Reader James Lacey has kindly forwarded us a copy of Rep. Christopher Shays’ highly instructive letter dated March 24, 2004 to the 9/11 Commission regarding the testimony of Richard Clarke:
As Chairman of the House Government Reform Committee’s National Security Subcommittee, I want to provide some information relevant to testimony today by Mr. Richard Clarke.
Before September 11, 2001, we held twenty hearings and two formal briefings on terrorism issues. Mr. Clarke was of little help in our oversight. When he brief the Subcommittee, his answers were both evasive and derisive. He said a comprehensive threat assessment, as recommended by GAO, was too difficult.
Mr. Clark said it would be “silly” to try to articulate a national strategy. In lieu of a threat assessment or strategy, he offered a laundry list of terrorist groups, as if the fight against global terrorism were nothing more than a hunt for common criminals.
Clark was part of the problem before September 11 because he took too narrow a view of the terrorism threat. His approach was reactive and limited to swatting at the visible elements of al Qe’ada, not the hidden global network and its state sponsors.
The blind spots and vulnerabilities that contributed to the September 11, 2001 tragedy were apparent to many throughout the years Mr. Clarke was in a position to do something about them. Three national commissions – Bremer, Gilmore, and Hart-Rudman – had concluded the U.S. needed a comprehensive threat assessment, a national strategy and a plan to reorganize the federal response to the new strategic menace of terrorism.
Yet no truly national strategy to combat terrorism was ever produced during Mr. Clarke’s tenure. Instead, several presidential directives and a Justice Department five-year law enforcement plan were clumsily lashed together and called a strategy.
After his uninformative briefing, we wrote to Mr. Clarke asking for written answers to specific questions: Why was there no threat assessment? When would there be a strategy? Who was responsible for coordinating federal spending and the federal response? We never got a satisfactory answer. A copy of our letter to Mr. Clarke is enclosed [included on the link with Shays’ letter].
On January 22, 2001, the Subcommittee wrote to Dr. Condoleeza Rice to express our concerns about Mr. Clarke’s narrow view of the terrorist threat and the urgency of mounting a strategic response. A copy of that letter is enclosed as well [also included on the link with Shays’ letter].
I hope the Commission finds this information useful.