March 25, 2004

Well, how can you not feel a sense of urgency when George Tenet is telling you in daily briefings, day after day, that a major al Qaeda attack is coming?

Some of us have waited a long time for what happened yesterday...
Well, since 9/11 itself really. And even though many
important questions are yet to be addressed, yesterday,
Richard Clarke not only spoke truth to power about the
_resident's incompetence on 9/11, he also spoke truth
to power about Iraq...Other than Clarke himself only
Richard Ben-Veniste (who relentless kept bringing up
the affront of _resident's refusal to allow Condeleeza
Rice to testify) and the 9/11 Families (who
walked out in protest when Rice's substitute took the
stand)distinguished these hearings. None of the other
commission members or witnesses (from either side of
the aisle) really understood what was supposed to be
going on in that room...So how does Sen. John F. Kerry handle this explosive political situation? He should say yes, I read Clarke's book, it is compelling, it is vital that the Commission continue it work and that we all wait for its findings, blah blah blah...BUT what our campaign is going to address is the CREDIBILITY, COMPETENCE and CHARACTER of the _resident, i.e. his fitness to lead this nation. One after another, disturbing revelations about the _resident's CREDIBILITY have surfaced concerning life and death issues: Iraq, 9/11, Medicare, the Economy, and the Environment...Yes, it is time for a regime change here at home...

Richard Clarke on Larry King Live: Now, what does the
president say in his own words to Bob Woodward in
"Bush at War?" He says, Bush acknowledged that bin
Laden was not his focus or that of his national
security team. "I was not on point," the president
said. "I didn't feel a sense of urgency." Well, how can you not feel a sense of urgency when George Tenet is telling you in daily briefings, day after day, that a major al Qaeda attack is coming? That's my point.
That's one of my points. The other point is, which I'd
like to get to, that by fighting the war in Iraq, the
president has actually diminished our ability to fight
the war on terrorism.

Repudiate the 9/11 Cover-Up and the Iraq War Lies,
Show Up for Democracy in 2004: Defeat Bush (again!)


Interview With Richard Clarke

Aired March 24, 2004 - 21:00 ET


the Bush administration in the first eight months
considered terrorism an important issue, but not an
urgent issue.

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Richard Clarke, the former
White House counterterrorism chief making the
explosive claims about why President Bush failed to
prevent September 11. Now, new revelations challenge
credibility plus fierce debate over allegations. With
"Newsweek's" Michael Isikoff. He was an eyewitness to
Clarke's testimony today at the hearings. Judith
Miller, the Pulitzer Prize- winning "New York Times"
reporter on the Middle East and terrorism beat.

Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of the Foreign
Relations and Select Intelligence Committees, and
Democratic Senator Joe Biden ranking member of Foreign
Relations. All next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: Our panel will join us later, we begin with
Richard Clarke. He testified before the commission
today. He served as White House counterterrorism czar
for both President Bush and Clinton, served in the
administrations of President Bush No. 1 and Ronald
Reagan and is the author of an extraordinary new book,
"Against All Enemies, Inside America's War on Terror"
published by Free Press Day, you see its cover. Why
did you write this, Dick?

CLARKE: Larry, after I left the government I realized
two things. One, that not a lot of people knew what
happened on 9/11. There was no good account of that.
And the more compelling reason, there was no good
account of why we had failed to stop it. The families,
many of whom I met today at the hearing and other
people were constantly asking, why couldn't the great
United States of America have stopped this attack and
what do we have to do to make sure it never happens
again? I had some of the answers, I thought and they
weren't getting out anywhere else. I really felt I
needed to get it off my chest.

KING: Why did you begin with an apology? What were you
apologizing for and to whom?

CLARKE: I apologized to the families of the victims,
the 3,000 people who died on 9/11. I apologized
personally and I apologized on behalf of the
government because the government failed them. The
government was supposed to protect their loved ones,
supposed to stop these kinds of attacks and despite
extraordinary efforts of some in the CIA and FBI and
State and a few other places, nonetheless, the attacks
took place. So, what I said was, it doesn't really
matter that we tried hard, it matters that we failed.
And I asked them to understand the facts, but I asked
them to accept my apology, more importantly, to
forgive me because I think we all, those of us who
were involved, need to ask them for forgiveness.
They've lost their loved ones.

