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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
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.

Here's a snip from a Newsweek article from 2002 (not free content):

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. [Michael Hirsh and Michael Isikoff, "What Went Wrong," Newsweek, May 27, 2002]

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.

Originally posted to maha on Tue Sep 26, 2006 at 05:22 AM PDT.

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