Bush team works over Richard Clarke (timeline)

(Clarke’s Jan. 25, 2001, memo to Condoleezza Rice, now public, supports his testimony.)


Former security advisor Dick Clarke, from both the Clinton and the Bush administrations, testified before the 9/11 Commission March 24, 2004, also appearing on talk shows and CBS’ 60 Minutes.  He also had a book coming out, critical of the White House approach to terrorism before and after 9/11.  The White House and its “noise machine” were kept hopping that week. Here’s the quick timeline:


March 22, 2004 (1:10 pm:


Cheney, interviewed on the phone by Rush Limbaugh:

Q All right, let’s get straight to what the news is all about now, before we branch out to things. Why did the administration keep Richard Clarke on the counterterrorism team when you all assumed office in January of 2001?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I wasn’t directly involved in that decision. He was moved out of the counterterrorism business over to the cyber security side of things, that is he was given a new assignment at some point here. I don’t recall the exact time frame.

Q Cyber security, meaning Internet security?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes, worried about attacks on the computer systems and the sophisticated information technology systems we have these days that an adversary would use or try to the system against us.

Q Well, now that explains a lot, that answer right there explains — (Laughter.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, he wasn’t — he wasn’t in the loop, frankly, on a lot of this stuff. And I saw part of his interview last night, and he wasn’t –

Q He was demoted.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: It was as though he clearly missed a lot of what was going on.”


[In other words, Clarke was motivated by sour grapes. But for those thinking that demoting a counterterrorism specialist might indicate lack of concern about terrorism, Condoleezza Rice had a different answer; see below.]


March 23, 2004:


Bush speaks briefly with reporters, says “I’m worried about terrorist groups targeting America. And we take every threat seriously in this administration. Nearly every morning that I come to work, I talk to George Tenet, FBI Director Mueller and others about the threats to the United States. And there’s still serious threats because of what we stand for. There are still people who want to harm our country. And so — whether it be an Hamas threat, or an al Qaeda threat, we take them very seriously in this administration.”


March 24, 2004 (4:30 pm):


Condoleezza Rice, interviewed by network reporters , says “The fact is that I have heard that Dick Clarke has apparently said that he thought the attack was coming in the United States. He never communicated that to anyone.”


March 24, 2004 (5:30 pm):


Condoleezza Rice, interviewed by wire/print reporters, calls Clarke’s testimony “a kind of shifting story.”  Says “The President was being briefed by George Tenet at least 40 some — 40 plus of his briefings dealt, in one way or another al Qaeda, or the al Qaeda threat.

During the threat period it got really urgent. That’s when I was on the phone with Colin and Don, and Don was moving the Fifth Fleet out of port, and when Colin was buttoning down embassies abroad. And when we actually did have Dick Clarke come in and — Andy Card and I did — and on July 5th convene the domestic agencies to say, even though all the threat reporting is about some threat abroad — because it was the Persian Gulf, the G8, possibly something in Israel — bring the domestic agencies together, let’s make sure that they’re buttoning down. The FAA issues alerts. The FBI issues warnings. So it’s pretty urgent and important.”

Rice also says Clarke “wasn’t demoted,” dealing with Limbaugh’s remarks, above.


March 24, 2004 (6:30 pm):


Condoleezza Rice, interviewed by Tom Brokaw, says “Tom, I just don’t think that the record bears out Dick Clarke’s assertion. In fact, on January 25th, in response to a question from me to my staff to tell me what we should be worrying about, what we should be doing, he sent us a set of ideas that would perhaps help to roll back al Qaeda over a three-to-five-year period. We acted on those ideas very quickly. And what’s very interesting is that, while Dick Clarke now says that we ignored his ideas, or we didn’t follow them up, in August of 2002, in a press interview, he said that we had, in fact, acted on those ideas. So he can’t have it both ways.”


March 25, 2004:


White House press secretary Scott McClellan says Clarke “has a growing credibility problem.”


March 28, 2004:


Rice herself appears on 60 Minutes, says that “shortly after we came into office, I asked the counterterrorism team — which we kept in place from the Clinton administration in order to provide continuity and experience — we asked them what policy initiatives should we take.

We got a list of policy initiatives; we acted on those policy initiatives. We felt that we were not in a position to have a comprehensive strategy that would not just roll back al Qaeda – which had been the policy of the Clinton administration – but we needed a strategy to eliminate al Qaeda. And we put that work into motion. And, in fact, that produced a comprehensive strategy several weeks before 9/11.”


March 30, 2004:


GWBush announces that Rice will testify publicly before the 9/11 Commission after all, after Rice insists all week that “constitutional” considerations prevent her doing so (see above).


March 31, 2004:


Scott McClellan says “We’ve made our views very well-known. I think most Americans view Dick Clarke and his contradictions as yesterday’s story.”

            However, one questioner takes a sterner line:

Q Okay, the second question, on Richard Clarke. A lot has been made about Dr. Rice’s testimony, whether she would testify. But not a lot has been made about the perjury charges that Bill Frist made on Friday, on the Senate floor. He said, basically, that Mr. Clarke had two different stories under oath. Isn’t that perjury, and shouldn’t he be prosecuted for that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, those are decisions that others make, obviously. I think that this is a decision that was made by Senate leaders. They made a request of us, and our role is to look at those issues and see what could be declassified.

Q The question is about the declassification —

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that was a decision —

Q — if they should —

MR. McCLELLAN: Can I finish? That was a decision by congressional leaders.

Q But if he did have two different, contradictory statements under oath, shouldn’t he be prosecuted for perjury?

MR. McCLELLAN: I’m not going to get into speculating about that.”


[For the record, little noises about nailing Clarke for “perjury” went nowhere.]

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