KING: Isn't all acts of terror a failure of somebody?

CLARKE: Certainly, certainly they are. Few acts of
terror or no acts of terror were ever as extraordinary
as those of 9/11. You know, if you look at the entire
eight years of the Clinton administration, 35
Americans were killed by al Qaeda over eight years.
And 3,000 were killed on 9/11. It's a whole different
class than previous acts of terrorism.

KING: Let's touch a lot of bases here. You spoke in
August and praised the administration, you highlighted
positive aspects that they had done, minimized
negative aspects and then the book seems to counteract
that. Why?

CLARKE: Well, Larry, what you're referring to is
something the White House is trying out today as part
of its continuing program to undermine my credibility.
And, you know, for the Bush White House to be
attempting to undermine my credibility is really sort
of ironic and sort of the pot calling the kettle
black. They're the ones who have the credibility
problem, Larry. You know, they're trying to divert
attention from the issues that I am raising and that
other people are raising in the 9/11 Commission

The issue is -- could the Bush administration have
done more prior to 9/11? The second issue is, what did
it do after 9/11? Did it fight the war on terror well
or did it not? Did it divert attention and actually
hurt the war on terror by fighting an unnecessary
costly diversionary war in Iraq? That's what we should
be talking about and the White House, obviously,
doesn't want to talk about that.

KING: But the question, Dick, was why did you praise
them two years ago?

CLARKE: I didn't praise them. What you're referring to
is this background briefing that the White House
leaked today in violation of the rules on background
briefings. When I was a special assistant to the
president -- here's what happened.

"TIME" magazine came out with a very explosive story
saying, that, in fact, the White House hasn't done
everything it could have done. That in fact, that the
administration had been handed a plan by me at the
beginning of the administration to deal with al Qaeda
and that they ignored it. Remember this, this was the
cover story on "TIME" and said they had a plan.

Well, that hurt the White House a lot for obvious
reasons. It was true. And they asked me to try to help
them out. I was working for the president of the
United States at the time. And I said, well, look, I'm
not going to lie. And they said, look, can't you at
least emphasize the things that we did do? Emphasize
the positive?

Well, you had no other choice at that moment. There
are three things you can do. You can resign rather
than do it, you can lie and say the administration did
all these things it didn't do. Or, if you want to stay
inside the government and try to continue to change it
from inside, you can stay on, do what they ask you to
do, give a background briefing to the press and
emphasize those things which they had done. And I
chose to do that.

But, you know, it seems very ironic to me that what
the White House is sort of saying is they don't
understand why I, as a special assistant to the
president of the United States, didn't criticize the
president to the press. If I had criticized the
president to the press as a special assistant, I would
have been fired within an hour. They know that. This
is part of their whole attempt to get Larry King to
ask Dick Clarke this kind of question. So we're not
talking about the major issue.

KING: We're going to get to that in a minute. But who
told you to do that briefing?

CLARKE: The national security adviser, the press
secretary, the communication's director, they all
talked to me, asked me to do the briefing and were
telling me to spin it in a very positive way.

KING: What do you make of Condoleezza Rice's actions
through this? Her statements about you, the issuing
today of an e-mail you sent her four days before 9/11,
which seems to back up what she thinks. What's your
overview of that?

CLARKE: They're scrambling very hard at the White
House. They've got a lot of people -- the vice
president, the chief of staff, the national security
director, the press secretary, the communication's
director. They have five or six people running around
doing talk shows and trying to refute me and trying to
besmirch me. Larry, I said in the preface of this
book, I knew before I wrote this book that the White
House will let loose the dogs to attack me. That's
what they're doing. That's what they did to Paul
O'Neill when he told the truth and I come back to this
point that all of this is to get us, rather than being
on this show talking about the failures of the Bush
administration, instead talking about the flack that
they're throwing up every day.

KING: Was 9/11 preventable?

