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Bush & Clinton Officials Defend Pre-9/11 Actions At Hearings

We hear excerpts from testimony by Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, as well as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. We also get response from former CIA analyst Melvin Goodman and Andrew Rice, who lost his brother in the World Trade Center attack. [includes rush transcript]

The independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks heard testimony from top Clinton and Bush administration officials yesterday.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was one of the first to testify. She came under questioning from commissioner Tim Roemer.

  • Secretary of State Madeline Albright

Albright was followed by her Bush Administration counterpart Colin Powell, who described efforts to bring Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on board the U.S. campaign.

  • Secretary of State Colin Powell

Secretary of State Colin Powell using the word “crusade” to describe anti-terror efforts. Two-and-a-half years ago President George W Bush used the same word and had to backtrack afterwards.

Others who testified in the public hearings included Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and former Defense Secretary William Cohen. To conclude the day, Defense Secretray Donald Rumsfeld along with his deputy Paul Wolfowitz and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Richard Myers took the stand.

Rumsfeld came under questioning from former Senator Bob Kerrey.

  • Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld being questioned by former Senator Bob Kerrey

Rumsfeld was later questioned by commissioner Tim Roemer:

  • Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld being questioned by Commissioner Tim Roemer

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was questioned about claims made by former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke. Clarke is widely viewed as a leading figure in national security circles. He has held top posts under every president since Reagan and served as both President Clinton and President Bush’s top anti-terrorism official.

Clarke said in his new book that before Sept. 11 Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz claimed Iraq was behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and posed at least as much as danger as Al Qaeda.

Commissioner Tim Roemer questioned Wolfowitz about the Clarke’s claims. After initially avoiding the question, Wolfowitz responded.

  • Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz

We talk now with former CIA analyst Melvin Goodman

  • Melvin Goodman, former CIA and State Department analyst. He is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and director of the Center’s National Security Project. He is the co-author of the forthcoming book “Bush League Diplomacy: How the Neoconservatives Are Putting the World at Risk”
  • Andrew Rice, chair of the 9-11 Commission Committee for September Eleventh Families For Peaceful Tomorrows. His brother, David, was killed at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We are joined by Mel Goodman, a former CIA Analyst, who spent many years with the CIA; also Andrew Rice, who lost his brother on September 11, 2001 in the World Trade Center. Mel Goodman, your response to what came out and did not come out at the Commission hearings day one. Good to have you with us.

MEL GOODMAN: Yes. Good morning, Amy. Let me go back to one thing that David Corn said about Phillip Zellicau. He was an outrageously bad appointment and it reflected the view that this is not a serious Commission that is going to go after the Bush Administration and get to the bottom of the story of 9-11. Not only does Zellicau have a close relationship with Conde Rice and he was in the Bush I Administration, he was in the transition arrangement; he has a close relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency, he was the head of the J.F. Kennedy Schools case study project on the Soviet Union, and has been an apologist for the CIA with regard to the Soviet Union. He did the case studies that exonerated the CIA from their analytical failures on the Soviet Union, and he has turned around and appointed key CIA Officers to the Staff, including Douglas Mckaken, who was a key analyst on the Soviet Union and Lloyd Sellvetti who has planned the public relations strategy to defend the CIA from charges of politicization of Intelligence in the 1980’s. This is an outrageous choice and to recuse him from this discussion or that discussion, he shouldn’t be on the Commission and he shouldn’t be Staff Director. My major problem is, and I’m in Los Angeles, so obviously I wasn’t at the hearings. I watched several hours on C-SPAN. My real problem, one, is with the Commission, the members of the Commission. There’s no real junk yard dog on that Commission. The only one who would have been a junkyard dog and gone after the truth in a rigorous fashion, interestingly enough, would have been Max Cleland. Why isn’t Max Cleland on that Commission? Why was he offered a Commission on the Export-Import Bank suddenly? It was Cleland who was playing the most vigorous role in trying to get to the bottom of the story. He was replaced by Bob Kerrey, who was rather erratic yesterday in his questioning.

The key problem that I have with the Commission is they didn’t go after the actual planning of both the Pentagon and the CIA with regards to how they were going after Al Qaeda. Now, this is important for several reasons. For one reason, the CIA was very slow analytically to come to any conclusion that Osama Bin Laden was a key player within Al Qaeda, and not just a financier for Al Qaeda. He was doing a lot more than raising funds. It took years for the CIA to realize that. The CIA never really recognized the key role that Khalid Sheik Mohammad played in Al Qaeda and linking him to various activities going back to 1993. Remember, we have had relevant information on Al Qaeda and terrorism going back to the first World Trade Center bombing.

