President Bush’s former terrorism czar, Richard Clarke, blasted the Bush administration Wednesday during the 9/11 hearings for not considering terrorism to be an urgent issue before the Sept. 11 attacks.
Clarke also accused Bush of undermining the war on terror by invading Iraq.
Clarke began his testimony apologizing to the American public and the families of 9/11 victims. He said "Your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you, and I failed you."
The White House led attack on Clarke continued yesterday with help from Fox News. The network released a transcript to a background briefing Clarke gave in August 2002 praising the administration’s fight against terrorism.
Clarke defended his actions Wednesday saying it was part of his job. He said "I was asked to highlight the positive aspects of what the administration had done, and to minimize the negative aspects of what the administration had done."
Clarke’s testimony came near the end of two days of public hearings held by the independent 9-11 commission. Despite repeated requests from commissioners, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice did not testify.
While Clarke’s testimony provided the fireworks of the two days of hearings, the New York Times reports the four staff reports given by the commissioners offered sweeping new details about how both the Clinton and Bush administrations fumbled in preventing 9/11.
The Times reports the commissioners highlighted a "story of bureaucratic miscommunication, diplomatic dead ends, military hesitation, intelligence failures, political rivalries and policy miscalculations at the highest levels of two presidential administrations."
It also emerged Wednesday that Richard Clarke was not alone in feeling frustrated by the Bush administration’s handling of the terror threat. The 9/11 Commission revealed that two veteran CIA counter-terrorism experts who dealt with Bin Laden considered resigning during the summer of 2001 in order to take public their fears about an imminent attack against the US.
And CIA director George Tenet’s own deputy John McLaughlin told the commission in an earlier interview that he was worried not enough was being done during the summer of 2001 by the new Bush administration.
The Chicago Tribune points out these concerns actually mirror what President Bush himself told Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward. In his book "Bush at War" Woodward wrote that the president "acknowledged that bin Laden was not his focus or that of his national security team" before Sept. 11. Woodward quotes Bush directly saying, "I didn’t feel that sense of urgency, and my blood was not nearly as boiling."
In Colorado, the 19-year-old woman who has accused basketball star Kobe Bryant of rape was forced to undergo three and a half hours of questioning about her medical and sexual history by Bryant’s lawyers on Wednesday. Bryant was also in the court room marking the first time he and the woman were in the same room since their encounter last summer in a Colorado hotel. Wednesday’s pre-trial proceeding was held in order for the judge to determine how much of the woman’s private life can be presented to the jury when the case goes to trial.
Women’s advocates around the country said the move to force the woman to testify could discourage other women from reporting sexual assaults.
Advocate Jeri Elster of Los Angeles said "I’m frightened about this decision, only for the fact that families will not support victims and survivors to go report because they can now say, `Look what happened to so-and-so. It feels like a huge setback for survivors and victims to come."
A 1992 study by the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center at the Medical University of South Carolina found that 84 percent of sexual assault victims do not go to the police.
Fourteen states asked the Bush administration Wednesday for permission to use alternative methods for showing academic gains under the No Child Left Behind law. This according to The New York Times.
In a letter to Education Secretary Rod Paige, the 14 chief state school officers wrote that "without any changes to the law, calculations suggest that within a few years, the vast majority of all schools will be identified as in need of improvement. Many of those schools will be given that designation despite having shown steady and significant improvement for all groups of students."
Campaign records show that executives at media giant Clear Channel have given 24 times more money to President Bush’s campaign than to Senator John Kerry’s. To date Clear Channel executives have given Bush about $42,000 in personal contributions and just under $1,800 to Kerry. In addition Clear Channel’s political action committee has given more than three-quarters of its federal contributions to Republicans. Clear Channel’s political leanings re-entered the headlines after it pulled Howard Stern’s show from its network. Publicly Clear Channel said the show was pulled because it was indecent but Stern charged the real reason was that he had started criticizing President Bush on the air.
A year ago this week Private Jessica Lynch’s unit came under fire after their convoy crashed in Iraq. 11 Soldiers died. On Tuesday, at a ceremony to mark the anniversary, the widow of one of the soldiers who died in the incident blasted President Bush for quote "lying to America" to justify the Iraq invasion.
A county in Oregon has stopped giving out all marriage licenses until the state decides who can and who cannot wed.
The commissioner of Benton County told Reuters, "It may seem odd. We need to treat everyone in our county equally."
Meanwhile the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the state of Oregon for failing to register more than 2,500 marriage licenses that have been issued in and around Portland since March 3. Multnomah County is now the only jurisdiction in the country that is still issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
The United Nation Human Rights Commission condemned Israel on Wednesday for assassinating Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. The vote was 31 to 2. The United States and Australia voted against the measure which Israeli officials described as 'Israel-bashing' at its worst. 18 countries abstained.
Meanwhile near the West Bank city of Nablus, Israeli soldiers stopped a 14-year-old Wednesday wearing a vest of explosives. Soldiers then persuaded the boy to help them dismantle the bomb. After the explosives were detonated the Israeli army paraded the boy in the front of the media. Images of the incident were broadcast around the world. The New York Times took the unusual step of dedicating one-third of its front page to publishing five color photos of the incident. It marked the second time in about a week a Palestinian child was found trying to transport explosives across a checkpoint.
A new study funded by the British Ministry of Defense has found that babies whose fathers served in the first Gulf war are 50 percent more likely to have physical abnormalities than those born to soldiers not sent to the region. This according to a report in the London Telegraph.
U.S. Seeks Exemption From Pesticide Ban
The United States and 11 other countries asked Wednesday for an exemption to an international treaty that restricts the use of a highly toxic, ozone-destroying pesticide called methyl bromide. According to the Scripps Howard News Service, the Bush administration says U.S. farmers, particularly California strawberry farmers and Florida tomato growers, need to keep using the pesticide until cost-effective alternatives are found. A spokesperson from the Natural Resources Defense Council said, "This is a very clear-cut case of unmitigated corporate greed."
The AFL-CIO has launched an eight-day "Show Us the Jobs" tour in an effort to highlight what the union calls the country’s biggest job crisis since the Great Depression. According to the AFL-CIO, the country has lost 3 million private-sector jobs since Bush took office. The tour ends next Wednesday in Washington where unemployed workers from each state will lobby legislators on Capitol Hill to enact legislation to stop employers from sending jobs overseas and to encourage job growth in this country.