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.”