So on the question of, for example, if attacks by airplanes, that Madeleine Albright said was not a surprise to her, well, it was probably a surprise to the CIA. Because in none of their analytical reporting do they ever say it was a possibility that commercial airliners would be turned into cruise missiles and used against American targets. There was a Professor from the University of Pennsylvania, Steven Gale, who said this in a study for the government and the Library of Congress’s Congressional Research Service said this in a study that was done for the government, but the CIA never wrote an estimate on this terrorism in the four years before the World Trade Center attack in — on 9-11. They never raised this in their key assessments. The Commission should have gone after real specifics on military planning, contingency planning, special operations, how were they to be used? I’m puzzled that they didn’t, because it’s well known to those of us who studied 9-11 that the Clinton Administration did try to get the Pentagon to be more rigorous and analytical and think about what we can do about Al Qaeda. Of course there aren’t strategic targets in Afghanistan.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld specializes in telling us things that we know. We already know that. What do you do about a target that has a sanctuary in a country that is being protected by the government, that the Al Qaeda themselves put into place in Kabul? The same thing goes for the Central Intelligence Agency. What findings did the White House reach on covert actions that were given to the Congress that gave the CIA special authority to go after Al Qaeda, and particularly to go after Bin Laden? These key specific issues were not raised. Now, maybe it’s because they deal with sensitive information that these key participants don’t want to talk about it in public, and these require closed and private hearings, but nevertheless, tell us what the key issues are that must be flagged.

The conclusion that I came to in watching the several hours that I watched is these public sessions, I think, were done for the families. The families of the people who were lost in 9-11 to show that, yes, you want public hearings so we’ll have public hearings. Remember, the Commission wasn’t on a course to have public hearings in the beginning. The Bush Administration has fought the creation of this Commission for a long period of time and appointed Henry Kissinger to head it, and I don’t think Governor Keene is the strongest person to manage a Commission of this type that deals with sensitive Intelligence and National Security matters across the board. I think this was a performance that was done for the public at large and not an intense, rigorous effort to get to the bottom, and even when the issues were raised.

Madeleine Albright said something ridiculous yesterday about, “well, there were things we couldn’t do because we didn’t have actionable Intelligence.” I was at the Central Intelligence Agency for 24 years. I have no idea what she is talking about when she says actionable Intelligence. What in the world is it? How would you recognize it when you saw it? Did we have actionable Intelligence when we attacked Iraq? We know there was a campaign of deceit with misuse of intelligence. Colin Powell raised 29 issues of Intelligence at a UN speech in February 25, 2003. Was that actionable Intelligence? All of it was false, actionable or not. There was no effort to really go after these people and find out what they knew and when did they know it and what did the Clinton Administration do in the way of findings and covert action and what did the Bush Administration do in getting the Pentagon, which was dragging its heels when Clinton tried to get the Pentagon to do things that were required. Did they follow the same procedure for the Bush Administration or, as I believe, did the Bush Administration not ask the Pentagon to look into special plans and contingency plans for Afghanistan before 9-11. AMY GOODMAN: We are talking to Mel Goodman, a former analyst for the CIA for almost a quarter century. We will come back and speak with him and also talk to Andrew Rice, who lost his brother in the World Trade Center. And we will talk about Richard Clarke, who was put in charge after September 11 to be the Crisis Manager, put in charge by Condoleezza Rice. Stay with us.

AMY GOODMAN: On the line us with, Mel Goodman, former C.I.A. analyst and Andrew Rice, lost his brother at the World Trade Center. Andrew Rice, your response to Wolfowitz and day one of the Commission Hearings?

ANDREW RICE: Well, I think they were vanilla. I mean, I agree a lot with Mel. This is not a real transparent hearing in the vein that we would hope. This issue of Zelikow that myself and a lot of other family members have been outspoken about, calling the Commission. You know, it’s unbelievable. I mean, this guy is not only on the staff, he is the executive director of the administrative side of the Commission. Back when the presidential daily briefings, the arrangement, the negotiations with the White House on how this was going to be done was taking place in the fall, he came out — the agreement was laughable. It was that the White House would go through and choose what parts of the P.D.B.'s were going to be allowed to give to the Commissioners. That's like going to Martha Stewart and saying, “Why don’t you choose which documents between you and your stockbrokers that you are going to hand over to us.” Only four members of the Commission would be allowed to look at them. This is the agreement they reached, and then they would take notes, which they would take back to the rest of the Commission, but the White House would be able to edit and review the notes that they took from the selected materials, about 20 out of the 320 requested P.D.B.'s. So Zelikow comes out — he's on the Commission, not in the White House, though he was in the White House — he comes out defending the agreement, saying, an entire P.D.B. will have articles about China, South Africa, Venezuela, but the notion that the Commission members will want to see all of these is novel.

