Richard Clarke is now testifying before the terrorism commission. In the meantime, he is taking a fearful pounding in the blogosphere. Glenn Reynolds has a good roundup.
One of Clarke’s most ridiculous claims was his assertion that when he met with Condoleezza Rice in January 2001, “her facial expression gave me the impression that she had never heard” of al Qaeda. My guess is that Ms. Rice’s facial expression may have been a clue to what she thought of Clarke; here is what she had to say about al Qaeda in 2000:
You really have to get the intelligence agencies better organized to deal with the terrorist threat to the United States itself. One of the problems that we have is a kind of split responsibility, of course, between the CIA and foreign intelligence and the FBI and domestic intelligence. There needs to be better cooperation because we don’t want to wake up one day and find out that Osama bin Laden has been successful on our own territory.
If Clarke had said that, he’d take credit for being a prophet.
Turns out, too, that Clarke contradicted all of the principal points he makes in his new book, Against All Enemies, in a briefing he gave to a group of reporters including Jim Angle of Fox News in August 2002. Here are some highlights:
CLARKE: [T]he first point, I think the overall point is, there was no plan on Al Qaeda that was passed from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration.
[I]n January 2001, the incoming Bush administration was briefed on the existing strategy. They were also briefed on these series of issues that had not been decided on in a couple of years…And the…Bush administration decided then, you know, mid-January, to do two things. One, vigorously pursue the existing policy, including all of the lethal covert action findings, which we’ve now made public to some extent. The second thing the administration decided to do is to initiate a process to look at those issues which had been on the table for a couple of years and get them decided.
Over the course of the summer…they developed implementation details, the principals met at the end of the summer, approved them in their first meeting, changed the strategy by authorizing the increase in funding five-fold, changing the policy on Pakistan, changing the policy on Uzbekistan, changing the policy on the Northern Alliance assistance.
And then changed the strategy from one of rollback with Al Qaeda over the course [of] five years, which it had been, to a new strategy that called for the rapid elimination of al Qaeda. That is in fact the timeline.
JIM ANGLE: You’re saying that the Bush administration did not stop anything that the Clinton administration was doing while it was making these decisions, and by the end of the summer had increased money for covert action five-fold. Is that correct?
CLARKE: All of that’s correct.
ANGLE: So, just to finish up if we could then, so what you’re saying is that there was no