CLARKE: Well, we'll never know. But let me compare
9/11 and the period immediately before it to the
millennium rollover and the period immediately before
that. In December, 1999, we received intelligence
reports that there were going to be major al Qaeda
attacks. President Clinton asked his national security
adviser Sandy Berger to hold daily meetings with the
attorney general, the FBI director, the CIA director
and stop the attacks. And every day they went back
from the White House to the FBI, to the Justice
Department, to the CIA and they shook the trees to
find out if there was any information. You know, when
you know the United States is going to be attacked,
the top people in the United States government ought
to be working hands-on to prevent it and working

Now, contrast that with what happened in the summer of
2001, when we even had more clear indications that
there was going to be an attack. Did the president ask
for daily meetings of his team to try to stop the
attack? Did Condi Rice hold meetings of her
counterparts to try to stop the attack? No.

And if she had, if the FBI director and the attorney
general had gone back day after day to their
department to the White House, what would they have
shaken loose? We now know from testimony before the
Commission that buried in the FBI was the fact that
two of the hijackers had entered the United States.
Now, if that information had been able to be shaken
loose by the FBI director and the attorney general in
response to daily meetings with the White House, if we
had known that those two -- if the attorney general
had known, if the FBI director had known, that those
two were in the United States, Larry, I believe we
could have caught those two. Would that have

KING: But who knew -- you knew they were in the United
States, who else knew?

CLARKE: No, I didn't. I didn't know.

KING: We should have known is what you're saying.

CLARKE: The people in the FBI knew. Not the director.

KING: They did know.

CLARKE: Some people in the FBI knew. And if Condi Rice
had been doing her job and holding those daily
meetings, the way Sandy Berger did, if she had a
hands-on attitude to being national security adviser,
when she had information that there was a threat
against the United States, that kind of information
was shaken out in December 1999, it would have been
shaken out in the summer of 2001, if she had been
doing her job.

KING: Let me get a break and be right back with
Richard Clarke. The book, "Against All Enemies: Inside
America's War on Terror." The panel at the bottom of
the hour. Don't go away.


Tenet briefed me on a regular basis about the
terrorist threats to the United States of America. And
had my administration had any information that
terrorists were going to attack New York City on
September the 11th, we would have acted.




Clarke had plenty of opportunities to tell us in the
administration that he thought the war on terrorism
was moving in the wrong direction, and he chose not
to. In fact, when he came to me and asked if I would
support him with Tom Ridge to become the deputy
secretary of homeland security, a department which he
now says should never have been -- never have been
created. When he asked me to support him in that job,
he said he supported the president. So frankly, I'm


KING: Mr. Clarke, what would you say to the
flabbergasted Dr. Rice?

CLARKE: I'd say, let's get back to the main issue.
Before you went to the break, Larry, you had the
president saying that George Tenet was briefing him
regularly on the threat. He was. George Tenet told me
that, and I saw the briefings. The president was being
told on a regular basis that an al Qaeda threat was
coming, an al Qaeda attack was coming.

Now, what does the president say in his own words to
Bob Woodward in "Bush at War?" He says, Bush
acknowledged that bin Laden was not his focus or that
of his national security team. "I was not on point,"
the president said. "I didn't feel a sense of

Well, how can you not feel a sense of urgency when
George Tenet is telling you in daily briefings, day
after day, that a major al Qaeda attack is coming?
That's my point. That's one of my points. The other
point is, which I'd like to get to, that by fighting
the war in Iraq, the president has actually diminished
our ability to fight the war on terrorism.

KING: What do you mean by that? Why does Iraq diminish
the war on terrorism?

CLARKE: In three ways. Number one, it diverts us from
reducing the vulnerabilities here at home, like
protecting the rails from attacks like the one on
Madrid. We're spending $180 billion in Iraq. We should
be spending that money reducing our vulnerabilities to
terrorism here at home, much more than we are. The
railroads, the chemical plants, they are all still

The second way it reduces the war on terrorism is by
inflaming the Islamic world and helping, as Rumsfeld
said in his internal memo, helping create more
terrorists more rapidly than we can capture or kill
them, because of the hatred in the Islamic world
generated against the United States by our needless
invasion of Iraq.