We trust the White House to go through and find out what we need to see. The idea this is going to get to any responsible, effective report… We don’t really have anybody involved in this process, any family member who has been following it, trying to meet with the Commissioners; gotten to a point of being cynical. I think that even if they are trying to do some sort of public show for the family members, maybe it will have some sort of effect for family members who are not as closely involved in the sense that, “Well, it looks like they’re doing something.” But for those of us who are intimately involved, they’re failing miserably even in that. There was no tough questioning. We were hoping for Max Cleland getting pushed off or taken off the Commission with some job — was a big blow because he and Roemer really are the only ones — Ben-Veniste has shown signs of trying to push it, but other than that, it’s a good-ol’-boys establishment thing. Bob Kerrey was joking with Richard Armitage, calling him “Dick Armitage” and joking about, “You would be a good national security adviser.” It shows that these people run in the same circles, and if they’re going to have a truly independent commission, they should definitely get somebody more independent than Philip Zelikow, and they should definitely have Commissioners who are going to investigate these people strongly and not just be some sort of lukewarm, “question him a little bit,” and allowing all these officials to insinuate and outrightly state they never made any mistakes. That’s how everything was summed up yesterday: “We never made any mistakes. There was nothing we could do.”

AMY GOODMAN: Talking to Andrew Rice, lost his brother at the World Trade Center. On this issue of the comradery between the commissioners and those they are questioning, Mel Goodman, I wanted to ask about Bob Kerrey. Again here in New York, has been a serious target of criticism especially by his students, university started by pacifists saying they’re using New School—he has used New School University as a bully pulpit for his pro-war views. He was a fierce proponent of the invasion of Iraq. A lot of the questions being asked right now, that people like Richard Clark are raising, are why the Bush administration was immediately talking about Saddam Hussein and Iraq when they knew that 9-11 was about Al Qaeda. Do you see problems with the Establishment questioning the Establishment? Whether Democrat or Republican?

MEL GOODMAN: Yes. I would always find a problem with that. I think Andy is right. This is the old-boy network doing what it usually does in the Commission. These people who come before the Commission are old friends. I don’t mean to digress; it’s like Justice Scalia saying he wouldn’t recuse himself from the case with Dick Cheney because, “Okay, so he’s my friend so what, this is how you end up on the Supreme Court. You are the friend of a president or a friend of a very important person.” That’s what creates cynicism in this country. Watching the hearings for a couple hours yesterday on television, it made me cynical about how serious is this commission. It’s not only the Zelikow appointment. I thought that was the most outrageous public act of the Commission, making him the Staff Director, which is the key position — it’s more important than the position that any commissioner has — but frankly, my problem with Bob Kerrey is, when Bob Kerrey was in the Senate I found him very erratic. He could be very good and he could be very bad. He could pay attention and his mind could go somewhere else. He doesn’t have the tenacity, that kind of rigor to stay with an issue over a long period of time. I agree, Roemer was a good appointment and Gorelick was a good appointment. The real junk yard dog was Max Cleland. How did he come off the commission; I thought that was interesting. Why was he coaxed off the commission? At least that’s the way it looked. In terms of this point about accepting the P.D.B. items that were given to the Commission, which Zelikow defends, I find that interesting. When he was head of the John F. Kennedy School Project, he worked only with the documents that the C.I.A. gave the Kennedy School. On the basis of C.I.A. documents he then reached conclusions about the C.I.A. The C.I.A. didn’t present any documentation that made them look bad. They only presented documentation that made them look good. When Zelikow honchoed a case study on the track record of the C.I.A. on the Soviet Union, he said, “This was the politics of getting it right. The C.I.A. was right about the weakness of the Soviet Union and the collapse of the Soviet Union.” I have written widely about that, and I have a book called “Bush League Diplomacy” coming out in two weeks that gets into this matter of C.I.A. intelligence and the inability of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees to perform genuine oversight.

I think this is part of a larger pattern that we have seen over the last ten years, going back to Richard Shelby’s stewardship of the Senate Intelligence Committee. This was a formerly bipartisan operation particularly in the Senate, not so much in the House, that has gone very partisan, continuing today with Senator Roberts from Kansas, who is head of the Senate Intelligence Committee. In some ways, in looking at the public hearing, I won’t say this is a whitewash, but I just don’t think it has the rigor that is needed, and this is a huge staff that Zelikow has put together, but he has brought in C.I.A. people to examine the C.I.A., which I think is outrageous. There’s a conflict of interest right there. I agree with Andy. I’m not optimistic, and the public hearings are going to be counter productive, because it allows the public to see they’re not going after serious issues of White House findings that give the C.I.A. special mandates; were they allowed to go after Bin Laden. Dick Clark—and like Wolfowitz, I did find the book over the weekend and I have read it—he makes serious charges about the laziness of the C.I.A. to go after Al Qaeda and Bin Laden. Why didn’t someone ask, “Did the White House give a mandate to the C.I.A. to go after Al Qaeda and Bin Laden? What mandate did the C.I.A. get, and how clear was Sandy Berger on these issues?” The point that I made earlier about actionable intelligence, remember, Dick Clark was responsible in part for the bombing of the pharmaceutical plant in Kartun in 1998 after the bombings of the two embassies. Dick Clark has two sentences on this bombing in his book. We know now that the C.I.A. never determined that this was a plant that made lethal chemicals, that when he came forward and Sandy Berger came forward and said that the bombing was based on the best intelligence we have ever received, that’s nonsense. The intelligence was ambiguous. We know this was not a plant that was making lethal chemicals and associated with the Al Qaeda network. Dick Clark has some explaining to do, and maybe that will come up in today’s hearings.

