- In the face of Richard Clarke's well-documented testimony
to the 9/11 commission yesterday, the White House is continuing to say
that it made counterterrorism its top priority upon coming into office
in January 2001. White House spokesman Scott McClellan, echoing similar
comments from top Administration officials, said that "this Administration
made going after Al Qaida a top priority from very early on" in the
face of increased terror warnings before 9/11. But, according to the
public record, the Administration made counterterrorism such a "top
priority" that it never once convened its task force on counterterrorism
before 9/11, attempted to downgrade counterterrorism at the Justice Department,
and held only two out of more than one hundred national security meetings
on the issue of terrorism. Meanwhile, the White House was cutting key counterterrorism
programs -- Bush himself admitted that he "didn't feel the sense of
urgency" about terrorism before 9/11.
- According to the Washington Post, President Bush and
Vice President Cheney never once convened the counterterrorism task force
that was established in May 2001 -- despite repeated warnings that Al
Qaida could be planning to hijack airplanes and use them as missiles. This
negligence came at roughly the same time that the Vice President held at
least 10 meetings of his Energy Task Force and attended at least six
meetings with Enron executives.
- Similarly, Newsweek reported that internal government
documents show that, before 9/11, the Bush Administration moved to "de-emphasize"
counterterrorism. When the "FBI officials sought to add hundreds
more counterintelligence agents" to deal with the problem, "they
got shot down" by the White House.
- Additionally, the Associated Press reported in 2002 that
"President Bush's national security leadership met formally nearly
100 times in the months prior to the Sept. 11 attacks yet terrorism was
the topic during only two of those sessions." This is consistent with
evidence Clarke has presented showing that his January 2001 "urgent"
memo asking for a meeting of top officials on the imminent Al Qaida threat
was rejected for almost eight months. At the time, the White House said
that they simply "did not need to have a formal meeting to discuss
- Finally, the White House threatened to veto efforts putting
more money into counterterrorism, tried to cut funding for counterterrorism
grants, delayed arming the unmanned airplanes that had spotted
bin Laden in Afghanistan, and terminated "a highly classified program
to monitor Al Qaida suspects in the United States.
- 1. Press Briefing Scott McClellan, 03/22/2004.
- 2. The George W. Bush Presidency: An Early Assessment,
- 3. Statement by the President, 05/08/2001.
- 4. Process Used to Develop the National Energy Policy,
- US General Accounting Office.
- 5. "Cheney: We Met With Enron Execs", ABC News,
- 6. Freedom of Information Center, 05/27/2002.
- 7. "Clarke's Take On Terror", CBS News, 03/21/2004.
- 8. "White House Rebuttal to Clarke Interview",
- Washington Post, 03/22/2004.
- 9. Freedom of Information Center, 05/27/2002.
- 10. "FBI Budget Squeezed After 9/11", Washington
- 11. "Officials: U.S. missed chance to kill bin Laden",
- Helena Independent Record, 06/25/2003.
- 12. "In the Months Before 9/11, Justice Department
- Curtailed Highly Classified Program to Monitor Al
- Qaeda Suspects in the U.S.", PR Newswire, 03/21/2004.