday instead of Sunday. Eh, bien.

  17. Tom Hilton  •  Sep 26, 2006 @7:35 pm

    Great post–a perfect devastating takedown of the White House spin. Well done.

  18. druidbros  •  Sep 27, 2006 @6:36 am

    Reminds me of the scene in ‘Casablanca’ where the French Captain says “I’m shocked,shocked to find there is gambling going on in here”. Then one of the employees comes up to him, hands him some money, and says “Here are your winnings Captain”.

  19. tedbohne  •  Sep 27, 2006 @9:31 am

    Rice is alive, isn’t that bad enough

  20. Steve from Canuckistan  •  Sep 27, 2006 @10:30 pm

    It’s now apparent that Disney’s smear of Clinton has backfired miserably. Their timing could not be worse (for them). Great timing however if you believe in democracy and freedom (from lies). They must have never heard that politician’s who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

  21. Jeff r  •  Sep 28, 2006 @8:19 am

    I don’t know why it is that Mahablog is not better-known in the “reality-based community.” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: no one is better than Maha at gathering together all the relevant threads to a story and making them comprehensible. Thanks again for another marvelous post.

  22. zeus  •  Oct 3, 2006 @12:24 am

    #3 k –
    You will not see the MSM criticize this administration in any substantial way because they would then have to admit their complicity in the predicament we find ourselves in today.

    #4 Rick
    What liberal media? Surely you jest!

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