And the third way, of course, was it actually took
troops and intelligence assets away from the hunt for
bin Laden. We'll probably catch bin Laden here
shortly, but it's two years too late. In those two
years, al Qaeda has morphed into a hydra, a
multi-headed organization, so that by the time we
catch him now, it won't matter very much, because all
of these al Qaeda-like organizations have grown up
around the world, like the group that attacked in

The point is, the war in Iraq was not necessary. Iraq
was not an imminent threat to the United States. And
by going to war with Iraq, we have greatly reduced our
possibility to prosecute the war on terrorism. That's
what I say in the book.

KING: And the book -- I am sure this book will be read
in a wide variety of sources. The book is "Against All

Dr. Rice said that you asked to be the assistant head
of the new security agency, painting a picture that
you may be in anger over not getting what you wanted
and so this book is your way of getting off. What is
your response to her statement that you wanted that

CLARKE: My response to her statement that, on the one
hand I didn't like the department on the other hand I
did -- is the following. The president of the United
States and Tom Ridge didn't like the idea of the
Department of Homeland Security. They spoke publicly
against the idea of a Department of Homeland Security.
When they were told it was going to pass in the
Congress anyway and it was going to be called the
Lieberman bill, then they changed on a dime overnight
and said it was their idea, and then they said anyone
who opposed it was not patriotic, like Max Cleland.
They said he was not patriotic because he didn't think
there should be a Department of Homeland Security. Max
Cleland, who had lost three of his four limbs fighting
for the United States, they said he was unpatriotic
because he didn't support their stand on homeland
security, which was their own stand just a week

KING: But, Dick, did you want that job?

CLARKE: No, what I said was because I had been doing
all of these things in the homeland security area for
the last 10 years, if they wanted to consider me for
deputy secretary over there, I would be willing to be
considered. But that doesn't change the fact that Tom
Ridge, George Bush, yeah, and me, thought that the
department was not a good idea, that we shouldn't
reorganize everything in the middle of the war on

KING: Did these problems start with Clinton?

CLARKE: Absolutely. And you know, people who haven't
read the book seem to think that I only criticize the
Bush administration. I criticize the Clinton
administration, too. And I did so today in my
testimony before the 9/11 commission. The news media
did not cover that in the evening news, but I did
criticize the Bush administration and the Clinton
administration, I think, equally.

You know, the Clinton administration failed to bomb
the camps that were in Afghanistan that we knew were
there. They bombed them once, Clinton bombed them
once, the public reaction was negative to that.
Remember, wag the dog, everyone said Clinton is just
bombing Afghanistan to divert attention from the
Monica business. And so he didn't bomb them again.

And that was during a time when they were turning out
thousands of terrorists, trained terrorists. It was an
assembly line, those camp in Afghanistan were an
assembly line, a conveyer belt that were sending
terrorists out on a regular basis all over the world.

I thought they should have been blown up. I
recommended it. And it didn't happen. I criticize the
Clinton administration for that. I think there's a lot
of blame to go around, and, as I said several times, I
think I deserve some of that blame. I am willing to
take that blame; I wish the president were willing to
take some, too.

KING: President Clinton on this program said he was in
Australia on 9/11, and he said as soon as he heard of
the incident he said, bin Laden. Does that surprise

CLARKE: Well, no, Bill Clinton was obsessed with
getting bin Laden. Bill Clinton ordered bin Laden
assassinated. He ordered not only bin Laden
assassinated but all of his lieutenants. The CIA
failed him. The CIA couldn't do it, and now the CIA is
trying to say, well, the orders were ambiguous. Let me
tell you, Larry, National Security Adviser Sandy
Berger and myself both talked to George Tenet and
talked to his chief lieutenants and said, are you very
clear what this order is? This is an order to kill bin
Laden. They said, yes, they were very clear.

KING: Is somebody lying?

CLARKE: No, you know, people in this town are too
smart to lie, especially under oath.

KING: So what do you call it?

