Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Richard Clarke — whistleblower or hornblower?

Mr. Clarke is making big news, which can only help his book's sales. However, it's only 3 days since his appearance on 60 Minutes and already he's beginning to look pretty foolish.

Bloggers are checking every word he has written and spoken to see if they can find any inconsistencies or worse. John Cole seems to have found Clarke telling an "untruth" during 60 Minutes the other night. Maybe this "untruth" is only small beer, but now it seems that Clarke is telling a completely different story to the one he told in 2002.
. . . the Bush administration decided then, you know, mid-January [2001], 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.

And the point is, while this big review was going on, there were still in effect, the lethal findings were still in effect. 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.

So, point five, that process which was initiated in the first week in February, uh, decided in principle, uh in the spring to add to the existing Clinton strategy and to increase CIA resources, for example, for covert action, five-fold, to go after Al Qaeda.

The sixth point, the newly-appointed deputies — and you had to remember, the deputies didn't get into office until late March, early April. The deputies then tasked the development of the implementation details, uh, of these new decisions that they were endorsing, and sending out to the principals.

Over the course of the summer — last point — 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.
So the Bush team, pursued the existing policy vigorously, looked at untried possible options left over from the Clinton term, increased CIA resources 5 fold, and drafted a whole new strategy to deal with al Qaeda by early Sep. 2001. This is what he refers to when he claims that Bush failed to act against al Qaeda despite repeated warnings from intelligence officials about a looming terrorist attack?

Do you think the Boston Globe ("Clarke's disclosures are a healthy antidote to the malady of an imperial presidency) or the Irish Times ("Mr Clarke carries undoubted authority as a counter-intelligence officer for more than 30 years who served under four successive presidents in the White House as policy co-ordinator on the subject") will want to reassess? And, there are many other examples. Oh well. Looks like GW Bush will slip out of this one pretty easily.

John Podhertz's summation on Clarke — a self-regarding buffoon — seems pretty accurate.