I would like to see George Tenet ask about what did mission — what special operations was he allowed to conduct according to White House findings with regard to covert action on the terrorism threat? Because again, even though you had eight years of warning for 9-11, you have to go back to the World Trade Center bombing of 1993, eight years of warning, what was the White House, both the Clinton White House in the last year and the Bush Administration in its first year, what were they doing to prepare for the possible bombing that did not surprise Madeleine Albright? Albright, by the way, said she devoted 35% of her time to terrorism. This was in response to a direct question she received. I would subpoena her logs and diaries and memos. I bet you she spent nowhere near 15% of her time, let alone 35% of her time. Madeleine Albright traveled nearly 35% of her time, so that wouldn’t leave time for the important Balkan issues and other issues that came up. Let’s face it: the Clinton Administration and Bush Administration could have done more. The intelligence community should have done better. 9-11 could have been prevented if people acted on the information they received and would have been willing to challenge their assumptions. The C.I.A., despite what George Tenet might say, told the White House he was going to attack U.S. targets not in the United States, but U.S. targets overseas and the F.B.I. told the White House for years that Al Qaeda did not have the resources to conduct any operations in the United States. And these were the working assumptions of the intelligence community and they became the working assumptions of the policy community, and that’s what led to the 9-11 attacks that we all tragically know about.

AMY GOODMAN: Mel Goodman, almost —- with the agency for 25 years, the Central Intelligence Agency. Andrew Rice, you’re Chair of the 9-11 Committee for September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. Your brother, David, was killed on September 11. What would you want asked today? And also, as a family member of someone lost at the World Trade Center—- there is your group and there are other groups, do you have any kind of special access to this commission?

ANDREW RICE: First of all, yeah, I don’t, per se, have any special access. I would say that the Family Steering Committee, which are people who lost loved ones who are directly connected to the Commission as an official appendage, they have the most access. They have been very good about bringing pressure to bear on the Commission, also trying to walk the very precarious line of being officially attached to the Commission, they came out with ten very, very good questions that Common Dreams and other sites ran last month. They are trying to do their part. There’s now a growing, a larger mobilization of family members getting more involved. It’s been hard for the different groups to get involved, one, because the Commission has, you know — they’ll come out in — in the past, these public hearings have been going on before the big ones yesterday and today. They would announce where they would be and the dates and times two weeks before they were going to happen. You have 9-11 family members all around the country who want to come and all of us have other jobs and different issues. Getting — having 14 days to organize a mass mobilization down there to the hearings is very hard. But there are people. We have had people in Peaceful Tomorrows speak with the commissioners off the record, and there’s a lot of the — you know, some of the commissioners will acknowledge, not up there in front of the microphone that there’s a lot of what needs to get out is probably not going to get out. In no uncertain terms. What I would like to see — there’s a lot of things I would like to see done today. I wish that CNN and C-SPAN and these major networks were covering the hearings live even though they are not true investigative hearings.

Nonetheless, some of the more important ones, actually, I think, in my opinion, happened prior to yesterday, and especially on the issues of air defenses and what the F.A.A. was or wasn’t doing. Yesterday there’s the whole — you have the Bush White House, who I’m a little bit more focused on, even though the Clintons looked to have made some big mistake — saying, “We have it, we knew-we saw the spiked chatter. We were very serious about the threat.” Those of us who have done our research know this had to do with aviation. And then, the Commissioners started asking them about the predator drone and covert operations. Well, no, what did you do internally? I was flying in August of 2001. I was flying with my brother, who was killed a month later. There was no marked increase in security. There was nothing that I saw. John Ashcroft stopped flying commercial that summer. There was major put options in the stock market on airlines. There was some sort of knowledge that something major was going to happen with the airlines.

AMY GOODMAN: Andrew Rice, we have to leave it there, but we will continue to cover this tomorrow, bringing highlights of today’s testimony on tomorrow’s Democracy Now! Andrew Rice, Chair of the 9-11 Committee for September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows and Mel Goodman, former C.I.A. analyst for almost a quarter of a century.

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