CLARKE: I call it creative memory sometimes. I call it
interpretation and emphasis sometimes. I think the
American people need to know the truth about what
happened, so that we can make sure it doesn't happen
again. And I think heaven for the family members of
the victims who caused this commission to come into
existence over the objections of the White House and
who have now been able to get it extended over the
objections of the White House.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with some more
moments with Richard, and then we'll have are panel
assemble. Senator Chuck Hagel and Senator Joe Biden,
two very influential United States senators. And tow
terrific journalist, Michael Isikoff and Judith Miller
and they'll react to what Mr. Clarke has had to say.
Back with Richard Clarke right after this.


word indeed, made clear his interests and his intense
desire to protect the nation from terrorism. He
frequently asked and prodded us to do more. He decided
early on that we needed to be more aggressive in going
after terrorists and especially al Qaeda. As he said
in early spring as we were developing are new
comprehensive strategy, "I'm tried swatting flies. He
wanted a thorough comprehensive, diplomatic, military,
intelligence, law enforcement and financial strategy
going after al Qaeda. (END VIDEO CLIP)



difficult today. it's tougher to recruit. It's tougher
to train. It's tougher to retain. It's tougher to
finance. It's tougher to move things. It's tougher to
communicate with each other for those folks. Someone
asked me is Saddam -- Osama bin Laden masterminding
all of this and I said, you know, who knows?

But if I were in his shoes I would think I would be
spending an awfully lot of time not getting caught.
Most of his time is probably spent not getting caught
and so he's busy and that's a good thing.


KING: Richard Clarke is the guest, the book is
"Against All Enemies."

You said you believe he'll be caught soon, why?

CLARKE: We have now shifted the special forces that
speak Arabic and some predators back from Iraq where
they've been for the last year and to Afghanistan
where they should have been in the first place looking
for bin Laden and his lieutenants. These are the
people who caught Saddam Hussein. They're very good, I
know many of them. And I suspect we'll catch bin
Laden, but it is two years too late because al Qaeda
has now morphed during this time. You know, in all of
Afghanistan, we only have 1,100 U.S. troops, that's
fewer U.S. troops in Afghanistan than we have police
in Manhattan. Why because the administration held back
the troops we needed because they wanted to invade
Iraq. That's a clear example of how invading Iraq has
diverted resources on terrorism. It's also inflamed
the Arab world and that will take a generation for us
to get over, even if we're successful in Iraq in
building a Jeffersonian (ph) Democracy, which is going
to be hard, in the meantime by invading an Arab
country and occupying it, when we didn't have to, when
there was no imminent threat against the United States
we have been generating a new al Qaeda-like terrorists
throughout Islamic world and that's the point I think
we should be talking about and not my e-mails.

KING: Dick, we look forward to having you on a lot in
the upcoming months. One other thing, you served four

In the issue of security, who was the strongest
president you served?

CLARKE: Well, I think George Bush the first was a
national security expert. He had been CIA director,
had been U.N. director. He was able to build a
multi-nation coalition to fight Iraq the first time,
which is what we should have been doing this time. If
thought we had to go after Iraq, we should have done
what George Bush the first did and build a real and
not this thing we have now. KING: So you give him of
the four the highest marks?

CLARKE: Oh, yes, I think absolutely. George Bush the
first was a real national security professional, but I
must admit, he did not retaliate for the deaths of
Americans on Pam Am 103, and that kind of lack of
retaliation, again, with Ronald Reagan in Beirut when
the terrorists killed the marines there, that lack of
retaliation by Reagan and Bush contributed to the
attitude that bin Laden and others had that they could
attack the United States and get away with it.

KING: You were a proponent of a strong reaction to all
kind of occurrences, right?

CLARKE: Well, I think if you let people get away with
things like that -- then you pay a price in the

KING: You would favor what Israel did with Hamas?

CLARKE: That's a very tough question. I think if
you're an Israeli, perhaps, you do favor it. If you're
a bit more detached as we can be in the United States,
you realize it's just part of a continuing cycle and
that Hamas will now retaliate and kill more Israelis,
perhaps they would have done that anyway. The
Arab/Israeli process is a difficult issue that we
should spend more time on. I wish the administration
were trying to get the Arab states to generate a
Palestinian interlocutor, so that we could have
negotiations. Obviously, we can't negotiate with

KING: Thank you, Dick.

CLARKE: Thank you, Larry.

KING: Richard Clarke, the book is "Against All
Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror."

Posted by richard at March 25, 2004 06:37 AM